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Revitalising bilateral trade and investment between Lanka and Germany 

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Ahamed Razee (Counsellor, Embassy of Sri Lanka, Germany), Dr, Somakanthan Somalingam (Board Member of the German – Sri Lankan Business Council, Dhammi Kandage (President of the German – Sri Lankan Business Council), Manori Unambuwe (Ambassador – designate of Sri Lanka to Germany), Nihal Samarasinha (Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka for Rhineland – Palatinate, Germany), Madurika Joseph Weninger (Consul General of Sri Lanka in Frankfurt, Germany), Margaret Ristau ( Treasurer of the German – Sri Lankan Business Council), Murugaiah Gobinath (Board Member of the German – Sri Lankan Business Council)

The Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Frankfurt am Main organised a Business Forum on July 31 on the occasion of the visit of Ambassador-designate of Sri Lanka to Germany Manori Unambuwe, a press release issued by the Consulate General said.

It said: The Business Forum was attended by more than 35 guests including eminent entrepreneurs, potential investors and officials from the Chambers of Commerce and Economic Ministries from key southern Federal States in Germany.  Theme of the Event was – ‘Opportunities to revitalize Bilateral Trade and Investment between Sri Lanka and Germany’.

Consul General Madurika Joseph Weninger welcomed the participants and highlighted the special relationship between Sri Lanka and Germany.  She also added that the Year 2019 was a watershed year for bilateral trade between the two countries which exceeded a Billion Euros with the trade balance being in favour of Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Manori Unambuwe in her opening remarks stated that Germany is one of the largest trading partners of Sri Lanka and economic engagement between Sri Lanka and Germany has improved significantly over the past few years and has a huge potential to strengthen it further.

She further stated that greater liberalisation and reforms were introduced by the government of Sri Lanka to spur investment and trade. The Ambassador highlighted that in the face of global pandemic, priorities are being reassessed and notable trends are seen in industry segments of Information Technology, Health and Wellness, as well as green initiatives and sustainable development, which Sri Lanka is well poised to be a partner with Germany.

Speaking on growing demand for digitalization, the Ambassador highlighted the well-developed infrastructure and resource pool availability in Sri Lanka and invited German companies to consider Sri Lanka as an outsourcing destination. She further said ‘we are a signatory to the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) which provides protection and confidence to entrepreneurs engaging in software development and a series of webinars are being planned with relevant organisations to raise awareness of Sri Lanka as an ideal destination.’

Counsellor of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Germany Ahmed Razee presented an overview of economic developments between the two countries and underlined Sri Lanka’s unique geographical position combined with a skilled labour force and attractive incentives, which makes Sri Lanka an ideal launch pad to reach a broader market in the Asian region, through several Free Trade Agreements. He further shared the advantages of trade for SMEs which can leverage GSP Plus concessions to increase exports to the German market.

The Event concluded with the Consul General of Sri Lanka hosting a traditional Sri Lankan lunch to the Ambassador and the distinguished invitees to the Business Forum.   

On July 30 Ambassador Unambuwe held meetings with Dr. Jurgen Ratzinger, Managing Director for International Business of the Frankfurt Chambers of Commerce and Industry, (IHK) and Johannes Richter, Unit Head for Southeast Asia of IHK to discuss opportunities to further increase Sri Lanka – German trade and investment cooperation.  

 



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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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