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Sri Lanka urgently needs ‘National Consensus’ on deepening economic crisis, policy analysts and politicians say

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From left: Dhananath Fernando COO Advocata Institute, Prof. Ranjith Bandara, MP SLPP, Dr.Suren Ragavan, MP SLPP/SLFP , Patali Champika Ranawaka, MP SJB, Dr. Harsha de Silva, MP SJB, Vijitha Herath, MP JVP and Sathya Karunarathna, Research Analyst - Advocata Institute.( Pix by Thushara Athapaththu)

The longer reforms are postponed, the worse the problem becomes which makes remedies even more difficult to implement

The only path out is for all parties, the government and the opposition to work together on a common minimum programme of reforms

The reforms are so difficult that no party will want to even contemplate let alone implement them fearing loss of popularity

Sri Lanka is already in one of the worst economic crises in its history

by Sanath Nanayakkare

We are no longer talking about a crisis that is about to engulf us. We are now in its midst, though not its depths. The hope that the 2022 Budget would give the right signals, has evaporated, Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, a leading policy analyst and an advisor of the Advocata Institute said, last week.

He made these comments at Advocata’s latest event , “A National Consensus for Economic Reforms or “ආර්ථිකයට ජාතික සම්මුතියක්?”.

Professor Samarajiva provided a breakdown of severe economic and social challenges facing the country. His keynote speech stressed on the importance of building a national consensus to implement immediate reforms to tackle a wide range of issues ranging from unsustainable debt to shortages of essential items in the country.

The present macroeconomic instability lies in the failure of the state to implement deep structural reforms to the economy for nearly twenty years. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed Sri Lanka’s fundamental weaknesses that have plagued the economy for a long period of time. The event brought together politicians representing the main political parties to discuss the importance of a united course of action, to drive Sri Lanka’s economy towards a path of growth.

Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, explained the seriousness of the crisis. “We cannot get out of the crisis without taking some bitter medicine. It is increasingly becoming clear that debt restructuring in the context of an IMF (International Monetary Fund) programme is essential. Unlike in previous IMF programmes, we cannot afford to abandon discipline at the earliest opportunity. Unless we own the reforms, we will keep falling back”. He said, stressing that what we need is a common minimum program of reform agreed by many. ” We need an attention-grabbing action that will credibly communicate the intentions of the national government. Divesting Sri Lankan Airlines on the same lines as Air India is a good candidate. The objective is to protect the taxpayers of this country from having to continually cover the losses of this technically bankrupt state-owned company”. He said, highlighting the importance of immediate measures to improve public finances. The national carrier Sri Lankan makes a daily loss of LKR 129.03 Million rupees. In the last four years of operation it has cost the economy 137 billion in the form of accumulated losses.

MP Vijitha Herath of the JJB, reflected on the need for a national consensus. He remarked that “the Sri Lankan economy is in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). We are right now using minor reforms to push back certain death. But we need surgery to help the patient”, highlighting the need for deep structural reforms. He further commented that there is space for all parties to come together and agree on such a programme of action for the benefit of the nation. However, he laid out conditions for this including the President shedding his executive powers for a collectively agreed upon period of time.

Prof. Ranjith Bandara, MP, SLPP commented that “We need to prioritise the issues we need to solve. We need to be policy consistent in the long term”. Highlighting another key aspect of policy reform to achieve long term stabilisation.

Trade reform is another area to boost productivity and achieve growth. Dr. Harsha De Silva elaborated on this aspect. “Import substitution mentality should be abandoned. We need to face and compete in the competitive international economy. We have been excluded from the global value chain because of our narrow mindset of import substitution and complete self sufficiency”.

Patali Champika Ranawakaa- MP, SJB, commented on the importance of energy sector reforms to address the present crisis. ” The power issue is the next crisis. If the rain dries out for 6 weeks then we are certainly headed to a big power crisis. Substitutes to generating electricity ( kerosene) are also scarce. This crisis could lead to a rift in society” highlighting the urgency of reforming the energy sector. Dr. Suren Ragavan- MP, SLPP, was of the opinion that ” We need national consensus which capitalises on the unique competencies and skills of the different communities” further emphasising on the need for national reconciliation to come out of the present economic crisis as one country shedding communal differences.



