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Checkpoints hurt tourism

Colombo checkpoint (file photo).

Checkpoints hurt tourism, a hotelier told The Sunday Leader recently.

M.T.A. Furkhan, Chairman of Confifi Hotel Group said that a group of tourists who visited the island soon after the military crushed the terrorists in May this year, were taken aback when they saw security checkpoints close to Colombo Airport in Katunayake despite the war end. "That conveyed the wrong message, that all is not O.K to the tourist, leaving aside the fact that such checkpoints put them off," he said.


Meeting to resolve estate wage impasse

Three estate unions encompassing over 150,000 plantation workers will be meeting representatives of plantation management companies tomorrow to resolve the current impasse over worker wages, an official told The Sunday Leader.

Mrs. M. Aluvihare who heads the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon’s (E.F.C.’s) Plantation sector said that the earlier offer of a 12½ % wage hike on workers basic salaries had been rejected by those unions.

She however refused to give details of the alternative pay package that would be presented to the unions at tomorrow’s meeting. Talks with the unions have been going on since April.

Estate workers currently get an all inclusive salary of Rs. 290 a day which includes a Rs. 200 basic wage and a Rs. 70 attendance allowance. Unions involved in tomorrow’s negotiations are the C.W.C. the U.N.P. backed L.J.E.W.U. and the J.P.T.U.C.

Unions instead are agitating for an all inclusive Rs. 500 basic salary for a day.

Costs worked out showed that if the management gives into this demand, it would result in 18 of the 21 regional plantation companies that have been captured in a survey making an annual loss of Rs. 87 billion, E.F.C. Director General Ravi Peiris said.

 This computation includes all statutory payments such as e.p.f., e.t.f. and gratuity payments.

He was however unaware of the losses that those companies were currently making. The industry has taken a hit due to the global recession and a drought.

 Peiris further said that workers have had stopped teas bought by buyers (importers) from leaving their warehouses to the port for shipment.

He said that this was serious because this sabotage was in regard to teas that had been already bought by the foreign buyers. Peiris said that the Planters’ Association of Ceylon is taking action in this regard with the I.G.P.

Tea, after garments and worker remittances is Sri Lanka’s third largest foreign exchange earner.

Bangalore flight suspended 

Kingfisher, a private Indian airline which does the daily Colombo-Chennai and Colombo-Bangalore run, will however stop its Bangalore leg from September 15.

The company’s Vice President Global Sales Siva Ramachandran told reporters in Colombo on Monday that the reason for stopping this service was economics. “We found this sector uneconomical because the passengers who use this service are generally transit passengers, transiting from London,” he said.

Ramachandran said that the Bangalore-London return flight takes 23 hours for which service the company had to employ two aircraft, with one virtually idling for 24 hours, he said. That was the reason for suspending this run.

He however said that Kingfisher has made an application to the Indian authorities to start a service from Mumbai to Colombo.

A.S.P.I. up 1% 

The market, in the week ended Thursday saw the benchmark A.S.P.I. gain by 1.1% week on week (w.o.w.) to close at 2,630.77; while the more sensitive M.P.I. gained by 0.6% to close at 2,983.55.

The week under review which was a short week on account of Friday’s poya holiday, saw daily turnover average at Rs.768.6 million, a w.o.w. increase of 12.2%. The week under review saw a marginal net foreign inflow of Rs. 2.2 million compared to a net foreign outflow of Rs. 126.2 million the previous week.

Investment bottleneck 

Current laws prohibit foreign investments in unit trusts unless such funds have a cap of 20% in its exposure to government securities, a fund manager told reporters on Wednesday.

S. Jeyavarman, C.E.O. N.A.M.A.L., said that they are working with the authorities to change this law.  “We have asked Central Bank of Sri Lanka (C.B.S.L.) to remove this condition completely,” he said.

Whilst there are no limits in foreign investments in the equities market, except in the case of banks where there is a 15% cap (which limit however could be enhanced with C.B.S.L. permission) on ownership, foreigners may also invest in Treasury Bond and Bills upto a maximum of 10% of its outstanding values respectively.

These investments are made by foreigners being permitted to open Share Investment External Rupee Accounts for foreign exchange payments made for such investments as well as for outflows in the event they chose to exit from such investments.

Corporate debt however is not open to foreign investments. 

Sri Lanka’s first unit trust fund is up for listing, having on offer 20 million units (shares) at Rs. 50 a unit, with the minimum subscription fixed at 200 units. This Rs. one billion fund which is of a 10 year tenure has already found buyers for units worth Rs. 100 million each in the form of D.F.C.C. Bank and Hatton National Bank (H.N.B.) respectively.

D.F.C.C., H.N.B. and N.A.M.A.L. are controlled by business magnate Don Harold Stassen Jayawardena. H.N.B. and D.F.C.C., also through the latter’s commercial banking arm D.F.C.C. Vardhana Bank, will canvass the sale of these units among rural investors, said Jeyavarman.

This fund will have a 100% exposure to the equities market, with the flexibility to have a change in direction, and have a 100% exposure to fixed income securities if the need arises.

Unit trusts exposure in the equities market is in the region of Rs. 4-4½ billion currently, said Jeyavarman.

Turnaround in sales 

Sri Lanka’s ice cream market, with an annual value of Rs. four billion and equivalent to 20 million litres in volume terms, though having had experienced a 4% negative growth year on year (y.o.y.) last year and a 2% y.o.y. negative growth in the first six months of this year, is showing signs of turning around  in the current quarter.

“Retardation in consumer spend appears to have had bottomed out, coupled with the opening up of the North and East because of the war end and the upturn in tourist arrivals augurs well for business,” Jitendra Gunaratne, President, John Keells Holdings (J.K.H.) Consumer Foods Group President told The Sunday Leader.

The company which claims to have more than a 2/3rds. share in the island’s ice-cream market, saw  its share in Jaffna drop to zero with the closure of the A 9 road  due to the outbreak of the war after the breakdown of the 2002 ceasefire agreement. 

“Jaffna, as far as ice-creams are concerned is a market that we are starting from ground zero, i.e. after the breakdown of that market with the dissolution of the ceasefire, he said.

“But the A 9 is now open for business, and we are rolling out our ice-creams to the peninsula,” Gunaratne said.

The company in the current quarter is seeing an upturn, after a dismal performance in the previous quarter. The breakdown of the ceasefire had also caused a 70% drop in its soft drinks sales in Jaffna.

But with the opening up of the A 9 road and stocks rolling in to the peninsula, the company has appointed 180-200 distributors in Jaffna to take its sales forward in the peninsula, its Frozen Confectionery Head Neil Samarasinghe told reporters on Wednesday.

The company claims to be the first to have had started ice cream sales to the peninsula, which they began four months ago.

They have also enhanced their presence in Vavuniya in the last four months, catering to the lucrative i.d..p. (internally displaced persons) market there.

The J.K.H. Group also plans to open two supermarket outlets in Jaffna and in the East respectively before the year end, its C.E.O.  Sanjeewa Jayaweera said. The Group currently operates 47 supermarkets in the island, with the majority of those concentrated in the Western Province.

“Our consumer sales took a hit with the crash of Golden Key Credit Card Company last year,” he added.

Gunaratne told reporters that their ice-creams have more than a 50% share of the Maldivian market, but refused to divulge the size of that market in volume terms.

He however said that despite the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement it did not make economic sense to try to penetrate the Indian market, though Keells Foods was having a presence in the sub-continent.

The company on Wednesday launched a new ice cream variety called “Hakuru Mix.“

Rs. 500 mn. + for B’tota hotel 

The over 100 room Bentota Beach hotel has been earmarked for refurbishment at a cost of more than Rs. 500 million.

A John Keells hotel, this investment follows a Rs. 500 million refurbishment done on another Keells hotel, Cinnamon Lakeside, formerly known as Trans Asia Hotel, which was relaunched on Monday.

