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C.B.S.L. censors banking data

Ajith Nivard Cabraal

Central Bank of Sri Lanka (C.B.S.L.) from last month has stopped circulating figures such as banks’ non performing loan (n.p.l.) growth, growth or retardation in bank credit and deposits, industry sources told The Sunday Leader.

C.B.S.L. last circulated these statistics upto May 31, 2009.  C.B.S.L. Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal was not immediately available for comment.

When C.B.S.L. used to circulate these statistics to bank C.E.O.s, it showed that n.p.l.s. had risen from Rs. 100 billion (a 5% n.p.l. ratio) as at end December 2008 to Rs. 125 billion (7.2% n.p.l. ratio) by end March 2009, and to Rs. 140 billion (9% n.p.l. ratio) by end May 2009, a 40% increase in bad loans in the five months to end May 2009. Previously these figures used to be circulated among bank C.E.O.s in their monthly meetings with C.B.S.L. officers to discuss issues pertaining to the industry, they said. But since July they have stopped issuing these details in black and white other than reading out such figures, for those interested, to jot them down at these monthly meetings, the sources said.

They however said that banks’ had not protested to C.B.S.L. in regard to the stoppage of such information. Previously such data was not made available at these monthly meetings, but then C.B.S.L. began to introduce  these statistics, however now they have withdrawn this facility, they said.

The sources said that according to available figures, banks’ n.p.l.s were still in the region of over 8%, and they expected the year to end with those percentages unchanged, hovering in the region of between 8-9%. 

They also said that there was no decline in banks’ parate executions in order to recover monies lent to borrowers that had gone past due or bad.

Sluggish credit growth is also a contributory factor to the rise in n.p.l.s because n.p.l.s are shown as a percentage of banks’ total loan portfolio, they said.

The sources however said that credit growth which was in the –2% range as at end June 2009 vis-à-vis end December 2008, had turned to  +1% by end July 2009 compared to its end December 2008 figure, primarily due to the fall in lending rates which has boosted credit growth.

They however said that credit growth last year was 10% year on year.

Average prime lending rates which were in the region of 18% at the beginning of the year has since come down to 14%, the sources said.

According to available statistics, the banking industry, in the first six months of this year showed that credit growth dipped by 2% to Rs. 1.603 trillion compared to a Rs. 1.638 trillion figure as at end December 2008.

However deposits in the period under review had grown by 9% to Rs. 2.042 trillion.

Sudden resignation

Mrs. Kirmali Fernando, C.E.O./Director PAB Bank’s resignation was sudden, a staff member told The Sunday Leader.

Fernando, whose resignation will be effective from next month is currently on leave. Claude Peiris, a senior D.G.M. of the Bank has been appointed as acting C.E.O.

Fernando was not immediately available for comment. Fernando who was formerly at Standard Chartered Bank (S.C.B.) has filed an affidavit against C.E.O. S.C.B. Colombo Clive Haswell on the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation hedging controversy.

Not guilty 

Preliminary investigations carried out by the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) on a director of a blue chip company for alleged insider trading, has found him guiltless of such a deed, an informed source told The Sunday Leader.

John Keells Holding Plc (JKH) Deputy Chairman and Nations Trust Bank Plc (N.T.B.) Chairman Ajit Gunewardene is being investigated by S.E.C. for alleged insider trading in regard to the sale of a million shares of N.T.B. under his personal portfolio at prices of between Rs. 34-35 a share, a few weeks before the Bank, in June of this year made a foreign exchange (forex) loss of Rs. 800 million in trading involving the Great Britain Pound (G.B.P.) due to its alleged fall in value from Rs. 204 a unit to Rs. 135.

Gunewardene made a disclosure of this share trade, and in any case it was done before the forex loss. Anyway investigations are still on, the source said.

J.K.H. together with a subsidiary has a 29.9% stake in N.T.B. and, cumulatively is its single largest shareholder. N.T.B. closed the week at Rs. 30.50 a share.