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Sri Lanka Insurance posts a record high GWP achievement of Rs. 43 billion during 2021

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Sri Lanka Insurance, closed the year 2021 with a positive note recording a staggering combined GWP of Rs. 43 billion amidst the turbulent time.

In the year 2021 Sri Lanka Insurance reported 14 % growth in life insurance premium increases to Rs.21.9 billion whilst general insurance reported 5.4% growth in premium, for a total value of Rs. 21.2 billion amidst the stagnant market conditions. The company achieved a combined Gross Written Premium (GWP) growth rate of 9.7 % during the year. Life insurance contributed 51% towards the total GWP whilst General Insurance contributed 49%.

Marking 60 years of excellence as the protector of the nation, Sri Lanka Insurance recorded many remarkable achievements during the year 2021.

Sri Lanka Insurance yet again declared the highest Life Insurance bonus in the industry of Rs. 8.6 billion. The insurer was able to produce 189 MDRT members with 5 COT and 1 TOT member for the MDRT conference 2021 marking a historic milestone as the highest ever representation from Sri Lanka Insurance.

In the year 2021 Sri Lanka Insurance managed to uphold the leadership position of the General Insurance sector and Motor Insurance sector while introducing multiple innovative motor insurance products that cater to the unique needs of customer segments in the motor insurance market.

Further, Sri Lanka Insurance was recognized with many awards and accolades in the year 2021. The insurer tops the ranking in many aspects in the Brand Finance report on Sri Lanka’s Most Valuable Brands 2021 edition. Sri Lanka Insurance was awarded The Most Loved Insurance Brand of the year and the Most Valuable General Insurance Brand of the year proving its prowess to be awarded these prestigious titles for the 4th consecutive year. Also, SLIC Life recorded the highest brand value growth among the Life Insurance brands in Sri Lanka. SLIC was also recognized as a ‘Great Place to Work” in Sri Lanka in the year 2021, reiterating the insurer’s commitment towards developing and empowering employee relationships at the workplace.

Exploring the avenues to broaden the protection to communities SLIC served different segments, age groups and different affinity groups through product and market development initiatives. SLIC Speed Investment and SLIC Early cash and SLIC Minimuthu life insurance products were relaunched understanding and catering to a new generation of SLIC clientele. “Nagaraja” an exclusive medical insurance cover was also launched as the first product designed in Sri Lanka to provide protection for Buddhist clergy and their family members and “Motor Plus Commercial” was launched with unique features to complement the needs of the commercial vehicle users.

SLIC has been making steady progress in transforming its operational architecture and front end customer interfaces to ensure digital integration. SLIC Mobile App introduced many enhanced features to constantly evolve with the consumer needs and proved to be a significant tool during the pandemic period. The motor claim settlement process has undergone a major reengineering process to facilitate fast-track and contactless claim settlements to customers. SLIC also increased the digital integration with other service providers to expand the number of payment platforms available to customers enhancing the accessibility and switching to contactless mode to ensure health and safety guidelines. The “Work Flow Management System” is transforming all internal manual and paper-based operations to digital-driven systemized operations.

Commenting on the excellence achieved during the year SLIC Chairman Eng. Vijitha Herath noted “The past year has been a testing time which compelled us to embrace changes and respond to challenges. As a State-owned insurer and the pioneer of the insurance industry, we have been contributing to the country’s development since inception and we have aligned our corporate goals with the country’s development goals. We have pledged to safeguard the nation by delivering exceptional insurance service and today we have become an icon of excellence In the industry exploring avenues to expand protection across every corner of the island.

“We continue to bring a sense of protection to millions of Sri Lankans with our stable financial performance and service enhancement. We reiterate the trust garnered through generations as the largest and strongest insurer and we continue adding value to all our stakeholders evolving our self to conquer greater heights.”

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No fee required for Selfies at Port City

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Port City Colombo wishes to inform the public that there is no truth in social media posts alleging that the public needs to pay a fee for personal selfies or videos taken at Port City.

However, a payment structure was introduced for personal events, professional and/or commercial filming and photography due to the unprecedented number of such requests received from the public and private sector to use the newly opened Port City Marina Promenade. It has also been brought to our attention that such filming/photography was a hindrance, and violates the privacy of other visitors to the promenade.

