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Sampath Bank introduces SL’s first touchless cash withdrawals across its ATM network

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* Another Pathbreaking Innovation from the Bank That Gave Sri Lanka Its First ATMs ~

* Customers of All Banks in Sri Lanka Can Withdraw Cash Safely During the Pandemic

Sampath Bank PLC last week announced the introduction of Touchless Cash Withdrawals at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) for the first time in Sri Lanka, and possibly the first time in the region.State Minister of Money & Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal, M.P., was the chief guest at the commissioning of this at the bank’s head office premises. He performed the first touchless withdrawal in the presence of senior bank officials.Sampath said in a news release that its own customers and customers of all other banks in the country will now be able to withdraw the funds in their accounts and cards at any Sampath Bank ATM around the island by simply scanning the QR code displayed on the ATM screen using the Sampath WePay app.”Doing away with the need to physically touch the surface of the ATM, this is set to minimize risk and enhance customer safety, thereby serving as an ideal means of withdrawing cash from ATMs during the current global COVID-19 pandemic,” the release said.”This is yet another trailblazing digital solution brought to the Sri Lankan market by Sampath Bank. Right from its inception, the Bank has continued to deliver several innovations to the market including the introduction of the country’s first multi-point network of ATMs back in 1988.”

Cabraal commended this initiative saying this was a timely innovation for safe withdrawal of cash by customers of all banks in the context of pandemic challenges.To make a touchless cash withdrawal at any Sampath ATM, all that needs to be done is to select the QR option on their Sampath WePay app, scan the unique QR code that comes up on the ATM’s screen, enter the amount and select the account or card they would like to make the withdrawal from, the release explained.

“The system processes the request upon the customer’s authorization, debits the relevant account or card and issues the cash requested through the ATM, almost instantaneously. The need to scan the QR code which is unique to each transaction makes it necessary for the customer to be physically present at the ATM, thus offering an added layer of security,” it said.

Users can learn more about going touchless by calling 011-2303050.The Sampath WePay app can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Huawei AppGallery. Users can then onboard themselves by entering their National Identity Card (NIC) details and begin transacting through the app by updating their Sampath Bank or any other bank’s account, credit card or debit card details, the release said.

“Customers of other banks need to complete the mandatory Know Your Customer (KYC) formalities and top up their Sampath WePay wallets to be able to use the Touch Cash Withdrawals facility at Sampath Bank ATMs. Sampath Bank does not charge any annual fees, commissions, or transaction fees for Sampath WePay.”Caption: State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal, M.P., performing the first Touchless Cash Withdrawal transaction at the Sampath Bank Head Office premises.



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Significance of repatriation and conversion of export proceeds for external sector stability and overall financial system stability

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Sri Lanka’s merchandise export sector has shown a notable improvement in 2021 compared to the pandemic-affected 2020. As per the latest Customs data, export earnings have averaged US dollars 985 million during the eight months ending August 2021 compared to a monthly average of US dollars 837 million in 2020, while the average earnings have amounted to US dollars 1,064 million during June-August 2021. This is an appreciable development as the merchandise export sector (comprising diverse products) is the largest foreign exchange earner in most countries, including Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has had a trade deficit each year since 1977, and the gap between merchandise imports and exports is typically financed by other inflows to the external current account (such as tourism and other services inflows as well as workers’ remittances), and financial inflows (such as investments and borrowing).

In this background, some recent developments in the foreign exchange market have raised several concerns, particularly as some of these typical avenues of foreign exchange inflows have been affected due to pandemic-related pressures, as explained below:

a) Compared to the monthly average exports as reported by Customs (goods flow) of US dollars 985 million during the eight months ending August 2021, the monthly average repatriation of export proceeds during July/August 2021 has been US dollars 640 million as reported by banks (financial flow). Accordingly, there has been a significant gap of US dollars 345 million between these two figures. This observation therefore, raises the serious question as to whether exporters comply with the regulation on 100 per cent repatriation of export proceeds.

