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SPOTLIGHT ON Sanjiv Hulugalle – Sri Lankan Vice President & General Manager – Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection in Hawaii

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anjiv talks about the resort’s $200M renovation and how the destination is the perfect vacation getaway to socially distance and unwind after a long hard year. They are gearing up for group business later in the year with innovative programs to make conferences and meetings successful.

What do you anticipate for the recovery in Hawaii and how have you coped with such an unpredictable market?We are seeing strong demand from guests on the mainland wanting to visit Hawaii. With the testing protocols becoming more clear, the state and Mauna Lani will come back better than ever. By nature, the resort lends itself well to social distancing: wide open spaces, private, oceanfront dining and beautiful views that can be enjoyed from your balcony.

During our closure this summer we have won numerous industry awards, including Conde Nast Travler’s Hot List and Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best. Most recently we were named to Travel+Leisure’s 500 Hotels. Through this coverage, so many new guests have learned about the resort and are excited to visit Hawaii island when the time is right. While we were only open for 7 weeks after our reimagination in the beginning of 2020, during our closure we were able to add in a robust fitness and tennis program, wellness experiences, as well as reopening one of Hawaii’s best restaurants to locals, CanoeHouse.

We anticipate group business returning later in the year, with programs set up to allow for private experiences and distance meetings. Attendees will be able to attend large conference events virtually by way of their guestroom TV, and incentive programs will take full advantage of wide open spaces and thoughtful experiences.

How have you made guests and staff feel safe at the resort?By nature, the state of Hawaii provides a haven to those seeking opportunities to be outside, explore nature and enjoy distance. Mauna Lani was designed as an indoor-outdoor retreat. From outdoor dining options and endless activities on our beach, guests feel comfortable and relaxed here, for perhaps the first time since the Pandemic started. Since reopening in November, our goal has been to provide the safest environment possible for our guests, Team Members and locals. In getting to Hawaii alone, guests traveling from the mainland and any other island must arrive with a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of travel. The island of Hawaii administers a second, rapid test at the airport, so that gives travelers here peace of mind that they are visiting one of the safest destinations in the world. We are one of the first resorts to be Sharecare VERIFIED by Forbes, giving an extra level of confidence. In addition to safety protocols, experiences at Mauna Lani happen where open spaces and nature are abundant.

Your $200M renovation in 2020 is quite spectacular. Can you give us a snapshot of the brief?People have always loved the elegance of this resort – the simple, beautiful natural spaces, and incredible sense of place, all deeply rooted with history. And all of that remains after our renimagination. Designed by Meyer Davis, the interiors are now brighter and more refined, with ample hardwood, natural fabrics and textures. Furnished lanai balconies offer spectacular mountain and ocean views—each presenting an understated, natural décor, setting the tone for a soulful Hawaiian escape. The ultimate island getaway is reserved for those who reside within one of our five private Residences, each with their own private pool, dedicated service and exclusive dining options. Nestled on sacred shores lined with tropical gardens, secluded warm-water beaches and natural lava plains, Mauna Lani offers an unrivaled, authentic experience, raising the bar for luxury in Hawai’i.

Oceanfront guest rooms and suites set the stage for transformative experiences while activity at the resort buzzes from Surf Shack, the heart of Mauna Lani. Guests enjoy morning yoga and embark on sunrise canoe paddles from here, and come back later in the day to live, local music and sunset cocktails. Three pools and expansive lawns are perfect for picnics and stargazing. For dinner, private dining options include highlights from Hawaii’s fresh bounty from the laid-back, yet refined CanoeHouse with Executive Chef Matt Raso at the helm.

Trends are predicting travelers will migrate to more open, natural spaces. How can guests at your resort tap into a sense of wellbeing and reconnection with the outdoors?Mauna Lani offers guests unparalleled opportunities to connect outdoors with Hawaii’s natural and cultural treasures. The land itself is sacred, nestled on 32 oceanfront acres called Kalāhuipua‘a. This raw and potent paradise is at the piko (center) of Hawaii’s five great volcanoes, and the point where volcanic plains meet the shimmering sea. Mauna Lani sits within Kalāhuipua‘a, a sacred realm whose astonishing natural beauty is equaled only by its primal, magnetic power. To walk this storied coastline, breathe the salt air, and swim in the crystalline waters is to feel the same mana—spiritual energy—that first drew people here centuries ago. This is where ancient Hawaiians mastered the art of aquaculture and where King Kamehameha came to recuperate and work in the fishponds.

 

 



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CBSL adopting ‘as and when needed’ stance on foreign reserves

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

The country’s foreign reserves will be added to, and utilised as and when needed, Dhammika Nanayakkara, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) said at a virtual forum hosted by the Central Bank on Monday.

