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Sri Lanka’s foremost economic challenges



By Lynn Ockersz

From a macroeconomic perspective, an accelerated economic revival post-COVID-19 through an inclusive national development strategy, debt refinancing and strengthening public finance, are among the foremost economic challenges facing Sri Lanka at present. Going forward, there will be a strong focus on agriculture in ensuring food security, along with more attention being given to local manufacturing and industries, CEO, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Manjula de Silva said.

Answering a series of questions posed to him by ‘The Island Financial Review’ CEO Manjula de Silva said, among other things, that energizing the local SME sector was one of the CCC’s core areas of concern.

The questions and answers were as follows:

* What are the main challenges facing Sri Lanka at present?

Main challenges from a macroeconomic point of view will be accelerating economic revival post-Covid-19 through an inclusive national development strategy, debt refinancing and strengthening public finance.

There are structural reforms required to ensure growth in several key focus areas such as digitization, health, education, food security, energy sufficiency and public enterprises.

* In what principal directions do you see the local economy evolving?

There would be a greater focus on agriculture in driving food security. We will also see more attention given to local manufacturing and industries. We hope the focus would drive competitiveness in the industry so these sectors not only cater to the domestic demand but also reach foreign markets.

* How best could Sri Lanka’s export sector be revived?

The continuation of the National Export Strategy by the government is welcome as it was a joint public and private sector strategy to drive exports. It can now be enhanced to look at the Post-COVID-19 opportunities as well.

We also need to resolve some of the domestic barriers to export that limit competitiveness. Key initiatives like the establishment of a National Single Window and a new Customs Ordinance, which have both been in the pipeline should be prioritized. This will support both domestic and international trade.

* What are your proposals for energising the local SME sector in the short and medium terms?

This is a key area for the Chamber and in our Sri Lanka Economic Acceleration Framework launched last year, we had several specific proposals. Some of these proposals include streamlining the state institutions catering towards SMEs, improving access to Finance and Markets and scaling up SMEs.

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce recently established the Centre for SMEs creating a focal point for delivery of existing services the Chamber was providing to SMEs. The Chamber will continue to assist and guide SMEs through Capacity Building Initiatives, Business Advisory services and facilitating market and business linkages. We will continue to also work to resolve existing regulatory and compliance barriers faced by SMEs in both domestic and international markets.

* Any suggestions for further developing local entrepreneurship?

The Ceylon Chamber believes that promoting local entrepreneurship is key to accelerating economic development in a sustainable and inclusive manner. Hence, the Chamber will establish a Start Up Council soon under its umbrella to encourage and foster start-ups that have potential to turn into successful business ventures that will contribute to generation of both employment opportunities and export revenue.


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Norlanka Manufacturing Trincomalee receives LEED Gold Certification



Norlanka Manufacturing Trincomalee was recently awarded the prestigious LEED Gold Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).Norlanka, one of Sri Lanka’s largest sustainable exporters of baby and kidswear, has an extensive ESG (Environmental/Social/Governance) strategy and understands the responsibility it has concerning the future of a sustainable apparel industry. Therefore, ethical sourcing, in particular working with responsible supply chain partners has been a critical operational necessity.

The LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement, and it is backed by an entire industry of committed organizations and individuals paving the way for market transformation. It’s awarded for projects that have earned points by adhering to prerequisites and credits that address carbon, energy, water, waste, transportation, materials, health and indoor environmental quality. Buildings consume energy and resources at an alarming rate, therefore the LEED rating system is the most widely used green building rating system, as it provides a framework for healthy, efficient, carbon and cost-saving green buildings.

LEED takes multiple areas into account with varying sub-criteria when certifying a building such as location, transportation, sustainability of the site, construction, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resource, waste management, indoor environment quality, innovations and more.

Chief Innovation Officer of Norlanka, Buddhi Paranamana stated, “This LEED Gold certification is a testament to our constant drive to improve our sustainability efforts. This award marks yet another milestone in Norlanka’s journey towards becoming carbon neutral by 2025. Since 2010 we’ve constantly been learning how to do things in a more sustainable way. I would like to congratulate our team for obtaining this certification. It showcases dedication towards achieving sustainable excellence while achieving our goals and providing customers with high-quality products.”

