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SMEs and entities serving domestic and foreign markets worst hit in COVID-19 crisis

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By Lynn Ockersz

SMEs and businesses serving domestic and foreign markets were the worst-hit sectors at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey titled ‘An Initial Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19 on Employers’, carried out by The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) reveals.

‘While the hospitality and food service sector recorded the highest economic losses in terms of revenue, foreign exchange earnings and investment, exporters employing more than 250 employees lost all their earnings, the survey report goes on to disclose. Commenting on the latter finding, the assessment states that, ‘Since large scale companies account for about 95% of total export earnings, the impact on the balance of trade will be devastating.’

The survey report was presented to the media on July 30 at the EFC auditorium, Rajagiriya by a panel of experts headed by Director General EFC Kanishka Weerasinghe. The survey period was April-May 2020 and covered 100 firms, employing 125,000+ employees. Highlights of the report were presented by Advisor HR & Coordinator Research of the EFC Dinesh Ruwan Kumara. The EFC intends using the study findings to ‘inform policy makers about the interventions necessary to help companies to manage the crisis and grow out of it.’

In his opening remarks EFC DG Weerasinghe said, among other things, that the pandemic was ‘like shifting sands’ and that the world needs to ‘prepare for future pandemic waves’ and their aftermath. He added that the adverse fallout from the crisis on local companies was contained by the EFC-formulated Tripartite Agreement on Wages. The latter ensured that local livelihoods were retained and helped guard against ‘mass unemployment’. The EFC has submitted a 10 point policy to the government on issues growing out of the pandemic and their containment.

Some other crucial findings of the survey are:

* More than half of all responding companies were faced with serious cash flow problems in meeting day-to-day expenses. The cash flow of about 18% of the companies was sufficient only for one month while another 39% stated that they could survive for about three months.

* Subjective estimates of job losses by responding companies averaged at 7% and 9% for executive and non-executive staff respectively, across the sample. The highest job losses among non-executive staff were reported in the finance and insurance and manufacturing (15%) subsectors, followed by hospitality and food services (11%), agriculture (6%), and wholesale and retail trade (5%). Among executive staff, the highest job losses were reported in manufacturing(10%), finance and insurance (8.3%) and information and communication (7.5%).

*All responding companies identified workforce protection to be the most important coping strategy at organizational level, while Work from Home(WfH) was the second most important measure, particularly in sub-sectors dominated by office-type occupations in the service sector.

* Labour market-related policies were identified by respondents as the most important area that the government needs to address. Sri Lanka’s existing labour laws do not provide for pandemic-like situations, leaving a huge gap in institutional mechanisms to manage crises of this kind.

* Among monetary and fiscal policy remedial measures, employers suggested the reduction of interest rates, extension of debt moratoria and granting credit and other financial support for firms to re-start operations.

 



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Business

Aitken Spence invests in yet another renewable energy project in hydropower

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Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake – Deputy Chairman and Managing Director Aitken Spence PLC accepting the share transfer form from Harsha Abeywickrama – chairman Sunshine Energy Ltd; in the presence of Ms. Stasshani Jayawardena – Executive Director Aitken Spence PLC, Dr. Rohan Fernando – Executive Director Aitken Spence PLC, Ms. Nilanthi Sivapragasam – Chief Financial Officer Aitken Spence PLC and Leel Wickremarachchi – Managing Director of the power segment from Aitken Spence PLC. Shyam Sathasivam – Managing Director, Sunshine Energy Ltd. and Harin Udeshi – Director, Waltrim Energy Ltd.

Aitken Spence PLC recently acquired Waltrim Energy Limited, a subsidiary of Sunshine Holdings PLC for Rs. 900 million. The company contributes 6.6MW to the national grid via three mini hydropower plants located in the Nuwara Eliya district, namely of Waltrim Hydropower (Private) Limited, Upper Waltrim Hydropower (Private) Limited and Elgin Hydropower (Private) Limited. Waltrim hydropower draws energy from Kothmala Oya, Upper Waltrim hydropower and Elgin hydropower from Dambagasthwala Oya.