Leisure sector to take-off 

Local companies now need to be equipped with that capacity for larger investments now that the was is over, a director said.

John Keells Holding Plc (JKH) Deputy Chairman Ajit Gunewardene speaking at a C.E.O. forum on Tuesday said that in the past we may have had been happy investing in a hotel once in five years, but now we may have to be prepared to invest in eight hotels at once as it were, he said.

Gunewardene said that the end of the 30 year old conflict has brought a paradigm shift in the way business is being done. The near U.S. $ one billion inflow to the Government bond market recently is  proof of that, he said.

The days of exchange and interest rates volatility are now over, Gunewardene said.

The thinking should now be focused on integrated real estate development, encompassing hotels, townships, et al, and not on standalone entities, he said.

Gunewardene said that the war end has not only brought about the need for huge amounts of capital for investment, but also the need to find people with the required skills set such as accountants as well as people with other skills sets, needed to exploit the new opportunities for investment that has been made available. That’s where human resource development comes into the fore, he said.

Gunewarene believed that the property market would take-off in another two years time.

 “The question is whether local companies are ready to compete with the multinationals who would now be eyeing the country as an investment destination, particularly in the leisure sector,” he said.

Tapping $ trillion market 

Islamic finance has to be looked at in the context of attracting new investments while not harming governments’ revenue streams, a promoter said.

Darshan Bijur (42) who heads KPMG U.K.’s Islamic Finance Department told The Sunday Leader that having enabling legislation to promote Islamic Finance unleashes the potential to dip into a U.S.$ one trillion market, of which Sukuk or Islamic Bonds are valued as a US$ 100 billion market.

Admitting that the Islamic financial market is very small compared to the conventional financial market, he however said that UK realized the potential of Islamic finance six years ago in 2003 by first allowing an Islamic bank to be set-up.

Bijur, a beef eating Hindu originally from Bombay, but now a U.K. citizen said that as of now, the U.K. has passed 90% of enabling legislation to allow for Islamic finance to be fully operational. The process since 2003 has however been slow, admitted Bijur.

This is because of pressure from certain extremist political groups. Extremist political groups are found even in that part of the world, he said.

London. and not New York is the world’s financial centre,  added Bijur.

“It was partly political, 5% of U.K.’s population are Muslim, that’s how Islamic finance was allowed to gain entry into the U.K. market,” said Bijur. “But it also shows that U.K. is an inclusive society,” he said.

Here it was pointed out that 7% of Sri Lanka’s population is Muslim.

HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and the Citi Group, who are also represented in Sri Lanka, are players in Islamic finance, Bijur added.

He further said that after the U.S. Government, a Saudi and the Kuwaiti government are the second and third biggest shareholders of Citi Group.

 The U.S. Government has a 35% stake, the Saudi (7-8%) and the Kuwaiti government (4-5%), he said.

Tourism and the Plantation sector are natural avenues for investment here, said Bijur. He however contended the garment sector of being of low value and complicated to be attractive for investment.

Bijur further said that they were working with the revenue authorities in the U.K. to ensure that there is no revenue loss to the exchequer as a result of the introduction of Islamic finance.

“Lawyers and accountants are always looking for loopholes which could be exploited in this connection,” he said. Bijur further said that the basic difference in Islamic finance is its profit sharing outlook as opposed to seeking interest in conventional finance. “Having enabling legislation opens a whole gamut of funds which would otherwise not be available for investment,” said Bijur.

Besides it’s a basic human right to allow a sector of the population to practise a type of finance which they thinks is right, he said.

The Arabs made a lot of money in the recent oil boom when oil went up from U.S.$ 15 a barrel to U.S. $ 147 a barrel in the last five years, said Bijur. Of course it has since come down, but it’s hovering at the U.S. $ 75 levels currently, he said.

The moneys they made in the first oil boom of 1973 are peanuts compared to the money they made in the last five years, contended Bijur. It’s that market that is open to be tapped if Sri Lanka has the right legislation in place for Islamic finance, said Bijur.

