US$ 53 million to be
invested in flour mill project
Members of the Al Ghurair Group of Companies of
Dubai - National Flour Mills (NFM) and Emirates Trading Agency (ETA)-
plan on bringing a US$ 53 million (rupees five billion) investment
into Sri Lanka through their joint venture, Serendib Flour Mills (Pvt)
Subsidiaries of one of Dubai's largest conglomerates, NFM
and ETA together have a turnover in excess of US $ four billion. The
investors have had a presence in the flour milling business in the UAE
for the past 25 years, together with operations in the Middle East
and Africa. They will be combining their strengths in flour
milling, ocean transport, commodity trading, logistics and local
marketing in Sri Lanka.
The current demand for flour in Sri Lanka outstrips the
supply. Industrial users like confectioners import their supplies due
to non-availability of the required quality and quantity. The project
envisages the establishment of a state-of-the-art flour mill in the
Colombo port, within close proximity to the consumption centres. The
plant will have an initial milling capacity of 1000 metric tons per
day with a provision to increase production to 2000 metric tons per
The foreign exchange savings from importing wheat for
milling flour locally, compared to importing flour for consumption, is
almost US$ 20 to US$ 30
per ton. With an initial milling capacity of 300,000 tons, SFML would
help save US$ six million to US$ nine million in valuable foreign
Moreover, there would be potential to export both bran
and flour (in case of excess capacity) in the future, bringing
valuable foreign exchange into the country. Al Ghurair currently
exports flour to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Male, Indonesia and Africa;
which opportunity will be available to SFML.
The Sri Lankan market will undoubtedly benefit from this
international expertise. Flour is an
essential commodity and the entry of a new miller ensures a
regular supply of flour, avoiding stock-out situations. Customers
stand to gain by way of competitive prices and a wider choice.
General Manager/CEO, National Flour Mills, Easa Abdulla
Al Ghurair and Group Managing Director, ETA, Seyed M. Salahudeen said
that the Al Ghurair Group has an eye on further investments in Sri
Lanka as well. They are also confident that the success of the SFML
project will encourage others both in the UAE and GCC member countries
to seriously consider Sri Lanka as an investment option.
Career Crash 2002 seminar
The Rotary Club of Mount Lavinia together with IT Lanka
Academy, business partners of Aptech (the world's leading IT training
organisation) organised a seminar - Career Crash 2002 - for the
students of Colombo. Around 400 students, school principals, HR heads
and education department representatives attended this seminar.
Aptech was the principal sponsor of the event. The
company is present in 52 countries, with 2449 centers across 5
Channa De Silva of Eagle Insurance, Ananda Rajapakse of
Ya TV, Tuan Ismail of Seylan Merchant Bank, Kumar Senaratne of Jetwing
Hotels, Chandana Dalugoda of SLEA, Yashobana Wanigasekara of Clipsal
Lanka, Faizal Salieh of Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce and Nimmi
Padmanabhan of Aptech comprised the panel of speakers. This programme
has been designed to offer local youth an opportunity to interact with
professionals and be advised and guided in their choice of careers.
The speakers elaborated on the requirements in the IT industry and the
relevance and scope of IT in various industries. It drew an
overwhelming response from the participants.
Dr. Nanayakara, additional secretary to the Ministry of
Education represented the minister for education. Also present at the
event were experts from various industries who shared their
experiences and responded to different queries raised by the young
Speaking at the occasion, the chief guest Dr. Nanayakara
said, "These kinds of seminars on counseling are very much in
need for our future generation." He insisted on organising such
seminars very frequently in Sri Lanka in order to give guidance to the
youth of the country.
In Sri Lanka, information technology has become an
integral part of any industry. Trained and quality human resources are
the background of an IT Industry in any nation. Sri Lanka is a country
rich in culture and literature and is on its way to becoming an IT
power to reckon with. It is therefore imperative for students to equip
themselves with the required IT training to get the right job. There
are ample job opportunities available in these areas in the country
and a need for training on IT skills will always be in demand.
Nimmi Padmanabhan, territory technical manager - Asia for
Aptech, spoke on the latest courses offered by Aptech and said,
"At Aptech our endeavor has constantly been to train our students
on world class technologies. However, this is the first time that we
have introduced a global curriculum, which is uniform to 52 countries.
