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Rural road connectivity to receive upgrade with ADB’s US $ 200mn assistance

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Sri Lanka’s rural road network will receive an upgrade in the coming months, with the government having signed a US $ 200 million loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), on Friday.

The new loan agreement, to support the roll out of the Second Integrated Road Investment Programme tranche three, will continue the assistance of ADB to upgrade Sri Lanka’s rural road network connecting vast rural populations to jobs and services.

Alongside the loan agreement, a project agreement was also inked between ADB and the implementing agency, the Road Development Authority.

The project will be implemented, despite the pandemic, while adhering to strict health guidelines and is expected to support the post-pandemic economic recovery in rural areas.

ADB said with the rural road network upgrade, the targeted areas will receive support through job opportunities and by obtaining services from rural populations, such as the hiring of vehicles, buildings, equipment, etc.

“Access to markets and business opportunities, especially along agricultural value chains, can be significantly improved with better transport infrastructure and can serve as the key to poverty reduction and shared prosperity in rural areas,” said ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Chen Chen in a statement to the media.

He pointed out that economic growth is hindered by poor transport infrastructure, particularly some poorly maintained provincial and local roads.

Reflecting similar sentiments, Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle stressed that providing all-weather road access would help link rural communities to socioeconomic centres in Sri Lanka, thereby enabling rural communities to reap and enjoy the fruit of inclusive economic growth.

“This is very much in keeping with the government’s development policy and will contribute to the government’s development plan,” he added.

The freshly signed loan agreement is the third of five tranches under the Second Integrated Road Investment Programme, which was approved by ADB’s board of directors in 2017.

The programme will deliver a total financing of US $ 900 million to rehabilitate and improve about 3,400 kilometres (km) of rural access roads and 340 km of national roads in the Eastern, Northern, Uva and Western provinces.

It will improve the capacity of the country’s road agencies on road safety, maintenance, research, road design and construction. The programme is due for completion in 2027.



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Courtyard by Marriott to debut in Sri Lanka

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Marriott International is set to introduce the Courtyard by Marriott brand to Sri Lanka, this year. The hospitality giant has signed an agreement with Colombo City Centre Partners (Private) Limited, part of the Abans Group, for this 164-key hotel, expected to open in late 2021, – according to Business Traveller India.

Located in the heart of Colombo city adjacent to the Beira Lake, Courtyard by Marriott Colombo will feature 164 modern guest rooms and suites. The rooms will be equipped with functional work area, smart amenities, and high-speed internet access, making it an ideal stay option for business and leisure travellers, the Indian magazine stated.

There will be two dining venues – an all-day dining restaurant serving a combination of western dishes, Asian favourites and a host of local delicacies as well as an adjoining Lobby Lounge decked with a full-service bar and a quick-bites menu.

Other amenities include a 24-hour fitness centre, an outdoor swimming pool and three meeting rooms.

Rajeev Menon, president, Asia Pacific (excluding China), Marriott International said:

“We are delighted to strengthen our Marriott Bonvoy portfolio of hotels in Sri Lanka with today’s signing. The signing underscores our long-term commitment to Sri Lanka as a strategically important market, offering the potential to grow our brands and provide customers with more choices.”

Kiran Andicot, regional vice president – Development, South Asia, Marriott International commented, “We are very pleased to collaborate with Abans Group, who share our vision to offer smart, intuitive service and high-quality accommodation in Sri Lanka.”

Further elaborating on the collaboration, Aban Pestonjee, chairperson of Abans Group said:

“We are happy to have forged this strategic business alliance with Marriott International and are keen to see our relationship grow from strength to strength. We eagerly look forward to the opening of the first Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Sri Lanka. We are excited to have Marriott International with us at Colombo City Centre.”

 

 

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Virtusa appoints Santosh Thomas as CEO

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Virtusa Corporation, a global provider of digital strategy, digital engineering and IT services and solutions that help clients change and disrupt markets through innovation engineering, yesterday announced the appointment of Santosh Thomas as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Virtusa’s Board of Directors appointed Santosh as successor to the company’s founder, Kris Canekeratne, who announced his transition from the business in May 2021. Santosh joins Virtusa during a time of significant growth and follows the recent appointment of Sander van‘t Noordende to the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Santosh brings more than 20 years of leadership and industry experience to Virtusa. Most recently Santosh served as President of Global Growth Markets at Cognizant where he managed a business with revenues over $4 billion and built multiple billion-dollar businesses in Europe and Asia Pacific in Banking, CommTech and Products & Resources.  In his new role, Santosh will help Virtusa drive growth in key markets and continue to be recognized as an employer of choice.