He said that officers from their local office in Colombo are at present talking to Central Bank of Sri Lanka officials in a move to have such legislation in place.

Bijur however admitted that in South Asia, apart from Pakistan which practises Islamic finance, that too in bits and pieces, no other country in the region has enabling legislation to allow for Islamic finance.

However in the South East Asian region, Malaysia is a strong player in Islamic finance, with countries such as Indonesia and Singapore catching up. In fact Malaysian law gives an unfair advantage for Islamic finance over that of conventional finance said, Bijur.

“We are not asking for that, all that we are asking is for a level playing so that Islamic finance could be allowed to be practiced in the island,” he said.

For instance as mortgages are anathema according to Sharia or Islamic law by its very nature of charging interest, a legal system should be put in place that there should be no capital gains tax or stamp duty when there is a buy back arrangement under Islamic finance whether it be a property or a car, or some such object, as leasing, as a way to circumvent mortgaging, in buying or in buy back of such items are permissible under Islamic law, said Bijur.

Infrastructure development is the need of the hour for Sri Lanka, an Islamic finance is a conduit to provide funds for such, added Bijur, who has been talking to Arab investors of investment opportunities in Sri Lanka in general. The Arabs got their fingers burnt due to the recent financial crisis, said Bijur. So now they are looking at emerging markets, he said.

Apart from Islamic finance for those Arabs and Muslims who practise it, other reforms too are needed in the Sri Lankan context, to win the confidence of the Arabs such as laws that are transparent, progressive and fair, just like in the West, he said.

The war end has opened new opportunities for investment, continued Bijur. “In fact my insurer, at the middle of this month, lowered the high risk tag that was applicable to Sri Lanka to that of medium risk, a rating that is applicable to that of India as well,” said Bijur. However, at the height of the war, with “ L.T.T.E. planes and ships”’ in action, the rating on the island was even worse, being categorized as a country of extreme risk, he said. But the U.S.A., U.K. and countries in the Continent have a low risk tag attached to them as far as travel insurance is concerned, Bijur said.

Capacity constraints 

Two hundred and fifty thousand sit for the Advanced level exam annually of whom 120,000 obtain the required marks to gain university entry, but, due to capacity constraints only 20,000 are finally admitted in.-Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena speaking at the Institute of Certified Management Accountants of Sri Lanka Graduation ceremony on Monday.

Unlock Chinese, Indian markets 

The leisure industry should take greater efforts to exploit the burgeoning Chinese and Indian tourism markets, an official told The Sunday Leader.

 Manoj Gunawardena (46), C.E.O. SriLankan, the national airline, whose fortunes are intrinsically linked with the island’s leisure industry said  that the Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau has successfully tapped the Indian market for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions, but the same could not be said about the leisure sector.

“The Indian upper middle class still do their shopping in Malaysia and Singapore, efforts should be made to win that market now that the war is over, he said. Similarly Hong Kong, the gateway to South China, should be tapped to get the Chinese to visit here, he said.

“For the Chinese, Maldives is their honeymoon destination. They use the airline to fly them to the archipelago, efforts should be made to win these tourists to Colombo,” Gunawardena said.

 SriLankan  thrice weekly flies to Beijing, located North of China. 

The airline together with Sri Lanka Tourism, and with assistance from the Chinese Government sent a number of tour guides to China to learn Chinese languages such as Mandarin on a six months study course. These guides returned to the island recently.

“Chinese speaking tour guides and Chinese restaurants are essential prerequisites to woo the Chinese tourist,” said Gunawardena.  

The airline which made a Rs. 10 billion loss in the financial year end March 31, 2009, made a further Rs. two billion loss in the first quarter ended June 30, 2009.

However Gunawardena expected the airline to break even in the current quarter and continue in the same vein, if not do better in the remaining two quarters because of the war end.

He attributed these losses to rise in oil prices, coupled with flagging demand due to the global recession, plus the intensity of the war at that time. “But the Tamilian diaspora is slowly returning, and so are those essentially Sri Lankan Tamilians now living abroad who have invested in properties here, but stayed away due to the intensity of the war in the last couple of years. They are however coming down to check on their investments now that the war is over, Gunawardena said.

