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Sri Lanka’s daily income earners wonder whether they are gone for now, or gone for good

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By Sanath Nanayakkare

As the power struggle among the political elite still takes precedence over the wellbeing of the ordinary people, the common man on the street wonders how long they can cope with the growing vulnerabilities associated with the ongoing economic crisis.

After Finance Minister Ali Sabry told Reuters on Saturday that Sri Lanka would need about US$ 3 billion bridge financing in the next six months and the new Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe said that the Central Bank would need two years to stabilise the economy, The Island Financial Review spoke to several people in the informal sector to get more intimate details from them about their livelihoods as it was necessary to do so than at any other time in the history of Sri Lanka.

Sunil Senadheera, a 42-year-old carpenter from Moratuwa said that he has not been able to find work for many weeks because of ongoing power outages. “My employer is a furniture maker. He laid me off along with three other workers because there’s no electricity for most part of the day. He can’t afford to run a generator for long hours at the increased price of diesel after the rupee was drastically depreciated against the U.S. dollar and fuel prices skyrocketed. Even when one can afford the price, one can’t spend 2-3 days in long queues to get diesel. My wife who worked in a copy shop in the same town also lost her job because they couldn’t print documents as a result of constant power outages. We are in dire straits as we have to take care of three children aged 13, 10 and 8 years. I pawned my wife’s gold jewelry to put the food on the table and settle other bills. We are scared because some people say that this is only the beginning and we have to brace ourselves for more shocks in the coming weeks unless the leaders unite to resolve the crisis soon.”

Randir Perera (44) who owns a bakery in Nugegoda says lack of flour, butter and other key ingredients in the market has badly hit his business, not to mention the lack of LP gas and electricity which are essential for baking.

“My product range has reduced by at least 50% due to this disruption. As prices of tea buns, fish buns, vegetable rotties etc., increased by 30-40% overnight, my customers buy less now. I have six employees and paying their wages has become a real struggle. I don’t think that any small business can go on paying employees’ monthly basic wages let alone pay a percentage of the monthly wages towards EPF.”

Niluka Ranasinghe, a middle aged mother of two young daughters in Kottawa runs a small eatery to support her family. Her eatery is mainly patronised by bricklayers, carpenters, tuk-tuk drivers, street vendors etc.

“My customers are daily income earners who do a hard day’s work for a living. Generally speaking, they would spend money on food, tea and cigarettes without being stingy. They would even eat and drink in a group and one of them would pay the bill for all. That practice is now history of just one month since the food prices have hit the ceiling and all sorts of shortages have led to a decline in their income. Now they don’t walk in together for a chat over a meal. They come individually and try to be so frugal with their money compared to just a month ago. There is no laughter, banter and teasing among them anymore. This goes to show how hard the living costs and shortages have hit the man on the street. I had a helper at my eatery to help me with making string hoppers and short-eats. Now with the LP gas shortage, power outages and low demand for food items, I don’t make as much. So I was compelled to tell her to stop coming to work until things get better. She was such a nice person and I want to see her working in my eatery again. I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she said.

Bernard Silva who runs a tailoring shop next to Niluka’s eatery has a story to tell with similar connotations. Bernard says that he only gets to sew a blouse or two for random women customers. “If not for that, I wouldn’t have been able to pay even the rent of my shop space. Hardly any regular customer walks in to get a shirt or a pair of trousers sewn. There is no return on investment for the suit materials I have in stock. In just three days, Sinhala New Year festivities start. This is the busiest time of the year for all small businesses as people prepare for the cheerful holiday season of the country. For all the misfortunes we as a nation faced before, never have I seen a dull and bleak pre-New Year season like this,. It seems that the economic crisis has engulfed even our culture.”

Chathurika Mendis, a trainer of IELTS (International English Language Testing System) said,”The number of students preparing for the IELTS test in Sri Lanka has grown over the last 12 months. They want to get a good result on their IELTS certificate and migrate to the West where they will find opportunities to fulfill their higher education and career aspirations. Many young people have lost hope on their motherland. I know for a fact that they are not looking for greener pastures. It is just that they think the grass here can’t be watered in the foreseeable future.”



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CSE Director Board appoints new chairman

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The Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) Dumith Fernando who has served in this role since July 01, 2020, has informed the Board of his intention to retire by rotation on June 23, 2022 at the conclusion of his current term as a Director. Subsequently, at its regular monthly board meeting held on May 19th, 2022, the Board of the CSE has elected Director Dilshan Wirasekara to succeed Fernando as Chairman with effect from June 24th, 2022. Wirasekara is currently Director and Chief Executive Officer of First Capital Holdings PLC.According to the Articles of Association of the CSE, it’s Chair is chosen from among the five Directors elected by the members of the CSE. The appointment of Wirasekara is in line with the CSE’s normal board succession practice.