The company was however able to claim Rs. 300 million of this cost from insurance on account of an L.T.T.E. plane attack on the hotel in April.

Doing it wrong 

Visible presence of armed troops in a five star hotel in Colombo and restricted movements of hotel guests within the hotel itself as a result, convey the impression that the country is still at war, a source who did not want to be named told this reporter.

He said that on Monday, allegedly because of the presence of Premier Ratnasiri Wickramanayake at a five star hotel in Colombo, these restrictions had been imposed. He and an Indian colleague had been staying in that hotel at that time.

“But after speaking to those personnel, I and my colleague were allowed to walk to the place where we wanted to go inside the hotel premises itself,” the source said.

This made his Indian colleague, referring to the war end, to say: “I thought you have got over your problems,” the source said.

He said that such impediments are detrimental to the growth of the country’s leisure sector.

Talking of motor- traffic forced to stay idle to allow V.I. P. convoys to first pass through, on Monday evening, at about 6.50 p.m. the bus in which yours truly was travelling had to idle for 15 minutes to allow such a convoy to first pass through.

This happened near Pittala Handiya down Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo, with easily over a hundred vehicles caught up in this traffic jam. Conveying the wrong signals alright?

Market expects rate cut 

The popular Treasury (T) Bonds of 2012 and 2013 maturities fell by 10 basis points (b.p.s.) to 12.40% and 12.45% respectively at Thursday’s secondary market trading (over that of Wednesday) on expectations of a rate cut at the September 16 Monetary Board meeting, market sources told The Sunday Leader.

Central Bank of Sri Lanka (C.B.S.L.) last cut its policy rate, the rate at which it lends money to commercial banks and primary dealers, after its monthly Monetary Policy meeting in June, when it reduced its overnight lending rate by 50 basis points (b.p.s) to 11%.

Meanwhile Wednesday’s T Bill auction saw the 91day bill slipping by a marginal two b.p.s to 10.55% week on week (w.o.w.), 182 day bills by one b.p. to 11.42%, while the 364 day bill remained unchanged at 11.98%.

Sources attributed as reasons for weighted average yields to remain virtually unchanged w.o.w. in the past few weekly auctions to the high cost of living resulting in savers, especially pensioners, wanting to get higher rates on their deposits in order to survive.   

This has resisted a dip in deposit rates, coupled with the expected borrowing needs of the Government for North-East reconstruction works which would make funds more costly.

They said that previously when the market bid high, C.B.S.L. used to reject such bids in toto, thereby forcing the market to come down on their bids in the following week’s auction. “But this time they are not doing that,” sources said. C.B.S.L. nowadays only reject part of the auction, and not the auction in its totality, they said.

This may be an I.M.F. condition, that the market must be allowed to determine rates, without forcibly trying to bring down yields, the sources said.

Wednesday’s T Bill primary auction had a total of Rs. 12,000 million worth of T Bills up for re-issue, of which only Rs. 8,870 million were re-issued to the market, while the offers for the balance rejected.

 Sri Lanka recently obtained a U.S.$ 2.6 billion I.M.F. standby arrangement, of which the first tranche of U.S.$ 322 million has already been disbursed. Additionally the I.M.F. through another facility, disbursed U.S.$ 475 million to C.B.S.L.’s reserves fund recently.

Corruption blunts trade efficacy 

Corruption at the local Customs was highlighted as a key bottleneck to trade (import-exports) facilitation at a seminar in Colombo on Tuesday.

It’s learnt that Customs is in the process of recruiting graduates and paying them “premium” salaries in order to tide over this problem.

A preliminary report submitted by a Singapore consultancy firm on trade facilitation has made 13 recommendations in this regard.

Among the recommendations are the establishment of a Presidential Commission for Government-Business Trade Facilitation Committee where it was said that the work in this connection was in progress.  

Other recommendations included elimination of paper submissions and submission of customs declaration forms (cusdecs) electronically; extending customs entry receiving beyond the current 3 pm time deadline for cusdecs; standardization of tariff classification; provide all customs related information to interested parties; establish pre-arrival manifest submissions; review licensing procedures and reduce applications on consignment business; implement single electronic window; establish a national value added network framework similar to the SWIFT system for banks; eliminate duplication of samples by customs and other government agencies and establish online applications and approvals.

It was said at this seminar that in studies compiled by the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, Sri Lanka, in the doing business indicator (2009) had been ranked 101 out of 178 countries; logistics performance indicator (2007): ranked 92 out of 150 countries; Global Enabling Trade Report (2009): 78 out of 121 countries and 66 out of 178 countries in doing business-trading across borders sub-category.

“Foreign investors look at these indicators before committing themselves to a particular country,” alleged Jonathan Koh. of CrimsonLogic, the company employed for this study funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat. He said that the total cost of this project would be U.S.$ 26 million which could be recovered in three years.

They are expected to come out with their final report by the month end.

Soya milk saga 

A kilo of soya bean can produce six litres of soya milk, much more than what a cow could give, National Agribusiness Council (N.A.C.) Chairman Asoka Gopallawa told The Sunday Leader.

Soya bean has a protein nutrient content equivalent to that of beef.

The country is suffering from a dearth in soya bean production, which cultivation was neglected after the country embraced the open economy in 1977. 

Gopallwa however said that there was a move in the early 1980s to provide schoolchildren with a glass of soya bean milk which was in tune with the election promise that the then President J.R. Jayewardene had made, of providing schoolchildren with a free glass of milk.

 Assistance from Denmark was obtained for this project, where the necessary equipment was available for procurement from Danish companies at 6% interest. Gopallawa was employed by the Danes in the promotion of this project.

 “The farmers too were enamoured by this project and were even prepared to supply some of the soya bean free because it was their children who would be benefiting from this project,” said Gopallwa.

 “But the project came to a dead end after Jayewardene, who initially showed interest in this project, backed out,” alleged Gopallawa. “It was corruption involving this project, the proverbial 10% commission that officials needed to make the project a reality, but which Jayewardene was allegedly not prepared to fight, that put an end to this scheme,” he added.

$ 150 mn. cut needed to keep export momentum 

Sri Lanka will have to slash U.S.$ 100-150 million in costs in the event it loses the G.S.P. + duty free facility in garment exports to the European Union (E.U) to keep up its sales momentum to the region, despite the concession been taken out, official sources told The Sunday Leader.

Duties charged on garment exports to the E.U. market in the event the G.S.P. + concession is removed is 10%. On that basis is the additional costing worked out.

 Garment exports are Sri Lanka’s largest foreign exchange (forex) earner with the main markets being the E.U. and U.S.A., and the latter being the biggest market last year according to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (C.B.S.L.).

Garment exports last year brought in a total of U.S.$ 3.5 billion into the country according to C.B.S.L.’s 2008 Annual Report. This industry also provides employment to 300,000.

“Slashing down of such costs are all the more important, because the U.S.A. has been badly hit by the recession, resulting in garment exports to that region falling,” the sources said.

“If such excess costs are cut down by trade facilitation, like by slashing down on unnecessary costs at Customs, thereby making S.L.’s garment exports still competitive despite the absence of the G.S.P. + facility, the status quo in regard to exports to the E.U. could yet be maintained,” the sources alleged.

They further alleged that Government’s backing is there for Customs reform.

Suppressing information

Central Bank of Sri Lanka (C.B.S.L.) Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal told invitees at the unveiling of the Bank’s monetary policy roadmap at the beginning of the year, that C.B.S.L. will strive to be transparent in its activities.

But C.B.S.L.’s recent action of stopping the circulation of banking industry statistics such as the growth in banks’ non performing loans (n.p.l.s) and retardation in credit growth (this indicator however turned around in July) as reported in the main story of these pages last week, belies that promise.

If providing such information is a threat to national security or may cause a systemic risk to the country’s financial system, it’s then understandable C.B.S.L. suppressing the dissemination of such information, but in this case it poses neither of those risks.