The airline has implemented a number of cost cutting measures to tide over the financial crisis such as retrenchment of staff in its overseas operations, offering no pay leave for its local staff and the senior management taking a two day pay cut per month, which also includes Gunawardena.

He expects these cost saving methods, implemented from June ’09, to yield a U.S.$ 10 million saving for the airline on an annualized basis. It has also rationalized its routes.

“I could afford to retrench my overseas staff because they are covered by social security, but I couldn’t do that to my local staff because there is no such safety net available here,” he said. The airline has some 4,800 employees.

Despite all of these vicissitudes I have not asked the Government Treasury for a single cent to tide over the crisis, said Gunawardena.

Gunawardena who has been in the airline since 1982 said that before the disastrous July 1983 riots the country received a then record 417,000 tourist arrivals. “It took us two decades to equal that target because of the events that followed after July ’83,” he said.

The war end has however triggered positive signals from the Indian and European markets, said Gunawardena. “I now have an 85% load factor, this winter is looking good as far as the European market is concerned,” he said.

On the Mihin Air nexus, Gunawardena said that the only connection is that both entities share the same chairman and that SriLankan has wet leased (i.e. inclusive of the cockpit crew) an A 320 aircraft to the same for U.S. $ five million for which SriLankan has received cash upfront. This lease expires in December. “We will be making a modest profit from this deal,” said Gunawardena.

Tragi-comedy at SLI

Chaos allegedly reigned recently when an EGM was called at Sri Lanka Insurance (SLI), apparently without proper consultation with its main shareholder which is the Government Treasury that has an over 90% stake in SLI. The rest of the shares are held by SLI employees who constitute a minority shareholding group in the company.

The meeting was initiated by SLI Chairman Pradeep Kariyawasam in regard to the change of a clause governing the articles of this Government of Sri Lanka owned company, which sources alleged was not that important.

There are a number or “irritants” in SLI’s articles that needs to be changed. It would have had been better if all of those issues were taken at once without trying to change them piecemeal, informed sources told The Sunday Leader.

The Treasury had allegedly instructed SLI Chairman to cancel the meeting, but it was too late as the notices had been sent out and no notices attempting to cancel were sent.

The meeting got underway as planned with Treasury Secretary Sumith Abeysingha allegedly not pleased about it. 

Shareholders wished to find out if they could sell their shares. Yes said the Chairman. At what price? they asked. At the price quoted at the Colombo Stock Exchange (C.S.E.), Kariyawasam had allegedly replied. They then asked about the dividends and who sets that. Kariyawasam had allegedly said that it was from the Treasury.

He however clarified that the shares can be sold but that negotiations will have to be done with the Treasury. He had to also retract his statement that the C.S.E. would give them the price as SLI shares are not quoted on the C.S.E. He had to also admitted that it was the Board who sets the dividend payout.

This episode demonstrates the woes that have infected SLI. (JA)

English for Jaffna 

U.K. will build a bridge across the Jaffna lagoon where the contractor will be Mabey & Johnson Ltd.

The proposed bridge at Sangupiddy on the A32 spans over the Mahadeva Causeway, which links Sangupiddy and Jaffna.  This causeway was originally built in July 1932. Total length of the superstructure is 288 metres and will be a 7 span bridge.

 To-date three flyovers have been completed, two in Kelaniya, one in Nugegoda and one is on-going in Dehiwela.  Twenty-three rural bridges have been launched in various parts of the island.


British High Commissioner Dr. Peter Hayes who recently visited the peninsula also announced U.K.’s commitment to supporting English Language Training for teachers in Jaffna through the British Council.

Hayes said, “While bridges are a physical means of connecting Jaffna to the rest of Sri Lanka; English language training provides opportunities for connecting the people of Jaffna to the wider world.