A student in Sri Lanka would be exposed to the same technology
training as a student in the US, Germany, China, Russia or New
Zealand. This would go a long way in facilitating global placement of
Aptechites, which is our ultimate goal. The uniqueness of this course
is its conduct methodology, the Hybrid Model. This is based on the
traditional teaching methodology and Interactive Instructor-led Online
The ACCP 2003 program from Aptech is a comprehensive
program designed in consultation with consultants and industry leaders
through the Technology and Academic Advisory Group of Aptech (TAG) and
alliance partners like Microsoft, NetG etc. This three year career
program is designed in a modular approach, and enables a student to
master the very latest technologies and prepare to face the challenges
of the future workplace. The uniqueness of this career course is the
detailed training offered in .Net and J2EE frameworks. At the pace at
which the industry is changing, it is difficult to predict the kind of
applications that will be developed in years to come. Hence, in the
third year, students would move towards building such applications
that are relevant to the time. The course incorporates additional
information necessary in the form of new technologies or new tools.
The ACCP 2003 program course follows a unique modular
structure that is based on concepts, tools and practicals which ensure
a life time of learning and self exploring along with application -
based projects. The course is built on the Hybrid Model for learning,
incorporating a combination of instructor-led, Computer Based (CBT)
and web-based instruction and learning - a hybrid form of learning.
The student on enrolling has the benefits of both teacher led
instruction and multimedia enriched web-based instruction. This is a
unique learning methodology that has been well researched and brought
out by the company and is currently being implemented across the
centres. Apart from the interactive tutorials, the Hybrid Learning
methodology includes assignments, drill type problem solving,
simulations, and animations.
COPE must be more
By Dinesh Weerakkody
The UNF government's decision to get SriLankan Airlines
accountable to parliament
through COPE and also to get an opposition MP to head the Committee on
Public Enterprise is a good thing.
In fact, the COPE during
the last parliament expressed considerable concern about the
inefficiency of the public sector and discussed measures to ensure
their effectiveness, both as sound business concerns and as
instruments of development policy.
While they say performance improvement could be
stimulated through professionalism of the internal management, the
interference of politicians in tender procedures relating to
procurement was cited by the former COPE Chairman, John Amaratunga,
(now minister of interior affairs) as the main cause for last year's
financial crisis in the CEB and the Petroleum Corporation.
According to reliable sources, the Petroleum Corporation
had recorded a loss of Rs. 16 billion in 2000, 2001 is expected to be
more, its debts are currently over Rs. 40 billion. On the other hand,
CPC due to mismanagement in the past is running a huge debt and to
overcome this crisis had agreed to peg fuel prices to the
In fact, the government and the minister in charge of an
enterprise has an obligation to supervise, monitor and evaluate the
performance of the
enterprise in order to ensure that the goals for which it was set up
are achieved and also intervene when necessary to ensure that the
institutions falling under his/her ministry are positive contributors
towards national development.
If this is not happening the COPE has a responsibility to
ensure that this takes place by regularly reviewing the performance of
poor performing institutions.
Considering the fact that COPE in the past has expressed
considerable concern about the mismanagement and corruption in many of
the public enterprises and also the need to increase the effectiveness
of these enterprises, both as sound business concerns and also as a
vehicle for promoting economic and social development, the newly
appointed members of COPE should take steps to promote the 3Es or
value for money within the public sector.
The term value for money has been used time and time
again in relation to the public sector, where concern has been
expressed officially about the cost, efficiency and effectiveness, of
entities in the public sector.
The term 'value for money' is used to convey three
aspects of performance
measurement, ie economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
In the public sector, 'value for money' implies the
availability of a service which is economical, efficient, and
effective. These three ingredients could be defined in simple terms in
the following manner.
a) Economical - a cheap process or doing things cheap
b) Efficient - a job well done
c) Effective - objective
To elaborate a little more on the three ingredients
referred to above, one may say that 'economy' in relation to
the subject under discussion is the acquisition of resources (raw
materials) needed by the entity in appropriate quantities, without
wastage, in keeping with required standards as far as quality is
concerned and at the most compatible rate.
'Efficiency' is determined by the final result in
comparing the quantity of the end product or service with the value of
the resources fed into the process.
The objective to be achieved ideally is to increase
productivity and lower unit cost. 'Effectiveness' is measured by the
degree to which an activity has achieved its stated objectives and
In this era of private ownership, we can see from
utterances of some important public figures, the public sector is
being placed under considerable pressure to demonstrate that they need
They have to show that they are giving the public 'value
for their money.' Consultants and other advisors have constantly
advocated good management practices such as the formulation of action
plans to focus on achieving 'value for money.'
Obviously the purpose of this exercise is not to reduce
the number of jobs in the public sector, which would be disastrous
from a socio-economic point of view. It also does not mean that
expenditure in the public sector be curtailed.
What it does mean is that the public sector should be
mindful of how much it contributes towards the national coffers or by
way of services in relation to the enormous sums swallowed up by the
institutions within it.
We understand that widespread concern about the negative
approach towards 'cost effective' on the part of certain institutions
in the public sector has led to some
interest being shown in conducting 'value for money' audits.