“The Central Bank has taken many steps to have some standby arrangements with some friendly countries and also some other avenues ‘as and when’ we need reserves in foreign currency, and to utilise them ‘as and when’ the need arises,” Central Bank DG said.

“Referring to the recent bilateral currency swap agreement with the People’s Bank of China (PboC) amounting to CNY 10 billion (approximately US$ 1.5 billion), he said,”This agreement was entered into with a view to promoting bilateral trade and direct investment for economic development of the two countries, and to be used for other purposes agreed upon by both parties. I think we first entered into this kind of an agreement with the PboC in 2014. And it served as a standby arrangement. We hadn’t used a cent of that facility. Similarly this swap also could serve as a standby arrangement. We will try to make use of this facility but only if the need arises. Otherwise it could serve as a standby arrangement without any money being utilised during the period the contract is valid for.”

Explaining further he said: “As for the terms of the swap with the PboC, it can’t be swapped into USD.. But it is not completely stopped though, because there are three purposes the money can be used for. 1. Enhancing bilateral investment between the two countries 2. financing the trade flows 3. Any other purpose agreed to by both the providing part and the requesting party.”

“That covers a broader range of utilisation provided that both parties agree to it. That’s where we are in terms of utilising the swap facility.”

“It’s publicly known that we have some standby arrangements with PboC and also we are discussing with friendly countries such as India, Bangladesh, Qatar, Oman; a number of countries in different ways as to how we can ensure some standby arrangements,”

“If you look at the government’s policies, especially export-oriented domestic economy, increasing FDIs through non-debt creating inflows. I think all these things will definitely provide the much needed cashflow to service the debt obligations. The government has clearly mentioned that it has no intention of increasing foreign currency debt obligations going forward. Gradually the government wants to bring it down so that it can rely more on domestic borrowings,” the Deputy Governor said.

Meanwhile, the government of Republic of Korea and the government of Sri Lanka signed a new framework arrangement recently for the period of 2020-2022 to obtain loans up to an aggregate commitment amount of USD 500 million to finance projects mutually agreed.

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Decline in labour force in 2020 first half- Part III

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Extracts from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka report, ‘Recent Economic Developments: Highlights of 2020 and Prospects for 2021’

 

Continued from yesterday

Meanwhile, several rounds of discussions were held in 2020 to determine the possibility of increasing the basic daily wage of workers in the plantation sector to Rs. 1,000.

= Nominal wages of the informal private sector employees, as measured by the informal private sector wage rate index (2012=100), increased by 3.5 per cent during the period from January to August 2020 compared to the same period of 2019. Nominal wages of employees in all sub-sectors, namely, agriculture, industry and services increased by 4.1 per cent, 2.9 per cent and 3.9 per cent, respectively, during the period from January to August 2020. However, real wages in the informal private sector declined by 2.8 per cent during the period from January to August 2020 compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.

The negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic amidst the persisting structural issues led the labour market indicators to deteriorate during the first half of 2020. As per the statistics reported by the Department of Census and Statistics, the working age population increased during the first half of 2020 compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, led by the significant increase in economically inactive population amidst a comparatively lesser decline in the economically active population.

Accordingly, the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR), which is the ratio of the labour force to the working age population, declined during the first half of 2020 compared to the same period of 2019. A considerable decline was observed in the employed population as well. The unemployment rate, which is the share of unemployed population to the labour force, increased notably during the first half of 2020 compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. Continuing the trend observed in the recent past, unemployment rates among females, youth and educationally qualified persons continued to remain at high levels during the first half of 2020.

The labour force, which is the economically active population,3 declined to 8.470 million in the first half of 2020 from 8.603 million in the corresponding period of the previous year, recording a decline of 1.5 per cent. This decline in labour force was solely driven by the significant decline of 6.0 per cent in the female labour force during the reference period. In contrast, the male labour force, which accounts for the highest share of the labour force, increased by 0.9 per cent during the first half of 2020 compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. In terms of sector wise labour force, declines were observed across all sectors namely urban, estate and rural sectors during the reference period mainly due to the considerable drops in the female labour force. Meanwhile, the male labour force in the urban and estate sectors also recorded marginal declines, though the male labour force in the rural sector recorded an increase.

In line with the decline of the labour force, LFPR declined to 50.6 per cent during the first half of 2020 from 52.6 per cent recorded in the first half of 2019. This considerable decline was mainly driven by the significant increase observed in economically inactive females during the reference period. Consequently, the female LFPR declined to 32.0 per cent in the first half of 2020 from 34.7 per cent in the corresponding period of 2019. The male LFPR also declined to 72.1 per cent in the first half of 2020 from 73.4 per cent in the first half of 2019 due to the higher increase in economically inactive males compared to the increase in economically active males. Accordingly, the gender gap in LFPRs soared to 40.1 percentage points in the first half of 2020 from 38.7 percentage points in the corresponding period of the previous year affirming the persisting issues related to low female labour force participation towards the economic growth in the country.