That data previously used to be circulated at C.B.S.L.’s monthly meetings with bank C.E.O.s where recent trends showed an increase in banks’ n.p.l.s from 5% as at end December 2008 to near 9% by May 2009.

There was also no let-up in banks’ seeking parate executions from borrowers to recover what was due to them.

 But the worst was the industry recording a negative 2% credit growth in May 2009, vis-à-vis the end December 2008 credit figure, according to industry sources, which is also a dubious first for the local banking industry.

Growth in bank credit is an indicator that investments are also growing in the country, thereby spurring growth, and opening-up avenues of employment to the tens of thousands of youth who join the job market annually.

Therefore, naturally, a retardation in bank credit growth translates to a retardation in investments, with a negative knock on effect on employment creation.

This newspaper, as and when available, used to regularly publish these statistics obtained from its sources, which naturally reflected that all was not well with the banking industry.

C.B.S.L. however stopped the circulation of such information since July.

One wonders whether the publication of such negative statistics faithfully by this newspaper, was the reason for C.B.S.L. to have had stopped disseminating such information to bank C.E.O.s, an activity that used to take place monthly, at the latter’s meetings with C.B.S.L. officials to discuss industry issues.

It was however alleged that though C.B.S.L. had stopped the dissemination of such information, if industry players ask for those statistics, those would be readily made available to them by C.B.S.L.

But not a single C.E.O. had allegedly asked C.B.S.L. officials for such information at these monthly meetings after the circulation of such figures was stopped since July.

With this newspaper leaking out such statistics to the public, it may be possible that the reason why not a single bank C.E.O. has asked C.B.S.L. for this data after it was stopped being disseminated, may have had been due to fears that if this newspaper published such information after the dissemination of such statistics, that particular C.E.O. would have had been singled out as being the person who would have had been leaking out this information to the press, with the risk of him and his bank falling from grace from the C.B.S.L. and Governor Cabraal.

Several factors have had been adduced to the growth in bank n.p.l.s, and likewise the retardation in credit growth, which, however had turned to a positive 1% by end July due the coming down of lending rates with inflation being reined in, and possibly the Government of Sri Lanka (G.o.S.L.) seeking credit from the banking sector diminishing.

Though Budget 2009, presented in parliament last November articulated zero funding from the domestic banking sector to meet G.o.S.L.’s expenditure needs, the truth however was that G.o.S.L., in the first four months of this year had borrowed Rs. 149 billion from the sector.

One of the reasons for a high interest rate regime to be prevalent in the economy is due to the demand for credit from the domestic banking sector by G.o.S.L., which in turn pushes up rates, makes credit more expensive, thereby leading to a contraction of the same, whilst at the same time increasing n.p.l.s because of borrowers’ inability to pay back their loans due to the operation of a high interest rate regime in the economy.

However, the war end has created a paradigm shift in the economy, and what better proof than the near U.S.$ 900 million inflow into the Government Treasury Bond market by foreign investors late last month, followed by a U.S.$ 475 million inflow into C.B.S.L. reserves due to a new I.M.F. allocation, thereby topping reserves to a record U.S.$ 3.9 billion.

Therefore, if the reason for the C.B.S.L. to stop disseminating those statistics was through fear that such data would create a negative perception in the eyes of the public and investors in regard to the state of the economy, coupled with the fact that the Southern Provincial Council elections are also looming large, they now need not harbour such trepidations.

The sudden withholding of such information, now encompassing two monthly meetings, i.e. in July and last month when bank C.E.O.s used to meet-up with C.B.S.L. officials in their regular monthly meetings, also calls to question C.B.S.L.’s independence and creates doubts among the public about C.B.S.L.’s and Cabraal’s credibility and the transparency of that venerable organisation.

But with those indicators now turning for the better, coupled with the fact that this newspaper has highlighted that C.B.S.L. had stopped disseminating such data, it may be possible that from this month, C.B.S.L. would again make available such information to bank C.E.O.s, when they meet-up with C.B.S.L. officers in their regular monthly meeting for this month, or more subtly, through news releases to the press, to allay fears that C.B.S.L. had been in a campaign to suppress the dissemination of negative banking indicators.

  However the tragedy is that such a reversal of attitude may deal a blow in regard to the credibility of the Governor and C.B.S.L. officers, thereby making it difficult for the public to disbelieve that C.B.S.L. is not a politicized institution, and calling to question its ability to take or make independent decisions, regardless of whether such actions are good or bad for the Government in power.

But for the sake of greater transparency, as was pledged by Cabraal at the beginning of the year, it would strengthen C.B.S.L.’s credibility if it would once again start disseminating such information, for better or for worse.

Aims for 100 entries 

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (I.C.A.S.L.) is aiming for 100 entries at this year’s annual report competition despite the economic downturn.

I.C.A.S.L President Nishan Fernando told reporters recently  that a downturn would induce more companies to take part in this competition.

The competition however has no focus on bottomline performance, but rather on factors such as “financial reporting, corporate governance disclosures, corporate social responsibility and management commentary,” for judging purposes.

Last year the competition attracted 85 entries, up from the 75 the previous year.

Past I.C.A.S.L. President Yohan Perera said that though there are over 200 listed companies, the reason why the competition doesn’t attract an equivalent number of entries was because listed group companies like John Keells, Hayleys and Carson Cumberbatch used to compete in this event, but not their listed subsidiaries.

“The parent companies don’t want their subsidiaries to compete with them,” he said. Entry fees are Rs. 50,000 per applicant. The awards ceremony will be held at the Cinnamon Grand on November 25.

The competition is also open to unlisted organisations, including those in the public sector as well as N.G.O.s.

Bribery case, six years in limbo 

It is clear that bribery is rampant in every sphere of our society, so much so that it doesn’t even prick the consciences of those who offer bribes to get things done. Sometimes it becomes a part of our lives. We have to give bribes to get things done, otherwise things don’t happen. We are at a stage where it has become a necessary thing in our lives; the current situation is that bad,” Rienzie Arsakularatne (P.C.), a former Bribery Commission Director told Benchmark recently.

Going on to discuss what could be done to change the status quo, he said: “I don’t know about the efforts made by the Bribery Commission and whether it is making serious efforts in this regard. I say this with reason. Because the last year I worked in the Attorney General’s Department, I was prosecuting in a certain bribery case-that was on May 23, 2003. Now, six years later, the case is still pending and being prosecuted by many officers. So, if the Bribery Commission is serious about this business, it should have ensured that this case is prosecuted to an end.”

“What is important is to conduct proper detection, effective investigation and launch effective prosecutions. Another important aspect is to have prosecutions concluded early so that justice is dispensed early. Otherwise, this prosecution business becomes a failure because witnesses go abroad or they forget things and matters end up in acquittals. In order to arrest this, launching of effective prosecutions and investigations is necessary,” he added.  

Commenting on our political system, which allows corruption to creep in at all levels, he told the show’s Special Correspondent Ms. Savithri Rodrigo that the only way to emerge from this mire “is to launch effective prosecution, getting proper convictions and getting courts to pass proper sentences.”

He said: “Deterrence is the only way-if one or two cases are dealt with properly, that will signal to the rest of society that this cannot be done any longer. Unless somebody gets a deterrent sentence, this situation will continue. It is important for the Bribery Commission to look at it in this light and use its resources towards that end.”  The widely-watched business TV programme is presented by LMD and produced by the wrap factory.

Among top two 

Softlogic Trading, part of the Softlogic Group, which is the exclusive distributor for U.S. headquartered Dell computer products in Sri Lanka, is among the top two IT companies in this category in the island.

“Sixty per cent of the company’s sales are generated by selling computers and the necessary ancillaries and infrastructure to the public sector and the balance to the private sector,” Sidantha Peeris, Sales & Marketing Director Softlogic Trading (Pvt) Ltd., told reporters recently.

In sales of Dell Computers to the public sector, Defence followed by the Education category leads the way, while in the private sector and even in certain sub-sectors of the public sector, it’s banking followed by the telecoms industry that spurred Dell’s growth in the Sri Lankan market.