The English Language Training (E.L.T.) project will train 15 teacher trainers who will then cascade this knowledge to over  150 teachers in Jaffna. This project is supported by the Bilateral Programme Fund of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office “which strives to enrich relations between U.K. and Sri Lanka.”

E.L.T. project is implemented by the British Council and is supported by the Education Ministry and the National Institute of Education through regional English support centres and Zonal education officers.

W.a.y.s to fall 

Treasury (T) Bill yields continued to stagnate for the second week running at Wednesday’s primary auction, but market sources expected yields to fall at this week’s auction due to the unexpected impetus received from the U.S.$ 900 million inflow into the T Bond market recently.

Weighted average yields (W.a.y.s) fetched at Wednesday’s primary T Bill auction were 10.57%, 11.43% and 11.98% for T Bills of 91, 182 and 364 day maturities respectively. But similar maturities, i.e. those maturing early next year and late next year were giving yields of 11½ and 12% respectively in secondary market trading, they told The Sunday Leader. Because of this mismatch, investors were expected to go after the longer tenure at this week’s primary T Bill auction, with this demand pressure forcing to bring down yields of the longer tenure, they said.   

Standard and Poor’s lifting Sri Lanka’s rating from negative to stable on Tuesday had a salutary effect on the secondary T Bond market, with yields on the two popular Bonds, i.e. T Bonds of 2011 and 2013 maturities falling by 10 and five basis points (b.p.s) to register yields of 12.35% and 12.80% respectively on Wednesday over that of the previous day’s yields. On Thursday, 2012 maturing Bonds fell by five b.p.s. over that of Wednesday’s to be trading at 12.75%, with the 2012 and 2013 falling by a further five b,p.s. each to be commanding yields of 12.70% and 12.75% respectively on Friday over that of the previous day’s figures.

 “T Bill w.a.y.s since the beginning of this year has fallen by around 800 b.p.s and T Bond rates, which were a high of 20%, have also come down sharply,” they said.

As such it’s difficult for yields to come down further because of the expected North-Eastern construction works which will need a lot of money. As such pressure on rates will continue because of this Government of Sri Lanka (G.o.S.L.) need, the sources said.

Further, a number of pensioners live on the interest they get on their savings. But prices have not come down correspondingly. All these are negative factors as far as bringing down rates are concerned because these people live on the interests they get from their deposits, they said.

Inflation, as measured by the point to point change in the C.C.P.I.  too has bottomed-out, they said. That too does not help to bring down rates.

Inflation as measured by the point to point change in the C.C.P.I. last month was 1.1% and the annual moving average 10.4%.

Probably another influx of U.S.$ 900 million to the Government Bond market, like the recent inflow, might however help to bring down rates, the sources said. An I.M.F. conditionality, in their U.S.$ 2.6 billion standby arrangement to that reserves need to be upped to a minimum of U.S. $ 3.5 billion before they could be expended. Reserves, which at one time had fallen to U.S.$ 1.2 billion, has since climbed-up to U.S.$ 3.9 billion.

Stable reserves are a conduit to attract investments, the sources said.

 In the foreign exchange market, G.o.S.L. continued to defend the U.S. dollar by buying them at Rs. 114.80 per unit, thereby preventing the greenback from falling.

Foreign holdings up 3,100% 

Foreign Treasury Bond holdings increased by 3,100% week on week to Rs. 112,530 million in the week ended Wednesday, mainly on account of the nearly U.S. one billion inflow to the bond market recently.

The stock market also reacted positively to these events, witnessing investor activity across the board on Friday, i.e. retailers, high networth individuals, institutions and foreigners actively pursuing stocks.

The benchmark A.S.I. gained by 3.1% week on week (w.o.w.) to 2,601.50; while the more sensitive M.P.I. gained by 4% to 2,964.49 in the week ended Friday. Daily average turnover in the period under review increased by 81.2% w.ow. to Rs. 685 million.

However net foreign outflows w.o.w. increased by  60.4% to Rs. 126.2 million.

Go North

A number of articles in this newspaper as well as in others carry stories these days of banks and other financial institutions expanding their presence in the country’s Northern and Eastern Provinces.