b) It also appears that due to an undue speculation on exchange rate movements, there has been a reluctance to convert export earnings during the period from January 2020 to July 2021, thereby limiting inflows to the domestic foreign exchange market, which situation has then resulted in a buildup of foreign currency deposit balances with the banking sector by a significant US dollars 1.9 billion. In addition, with low rupee interest rates, some exporters have found it more lucrative to borrow and import to meet their input requirements, leading to further tension in the domestic market.

c) As per the data available, it would also be noted that if there had been a 100 per cent repatriation and 100 per cent conversion of export proceeds, the monthly export foreign exchange flow into the domestic market would have been US dollars 985 million, and with the average expenditure on imports of US dollars 1,670 million, that would have resulted in a monthly average gap of US dollars 685 million. This could have been easily financed using other foreign exchange inflows into the country.

d) Based on the above past statistics in general, and the experience during July/August 2021 in particular, the monthly average gap between the conversions of export proceeds with an incomplete repatriation and expenditure on imports has been quite alarming.

It would also be fair to state that there is a necessity for a country to ensure that the foreign exchange generated through export activities are duly repatriated into the country and converted into its currency. In fact, many emerging market economies have repatriation and conversion requirements imposed on merchandise and services exports. Country experiences vary, and over time, with the buildup of a country’s foreign exchange reserves through such non-debt inflows, countries have also gradually relaxed these requirements. Regional economies such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand have export proceeds repatriation requirements currently in place varying from 3 months to 2 years of the export. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Thailand have repatriation requirements on both goods and services export proceeds, while in Nepal, Malaysia and Indonesia, the repatriation requirement is only applicable on goods exports. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Thailand have rules on conversion to respective local currencies in different percentages based on nature and the amount of repatriated export proceeds and their utilisation. Such repatriation and conversion requirements ensure the fulfillment of the demand for foreign currency, including intermediate and investment goods imports directly required by the export sector, as well as essential fuel and medical requirements of the country, which are indirect inputs to all sectors including the export sector.

Therefore, it would be reasonable for the Government (which supports the export sector through lower taxes and numerous other incentives) and the Central Bank (which is expected to deliver price and economic stability as well as financial system stability) to take steps to ensure the complete repatriation of export proceeds within a reasonable period and the conversion of inflows of export proceeds into the local currency, including the proceeds already accumulated in exporters’ accounts, so that the true purpose of exports is realised.

As would be well appreciated, an export would realise its objective only when it finally culminates in the flow of foreign exchange that is generated by the export into the country’s financial system in its local currency. That objective would obviously not be fulfilled if the final conversion of export proceeds into local currency does not take place. Accordingly, steps must be taken to strengthen the systems to ensure monitoring and to implement measures that lead to this objective. It is only then that the gap between the foreign exchange liquidity provided through exports and the foreign exchange liquidity demand for imports would reduce to the level as published in the Central Bank’s own reports.

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LOLC and Expolanka drive bourse along bullish path

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE trading activities initially yesterday were extremely bullish and were driven by two leading entities/counters, LOLC Group and Expolanka. The reason for the LOLC Group to perform well in the stock market was because LOLC (Ceylon) Ltd. that was established in 2018, announced a debenture issue for September 29 to raise Rs. 1 billion, stock market analysts said.

LOLC (Ceylon) Ltd. is planning to purchase all three finance companies under the LOLC Group to make them function as one entity in the future. Initially they will transfer 55 percent of LOLC Development Finance (NIFL) from LOLC Group. Part of the money raised from the debenture issue and the balance two companies, namely LOLC Finance Plc and Commercial Leasing Plc, will join the company in the future, market analysts added.

Meanwhile, E M L Consultants Limited commenced trading on the Empower Board of the CSE yesterday. The company listed 90,900,000 Ordinary Voting Shares and has been classified under the Industry Group “2020 – Commercial & Professional Services”. With the commencement of the very first day of trading its share price appreciated by 690 percent. Its shares started trading at Rs 2 and at the end of the day they shot up to Rs. 15.80.

