Children in Sri Lanka still require critical lifesaving support more than one year from the onset of the poly-crisis that continues to devastate the country with half a million jobs lost and 2.7 million additional people falling into poverty. (Data from World Bank)
Across the island, 38% of families with children are unable to meet their basic food and education needs, according to a recent needs assessment by Save the Children. In another stark sign of the escalating crisis, families are being forced into increasingly desperate measures to meet basic daily needs.
To address the threat to families’ essential needs, Save the Children has supported vulnerable households in the Colombo and Badulla districts with cash assistance of LKR 25,000 (USD 75) per month, from February to April 2023, through European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). So far, this project has supported over 5500 people with cash assistance, mental health psychosocial support, including stress management and positive coping, as well as support for protection concerns to help them overcome the severe challenges brought on by the economic crisis. Thilini* a 26-year-old mother of three from the Colombo district who received support through the ECHO-funded project, said:
“Since the crisis began last year, prices of basic goods have become unaffordable. At times when we have no support, it is difficult for us to afford nutritious food, recently, all we ate was rice and dhal.
“To be very honest, we have barely been able to afford to get by. Mahesh* stopped going for his treatments, as we prioritized our children’s wellbeing over ours.”
“Receiving this cash assistance lifted a huge weight off my shoulders – our expenses were many, but I managed to buy my children nutritious food like eggs and meat, their school supplies, and the medicines we had foregone.”
Thilini’s* husband, Mahesh* suffered a stroke two years ago, leaving him partially paralyzed and unable to provide for his family since. Thilini* is now the primary caregiver to her husband and their young children, leaving her unable to seek work.
Save the Children’s Country Director in Sri Lanka, Julian Chellappah, said, “With the unpredictability of the poly-crisis, children in Sri Lanka are in dire need of immediate support, as it impacts their access to food, education, and protection. The country’s children should not have to bear the burden of this crisis and pay for it with their futures. We wholeheartedly welcome this life-saving support from the EU, which will build resilience among the most vulnerable and marginalized and strengthen our ability to respond to communities most affected by this crisis.”
Cargills Bank in ‘steady performance’ over nine months ended September 30, 2023 – PAT Rs. 432 Million
Economic conditions and challenges prevailing last year have moderated somewhat, given the steadfast approach by policy makers and regulatory authorities towards economic recovery. We appreciate their efforts, and our results bear testimony to the progress made. Nevertheless, the road ahead remains challenging. A meaningful government budget, continued success of the IMF program, general price stability and regained momentum in tourism, remittances and exports will be key in shaping the country’s short- to medium- term economic revival, a Cargills Bank press release said.
The release adds: ‘Cargills Bank’s results for the nine months ended 30 September 2023 reflected continuing QoQ improvement in profitability. Profit after tax at Rs. 432 Mn was higher by Rs. 324 Mn than in the corresponding period of 2022. We are pleased the Bank has been able to maintain this momentum of profitability growth, and are confident the results of 2023 will reflect the strong commitment of the Bank’s team, successful execution of its strategy, a continued rigorous focus on market trends and its adaptability to a volatile environment.
‘Net interest income grew 15% or Rs. 353 Mn in the nine months compared with the corresponding period of 2022. The Bank directed its resources towards higher yielding assets, hedging interest rate risk and prudently managing deposits. In addition, close monitoring of the Bank’s lending portfolio and timely solutions offered to financially stressed customers helped maintain a healthy NIM to date.
‘Net fee and commission income of Rs. 590 Mn for the nine months was lower than the Rs. 641 Mn in the previous year. The decrease of 6% related largely to lower trade volumes and reduced net income from card related services. Additionally, capital gains realized on derecognition of financial assets, and higher foreign exchange income boosted other income streams by Rs. 265 Mn, to Rs. 391 Mn in the nine months.
‘Total operating expenses increased 25% from Rs. 1.7 Bn last year to Rs. 2.1 Bn. Personnel expenses increased 15% largely due to adjustments to salary and welfare benefits considering increased costs of living and market conditions. Other operating expenses grew 44% mainly from the impact of the Social Security Contribution Levy which was effective from October 2022, the increased cost of utilities and the cost of repair and maintenance of IT assets, particularly where denominated in foreign currencies.
‘Impairment charges totaling Rs. 607 Mn reflected a reduction of 50% in the first nine months of 2023 evidencing a focused and proactive management of delinquencies and commendable overall team efforts in this direction. The Bank’s Stage 3 Loans (net of Stage 3 Impairment) to Total Loans Ratio stood at 6.64% while Stage 3 Provision Cover was 52.74% at 30th September 2023. Additional impairment overlays considered necessary have been incorporated after a careful scrutiny of the status of borrowers.