They are making their physical presence felt in those areas by opening branches, to seize the financial opportunities that have sprung up as a result of the liberation of the North and East from the clutches of terrorism after 26 long years.

Being hard headed bankers and players in the financial services sector, they know that the 280,000 refugees currently living in camps in the North due to the screening and demining requirements not being completed as yet, will, naturally, not stay in those camps for ever.

Sooner than later they will return to their homes in the Wanni once the screening and the demining processes are over, and will start to get on with their lives.

 In the interim, their family members overseas, mainly in the West and in Australasia will be remitting them monies, primarily through acceptable lines of channel, i.e. through the banking system, to help them with their day to day affairs

Those refugees are not beggars by any long chalk. In fact Dialog has established a telecoms tower in at least one of those refugee camps, knowing fully well the commercial benefits of such an investment and the presence of financial institutions in those areas show that they are reaping the rich dividends of remittances and savings of those peoples..

If funds for rehabilitation and reconstruction works and investments into irrigation, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, education, health, roads, highways, water and power and such like are obtained for the North and East (NE), it will open a new vista of development in the country, last seen during the accelerated Mahaweli project that created the Victoria, Randenigala, Rantembe, Maduru Oya and Kotmale hydro-electric power projects, nearly three decades ago.

The Government appears confident of obtaining the necessary monies for such development works in the NE from China and India, the new economic powerhouses, a banker told this reporter, when senior bankers had a meeting with the President several weeks ago.

The Mahaweli and the development and economic growth that went therewith as a result, was because of aid from the West, and the new wave of development that is expected to be unleashed on the island, is apparently going to be driven by the East, according to the Government.

The Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka, together with the Uva, are the three poorest provinces in the island.

While the NE together are mainly dominated by the minority Tamils, who form the overwhelming majority population in the North, the Uva however is largely dominated by the majority Sinhala population of this island.

But peace after 26 years of conflict has created a complete paradigm shift in the country, creating opportunities for development and progress, right throughout the length and breadth of this island, and not just confined to one or two corners only.

With the likes of Lal de Alwis, President of the National Chamber of Commerce telling this reporter that the world is coming out of recession, he therefore seemed to think that the country’s tourism industry, long shackled by the 26 year old terrorist war, thankfully now passed, will take-off next year.

Due to the Government being cash strapped, and thereby not being able to help this sector financially, the need now is to attract foreign investments into this theatre. High bank interest rates in the local context are also not conducive to attract domestic investments into this sector either.

With the Cinnovation Group controlled by a Nepali investor, leading the way, by eyeing Hayleys’ stakes in all but one of the hotels which are jointly run by the Hayleys-Jetwing partnership, now reaching its end, after an innings spanning 18 years, is an eye-opener that the way forward is to provide easy access for foreign investments into this sector.

The opportunities in Sri Lanka’s tourism sector need no repetition.

The golden beaches, mountains, streams and rivers, jungles and its historic places, not least its friendly peoples, encapsulated in so small an area, all makes this island to be an attractive place for tourism.

Government and B.o.I assistance, to help the private sector to fully exploit this industry, is the need now.

The island’s foreign missions too should be sounded to give its wholehearted support to this industry, not only for tourism promotion, but also to attract investments into this sector here.

The World Bank (W.B.) in a presentation made on the country’s education sector on August 19, said that the war used to shave off 2-3% of the country’s G.D.P. annually.

But the war end has positioned the economy to take-off, let not this opportunity be lost.


In regard to this W.B. seminar on education,  a Government official speaking at this event, appeared to belittle the importance of English.

Mrs. Asoka Hewage, Director Bilingual Education, National Institute of Education, imputed that a wholly English education to the children of this island would create misfits, with a number of such educated, ending up being of mentally unsound minds.

Hewage is typical of that proverbial “frog in the well.” While the rest of the countries in South Asia, knowing the importance of English, is giving it pride of place in their schools’ curricula, Hewage however appeared to belittle the importance of English at that seminar.