Softlogic Trading’s Director/C.E.O. Roshan Rassool said that People’s Bank uses 3,000 Dell manufactured personal computers (p.c.s), Hatton National Bank between 2,500-3,000; whilst Standard Chartered Bank and Commercial Bank also use Dell products. He added that virtually all of “LMD 100” companies use Dell products.

With an annual turnover of between U.S.$ 16-17 million, Softlogic Trading has been able to beat the recession and industry performance, and continue to make gains.

“While the IDC survey showed that there was a 30% drop in computer hardware sales, our company however experienced an 8-10% growth both in volume and value terms,” said Rassool.

Dell Computers which hitherto concentrated in selling desktops, notebooks, servers and such like targeting only the public and private sectors, will, however from this month launch products targeting the local consumer sector which is estimated to be 30% of the market, of the type of products Softlogic/Dell deal in.

Ms. Valerie Lim, Dell’s Director & General Manager Developing Markets Group avoided answering the question whether the delay in seeking opportunities in this sector was because of the war.

“Our hqrs., in the U.S.A. first does an evaluation before launching such products,” she said. 

However, HP, one of Dell’s competitors is already in the local consumer market.

Dell’s South Asia/Developing Markets Group Regional Managing Director Varinderjit Singh talking of prospects said: “Situation of the country is resolved. Though businesses were not what they were two or three years ago, we see business picking up. So Sri Lanka is on top of the radar screen as far as emerging markets are concerned. We expect business led by infrastructure development to take off 2-3 years from now.”

Opportunities in Trinco

The profit margin in operating an ice plant in Trincomalee is 50%. A fisherman who operates four trawlers in the area is now going to invest in an ice plant, Eagle Insurance Managing Director Deepal Sooriyaarachchi on opportunities in Trincomalee because of peace, speaking at a Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport seminar in Colombo recently said.

He further said that the largest rice miller in Trincomalee, a Tamil, has named his mill “Sithamu,” with “Si” being the shorten form for Sinhala, “tha” for Thamil and “mu” for Muslim.

His production director is Sinhalese and his finance director a Muslim, added Sooriyaarachchi.

He also said that in the insurance industry there is very little collaboration, “so ultimately the consumer will have to pay for it. It’s so with banks, each competing to have their ATM machines,” said Sooriyaarachchi. Get efficiencies in technology, but compete in front, he added.

Sooriyaarachchi further said that most accidents in Sri Lanka are due to fatigue. “I know this as an insurer,” he said.

Storm in  teacup 

With reference to the article that appeared on these pages in The Sunday Leader issue of August 23, 2009 under the heading “Suspension, not ban,” we respect Sri Lanka Tea Board (S.L.T.B.) Chairman and Director General M.D Hemarthne, but we   have our reservations on other officials of the Tea Board, specially the Tea Commissioner’s Division.

 With regard to the said suspension we record:  We were not informed, contacted or consulted on this matter which is detrimental to the small and medium tea exporters. Nine organizations including the Colombo Tea Traders Association (C.T.T.A.) and the Tea Exporters Association (T.E.A.) have been informed, why not the Association of Small & Medium Exporters of Tea (ASMET)?

Taking up bona fide cases on a case by case will not be justifiable by other exporters as it may be discrimination.  If 95- 98% of tea that are exported is via auction channel why this suspension that affects 5% to 2% of the export volume? If all teas are first certified by the S.L.T.B. prior to sale, why worry on the quality of the teas as all the teas will be as per ISO standard?

With regard to “abuse” of teas not originating from the factories of manufacture we remember raids made on several such irregular tea traders in 2004. But we do not know how many such errant tea traders were brought before the law.

C.T.T.A. has exporter members and producer members. Their membership is two fold, active members and associate members. There are about 50 active members who are large exporters or large producers, these members have the voting rights to elect the executive

The committee consists of active members.

Whereas, the associate members who number over 200 have no opportunity to be in the management committee or use a ballot or vote to elect the management committee. The present C.T.T.A. Chairman is the immediate T.E.A. past Chairman and the present T.E.A. Chairman is the C.T.T.A. Vice Chairman.

 In these circumstances will justice and fair play prevail in the tea industry?

M.C.M. Zarook,

Past A.S.M.E.T. Chairman.

 Committee year after year.

Promoting Lanka in France

Franco- Sri Lankan relations will be brought to the forefront in the 19th edition of the Lyon International Class Export Forum, the major event concerning International Trade.

The Class Export Trade Fair (C.E.T.F.) assembles all the major players in International Trade from France under one roof in Lyon.

 Classe-Export Magazine, a French leader in the Press for import/export companies, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Paris and. Tima Lazarus of Investment Service Asia/Eastbound, a company specialized in Franco-Sri Lankan relations are behind this initiative.

This gives an opportunity to re-launch the Franco-Sri Lanka business Council with vigour as French entrepreneurs feel that the time is conducive for a giant leap in bilateral trade and investment. The eagerness to trade and invest was lacking due to protracted conflict in the north and east of Sri Lanka. But with the conflict coming to an end, the interest in Sri Lanka as a trade and investment partner is expected to grow rapidly.

Sri Lanka is ideally located and could be considered as an effective entry into the Indian market through the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement. Lazarus is confident that a visit of a leading French business delegation could be organized to Sri Lanka by March 2010 after displaying the potential of the country at the C.E.T.F. in December 2009.

The Rhone-Alpes region supported Sri Lanka recently by setting up four craftsmen training centres in Matara, Kalutara, Balapitiya and Thamaduwa following the Tsunami. Furthermore Grand Lyon upgraded the Wallasmulla Hospital water and sewerage system. CGPME (Confederation of Small & Medium Sized Companies) has initiated and brought many French delegations to Sri Lanka & South India over the past 10 years which resulted in quite a few French companies in Lyon & the region, investing and trading in Lyon.

“We have not forgotten the support and trust of friends and partners from Lyon, during some of the difficult times, like François Turcas (President of CGPME RA)” Lazarus says. “We need to build on those relationships and encourage more French companies to come to invest and trade in Sri Lanka and vice versa. It is important to be proactive, as the opportunities are numerous and in a few years the cost to penetrate this market would be much more costly.”To launch this promotion, an official has been made by a Sri Lankan delegation to Lyon headed by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in France and Export Development Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris.

The Sri Lankan delegation, was welcomed by representatives from the Town Hall, Grand Lyon, Classe-Export, the CGPME (Confederation of Small & Medium sized Companies) & the Lyon Chamber of Commerce.

The Minister addressed leading institutions involved in trade and heads of companies.

The promotion of Sri Lanka will end in December, with a series of articles published in the Classe-Export Magazine highlighting the advantages of investing in Sri Lanka. The magazine is read by over 35,000 persons involved in the import/export sectors in France.

62% debt, domestic

Government’s debt mix, i.e. domestics debt versus foreign debt in June 2008, May 2009 and June 2009 ratio wise were 57.2: 42.8, whilst in the last two data captures they remained unchanged at 61.9: 38.1 respectively.

Total outstanding government debt increased by 1.7% month on month (m.o.m). to Rs. 3,904.4 billion as at end June 2009. On a year on year (y.o.y.) basis this increase was 19.7%.  

Revenue down 7%

Government revenue in the first six months of the year declined by 6.6% y.o.y. to Rs. 289.7 billion. Revenue so far collected comprised 33.9% of “Budget 2009” target of Rs.855 bn. 

Capex down 5%

Government capital and lending minus repayments in the first six months of the year declined by 4.6% y.o.y. to Rs. 120.2 billion. This comprised 32.6% of Budget 2009’s capital expenditure target of Rs. 368.2 billion.

However, current expenditure in the period under review increased by 25.7% y.o.y. to Rs. 432.6 billion and comprised 52.5% of the Budget 2009 estimate of Rs. 823.5 billion.