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People’s Bank celebrates 75 years of Independence by offering gifts to newborns



People’s Bank celebrated Sri Lanka’s 75thNational Independence at a modest ceremony held at their Head Office which was followed by a series of island wide initiatives.People’s Bank’s ‘Birth of Freedom’ programme which commences on every Independence Day was carried out this year as well. Under this concept, People’s Bank gifts Rs.2,000/- worth of an ‘IsuruUdana’ Gift Certificate to every baby born between the 1st and 14th of February.

People’s Bank launched this programme in 2006 with the vision of instilling national pride and encouraging parents to plan for their children’s future. Parents can open an ‘Isuru Udana’ Children’s Savings Account at any People’s Bank Branch using the Gift Certificate.

Director of the Castle Street Maternity Hospital Dr. Ajith Danthanarayana, Director of De Soysa Hospital for Women in Borella Dr. Pradeep Wijesinghe, People’s Bank Senior Deputy General Manager (TB & OCS) Rohan Pathirage, Deputy General Manager (Retail Banking) Renuka Jayasinghe, Deputy General Manager (Strategic Planning, Performance Management & Research) Jayanthi Kurukulasooriya, Deputy General Manager (Risk Management) Roshini Wijerathna, Deputy General Manager (Banking Support Services) Nipunika Wijayaratne, Deputy General Manager (Channel Management) T.M.W Chandrakumara, Head of Marketing Nalaka Wijayawardana, Assistant General Manager (Retail Banking) Nalin Pathiranage, Assistant General Manager (Human Resources) Manjula Dissanayake, Colombo North Regional Manager S.L.M.A.S Samarathunga, Colombo South Regional Manager M.S Kanakka Hewage, Borella Branch Manager W.A.N Udayangani, Town Hall Branch Manager Tiral Pradeep, Deputy Director of De Soysa Hospital for Women in Borella, Dr. K.M Nihal, Administrative Officer of Castle Street Hospital for Women S.M.T.A.R. Bandara, Nursing officers along with hospital staff were also present at the event.In line with the above all People’s Bank branches across the country initiated ‘Nidahase Upatha’ activities island wide.

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SL bondholders ready for debt restructuring talks with authorities– with conditions



Sri Lanka’s bondholders have told the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that they are prepared to engage with Sri Lankan authorities in debt restructuring talks consistent with the parameters of the global lender’s program.The Ad Hoc Group of Sri Lanka bondholders conveyed its stance in a letter directed to IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Friday (Feb. 03).

“The Bondholder Group through its Steering Committee stands ready to engage quickly and effectively with the Sri Lankan authorities to design and implement restructuring terms that would help Sri Lanka restore debt sustainability and allow the country to re-gain access to the international capital markets during the IMF Programme period.”

The Bondholder Group acknowledged the Sri Lankan authorities’ engagement with their official creditors towards a resolution of the current crisis and restoration of debt sustainability.

The Bondholder Group further acknowledged that such engagement has recently resulted in the Indian government delivering letters of financing assurances to the IMF, committing to support Sri Lanka and contribute to its efforts to restore debt sustainability by providing debt relief and financing consistent with the IMF Extended Fund Facility Arrangement and the IMF Programme targets indicated in the India’s letter to the global lender.

Sri Lanka Bondholder Group Letter to IMF stated:

Based on the limited information available to us at this time, including information contained in the India Letter, we understand that the IMF Programme’s debt sustainability targets are identified as (i) reducing the ratio of public debt to GDP to 95% by 2032, (ii) limiting the central government’s annual gross financing needs to GDP ratio to 13% in the period between 2027 and 2032, and central government annual foreign currency debt service at 4.5% of GDP in every year between 2027 and 2032 and (iii) closing of the external financing gap.

The Bondholder Group hereby confirms it is prepared to engage, through its Steering Committee, with the Sri Lankan authorities in restructuring negotiations consistent with the parameters of an IMF Programme and the targets specified therein (the “IMF Programme Targets”), which the Bondholder Group understands to be the targets identified in the India Letter; it being recognized that these negotiations will necessarily be further informed by the receipt of the forthcoming DSA. We would note that the finalization of an agreement will also be subject to the satisfaction of the following conditions:

The central government’s domestic debt – defined as debt governed by local law – is reorganized in a manner that both ensures debt sustainability and safeguards financial stability. Assuming that annual gross financing needs should not exceed 13% of GDP in the period between 2027 and 2032, whilst allowing for central government annual foreign currency debt service to reach 4.5% of GDP in every year between 2027 and 2032, domestic gross financing should therefore be limited at 8.5% of GDP for the period 2027-2032.

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