Did Singapore develop by giving pride of place to the Chinese languages? The majority of Singapore’s population is of Chinese origin.

Or if she thinks that Singapore is an unequal comparison because of its smallness, both geographically as well as population wise compared to Sri Lanka, she should look at Malaysia, which, despite all of its not too pro-Western noises, which were quite pronounced when Mahathir Mohamed was Premier, has still made English compulsory in their schools.

Which country is wealthier, Sri Lanka or Malaysia?

If narrow minded thinking by educationists such as Hewage are allowed to dominate the country’s education sector, Sri Lanka will be forever wallowing in the mud, while the rest of the world surges forward, the peace dividend being of no consequence.

Expands to Jaffna 

Extending its footprint and consolidating its efforts to serve all Sri Lankans, Sampath Bank recently opened its Jaffna branch office.  The first banking house, hitherto unrepresented in Jaffna, to enter the Peninsula since the conclusion of the war, the Sampath Bank branch is located in Jaffna town, where, with the exception of the three most senior staff who possess regional experience, the bank is exclusively staffed by qualified local residents and offers customers a varied and comprehensive banking service.

Products and financial services include savings accounts, business and personal current accounts, fixed deposits with higher interest rates, foreign currency accounts, personal and housing loans and leasing facilities.  The bank will also offer special gift schemes and rewards for customers that open savings accounts and fixed deposits within the first month of operations.

Sampath Bank Marketing & Deposits Assistant General Manager Tharaka Ranwala said, “The opening of this new branch office is part of Sampath Bank’s efforts to achieve a national presence by extending our services to all parts of the island, and also to follow to the fullest the President’s vision of Uthuru Wasanthaya. By becoming the first bank to enter the Jaffna Peninsula since the conflict end, Sampath Bank hopes to assist in empowering the people by rebuilding livelihoods and stimulating development in the region.  Prior to the start of operations, bank representatives met with local business and community stakeholders in order to ensure that we provide customised banking solutions that support the growth of our clients. 

Keeping food fresh long 

Leading the LG Health Plus range of products is the innovative Green Ion Door Cooling Refrigerator which has been designed to keep food fresh longer, retain natural proteins and vitamins and preserve the taste of food, keeping all the goodness intact.

Genuine “Door Cooling System” for which only LG has an international patent, has vents on the interior door panel as well as the sides of the cabinet which allow cool air to be replenished faster every time the fridge is opened and closed. This speeds up the cooling process and shuts off the compressor quicker with huge electricity savings.

To reinforce its already efficient energy saving and innovative Door Cooling Refrigerator, LG has introduced another unique feature for retaining enhanced food freshness.  Green Ion Technology uses a ventilation system coated in catechins, a green tea extract, to deodorize the refrigerator. This combined with a negative ion generator kills food-spoiling bacteria and fungi, effectively resulting in 5.7 times less fungi after seven days compared to conventional models. The green catechins keep food fresh two and a half times longer than normal fridges. Catechin is directly extracted from green tea leaf and is non-toxic and of natural antibiotic substance which is not harmful to human beings. Catechin is known to slow the process of ageing and is effective in restraining the spoiling of food.

LG understands the importance for you to get the best value from your food and the best value for your money and have developed cutting-edge technology to make your refrigerator help you achieve these goals. LG’s Smart Compartment Technology with Anti-Bacteria Seal prevents moulds entering and spoiling the food. The seal which acts as a shield to keep food healthy and hygienic is located in the gasket which is washable. The Cell Fresh Crisper is designed to control the moisture level of fruits and vegetables to retain freshness and strengthen storage time.

The LG Health Plus range of products, designed to provide greater comfort and convenience and save more time and energy consists of many more unique products such as inverter air conditioners, steam washing machines, dish washers, microwaves, in-built appliances and ovens which could be viewed at Abans showrooms islandwide, now available on interest free easy payment terms to suit every budget.