Amid those developments both indices moved upwards. The All Share Price Index went up by 364 points and S and P SL20 rose by 79.6 points. Turnover stood at Rs 6.7 billion with four crossings. Those crossings were reported in JKH, which crossed 5.7 million shares to the tune of Rs 771 million and its shares were traded at Rs 136, Sampath Bank 3.6 million shares crossed for Rs 182 million, its shares traded at Rs 49.50, LMF 250,000 shares crossed for Rs 45 million with its shares fetching Rs. 180 and Nestle 16000 shares crossed for Rs 20.1 million, its shares fetching Rs. 1250.

In the retail market, five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Expolanka Rs. 2.5 billion (13.5 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 653 million (67.6 million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 411 million (43.7 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings

Rs 402.9 million (730,000 shares traded) and Commercial Leasing Rs 204.4 million (7.5 million shares traded). During the day 202.7 million share volumes changed hands in 38000 transactions.

Asiri Hospitals have topped the league in the first-ever ranking of listed entities in Sri Lanka in an exercise for the year ended 31 March 2021, done by K Seeds Investments. All six listed hospital companies were assessed on Net Profit Margin, EBIT Margin, Return on Equity, Return on Assets Debt to Equity Ratio, Current Ratio, Revenue Growth and Net Profit Growth.

On that basis, Asiri Surgical Hospital has come on top, followed by Asiri Hospital Holdings, Ceylon Hospitals (Durdans), Nawaloka Hospitals, Lanka Hospitals, and Singhe Hospitals.

The current USD to LKR exchange rate is Rs. 200.04 per US dollar.

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‘Government going to the financial rescue of MSMEs’

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By Hiran H .Senewiratne

The Cabinet took the initiative to provide financial assistance and support to micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) industrialists who are struggling to do business due to adverse impacts of the COVID pandemic, the Minister of Industry and Commerce Wimal Weerawansa said.

“For that matter I have presented a Cabinet proposal titled ‘Difficulties Faced by Small and Medium Enterprises’. The proposal made to the Cabinet meeting held two weeks ago was approved with few amendments. We are ready to publish all the contents in another week, Weerawansa said during a webinar held last Saturday evening.

The event was organized by the Sri Lanka Chamber of Small and Medium Industries (SLCSMI) and was powered by the Institute of Money and Entrepreneurship Development (IMED). The event was titled ‘Empowering MSMEs to embrace the new normal’.

Weerawansa said this initiative will provide financial relief to SME industrialists who are faced with various difficulties amid the pandemic.

“These entrepreneurs need a little financial support to continue with their business activities that were impacted by the pandemic, he said, adding that all countries are faced with economic difficulties.

Weerawansa added: “The entire world is faced with a most unprecedented pandemic and all economies are faced with different challenges. Economic activities have been impacted severely and all industries are making every effort to stay afloat in these uncertain times.

“A special Guarantee Fund is now established under the Finance Ministry to support inventors.

“The Guarantee Fund is available for industrialists who can invent market-winning products, but do not have the capital to do so mainly because they are unable to obtain bank loans.

“The fund was established with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“The Guarantee Fund was a 2020 budget proposal, which was implemented by Prime Minister and former Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“The ‘Empowering of MSMEs to embrace the new normal’ initiative by the SLCSMI which helps to build the mindset of entrepreneurs and industrialists is commendable.

“If the mindset breaks down, entrepreneurs will not be able to overcome the challenges despite their financial capabilities. That encouragement is essential at this moment – to revitalize a broken-minded entrepreneur, an industrialist, by pointing out their weaknesses and assuring them with a ‘you can’ mindset to overcome the challenges. The Chamber has stepped in to fill a key void in the industry.”

President, SLCSMI Prof Rohan De Silva said that the SME sector contributed more than 55 percent to 65 percent to the GDP. Therefore, to support this sector is the need of the hour, while the country’s economy is in a serious state.

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