‘VAT on Financial Services and income tax expenses increased substantially mainly due to growth in profits and the increased corporate income tax rate effective 1 October 2022.
‘The Bank maintains Capital Adequacy and Liquid Assets Ratios well above the minimum requirements prescribed by the Central Bank. The total Capital Adequacy Ratio was 20.43% while the Statutory Liquid Assets Ratio stood at 37.72%.
‘Total assets of the Bank at 30 September stood at Rs. 64.7 Bn, an increase of 20% or Rs. 11 Bn in the first nine months of the year. Financial Assets measured at fair value through other comprehensive income grew by 92% to reach Rs. 19.6 Bn. Positive gains were reflected in Other Comprehensive Income. The loan book registered moderate growth, from Rs. 36.0 Bn to Rs. 36.8 Bn, given conditions prevailing. In this regard, the Bank exercised care in maintaining the quality of its lending in a high interest rate environment, where interest payments threatened borrowers’ viability. A shift in strategy commenced in the latter part of the period, to rebuild momentum in lending.
‘Deposits to customers grew 20% from Rs. 37.8 Bn at the end of 2022 to Rs. 44.9 Bn at the reporting date amidst continued reductions in market interest rates. The Bank will judiciously balance interest expenditure and income, as substantial reductions in interest rates and the time lag in repricing loans have a direct impact on NIMs.
‘In October 2023, Fitch Ratings affirmed Cargills Bank’s National Long-Term Rating at ‘A(lka)’; Negative Outlook.
‘Ms Ruvini Fernando, who has served as a Director since 1 August 2018, resigned from the Bank’s Board on 27 October 2023 due to personal circumstances. Mr Arjuna Herath has been appointed to the Bank’s Board effective 1 November 2023.
‘The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) has approved the listing of the Bank’s shares on the CSE. Steps are being taken to duly offer to the public 62.5 Mn shares of the Bank at Rs. 8.oo per share through an Initial Public Offering.’
Standard Chartered Priority to partner Soul Sounds to ring in season
Standard Chartered Sri Lanka Priority Banking is partnering the renowned Soul Sounds choir for a fourth consecutive year, ringing in the festive season with an enchanting evening of much-loved Christmas carols.
The highly anticipated ‘Moods of Christmas,’ presented by the acclaimed all-female Soul Sounds choral ensemble led by veteran vocalist Soundarie David Rodrigo, will perform its 20th edition of Christmas carols and holiday favourites at the Atrium, Cinnamon Grand Colombo from 6.30pm onwards on 22 December 2023.
Commenting on the Yuletide celebration, Aroshana Fernando, Head of Consumer, Private & Business Banking of Standard Chartered Sri Lanka said, “We are excited to spread the holiday cheer amongst our valued Priority clients with another Soul Sounds’ memorable show, which has become a Christmas highlight. It allows us to thank our customers with enchanting music and special memories.”
Unilever Sri Lanka celebrates a Decade of Empowering Sri Lanka’s Youth
Empowering the younger generation, Unilever Sri Lanka recently inducted its 10th batch of Unilever ‘SPARKS’ student Ambassadors, welcoming 26 passionate undergraduates from 10 different universities into its impactful and sought-after student ambassadorship programme.
The SPARKS programme seeks to cultivate the leadership skills and innovative spirit of Sri Lankan undergraduates, encouraging them to become positive influencers among their peers. This is a voluntary student ambassadorship programme in which selected undergraduates from various universities are appointed to be ambassadors of Unilever in their respective institutions for a period of 1 year. The programme was launched in 2014 by Unilever Sri Lanka and was subsequently adopted by Unilever entities across the world.
Hajar Alafifi, Chairperson and Managing Director, Unilever Sri Lanka said, “We are looking forward to working with the selected talented youth in this year’s SPARKS programme. The program is a testament to our commitment towards empowering local youth. This year-long programme serves as an ambassadorship, with students acting as liaison between Unilever Sri Lanka and their respective university. The programme is designed to allow students to exhibit their strength as leaders in their institution. The program is highly sought after among undergraduates, with a remarkable 55% of SPARKS ambassadors transitioning to internships or permanent roles within Unilever in recent years. Celebrating its 10th year, this annual endeavor reflects Unilever’s sustainable approach to making a lasting positive impact on the nation’s youth, preparing them to be ‘future fit.’’
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