Aitken Spence expands its portfolio in hydropower in the pursuit of meeting rising energy demands, sustainable development, access to clean energy and lowering our national carbon footprint. This is the second hydropower plant which is owned and operated by Aitken Spence. Branford Hydropower (Pvt) Ltd. is the other hydropower plant with a 2.5MW capacity located in Matale. The company also owns and operates a wind power plant with 3MW capacity located in Ambewela.

“This is yet another investment made by Aitken Spence that shows our commitment to expand the power generation portfolio with renewable energy projects. Hydro power plays a key role in renewable energy segment in Sri Lanka and this initiative strengthens the country’s efforts to move towards cleaner energy sources and effective and efficient management of sustainable and affordable generation of energy supplied to the national grid,” commented Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake, Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Aitken Spence PLC.

“Aitken Spence maintains highest environmental, safety and quality standards in the management of our power plants. These stringent management frameworks will be extended to the newly acquired power plants to meet compliance requirements as well as global benchmarks for cleaner production of energy,” added Leel Wickremarachchi, Managing Director of the power segment of Aitken Spence.

The Power segment of Aitken Spence is a leading player in the sector with a reputation for investing in pioneering technologies and has diversified into renewable energy by establishing hydro power and wind power plants to support Sri Lanka’s demand for energy. With their commitment to increase the country’s energy consumption from renewable energy sources, the company recently introduced Sri Lanka’s first waste to energy power plant that was officially launched in February 2021. Moreover, these initiatives are in line with the collective efforts of government and the private sector to produce clean energy sustainably.

 

 

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Best Woman Entrepreneur at Entrepreneur Awards 2020

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Christell Skin Clinic proved their mettle as industry leaders yet again, by clinching the three topmost awards at the recently held Western Province Entrepreneurship Awards Ceremony 2020. The highly-anticipated annual event -jointly organised by the National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) and the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka- took place this year at the BMICH.

The event brought together industry leaders and newcomers with the aim to recognise and honour micro, small, medium and large sector entrepreneurs that have contributed significantly to Sri Lanka’s service sector over the past year.

The country’s leading aesthetics and wellness centre took home The Best Enterprise service sector trophy, as well as the Best Entrepreneur of the Year award – the most sought-after prize of the night. More notably however, the Best Woman Entrepreneur title was awarded to the director of the Christell Skin Clinic, Dr. Shanika Arsecularatne, in recognition of her inspirational journey to becoming one of the most successful businesswomen in the country, and also of her outstanding contribution to the field of cosmetology and wellness in Sri Lanka.

“I’m truly honoured to receive this recognition, especially because I believe that no one receives an award like this out of sheer luck, but rather in acknowledgement and appreciation of the hard work, sleepless nights and sacrifices we have all made, to be where we are today,” said Dr. Arsecularatne on accepting her award.

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Plastic Modified Asphalt Concrete car park in Sri Lanka

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The car park of the Walgama Food City with its new “Paving with Plastic”

As a socially responsible corporate citizen, Cargills holds a strong commitment to serving the nation and preserving the planet for future generations. By partnering with AGC Innovate Pvt Ltd – one of the country’s leading innovative solutions providers – Cargills initiated the launch of “Paving with Plastic” as a means to address Sri Lanka’s plastic waste menace in an ecofriendly and pragmatic approach.

The benefits of plastic are irrefutable – this versatile material is ubiquitous in our everyday lives, due to it being cheap and convenient to produce as well as being highly durable and user friendly. However, once used and disposed, plastic lingers in the environment for too long and does not decompose.

As a result, the inherent problem of plastic pollution is a global crisis, with Sri Lanka generating approximately 7000 metric tons of mismanaged solid waste daily, with 6% accounting for plastic and polythene waste. Therefore, in the absence of a proper waste management system, non-recyclable plastic is dumped in large landfill sites. These sites are now exceeding their maximum capacity, and has led to pressing environmental and social concerns in the country.

As a first step to tackling this waste plastic problem, Cargills made a landmark decision to pave the Cargills Food City Carparks using Plastic Modified Asphalt Concrete, partnering with AGC Innovate.

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