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World Bank reassures support for Sri Lanka to build back better from COVID-19

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The World Bank’s Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Faris Hadad-Zervos, concluded a successful visit to Sri Lanka where he reiterated the World Bank’s commitment to support Sri Lanka’s efforts towards recovery and to build back better from the COVID-19 shock.

Based in Kathmandu, Nepal, this latest mission followed the Country Director’s introductory visit to Sri Lanka last November after assuming his new role in July 2020. Hadad-Zervos was joined by Chiyo Kanda, the Country Manager for Maldives and Sri Lanka, based in Colombo.

“Sri Lanka’s economy is on the road to recovery after the worst downturn on record last year. The World Bank stands ready to support the Sri Lankan government as it strives to protect its people from the pandemic, while addressing the vulnerabilities in the macro-fiscal environment,” said Faris. H. Hadad-Zervos, the World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “Recovery and resilience in the post-COVID era can be accelerated by an export-oriented growth model that taps the full potential of private investments and that increases competitiveness and growth.”

The visit coincided with the launch of the Sri Lanka Development Update: Economic and Poverty Impact of COVID-19, which was released on April 9. The report provides an update on Sri Lanka’s economy and outlook, highlighting the devastating impact of the pandemic. Sri Lanka’s economy contracted by 3.6 percent in 2020, the worst growth performance on record, as is the case in many countries fighting the pandemic, but is expected to recover to 3.4 percent in 2021, mainly due to foreign investments as well as normalizing tourism and other economic activities.

During the visit, the World Bank management team met with key government officials, including Minister of Plantations Ramesh Pathirana, Minister of Water Supply Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Minister of Highways Johnston Fernando, State Minister of Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal, chairman of the Special Presidential Task Force on Economic Revival and Poverty Alleviation Basil Rajapaksa, Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Treasury Ajith Attygalle, Secretary at the Ministry of Technology Jayantha de Silva, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, and the Governor of the Central Bank Prof. W. D. Lakshman.

Meetings were also held with private sector representatives, development partners as well as thought leaders to better understand how the World Bank can add value to Sri Lanka’s inclusive growth and sustainable development story.

“The in-depth discussions we have had with government officials, private sector and development partners will help us focus on the priority areas – critical for building a greener and more resilient economy that benefits all Sri Lankans,” said Chiyo Kanda, World Bank Country Manager for Maldives and Sri Lanka “We explored many new, exciting avenues for collaboration including harnessing the power of digital technologies to provide more and better opportunities for all Sri Lankans.”

The visit also saw the signing of two important agreements between the World Bank and Sri Lankan Government. A $69.53 million credit will help improve dams and irrigation schemes covering 165,000 hectares of agricultural land and improve the management of watersheds and water resources, benefitting 356,000 farming families. Under a second $69.33 million loan, a modern transport terminal will be built in Kandy city that will integrate rail, bus, three-wheeler, and pedestrian traffic to make it safer and more efficient.

The World Bank responded to the COVID-19 outbreak in Sri Lanka by repurposing a large portion of its current portfolio to assist the government in reducing the pandemic’s effects. Supplying critical personal protective equipment (PPE), providing temporary cash assistance to vulnerable groups, strengthening COVID-19 security mechanisms on public transportation, promoting tele-education for students, and providing technologies to enhance public service delivery are some of the initiatives supported by the World Bank. Further support in managing the situation, especially through a speedy and efficient vaccination program, is also on the table.

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. Link: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/04/25/world-bank-reassures-support-for-srilanka



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OPPO releases new OPPO A54 in Sri Lanka

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OPPO, the leading global smart device brand, announces the launch of OPPO A54 in Sri Lanka.

A54’s attention to design and great usability is evident in both its exquisite appearance and how it helps to capture great looking shots. This starts with the Material of the Rear Cover, which uses metallic material for its 3D panel, but contributes to a stronger and less bendable structure but also a comfortable in-hand feel. As a result, A54 weighs about 192g and is 8.4mm thin. To align the overall look and feel of the phone, close attention is paid to the Middle Frame Process.

“A Series is designed to enhance or complement our users’ lifestyles and OPPO A54 achieves just this with a phone that manages to balance a high-end performance with contemporary design. Its large 5000mAh battery and 18W Fast Charge makes sure you’re fully powered to get you through your day. With A54, you’ll also have enough storage and memory to make sure that you’ll enjoy your entertainment without the frustrations of an underperforming smartphone,” said Bob Li, CEO, XINDA Lanka (OPPO Sri Lanka).