The outgoing Chairman Fernando said that “We are very pleased with the advancement of the CSE in the last 2 years. The market has set records across capital raising, trading volumes and participation alongside significant wealth creation for investors. The CSE is also financially stronger than it has ever been, and I am pleased to hand over my role following the institution’s highest-ever profitability and capital reserves position. Credit for this is due to my fellow board members, management and staff as well as all those stakeholders who collaborated with us including our regulator the Securities & Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka and the stock broking and investor communities.”

Commenting on the appointment of his successor, he further stated “I have had the pleasure of serving as a Director with Dilshan for five years where he has been a critical and energetic member of the board. The board and I have full confidence that he will continue to work with all stakeholders to build on our recent efforts to transform into a modern-day multi-product exchange. I look forward to supporting Dilshan over the next few weeks to ensure a smooth transition.”Wirasekara thanked both the outgoing chairman for his leadership of the CSE over the last 2 years and the CSE Board for the confidence placed in him. He further stated, “I hope to continue the good progress at the CSE and look forward to working with the Board and the CSE team together with the regulator and the industry to advance our ambitious capital market development plans.”

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SLIM Research Bureau embarks on a mission to promote fair trade in Sri Lanka

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As corporates and consumers globally are shifting towards best practices such as sustainability, inclusivity, and most importantly, equality to all, “fairness” has become a significant part of how business and buyer decisions are made.With this in mind, SLIM Research Bureau, the research arm associated with the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM), recently signed an agreement with Fairtrade NAPP at SLIM Home, in aspiration of promoting fair trade and consumption of fairly traded products in the local market of Sri Lanka.Through this collaboration, SLIM Research Bureau and Fairtrade intends to launch a project – named “SRI-PROM” funded by AICS, the Italian Agency for Development Co-operation, and supported by Fairtrade Italy – that aims to contribute to the social and economic strengthening of rural areas in Sri Lanka, through the development of much more profitable eco-sustainable supply chains for small farmers.

Commenting on the partnership, SLIM President Mr. Nuwan Gamage stated: “SLIM is thrilled to enter into this milestone partnership with Fairtrade NAPP to instil globally accepted best practices within the corporate circle that help achieve fair, equitable trade relationships. The project will be the first step in inviting businesses across industries to become a trailblazer that sets an example both in Sri Lanka and around the world. We look forward to expand these efforts further in the days to come.”The modern concept of fair trade refers to the ethical and sustainable sourcing of products, where workers and farmers at the foundational level of supply and value chains are treated fairly. This, in turn, offers consumers a powerful opportunity to reduce poverty through their purchases.

Fairtrade International Programme Consultant for Sri Lanka, Standards Committee Chair, and Oversight Committee Asia-Pacific Representative Mrs. Iresha Sanjeewanie noted: “Fairtrade takes a 360-degree approach to address a number of different issues and developmental challenges faced by small-scale producers and workers. Though Fairtrade Standards are a glum eye-opener into the implications of unfair trade, in a broader sense, it advocates reform-oriented research and pushes to raise the bar in trade.”

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Bank of Ceylon sponsors Annual Sand Paving Ceremony at Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Temple Anuradhapura

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Invoking the blessings of the sacred “Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi” situated in the historic city of Anuradhapura, on the country and on all its citizens, for peace, harmony and prosperity, the Bank of Ceylon conducted its annual ceremony of strewing fresh sand which is known as “weli Athirime Pinkama” in “Uda Maluwa” recently.

The ceremony took place with the participation of the Bank’s General Manager K.E.D. Sumanasiri, DGM Corporate and Offshore Banking Priyal Silva, DGM Human Resource Dhamma Wijeyawardhene, DGM Branch operations and Development Banking Nilantha Meneripitiyage, AGM North Central Province Mahinda Bandara, AGM Marketing Aruna Hettiarachchi, AGM North Western Mrs.Ruchindra Perera and other staff members. The event was organized by the Bank’s Assistant General Manager North Central Province (NCP) G.K.G. Mahinda Bandara and staff members of the NCP province with the guidance of the Atamasthanadipathi of Anuradhapura, the Most Venerable Dr. Pallegama Siriniwasa Thero.

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