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Sri Lanka hits the nail on the head at UN ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum



Shehan Semasinghe, State Minister of Finance speaks at the UN ECOSOC Financing for Development (FfD) Forum held in New York, on 17 April 2023

• Says existing system of international debt schemes hinders vulnerable, developing economies

• Urges for political will at global level to reform international financial architecture

• Requests for support in debt restructuring, debt sustainability and adequate climate financing

By Sanath Nanayakkare

Shehan Semasinghe, State Minister of Finance speaking at the UN ECOSOC Financing for Development (FfD) Forum held in New York, on 17 April 2023 said that Sri Lanka’s recent experience has shown the constraints developing countries face in the existing system of the debt architecture, particularly when developing economies are faced with vulnerabilities that are beyond their control.”

Referring to the 54 countries categorized as having severe debt problems given the global outlook of high inflation, low growth and high interest rates, Semasinghe appealed to the high-profile international finance forum that it needs to have a look at the global financial architecture and ensure that the vicious cycle of debt and default does not repeat itself.”

Further speaking he said:

“I came to New York after attending the Spring Sessions of the IMF and the World Bank with whom we have an ongoing dialogue on the reforms being undertaken by Sri Lanka towards economic recovery, and the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility approved last month. As observed by the UN Secretary-General, many developed countries, adopted expansionary fiscal and monetary measures to aid recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic. However, many developing countries could not do so and were burdened with high interest rates and lowered credit ratings. According to the UNDP’s Paper on “Avoiding ‘Too Little Too Late’ on International Debt Relief,” 54 countries are categorized as having severe debt problems given the global outlook of high inflation, low growth and high interest rates. Sri Lanka has had its share of above challenges in recent times,”

“With the successful conclusion of negotiations with the IMF on an Extended Fund Facility, we have reason for optimism and are now engaged in a debt restructuring programme within a framework comprising of a Special Creditor Coordinator Committee comprising of India, France and Japan. Towards this objective, the government of Sri Lanka is committed to making the hard policy decisions needed for the restoration of its economy on sound economic practices.”

“We meet at a time when the development agenda [sustainable development goals of the UN] that we embarked on in 2015 seems to have regressed and is in danger of remaining unachieved in 2030. Even before the pandemic, the development agenda was somewhat constrained due to a multitude of factors. These factors have exacerbated due to a combination of events stemming from the pandemic to the conflict in Ukraine and climate change. Multilateralism and multilateral organizations as well as the process of globalization have today come under threat due to the perception that institutions committed to delivering the Development Agenda have not achieved their milestones. The lack of adequate and sustainable financing remains the primary and key challenge today that many states face in meeting the targets of the 2030 Agenda.”

“The key message in the report on “Financing for Sustainable Development” provides a snapshot of the predicament we are in, the urgency of the action to be taken and the clear recommendations on what needs to be done. What remains to be seen is whether there is political will at the global level to take adequate measures, especially on reform of the international financial architecture, to meet already expressed pledges on Official Development Assistance, assist countries in debt restructuring and debt sustainability and ensure adequate climate financing.

” It is our hope that the SDG Stimulus proposed by the Secretary-General and the deliberations at this Forum will find fruition; stop the back sliding and provide the necessary stimulus to ensure that the Agenda 2030 regains its traction . We cannot be in a state of inertia; we must act with the necessary political will now, if we are to ensure that the global sustainable development prospects will not back slide further and reach a point of irretrievability when we will see an exacerbated finance divide and a yawning sustainable development divide. The time horizons available to scale up SDG financing, investment and development cooperation is short. My government is committed to undertaking national actions to accelerate sustainable industrial transformations. We look forward to forging bilateral and multilateral partnerships to assist this process,” Semasinghe said.