Meanwhile government expenditure & lending minus repayments in the first six months of the year increased by 17.6% y.o.y. to Rs. 552.8 billion. This comprised 46.4% of the budgeted expenditure figure for the year of Rs. 1,191.7 billion.

Tea down 21%

Tea production in the first seven months of the year declined by 20.9% y.o.y. 157 million kilos, while coconut production in the period under review increased by 13.6% y.o.y. to 1,662.5 million nuts. Rubber production meanwhile in the first six months of they year increased by 3.5% y.o.y. to 69.5 mn., kg.  

Outstanding down 2%

Outstanding credit card balance as at end July declined by 2.3% m.o.m. to Rs.32,635 million, while active cards in circulation also declined by 0.8% m.o.m. to 867,499. 

$ 1..1 bn., purchased

Central Bank bought U.S.$ 1,130.75 million worth of foreign exchange from the market last month. 

A.w.p.l.r. 13%

Commercial banks’ average weighted prime lending rate in the week ended Thursday was 13.23%. (Source: Central Bank) 

Running out of options

Central Bank of Sri Lanka has also brought Asian Finance Ltd. (AFL) and Ceylinco Investment & Realty Ltd. (CIRL) under the Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka PLC (MBSL) umbrella.

Previously they were managed by Lankaputhra Development Bank Ltd. (LDB). Earlier, another troubled Ceylinco finance company, The Finance Plc too were brought under the MBSL umbrella from LDB. MBSL also manages Finance & Guarantee, another troubled Ceylinco finance company. 

C.B.S.L. takeover

Central Bank of Sri Lanka (C.B.S.L.) has directed banks to transfer all monies and other assets lying unclaimed for more than 10 years to a special account maintained by C.B.S.L.

Any lawful owner or beneficiary of such assets can submit a claim to the respective licensed bank and is entitled to recover such assets, C.B.S.L. further said. 

Seven bidders

Central Bank of Sri Lanka (C.B.S.L.) on behalf of the Government obtaind seven bids for lead manager / bookrunners slots to issue an international Sovereign Bond amounting to US$ 500 million in international markets next month.

 The proposals are being evaluated by a steering committee/technical evaluation committee, comprising senior officials of C.B.S.L. and Finance Ministry to appoint the same by the middle of the month.

Waiting for reward 

Government’s Export Development Reward Scheme (E.D.R.S.) is not working, a tea exporter alleged.

M.C.M. Zarook, who owns and operates Sinbad (Pvt.) Ltd., which deals in tea and spices, said that the E.D.R.S. works on the basis that if an exporter, in the first quarter (1Q) of this year exported items which were equivalent in value to 90% or 80% of the export value in the 1Q of the previous year, then he would be eligible to obtain either 5% (for the 90% export value) and 3% (for the 80% export value), as a reward in rupees by the Government.

The percentage is based on the f.o.b. value of such exports. Another condition is that the company should have the same number of staff as last year.

Zarook said that he has fulfilled these conditions and had sent in his application, but is yet to receive his reward.

He said that in the 1Q of this year his tea exports were valued at Rs. 79 million, a Rs. seven million year on year (y.o.y.) increase compared to 1Q 2008.

Zarook on August 17 also sent in his application for rewards for the 2Q.

“In the 2Q my exports amounted to Rs. 65 million, Rs. five million less on a y.o.y. basis,  the criterion for the 2Q E.D.R.S. is that 90% of  2Q ’08 should be met to qualify for the 5% reward, we have also met that target,” said Zarook.

There is however no reward for meeting the 80% criterion for this Q, he said.

However, an official source said that they have cleared 14 claims for payment amounting to Rs. 500 million. Payments will be made on a first come, first served basis.

The Commerce Department is the disbursing authority, with moneys received from the Treasury.

The Department has received a total of 153 E.D.R.S. claims and the backlog will be cleared in the coming weeks, the source said. The highest claim amounts to Rs. 300 million, that claim is currently being whetted.

Some of the E.D.R.S. applications run into 150 pages, with a number not complying with the laid down criteria. Among the criteria is that those claims have to be certified by an independent auditor, the source said.

Only Rs. 75 mn., finalized 

Government has finalized payments totalling Rs. 75 million under the Export Development Reward Scheme (E.D.R.S.), an official told The Sunday Leader on Tuesday.

Export Development Ministry Secretary S.Ranugge said that those were pertaining to 13 applications out of a total number of 250 applications received. Payments will be made in a fortnight’s time, he said.

Ranugge said that the slowness in processing the applications was due to having to match the exporters’ claims with those of customs statistics.

Seylan to raise Rs. three bn.

Seylan Bank Public Share Issue of 54,290,000 ordinary (voting)shares opens on Sept 22.

Those shares are offered at Rs. 35 per share.

The Bank’s existing ordinary (voting) shareholders registered as at end of trading on Wednesday will be given preference on allotment upon application being made, to a minimum of one share for every two shares held subject to prevailing shareholding limits under the Banking Act.

The minimum subscription for the public per application is Rs. 3,500 or 100 shares and in multiples of 50 (Rs. 1,750 thereafter. The total amount proposed to be raised through the issue is Rs. 1.9 bn.

Seylan Bank Chairman Eastman Narangoda said the primary reason for this share issue was to strengthen the Bank’s capital base to facilitate expansion plans that are in the pipeline.

The Bank will also be issuing 32,150,000 new ordinary (voting) shares at Rs. 35 each by means of a private placement, out of which Bank of Ceylon (B.o.C.) is to take up 13 million ordinary (voting) shares and Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (S.L.I.C.) the balance 19,150,000 shares, thus totalling 24.7% of the increased capital. National Savings Bank already holds a 3.5% stake in Seylan.

The total capital expected to be generated from both the private placement and public offering will be Rs. three billion.

With the allotment of new shares to state held B.o.C. and S.L.I.C. under the private placement, state institutions’ total stake held in Seylan will be 28% of the increased capital. Shares held by the Bank’s Employee Share-owing trusts will amount to a further 9% of the increased capital.

In Vavuniya 

Nations Trust Bank Plc (N.T.B.) opened its 38th branch in Vavuniya recently.

It was opened in the presence of Vavuniya District Secretary/Government Agent Mrs. P. S. M. Charles (Chief Guest), bank officials, invitees and a large customer gathering.

The Bank set up operations in Vavuniya as the first step towards plans for expansion to the North and East (NE).  N.T.B. DGM Sales and Marketing Priyantha Talwatte in his speech said, “The opening of the Vavuniya branch is an important milestone in our expansion plan as it marks the Bank’s affirmation in taking banking services and facilities to areas that are emerging. We are confident that our brand of banking services will be of value to the people of Vavuniya and its suburbs. This marks our entry to the NE with more branch openings planned in 2009 4th quarter,”

 The new branch located at  Kandy Road, Vavuniya offers  customers banking services 365 days of the year with extended banking hours, as well as a host of value added products.

Opportunities for N.C.R.E. 

Although potential for medium scale hydro power projects might be limited due to environmental constraints, opportunities for small scale hydro, wind and biomass plants are considerable”, an industrialist in the power sector said.

Kishan Nanayakkara, Managing Director Hemas Power said: “There still is a sizeable area of unexplored Non-Conventional Renewable Energy (N.C.R.E.) opportunities. Opportunities in the wind and bio-mass front are hardly tapped. Although the country’s best small hydropower sites have already been developed, we believe there are still a few sites with reasonably good hydrological properties available for development. All of this undoubtedly point to interesting times ahead for the development of N.C.R.E. in the country.”

Sri Lanka’s National Energy Policy (N.E.P.) has identified fuel diversity and energy security in electricity generation as a strategic objective.

The development of N.C.R.E. projects was part of the strategy.

According to N.E.P., the target is to generate 10% of the country’s energy output through N.C.R.E. sources by 2015.