This is a useful tool in achieving the avowed objective
of the government, which is to make public enterprises viable or else
to sell them to the private sector or even liquidate them where
However, this would only be a first step and there should
be a willingness on the part of such institutions and the minister to
take meaningful steps to take corrective measures based on the results
of such audits.
The taking of corrective measures does not stop at
putting down recommendations.
It should be followed up by training programmes for
senior management, line managers and also workers, who are all in need
of adequate motivation to achieve 'value for money.'
Another important matter to be kept in view is that there
can be no universal formula for success.
What may be the perfect strategy for institution 'A' may
not be desirable for institution 'B.'
One must always pay heed to the human factor, i.e., the
needs and the aspirations of the workers and public, the environmental
factor i.e. the location of the establishment and the effect on the
public etc., and the cultural factor the types of persons affected by
the utilities' products and services.
Finally, if the 'value for money' concept is to take root
in the public sector, a distinction should be made between the
exercise of political power as reflected in the making of national
policies and the exercise of politicking power which is interference
in the day to day management aimed at short-term political gain.
Suntel records profit of 23
Suntel Limited, Sri Lanka's largest private telecom
operator, recorded Rs 1.6 billion in EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest,
Taxation, Depreciation and Amortisation) for the year ended December
31, 2001, according to the audited
financial statements released to the Colombo Stock Exchange and
its debenture holders recently.
The EBITDA achieved at 51% of turnover signifies a
healthy position for the company and this reflects an increase of 32%
over the EBITDA achieved in the previous year.
The company was therefore able to record a net profit of
Rs. 23 million for the year.
Net revenues recorded amounted to Rs. 3.1 billion-up by 17% form the
This performance is commendable, given the fact that the
regulatory environment remained unstable and unpredictable throughout
2001. Inability to implement the customary tariff revision during
2001, coupled with a difficult regulatory situation hindered better
The result for 2001 could have been enhanced
significantly had the climate been more conducive to the development
of the telecommunications sector.
It deserves mention that in recording revenues in excess
of Rs. 3 billion, Suntel has joined an elite band of corporate
entities that achieve revenues at these levels.
Suntel, which completed its fifth year of operation in
December 2001, is the largest private telecom operator in Sri Lanka.
As of December 31, 2001, Suntel had invested over US$ 100 million in
its extensive roll out which includes its own internet service.
These investments represent a significant proportion of
the country's infrastructure investments during the past five years.
Coverage currently includes Colombo, Greater Colombo, Kandy, Matale,
Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Badulla, Panadura, Galle, Matara, Negombo,
Chilaw and Avissawella.
The company, which is deeply committed to Sri Lanka,
continues to be concerned about the development of telecommunication
policy in Sri Lanka.
Currently the shareholders and the board of directors are
reluctant to allow further investments until the issue of the annual
tariff revisions is resolved to satisfaction. The delay of the normal
tariff revision as well as lack of any clear direction for this sector
during 2001 has severely eroded investor confidence.
When this confidence is restored, Suntel will embark on
further expansion, offering its comprehensive range of services for
the benefit of the country. However, due to the nature of
telecommunication investments it will take some time before the full
effect of this will be seen.
Suntel is owned by Telia, the national telecom operator
of Sweden, the Metropolitan Group of Companies, Townsend Ltd., of Hong
Kong, National Development Bank and IFC (a member of the World Bank
This combination of technical and operational expertise,
supported by a sound financial base has helped create a company that
is committed to being Sri Lanka's preferred telecommunication services
provider, through service excellence and cost-effective delivery.
Interpharm Pvt Ltd.
The analgesic Paracetol manufactured locally by
Interpharm (Pvt) Ltd is gradually gaining market share. The company
has obtained schedule 1A status for this brand of paracetamol tablets,
under the Cosmetics Devices and Drugs Act. This means they can be even
sold at retail outlets without the supervision of a pharmacist.
tablet is priced at just one rupee, so the company is hopeful it will
gain popularity since a similar product manufactured by a
multinational is more expensive. The drug is claimed to provide quick
relief from aches, pains and fevers.
Interpharm recently launched Paracetol in a new
pack after obtaining the approval of the Drugs Authority. This
was done to circumvent the action of a competitor which obtained a
court ruling preventing them from marketing the blister-packed tablets
in the old pack which was allegedly similar to that of the competitor.
The new Paracetol packs are now available at pharmacies
and retail outlets islandwide.
Interpharm is the only pharmaceutical company in Sri
Lanka to have been accorded status as a pioneering industry by the
government. It is an associate company of Gamma Pharmaceuticals (Pvt)
Ltd., successors to Warner-Lambert Lanka (Pvt) Ltd.
Chairman, Gamma Pharmaceuticals, Gamani Hewamallika said
Paracetol has been well-received by the local market, and sales are
increasing daily. It was noted that doctors have also started
prescribing the drug, which is now available islandwide including the
north and east.