The Rear Cameras itself feature a 13MP Main Camera, 2MP Macro Camera for close range shots, and 2MP Bokehfor brilliant bokeh shots that blur the background and highlight the subject of the photo. A54 enhances shots in all environments with Dazzle Color, balancing the saturation and brightness. A54 also supports filming videos including SLO-MO at 720P at 90FPS with the rear camera, and up to 10 video Filters including Original, Gentle, Noon, Subtle and more.

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Pan Asia Bank records best-ever Q1 results in challenging times – Profit After Tax soars by 81% to post Rs. 750 mn.

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Pan Asia Banking Corporation PLC reported the best-ever first quarter financial results during the quarter ended 31st March 2021 to report a Pre-Tax Profit of Rs. 986 Mn and a Post-Tax Profit of Rs. 750 Mn after recording impressive growth rates of 51% and 81% respectively, demonstrating the resilience amidst challenging macro economic conditions. The Bank’s performance was characterised by strength and resilience, despite the heightened uncertainty due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 impact on the Sri Lankan economy, the Bank’s Operating Profits before VAT on Financial Services reached Rs. 1,197 Mn with an increase of 47%, reflecting excellence in core banking performance and the success of cost containment measures evidenced by improvement in all key matrices which now rank among the industry bests. This feat was achieved even after setting aside provisions for probable loan losses amounting to Rs. 638 Mn. The Bank increased the provision buffers for probable deterioration in credit quality through management overlays, experience adjustments and adjustments for the exposures in the elevated risk industries during the quarter. As a result, total impairment charges for the quarter increased by 21% on YoY basis.

The Bank’s Net Interest Income for the period witnessed an increase of 17% due to significant reduction in financial cost of funds at a rate faster than the drop in interest yields of interest bearing assets. Consequently, the Bank’s Net Interest Margin for the quarter improved to 5.07% from 4.41% reported three months ago. In the meantime, the Bank’s Net Fee and Commission Income recorded a growth of 28% with the rebound in demand for credit due to revival of economic activity amidst the low interest rate regime. The volatility in foreign exchange rates enabled the Bank to increase its Foreign Exchange Income substantially as reflected in Other Operating Income.

The Bank is committed to revenue maximisation and cost management despite sector vulnerabilities that prevailed since last year. The Bank’s Cost-to-Income Ratio improved from 45.66% to 38.08% within a three months period owing to the excellence in core banking performance which is reflected in the noteworthy overall growth in key revenue lines and various strategies and measures taken to contain overhead costs. In fact, the Bank managed to bring down its Other Operating Expenses by 9% in 2021 Q1 compared to 2020 Q1. Meanwhile, increased allocations for performance bonuses, development of human capital and staff welfare led to an increase in personnel costs during the reporting period compared to 2020 Q1.

The Bank’s Post-Tax Profits for the reporting quarter also gained to an extent due to application of lower corporate income tax rate of 24% for tax provisioning in accordance with the guideline issued by CA Sri Lanka on 23rd April 2021.

The Bank continues to report solid Key Profitability Indicators which rank among the highest in the industry. The Bank’s Pre-Tax Return on Assets also improved to 2.24% from 1.70%. Further, the Bank reported a stunning Return on Equity (ROE) of 19.27% during the quarter under review which stands among the industry best. The ROE is the most important performance indicator to gauge the attractiveness of the Banking sector and Pan Asia Bank during its last few years has consistently remained an outlier in the industry.

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SLIIT nurtures school children at ‘Soft Skills + 2021’

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The SLIIT Business School (SBS) organised ‘Soft Skills+ 2021’ concluded on an extremely successful note recently helping students engage, cooperate and thrive in building their talents towards personal development and career progression.

SLIIT Soft Skills+ event is an annual flagship CSR Project of the SLIIT Business School organized with the primary objective of developing secondary school students’ soft skills in positive thinking, creativity, analytical thinking, leadership skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, and teamwork.

Over the years, the programme has garnered much popularity among schools and participants. Due to its tremendous success achieved in previous programmes, Soft Skills+ 2021 followed an upgraded structure. For the first time in the Soft Skills+ programme history, the event was held via online platforms, including a Soft Skills-based online quiz and an online workshop for students and teachers.

During the Grand Finale, Prof. Samantha Thelijjagoda, Dean of SLIIT Business School welcomed the participants and distinguished guests. Prof. Lalith Gamage, Vice Chancellor, SLIIT also addressed the gathering.

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