N.E.P. also outlines plans to set up a special “Energy Fund” to provide incentives to promote N.C.R.E. technology and thus strengthen the transmission network. With this in view, G.o.S.L. recently obtained a U.S.$ 160 million long term loan from A.D.B. to support energy efficiency improvements, develop renewable energy use and increase connections and services to rural households.

Sri Lanka’s small hydropower sector has today evolved into a sizeable industry. As of June 30, 2009 a total of 81 N.C.R.E. projects have been supplying 164 m.W. to the national grid. Of this, 76 small hydropower projects accounts for a 153 m.W. of installed capacity representing 93% of the N.C.R.E. sector.

Hemas Power, since its launch in 2003, supplied local consumption through both its Puttalam joint venture (j.v.) thermal power plant and its Teldeniya hydro power plant. 

Following Hemas Group’s initial foray into the power generation sector via its j.v. investment in Heladhanavi and the success of its power plant, the Group further explored opportunities in the area of mini-hydro power generation. This saw the commissioning of its first-ever hydro power plant in Teldeniya in October 2008.

Nanayakkara said, “Hemas initially entered the power generation industry at a critical time when the Government of Sri Lanka (G.o.S.L.) encouraged private sector participation in power generation in the face of the country’s increasing demand for energy coupled with G.o.S.L.’s inability to meet this demand.”

 “N.C.R.E. sources such as small scale hydropower, wind and biomass are on the rise, with wider awareness on the minimisation of the carbon footprint of the country and the intention to reduce dependence on imported fuel-based power plants.”

Four branches in North

Four out the five new branches that Union Bank (U.B.) will open in the ensuing months Will be in the Northern Province, i.e. Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar and Chavakachcheri; with the other branch to be opened  in Wennappuwa.

 With this expansion, U.B. will increase its network to 19 branches, which will be linked on line on a real time basis.

 Among the services that the Bank will offer through its new branches will be agricultural financing, micro-financing, financing to the fisheries, poultry and animal husbandry sectors,SMS banking, telebanking and internet banking

U.B.’s after tax profit in 2009 first half (1H) increased by 96% year on year (y.o.y.) to Rs. 32.5 mn.

The Bank said that consideration the difficult operating conditions in the country, the significant growth achieved in the 1H of the year can be considered extremely encouraging. It attributes this impressive performance to increased revenues and streamlining of expenditure.

Bank’s interest income increased by 20.7% y.o.y. to Rs 951.8 mn.

Other income mainly arising from commissions, foreign exchange and investments amounted to Rs 99.9 mn., compared to Rs 81.6 mn. for the corresponding period of the preceding year.  Although interest expenditure increased from Rs 615 mn. to Rs 739 mn in 1H 2009,  Bank’s net interest income improved to Rs 213 mn. as against Rs 173 mn. in 1H 2008.  After providing for overheads amounting to Rs 205 mn, the Bank made a profit before corporate taxes and VAT of Rs 87.5 mn in the period under review compared to Rs 54.8 mn upto June 2008.  

One of the most prudently managed and stable banks in its league, the Bank receives its guidance from a Board of Directors comprising leading corporate personalities and eminent professionals in the banking, legal and ICT sectors.  In addition, there is an Advisory Committee comprising two Sampath Bank directors.

The Bank recently strengthened its management with the recruitment of several professionals specialised in HR, International Trade, Marketing and Credit Operations.

Within this overall support structure in 2009, U.B. will continue along its strategic path to become the “Preferred Bank for the Small and Medium Sector (S.M.S.) in Sri Lanka.”  In this context U.B. will focus on strengthening its brand position to differentiate its services and will also embark on an ambitious expansion programme.

The Bank’s “ Cirrus” –linked network of Automated Teller Machines provides access to its customers to a total of more than 500 ATMs locally.

In addition, the Bank has a strategic arrangement with Sampath Bank, enabling U.B.

Another significant achievement is the Bank’s recent appointment as a principal agent for Western Union (W.U.). Together with the branch network and selected strategic partner institutions, the number of locations at which recipients of W.U. transfers could encash their remittances will amount to more than 150.

The Bank has entered into strategic alliances with almost all utility service providers in the Island, including C.E.B., L.E.C.O., N.W.S.D.B. Mobitel, Dialog Telekom, Lanka Bell and Suntel, facilitating bill payment through all of its delivery channels, including branches, ATMs, telephone banking and internet banking.

The Bank will strive during the ensuing months in achieving its strategic vision of emerging as the “preferred bank’’ for the S.M.S.

Tourism will lead way

Tourism will lead the way in the near future, particularly as travel advisories are progressively eased–this is happening as we speak, HSBC (Sri Lanka and Maldives) CEO Nick Nicolaou told Benchmark’s Special Correspondent Ms. Savithri Rodrigo last Sunday.

From a tourism point of view, the war definitely kept people away, he said.

Asserting that the recent military victory will prove positive to international investors, Nicolaou revealed that overseas investors in various sectors looking to invest into Sri Lanka have already made several queries in this regard.

Discussing Standard & Poor’s grading of Sri Lanka’s B Sovereign rating, he said: “Theoretically, it’s not actually a downgrading. The sovereign rating is still B. What’s changed is a rating outlook, from stable to negative. In the current global economic environment, a number of economies have had their outlook changed.

In fact, the UK has had its rating outlook changed. But we firmly believe that with the post-conflict scenario, expected improvements in the economy and the much-improved reserves position in the last few months, the outlook will become more positive in the future.” Commenting on Sri Lanka’s gross official reserves and the situation vis-à-vis foreign banks and inward remittances, he that Central Bank statistics “have shown that despite the worst economic recession in the world in the last year or so, inward remittances to Sri Lanka have actually remained robust, and have reduced only by a very small amount–thus helping bridge the trade deficit gap.”

 He added: “Without doubt the reconstruction efforts in the north and east will require a vast influx of funds. “Because the amounts are going to be so huge, they will have to come from international capital markets which in itself will generate inward flows.”

Discussing the impact that recent fiascos in the financial services industry have had on commercial banks in general, Nicolaou said: “For starters, the financial crisis has impacted the way banks assess credit.

One of the main reasons for the crisis was loose credit and risk management. Clearly, that is no longer going to be the case. So, it’s a little bit harder to obtain credit because there are more stringent requirements.”

 “Interest rates have also gone up, simply because of the higher risks and scarcity of liquidity. In the local context, customers are wary of the party with which they do their banking or deposit business and are looking at the safety and security of the institution,” he added.

Islamic finance to Maldives 

CIMA Sri Lanka Division launched the CIMA Certificate in Islamic Finance course in the Maldives at a seminar titled “Islamic Finance Principles with Business Context” under the patronage of Maldives Monetary Authority Governor Fazeel Najeeb and Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem recently.

The day’s programme started with an introduction by Dr. Anwer, Dean, Villa College (V.C.), CIMA’s partner organisation in the Maldives. CIMA South Asia Regional Director Bradley Emerson then provided the audience with a presentation on CIMA’s Islamic Certificate Programme.

 He underlyed reasons for CIMA’s entry into an industry which has shown growth over the past several decades. Islamic Banking & Finance (IBF) which now straddles over 40 countries has been plagued by a dearth of qualified personnel to service the growth it has enjoyed.

There has also been a lack of academic and professional qualifications with international recognition. These factors have contributed to CIMA introducing its Certificate programme to complement its Accountancy programmes which have gained international repute. As an organisation that has grown over the 90 years of its existence, CIMA’s entry into one of the fastest growing industries in global finance is one which will be welcomed by corporates and individuals alike, since it fills a void that exists in the IBF industry.

Najeeb and Naeem also spoke at this event.

Their presence signified the importance that the Maldivian authorities placed on this landmark event. The Governor welcomed CIMA’s initiative in conjunction with its local partner V.C. in introducing a programme of this nature to the Maldives. He said that IBF was on the radar of the Maldivian authorities, adding a caveat that the domestic environment should be first made conducive in order to facilitate the entry of IBF into the country. Naeem stressed the need for integrity in the transacting process, in both the conventional sphere as well as under the Islamic Finance umbrella.