“On behalf of the entire company and the Board of Directors, I would like to thank Kris for his more than two decades of leadership,” said Sander van‘t Noordende. “I would also like to welcome Santosh who brings a stellar track record of client service, leadership, and proven success. Santosh has the vision and experience to take Virtusa’s deep heritage in digital engineering to new levels of growth.”

 “I am deeply honored to join Virtusa at this exciting time for our employees, clients and partners,” said Santosh Thomas. “I have admired Kris and Virtusa for fostering a culture of innovation and distinguishing itself as a global leader in helping customers tackle their unique digital transformation challenges. Virtusa has a great brand reputation, an impressive roster of strategic partners, and is well positioned for sustained growth.”

“When I founded Virtusa 25 years ago I had a vision to build a global powerhouse in digital engineering services. And we did just that,” said Kris Canekeratne. “I leave with the confidence that the company and its leadership team have never been stronger and its opportunities have never been greater. I welcome Santosh Thomas to the CEO role and wish him the best in his efforts to lead Virtusa through its next phase of growth.”

Also announced yesterday, Denise Warren has joined Virtusa’s Board of Directors and has been appointed Chairperson of its Audit Committee. Ms. Warren recently retired from her position as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of WakeMed Health & Hospitals, and serves on the boards of Brookdale Senior Living, Computer Programs & Systems Inc., and Rockroom Insurance Group. 

 

 

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No double standards please, on govt’s vehicle import ban: CMTA

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Meanwhile, on June 9, The Island published its front page lead story ‘Covid time bonanza: Luxury SUVs for MPs coming after all- LCs opened before Cabinet rescinded its own decision’.

The Ceylon Motor Traders Association (CMTA) has expressed its concerns on the decision the government has taken to import 400 vehicles – including 227 luxury SUVs – to a value of Rs. 3.7 billion through the Bank of Ceylon. The Government reversed its earlier decision to cancel the order, citing the fact that the Letters of Credit (LCs) had been already opened and “as the opening of Letters of Credit meant guaranteed payment, Sri Lanka faced the prospect of being blacklisted if a unilateral decision was taken” as per Minister Keheliya Rambukwella’s explanation to the press.

The CMTA notified the government of the same issues and repercussions on international trade as a result of unilaterally dishonouring 216 LCs of its members that had been opened prior to the import ban in March 2020. Totalling Rs. 5.2 billion, these include a considerable number of vehicles ordered by permit holders such as doctors and government officials who are at the forefront fighting the pandemic, some of whom had already sold their existing vehicle, anticipating their new vehicle to arrive shortly. Is it fair to keep these permit holders on hold indefinitely while new luxury SUVs are imported for MPs during the import ban?

Due to these LCs being dishonoured, a total of more than 14,000 vehicles comprising 10,780 Motorcycles, 2640 trishaws and 537 Cars specifically ordered for Sri Lankan market conditions were prohibited from being imported.

The vehicle import ban imposed last year has taken a toll on vehicle buyers by constricting the market at a time when the need for personal transportation is more acute. To make matters worse, the resulting imbalance of demand vs. supply has caused prices of used vehicles skyrocket within a short time span, and has led to unscrupulous activities at the expense of the consumer, such as odometer tampering.

Speaking on behalf of the CMTA, Chairman Yasendra Amerasinghe said, “Considering the rampant increase of COVID-19 cases at this time, with various potent variants of the virus spreading throughout the island, personal mobility represents the safest option for citizens who have no choice but to travel. The CMTA very much agrees with Minister Rambukwella’s statement that cancellation of confirmed LCs will affect the credibility of our banks and country. We strongly urge the government to apply the same standard to LCs for vehicles for government servants including doctors, and the general public as it has applied for luxury SUVs for MPs. We hope that there would be no double standard.”

Furthermore, the CMTA mentioned that it had been reminding the government of a proposal for Quota that It had submitted in March, at the request of the President’s Secretariat, to which no response had been given. This proposal was based on a minimum volume of vehicle imports for the industry to survive until the import ban is lifted.

Concerns were also raised as to how this purchase had been carried out without an open tender, with queries as to whether it complies with government procurement guidelines.

Founded in 1920, the Ceylon Motor Traders Association (CMTA) is affiliated to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and is widely accepted as the voice of the Sri Lankan Automotive Industry.

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