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UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka rallies corporates to ‘Forward Faster’ on SDGs



Janani Wijetunge_Network Manager_UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka

United Nations Global Compact Network Sri Lanka (Network Sri Lanka), the country network of the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, recently launched a rousing call to action for corporate leaders of Participant companies and across the country: commit to ambitious sustainability targets and amplify Sri Lanka’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a new global initiative called ‘Forward Faster’.

The ‘Forward Faster’ initiative of the UN Global Compact, calls on business leaders worldwide to take measurable, credible, and ambitious action in five key areas — gender equality, climate action, living wage, water resilience, and finance & investment. These areas can accelerate progress across all SDGs, enabling the private sector to collectively make the biggest and fastest impact by 2030.

At an event titled ‘Compass 2024’ and themed ‘Towards a Resilient Future Through Corporate Impact’, Network Sri Lanka introduced the Forward Faster initiative locally to ignite private sector leadership in driving transformational change. The programme also outlined Network Sri Lanka’s 2024 programmes and anticipated outcomes while laying the groundwork for companies to strategically direct resources. Representatives from Participating companies of Network Sri Lanka, key stakeholders, and special invitees were in attendance.

The event featured distinguished speakers including UN representatives, a presentation from the 2021 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Pioneer for SDG 12 Responsible Production and Consumption from Sri Lanka, insights on the experience from a representative of the John Keells Holdings PLC team that was selected to present at the Leaders Summit in New York through participation in the SDG Innovation Accelerator 2023, a discussion on navigating the future from working group heads and representatives and insights from the Regional Human Development report by the UNDP spotlighting current and emerging risks for local businesses. Compass 2024 highlighted the urgent need for ambitious commitments and collective action on SDGs to achieve Agenda 2030.

Welcoming the audience, via a pre-recorded message, Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary-General; Executive Director & CEO of UN Global Compact said, “I thank each one of you for participating in today’s critical dialogue. Our UN Global Compact now includes over 20,000 companies worldwide committed to sustainable and responsible business practices – a truly powerful force for the greater good. The Sri Lankan business community is an essential and growing part of our movement. In today’s uncertain global environment, your participation is more important than ever.”

Unveiling UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka’s overarching plan for 2024, Rathika de Silva, Executive Director, UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka explained the roadmap will help participating companies enhance governance strategies, set ambitious targets across priority areas and unlock innovation opportunities.

“I want to assure you that Network Sri Lanka will be collaborating a lot more with key institutions to create more value for our participant companies,” he pledged.

Reminding participants that the world is not on track to achieve the SDGs, he noted, “When you sign up to Forward Faster, you could prioritise the areas of actions that are most relevant for your company and your industry and you could start there and then integrate the other areas of action as you go along”

In his address, Dilhan Fernando, Chairman of UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka, emphasized the urgent need for collective action, noting, “UN Global Compact offers something as important as a blueprint, that is collaboration, together we are stronger, that is what binds us. As the Global Compact we have the benefit of learning from around the world. Global Compact can empower you and bring you together with like-minded people. Coming together with the support of a global network, I believe benefits every business.”

Marc-André Franche, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, emphasized the private sector’s role and welcomed deeper cooperation. “The UN Global Compact exemplifies the spirit of collaboration and partnership that leverages the unique strengths and resources of the private sector to achieve our shared goals” he said. “As private sector leaders, you have a great responsibility to set examples as champions of sustainability. The United Nations is your partner in these endeavours. We are committed to working with each of you and re-envisioning our pathways towards the SDGs.”

Speaking at the event, Azusa Kubota, Resident Representative UNDP Sri Lanka said, “UNDP is working collaboratively with all of you to make sure our work contributes to a healthier planet and people, and investments required to recover the socio-economic status of the country are SDGs-aligned. And the private sector obviously plays an indispensable role in driving this change. We very much appreciate and highly value our partnership with all of you through the UN Global Compact Sri Lanka.”