Following the introductory addresses, the seminar on IBF titled ““Islamic Finance Principles with Business Context” by SAIF Capital MD Ishrat Rauff started. He gave the audience a detailed explanation of IBF from a business perspective. The efforts made by U.K. in developing IBF and positioning U.K. as a hub for Islamic Finance was dealt in some detail. Given the proximity of Sri Lanka to the Maldives, the initiatives undertaken by various stakeholders in IBF in Sri Lanka were also cited as a case study to model.

The response of the audience, comprising over 55 delegates from a multitude of industries and the extent of interaction that took place was an indication of the interest that IBF had generated in a relatively new market. Delegates in the audience included those from the public and private sectors.

After A/L’s 

The decisive stage of a child’s education is passing their Advanced Level exam.

The prime responsibility of a parent or guardian whose child faces the most competitive A/L exam is to choose a professional qualification as their next step for education which would adequately carve their potential with knowledge and competency.

 Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (ICASL) is a national accounting body that has earned the trust and dependability globally for the past 50 years of its service rendered towards the education of youth.

 The Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA) qualification which comes with a local taste is  an excellent foundation for a child’s successful future career.

Today there are many qualified students who are unemployed. There are also students who have given up their higher studies and are employed with the ambition of climbing the ladder of succession in their respective careers but are unable to achieve their dream due to the lack of qualifications.

ICASL is the right opportunity for such desirous young brains to join hands with. The designation of a Chartered Accountant is a hallmark of a professional with high competence.  It specifies accuracy in depth and quality of accountancy knowledge, developing life-long learning experience for members and meeting their needs in a changing world.

ICASL is the sole authority in setting up Accounting and Auditing Standards in Sri Lanka and was constituted by Parliament Act No. 23 in 1959. The Institute enjoys a student population of over 30,000 and. a membership which exceeds 3,500 out of which 750 are based overseas, topping in various business entities.

“Australian Advantage,” ahead of the pack

By Piyumi Buddhakorala

Australian Advantage is more than a slogan, it is a place where students can realise their potential in ways that they planned and perhaps in ways that they never imagined.

When you study in Australia, you discover fresh challenges and new experiences every day. You enjoy the freedom to make your own decisions-both academically and personally and also be recognized and rewarded for your achievements.

IDP Education Ltd., is owned by Australian public universities and SEEK Ltd. (Australia’s leading online employment and training company). An independent Australian organization established in 1969, IDP has a network of offices around the world and in most of Australia’s major cities.

IDP is a globally-renowned organization providing student counselling and English testing and development services and offers youth a range of options for achieving long-term educational success.

IDP will be organizing the Australian Education Fair in Colombo over two days beginning on Saturday (September 12) and in Kandy on September 16, for all those who wish to learn more about how and what it takes to acquire an Australian qualification.

It is an annual affair where the Sri Lankan students and parents are able to speak with representatives of various institutions in Australia and learn more information regarding course content, scholarships and visa requirements. The Colombo event will be held at the World Trade Centre and the Kandy event at Queens Hotel. 

IDP has been organizing such events for the past 14 years.

Australia has today emerged as the most-sought-after destination for locals seeking higher education overseas because the country’s passion for excellence has seen cutting-edge technology and advanced educational techniques being employed in offering students the world’s best classroom,” said IDP-Sri Lanka General Manager Pubudu Alahakoon.  “The IDP Education Fair provides the opportunity for students to find out the best educational options given by Australia and directly enrol with the institutions present as well

.”Those attending the fair may enjoy special benefits such as waive-off of application fees if applying for an educational programme at the exhibition.

Study in Australia better prepares a student to work in today’s global marketplace. This is why several foreign companies recruit directly from Australian universities and vocational institutes.  Many international organizations and companies employ overseas students with Australian qualifications because their exposure to the outside world gives them greater independence and maturity.  With international trade barriers disappearing, great opportunities exist for those with the skills, experience and knowledge to seize them. Australian degrees are gaining increased acceptance in the global arena. A peaceful and relaxed atmosphere, together with the cosmopolitan charisma of cities like Sydney, Perth and Melbourne could be the ideal destination.

Affordable accounting qualification 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,  said Nelson Mandela. With global recession taking centre stage, the recognition for Management Accountants rate high all over the world. Its time for change; the need for qualified Management Accountants has suddenly become a state priority. In the face of a global financial crisis scenario, it has become a valid global trend to become a Management Accountant in addition to other professional qualifications one has obtained in order to maintain an edge over competition.

Youth are  interested in accessing Certified Management Accountants (CMA) with its International recognition status as their first step in to the professional world. CMA affords a globally recognized qualification within a short span of  two years at an affordable cost as against the heavy cost of acquiring a few other accounting education. To meet this aspiration of supplying the nation’s need and the international demand for Management Accountants, The Institute of Certified Management Accountants of Sri Lanka announced their 4-Level fast track to acquire a Management Accountant full qualification in just two years, sealing stable career growth.

Affordability is key here.  Student registration costs are marginal and 20 scholarships are awarded in the form of free registration, annual subscription for a three year period, study packs, lecture fees, exam fees and assistance in finding placement in firms for practical training. Study course books are reasonably priced and are available with the CMA secretariat.

Exams are conducted by the Government Examinations Department, Sri Lanka, twice a year, in March and September. Students have the option of sitting one or more subjects at a time. The exam consists of four stages which includes 19 subjects that have been adapted to suit recent developments in the accounting field.


The difference is that CMA are strategic financial management professionals who will gain the knowledge and skills necessary to provide leadership, innovation and an integrating perspective to organizational decision making in the global marketplace. CMA accreditation process is rigorous, but rewarding. It leads to the sought after designation in business; CMA.

CMAs are generally focused on the future of a business. CMA Professional Qualification is a course specializing in Strategic Management Accounting leading to produce professional Certified Management Accountants. They use financial, management and ether information to direct strategic and operational decision making targeted at helping organizations move forward. Therefore to help students acquire a head-on entry in to the business environment and private sector with a CMA qualification, strengthening their stand as a world class professional, exemptions are made available for students who have acquired AAT stage 3, ICASL Intermediate, Account/Commerce Degree, HNDA, HNDM, CIM, IPM, IBSL, SLIM or ACCA.

CMAs will enjoy many exemption possibilities at local and foreign universities. Among them the four year Bachelor of Management Studies (BMS) degree at the Open University which can be completed in two years and entry into Deakin University Australia are exceptional possibilities in determining and chartering one’s professional career. CMA Students will be granted exemptions for full or part qualifications from universities and recognized vocational institutions such as ICASL, ACCA-UK, AAT, CIM, SLIM, HNDM, IPM, CGA-Canada, CMA Canada and CPA Australia among many others.

CMA do more than just measure value-they create it. As the leaders in management accounting, CMA actively apply a unique mix of financial expertise, strategic insight, innovative thinking and a collaborative approach to help grow successful businesses.

Working in organizations of all sizes and types, CMA provide an integrating perspective to business decision making, applying best management practices in strategic planning, finance, operations, sales and marketing, information technology, and human resources to identify new market opportunities, ensure corporate accountability and help organizations maintain a long-term competitive advantage.

CMA have unique competencies in cost management, strategic performance measurement, process management, risk management and assurance services and stakeholder reporting, coupled with the ability to connect strategy with operations and anticipate customer and supplier needs. They have a holistic view of business, are able to identify issues, envision and chart solutions, and engage appropriate measures and people within the organization to achieve the desired results. CMA are considered both leaders and team players, which translates into a unique and effective style of management.

CMA are equipped to look to the future to provide real-world strategic direction, business management and leadership.

Private Sector

With the main role of economic development thrust on the private sector, the number of Management Accountants required mainly in industry, commerce, finance, education and the service sectors have greatly increased. The need for Management Accountants is not only in Colombo, but also in the provinces with the government’s thrust to take industry and commerce to the outstations which will enhance their job opportunities especially in the private sector.