The employed population4 declined by 2.4 per cent to 7.998 million in the first half of 2020 compared to 8.193 million recorded in the corresponding period of 2019. This decline was led by both industry and services sectors, as an increase in employed population was observed in the agriculture sector. Within the industry sector, declines in employed population were observed across all sub-sectors namely, mining and quarrying, manufacturing and construction, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities, while within the services sector prominent declines in employed population were observed in wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, administrative and support service activities, and public administration and defence, compulsory social security sub-sectors. These declines in employment in industry and services sectors were also reflected in the employment indices of manufacturing and services purchasing managers’ index surveys conducted by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in the first half of 2020. Meanwhile, continuing the trend observed in the recent past, the services sector, which accounted for 46.2 per cent of the total employment, remained as the foremost employment generator followed by the industry and agriculture sectors contributing to 27.0 per cent and 26.8 per cent of the total employment, respectively, during the first half of 2020. yy In terms of the status of employment, the employed population in all categories declined during the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2019. With regard to employment status, the employed population is categorised into two major categories, namely, waged and salaried workers (employees) and the self-employed.

The employees category is further categorised into public sector and private sector, while the self-employed category is categorised into employers, own account workers and contributing family workers. Among these categories, a prominent decline was observed in private sector employees followed by public sector employees.

Nevertheless, with the government programme to provide jobs for 60,000 unemployed graduates and for 100,000 persons in the lowest strata of income earners in Sri Lanka with the objective of eradicating poverty, in line with the government policy declaration enunciated as “Saubagyaye Dakma”, public sector employment is expected to increase during the second half of the year.

In line with the decline in the employed population, the unemployed population increased significantly by 14.8 per cent to 0.471 million during the first half of 2020 compared to 0.410 million in the corresponding period of the previous year attributable to the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This increase in the unemployed population was mainly driven by unemployed females who contributed to 58 per cent of the total increase 4 70

Accordingly, the increase in unemployed females was recorded at 16.0 per cent, while the increase in unemployed males was recorded at 13.4 per cent during the reference period. yy In line with the increase in the unemployed population,5 the unemployment rate increased to 5.6 per cent in the first half of 2020 compared to 4.8 per cent recorded in the first half of 2019. Accordingly, the unemployment rate of females increased significantly to 8.9 per cent in the first half of 2020 from 7.2 per cent in the corresponding period of the previous year.

The unemployment rate of males increased to 3.9 per cent in the first half of 2020 from 3.4 per cent in the corresponding period of the previous year. yy Unemployment rates among all age categories increased during the first half of 2020 compared to the same period of the previous year. It is noteworthy that among these age categories, youth (aged 15-24 years) unemployment, which continued to remain at a high level, increased substantially to 27.3 per cent during the first half of 2020 from 20.8 per cent in the corresponding period of the previous year. Moreover, unemployed youth contributed to 98 per cent of the total increase in the unemployed population. More than a quarter of the youth labour force being unemployed bring to the surface the issues related to underutilisation of the most productive human capital towards the economic growth of the country. 5 Persons available and/or looking for work, and who did not work and took steps to find a job during the last four weeks and are ready to accept a job given a work opportunity within next two weeks are said to be unemployed. yy In terms of education level, unemployment rates increased among all educational categories during the first half of 2020 compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.

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World Bank strengthens engagement in Sri Lanka

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The World Bank launched public consultations to update its Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) in Sri Lanka. This online platform will enable the Bank to engage with the Sri Lankan public and development partners and seek their views on the most pressing development opportunities and challenges for the country.

The SCD is a country-specific report compiled by the World Bank Group in close consultation with the respective national authorities, stakeholders and the public. This report forms the basis of the Country Partnership Framework, the strategy which outlines how the World Bank Group’s engagement with the country can best contribute towards achieving the goals of ending absolute poverty and boosting shared prosperity in a sustainable manner.

“We are keen to hear from a wide range of development stakeholders – the government, private sector, citizens from different provinces, think tanks and civil society groups,” said Faris. H. Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “Their inputs will help the SCD to focus on areas that will have the maximum impact in fostering greener, resilient and inclusive recovery and growth for Sri Lanka.”

The 2021 SCD will be an update on the previous SCD, taking into account the new and pressing issues stemming from the unprecedented health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The online surveys are open from May 6, 2021 to May 20, 2021, and they are in Sinhala, Tamil and English. This process is complemented by focus group discussions with representation from public and private sectors, as well as civil society organizations. The findings of the consultations will be reflected in the next update of the SCD.

The current World Bank portfolio in Sri Lanka consists of 19 ongoing projects, with a total commitment value of US$2.33 billion in a variety of sectors including transport, urban, agriculture, water, education, and health.

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