By rallying participant companies under a bold strategic compass, Network Sri Lanka has signalled the intent to lead in accelerating Sri Lanka’s corporate sustainability transformation through multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Today Network Sri Lanka includes 75 business and non-business organisations, joining over 20,000 companies in the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. Participants commit to align their business strategy and operations with the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact in the areas of Human Rights, Labour, Environment and Anti-Corruption. It further encourages businesses to support the 2030 Agenda.UN Global Compact supports organisations irrespective of their size, sector and geographic location to align to the Ten Principles and progress in their sustainability journey.

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LAUGFS Eco Sri unveils a State-of-the-Art eco test facility to combat vehicle emissions in Kirulapone



LAUGFS Eco Sri Limited, a subsidiary of LAUGFS Holdings, and a leading player in the vehicle emission testing sector recently announced the grand opening of its latest venture, the Kirulapone Vehicle Emission Testing Center. This flagship center, located in the heart of Kirulapone, marks a significant milestone in the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability and technological advancement.

The Kirulapone VET center is equipped with cutting-edge technologies and upgraded testing techniques, setting a new standard in vehicle emission testing across Sri Lanka. From automated vehicle number capturing to a seamless, paperless testing process, the center promises a smoother experience for motorists while prioritising sustainability and efficiency.

Speaking with CEO, LAUGFS Eco Sri – Saliya Dissanayake, at the opening, expressed his enthusiasm for the inauguration, stating, “We are thrilled to inaugurate the Kirulapone Vehicle Emission Testing Center. At LAUGFS Eco Sri, we recognise the urgent need to address the pressing environmental challenges posed by vehicle emissions. The Kirulapone Vehicle Emission Testing Center stands as a testament to our dedication to mitigating these challenges while ensuring our customers’ needs are met with the utmost convenience. Inaugurating the Kirulapone Vehicle Emission Testing Center is not just a momentous occasion for LAUGFS Eco Sri; it is a significant step forward in our journey towards a cleaner and a sustainable future. We invite the community to join us in this endeavour as we continue to innovate and lead the way towards a more sustainable tomorrow.”

The opening of the Kirulapone Vehicle Emission Testing Center was met with overwhelming positivity from the local community, addressing a significant gap in accessibility to such services. Its strategic location serves the immediate area and contributes to ongoing efforts to monitor and mitigate vehicle emissions, ultimately working towards the collective goal of reducing air pollution in the region.

Concluding, Dissanayake stated: “Reducing air pollution is crucial for public health and environmental preservation. Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of pollutants, which can lead to respiratory problems and hinder lung development. Controlling vehicle emissions through rigorous testing is essential for protecting children’s health and creating a cleaner environment for future generations. This Vehicle Emission Testing Center plays a crucial role in mitigating air pollution in the area by identifying vehicles that exceed emission standards, thus ensuring that only environmentally responsible vehicles are permitted on the roads of Kirulapone.”

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Sri Lanka’s tourism poised for remarkable growth as visa free travel enhances industry potential



Tourism in Sri Lanka is on a high growth trajectory following a boost in Sri Lanka’s potential as a must-visit destination. Visa free travel for tourists from China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan has provided the right nudge for tourists to put Sri Lanka on the top of their travel bucket list.

Nationals from these countries planning to visit Sri Lanka need to apply for Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) before arriving, subject to granting of visa free of charge. The scheme is valid until March 2024 while the visa is valid for 30 days, permitting double entry from the date of initial arrival to Sri Lanka. However, industry sources believe that the boost in tourist arrivals may encourage the visa free travel scheme to be extended further.

Having welcomed 208,253 visitors in January this year alone, the highest in 4 years, the figures confirm a YoY increase of 103.1%. Tourists from India, Russia, the UK, Germany and China top the list with 28,493 arrivals in the first four days of February 2024, confirming a figure of 7,000 travellers a day. The tourist arrivals are led by Russia with a 15% market share while India holds second position with 4,123 travellers. UK was seen as the third best market, with 2,592 (9%) arrivals with Germany (1,977) and China (1950) following.

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