Taking public safety and ongoing construction in to consideration, this payment structure and dedicated time periods were introduced for anyone wishing to engage in such professional filming or photography at Port City to avoid hindrance to the public and provide a better service for those who require it. The Marina Promenade is open to the public from 9am to 6pm daily. Paid filming and photography can be carried out before 9am or other time period as requested.

We wish to emphasize that this is not applicable for those wishing to take personal pictures, videos, and selfies inside Port City using their personal phones or cameras. Also, reputed social or mainstream media stations can freely carry out filming/ photography for news or current affairs (non commercial purposes) inside Port City with prior approval from relevant departments.

Charges will only be applicable for filming/ photography of personal ceremonies, weddings, product or fashion promotions, music videos, advertisements or other types of commercial filming. Income received from these will be used for the maintenance of public spaces, lavatories and garbage clearing done by the Estate Management Company (EMC) which manages the public areas of Port City Colombo.

Areas of Port City such as the Marina, Golf Range, Beach Park and ATV Track are managed by private operators on a paid basis since they started operations.

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Eswaran Brothers – A Board poised for governance and growth

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From left; Executive Chairman, Ganesh Deivanayagam, Non-Executive Chairman Dr. Nalin Jayasuriya and Board Director Aruni Goonetilleke of Eswaran Brothers Tea Exporters

COLOMBO; Top regional financial services expert Aruni Goonetilleke has been appointed to the Board of Directors of Eswaran Brothers, further strengthening an eminent team at the helm of affairs at the company. Eswaran Brothers which has been a leader in the value added tea industry for over sixty years, is at the forefront of innovation in the industry.

The Board of Directors of Eswaran Brothers lead by Non-Executive Chairman and well known corporate strategy expert, Dr. Nalin Jayasuriya, boasts of a power packed team that includes Yudhistran Kanagasabai, Independent Non-Executive Director, Chairman of the Audit Committee of Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC and Chairman, Ambeon Capital PLC , Gabriel D’Arcy, Independent Non-Executive Director, Senior VP at Stratagem Partners – a leading European Corporate Strategy and Brexit Advisory Service Provider and Mr. Hanif Janoo a well-known global Tea industry stalwart from Pakistan and Kenya.

To this stellar team a recent addition was top regional financial services expert Aruni Goonetilleke who joined the board back in June 2021. Aruni Goonetilleke, subsequently appointed as Chairperson of Hatton National Bank PLC, is also a Director at Sunshine Holdings PLC. Further, she holds the position of Non-Executive Director at several other listed companies.

Speaking on her appointment, Ms. Goonetilleke said, “I’m happy to be part of the Board of Eswaran Brothers – one of the leading value-added tea exporting companies in Sri Lanka. At a time when the world navigates many challenges, Eswaran Brothers is embarking on an impressive programme of diversification and growth. I look forward to being a part of the leadership of the company as it steps forward in new directions.”

Ms. Goonetilleke who did her Bachelors in Law at the University of Colombo, completed her Masters in Law at Harvard Law School, USA. She was previously the Head of Corporate Banking at People’s Bank. In her 25-years as a financial services professional she has worked in banks in Sri Lanka and Singapore. She was the Chief Risk Officer of Standard Chartered Bank, Sri Lanka and played a key role at the time of the merger of ANZ Grindlays and Standard Chartered Bank in Sri Lanka. She was also the Head of Credit, SME and Commercial Banking and held Global Audit Roles in Wholesale and Retail Banking at Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore.

As one of the premier marketers of Ceylon Tea, Eswaran Brothers works with some of the world’s leading tea brands, helping them meet their customer needs with the supply of high-quality Ceylon Tea. With over six decades of experience, this combination of versatility and customer satisfaction has made Eswaran Brothers Tea the choice source for fine teas and wellness beverages.

“Corporate governance and growth oriented independent directors have been part of the Eswaran Brothers board for nearly a decade. Following the directions set by our Past Chairman, the late Mr. D Eassuwaren, Eswaran Brothers became the first Carbon Neutral Certified tea company in the world and we are now ready to make some big moves as a corporate entity,” said Executive Chairman, Ganesh Deivanayagam. “With Aruni joining the Board, we intend to strengthen our financial oversight to further drive the company’s diversification and consolidation.”

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