Now that the North and East is liberated, offering prospective educational freedom to its people, CMA, poses the right perspective of strategic Management Accountancy and training in crucial decision making prowess, relevant to today’s global business environment and ever expanding local business initiatives, offering time-saving  two year full qualification, with ready l jobs awaiting them on completion.

CMA earn their professional designation through a rigorous and highly specialized accreditation process. This will include a Four Stage exam structure and a two year practical training requirement. To earn the CMA designation prospective members must complete a university degree or pass the University Entrance Exam or its equivalent Advanced Level. Prospective Ordinary Level qualified students are advised to apply pending A Level results. They need not waste an additional period in audit training after completing CMA, a compulsory requirement with other management accounting qualifications. But students may find it convenient and practical to complete a two-year Strategic Leadership Programme side by side, while gaining practical experience in a management accounting environment saving time. There is a Governing Body, Governing Council and Advisory Council to support the Sri Lankan CMA body providing opportunities for students to undertake a professional course in management accountancy at affordable rates.

Flexibility of the course offers  convenience; a student may follow CMA as a full time or part time students after A/Ls, be they be a student awaiting entry into universities or graduates and other professionals who wish to progress in their career both in the private and public sector, continuing professional development through a career advancement programme while in employment.

A marked feature of the qualification is the flexibility in the scheme, where the exam could be taken first and thereafter practical training or both could be combined together depending on one’s convenience.

South Asian countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have their National Management Accounting bodies which play a lead role in the Management Accounting Profession both in the private and public sectors, but Sri Lanka is the only Founder Member in the South Asian Federation of Accountants, which comprises the Accounting bodies of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal that do not have their own National Management Accounting body.

In fact CMA Sri Lankan body has received technical assistance from CMA Canada which helped in formulating educational syllabus, preparation of study material and examination work with financial assistance from Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

CMA Sri Lanka has obtained technical assistance from CMA Canada, one of the leading international Management Accounting Bodies. MOUs have been signed with the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan (ICMAP), Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Bangladesh (ICMAB),  The Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India (ICWAI) and CPA Australia.

Kiridena at AAI

Udeni Kiridena is the newest member to join Asian Alliance Insurance PLC’s (AAI’s) team of professionals as General Manager-Non Life since the beginning of this month.

 A veteran in the insurance industry with over 20 years of experience, he said “I am delighted to join Asian Alliance; a Company which is ‘different’ within the landscape of the insurance industry; a hallmark from its inception. It is with pride that I take this opportunity and see my position as an exciting challenge to work with the AAI family to achieve new levels of success in their Non-Life business”.

A known figure in the insurance circle in Sri Lanka, Kiridena is a Chartered Insurer of the Chartered Institute of Insurance UK (CII) and a Senior Associate of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance. He also holds a Diploma in Business Management from National Institute of Business Management (NIBM) and serves as the Honorary Secretary of the Council of the Sri Lanka Insurance Institute (SLII).

Kiridena began his career in insurance in 1985 and has acquired a wealth of experience in all the aspects in the field of Non-Life insurance and has spearheaded many customer interaction initiatives. 

A product of Trinity College Kandy, he has excelled in sports, especially, in boxing and has been awarded the coveted “Boxing Lion”. Currently, he is the Sri Lanka Amateur Boxing Association president and a qualified international referee/judge.

“It is with pleasure that we welcome Kiridena to the Asian Alliance family. The uniqueness, professionalism and the level of commitment of every individual in AAI is our greatest strength. I am confident that Kiridena’s knowledge, youth, experience and thirst for success to this vital and senior position will add to our strength; the AAI team of professionals,” said AAI director/CEO Ramal Jasinghe.

AAI has grown from strength to strength to become a formidable operator in the insurance industry and attributes its success to touching the hearts of customers with outstanding levels of professionalism and success, and to the employees who make it possible by emulating passion, enthusiasm and a zeal for inimitable brilliance.

Validated degrees from W.U. 

A university’s superiority is mainly based on the kind of student it churns out than the kind it takes in.

A student who enters Imperial Institute of Higher Education (IIHE) is sure to become the best in his field and reach the realms of success in his career. IIHE becomes the pathway to success for students, providing them with a validated internal degree awarded by Wales University (W.U.), UK.

A validated university degree (v.u.d.) paves the way for better yields in employment, opening new doors of opportunities. Yet how does one choose a v.u.d.?

 A v.u.d. can only be offered by an established tertiary education provider who has demonstrated success and academic excellence, long standing partnership with a reputed university and churned out the cream of talent into the industry both locally and internationally. IIHE satisfies these characteristics and hence becomes the pioneering pathway to success for all students. A degree from IIHE awarded by W.U. UK presents successful graduates with global opportunities and is an investment which makes you reap its fruits immediately.

IIHE established with the over arching objective of providing quality educational opportunities to prospective students offers undergraduate and post graduate programmes validated by W.U., UK, prided as one of the leading and esteemed UK universities.

 Driven with the mission to excel in academic and professional development through provision of quality tertiary higher education, particularly validated programmes, IIHE has established its name as the benchmark for tertiary higher education in Sri Lanka, Holding a record relationship with W.U. and stepping in to a successful 14 years.

It is compulsory for degrees awarded locally by foreign universities to be accredited through the relevant accreditation bodies. All validated programmes are subject to rigorous quality assurance to ensure that the qualifications as required by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) UK are met with.  Hence a panel consisting of representatives of Wales and external Examiners visit IIHE twice a year to assure equal academic and infrastructure standards are maintained.

A “validated” degree means that it is the identical & legitimate programme offered by the principal authority. Programmes are subjected to the same quality assurance procedures & standards laid down by the principal authority.

  An IIHE validated degree programme awarded by W.U. enables its students to become first class choice in the industry. It capacitates students to build upon their academic qualification and potential through progressive development of knowledge, skills and understanding; study in fields of interest, thus allowing them to broaden and deepen their educational experience and benefit from a curriculum designed to enhance skills and supply them with exposure to tackle the issue of the real business world.

Hence the structure of teaching, assessing and evaluating of students and the deliverance of the programme locally is maintained identical in accordance with W.U. in order to ensure that students choosing this programme benefit from it. Thus an IIHE graduate receives the same certificate as of W.U. and qualifies as an internal student of W.U., UK.

Triad youngsters tops 

Triad’s Young Spikes team broke new ground when they won the Young Spikes Competition 2009, making them the first Sri Lankan team to participate in the Young Spikes Competition at the Spikes Asia Festival, which will be held in Singapore from September 16-18, 2009.

Spikes Asia is Asia’s first ever advertising festival and aims to “celebrate and inspire Asian creativity in advertising”.  

The Triad Team won this accolade for their campaign idea centred round the introduction of “Radio Networking”, a concept aimed to develop and retain loyal listener base for sponsor Yes FM.

 The jury headed by Grant McCann Erickson Executive Creative Director Russell Miranda and supported by senior industry professionals unanimously agreed that this campaign was the most strategically focused and creatively memorable, addressing the concerns raised in the brief to present a revolutionary proposition that will enhance the brand value while offering them an out-of-the-box business solution through a communications idea.

The winning team comprising Charith De Silva, Arrvinda Salwatura, Lanil Peiris and Madhu Hewakapuge will travel to Singapore to compete against some of the best young creative teams from all over Asia at the Young Spikes Competition.

Grants for S.M.E.s 

National Chamber of Commerce (N.C.C.) plans to dole out grants to 50 identified industries in the small and medium enterprise (s.m.e.) sector in Jaffna, Lal de Alwis, its President said.

De Alwis told The Sunday Leader that four years ago they got a Rs. 250 million grant from the Netherlands Government to be utilized to the s.m.e. sector islandwide, of which Rs. 150 million has already been disbursed.

The tenure of this grant scheme ends next year.

He said that a seamstress in Payagala, who had already received assistance under this scheme, is now ready to export her garments.











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