Chandula to Washington 

Hatton National Bank (H.N.B.) Marketing & Retail Banking Deputy General Manager and Banking With the Poor Network (BWTP) and Lanka Financial Services for Underserved Settlements (LFSUS, UNHABITAT project) Chairman Chandula Abeywickrema will speak on Microfinance at the Global Youth Enterprise Conference to be held from September 29-30 at  George Washington University, Washington D.C.

Making Sense International (M.S.I.), a global leader in linking youth to microfinance is organising this conference. 

The conference will focus on the nearly 1.5 bn., world youth population, where nearly 90% live in developing countries.

During this year Abeywickrema was also invited to speak at the Asian Development Banking Institution, at a conference organised by the Asian Bankers Association with the Alliance for Financial Inclusion on commercial banks’ role in creating access to people at the bottom of the pyramid in Tokyo in March 2009 and also at the South East Asian Central Banks (SEACEN) Research and Training Centre at the 5th SEACEN/ABAC/ABA/PECC Public-Private Dialogue for the Asia Pacific Region in Bangkok on post crisis capacity building, promoting financial inclusion and lending to SMEs which was held from July 27- 28.

Last year Abeywickrema was invited by the Harvard Business School to speak at the Harvard Asia Conference on financial inclusion and the role that technology can play in creating access to the people at the bottom of the pyramid.  He was also invited to the Wilton Park conference in London as a special invitee speaker on the theme financing low income housing and the role of commercial banks. 

Another first by the leader

Dialog Telekom is the first company in Sri Lanka to be People Capability Maturity Model (PCMM) Level III certified, and now joins the league of top companies practicing People-CMM across the globe such as Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services, Citibank and Ericsson to name a few from the regional and global arena.

 This recent achievement reinforces Dialog’s continued commitment to develop and enhance skills and capabilities of its service personnel.

PCMM is an organisational change model developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute. Dialog received certification at Maturity Level III for demonstrated compliance with international standard by way of establishing and maintaining best practices with respect to the management and development of its workforce in the sphere of service delivery.

Dialog Telekom Group Chief Customer Officer Group Service Delivery Ms. Sandra De Zoysa said: “We are  honoured to have been granted PCMM Level 3 Standard for Human Capital Development best practices in the field of service delivery. This recognition goes to demonstrate the skill and competency of our service team. I’m confident that Dialog’s service team is second to none and People-CMM along with the many international awards they have won goes to prove that Sri Lankan service delivery professionals are among the best in the region. Our focus on best practice has been driven by our desire and commitment to deliver a world class service experience to our valued customers.”

$ 500,000 aid for fisheries 

The Spanish Government has provided funding of US$ 521,799 for the implementation of a project titled ‘Minimum standards for fish handling and reduced post-harvest losses in selected tsunami affected communities’ in Sri Lanka.

This is in response to the need for quality improvement of fish handling and the reduction of post harvest losses. Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Ministry sought the assistance of FAO in this regard. This will be implemented over a 12 month period that began in June 2009 by the Ministry, Fisheries Department and Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation, while FAO provides operational and technical support.   

Higher education gateway 

Institute of Vocational Studies (Pvt) Ltd., (IVS) Dalugama,Kelaniya was formed to fill the aspirations of youngsters going abroad for their studies.

IVS sendd students to Bangladesh, India, UK and Singapore, giving opportunities to study medicine, engineering, (computer, electronics, mechanical, telecoms and chemical), business management, accounts, hotel management, English and social science.

The speciality of this institution is that its charges are relatively lower than that of other such institu­tions.

IVS gives the chance to study in Bangalore University, Rajiv Gandhi University (Affiliated PESIT Institute), NRI Institute India, Sambhram University of Science and Technology Bangladesh and Rayat London College affiliated to Wales university UK, ERC College, Auston Institute and FTMS Global Singapore.

IVS Managing. Director Mrs. Vijitha Mallika ­Senanayake is a Lumumba University graduate. Her experience as a student  of a foreign university has greatly influenced in starting her institute to give the same knowledge and education to Sri Lankan students too.











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