He charged that their main competitor is conducting an
unethical campaign to besmirch their drug. Their representatives have
allegedly gone around claiming that Paracetol is a poor quality
counterfeit, is not approved
by the Drugs Authority, it is a banned drug, etc. There have also been
other attempts at stifling them.
According to Hewamallika, none of these accusations are
true. The Interpharm factory located down Madapatha Road in
Piliyandala employs experts in the field of pharmaceutical manufacture
and state-of-the-art machinery. It focuses on the production of
generic tablets and capsules, such as Paracetol, Amoxycyllin,
Prednisalone, Folic Acid, Diethylecarbamazine and Salbutamol.
Interpharm is a reputed supplier of generic
pharmaceuticals to the state. In fact, most of its production goes to
the State Pharmaceutical Corporation and the Director of Health
Services. Only around 25% of the total production is marketed through
the private sector.
According to Hewamallika, they have been engaged in
Paracetol manufacture for the medical profession (on a wholesale
basis) since 1998. The blister-packed tablets were available at eight
Osu Sala outlets and their franchise outlets.
Gamma Pharmaceuticals is claimed to have the largest
manufacturing facilities (mainly for liquids) in Sri Lanka. It
manufactures a wide range of drugs including Feradol, Listerine,
Benadryl, Paracetol Syrup, Nutrofil, Gelusil, Ponstan, Waterbury's
Compound, Sloans Liniment and Massage, and Anusol.
Hewamallika said Interpharm and Gamma Pharmaceuticals
plan to manufacture 15 more drugs including the antibiotic
cepgelesporin. They are building a new factory (close to where the
present factory stands) in order to expand their manufacturing
capacity. They have ordered the latest technology for this factory
which is expected to commence operations in around three months.
Drugs manufactured by Interpharm and Gamma
Pharmaceuticals are put through a very strict quality control process
which is constantly monitored by the Drug Authority. They are also
planning to comply with the standards set by the World Health
The companies have fully-qualified staff who have been
trained overseas. At present they employ as many as 250 people
directly and indirectly.
Hewamallika said they are licensees of Pfizer, Emcure and
Umedica Laboratories. They also import a number of drugs. These
include Streptokinise, Ceferoxime Axetil tablets, Ceferoxime Sodium
injections, Omeprazole and Albendazole among others.
Gamma Pharmaceuticals and Interpharm also publish a
newsletter called Pulse once every three months, for the benefit of
medical professionals. It contains information on the treatment of
diseases, human psychology, experiences of doctors, etc. The
newsletter has been well received by the medical profession, according
The mission of the fully locally owned Gamma
Pharmaceuticals is to achieve excellence and leadership in the
healthcare industry of Sri Lanka by extending their services for the
health and well-being of mankind. They firmly believe in technological
innovations, research and development, human resources, environment
and our heritage to fulfil this objective. This is also in keeping
with the government's policy of providing healthcare for everybody.
Both Interpharm and Gamma Pharmaceuticals manufacture and
supply drugs at low costs
for the benefit of consumers, in keeping with government policy.
The present board of management acquired full ownership
of Warner Lambert (Lanka) Pvt. Ltd., in 1992 and transformed it to
Gamma Pharmaceuticals, holding the franchise in Sri Lanka for
manufacturing and marketing Warner Lambert/Parke Davis products.
However, even before the company became Warner Lambert
(Lanka), it was known as Warner Hudnut (Lanka) Ltd. which was
incorporated in 1962. Prior to that, the US-based Warner Hudnut
operated through an accredited agent in Sri Lanka (then known as
Ceylon) since the second world war. It decided to establish a company
in Sri Lanka in view of the scope and national development policies.
Thus it can be seen that Gamma pharmaceuticals can trace its roots to
several decades back.
Coir Convention proves a success
The recently concluded international Coir Convention
organised by the Sri Lanka Coir Cluster has come in for many accolades
from the foreign funding agencies, resource personnel and
participants. Secretary of the Inter-Governmental Group (IGG) on Hard
Fibres of the FAO, Brian Moir concluded that having the convention in
Sri Lanka was a good idea and very timely.
"The convention was very interesting and should be
repeated, annually if possible, if the best results are to be obtained
for the coir industry locally, regionally and internationally,"
he said. "The key issue is what has to be done from now on.
How is the industry going to work together? There should be a
structure and this can only be worked out if the people in the
industry have a forum to discuss and formulate it," he added.
The two day convention had a total of 12 papers presented
by local and foreign experts to participants from 13 countries, which
included the main coir producing nations such as Indonesia, India,
Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand and was sponsored by the Common
Fund for Commodities, FAO, Coconut Development Authority and the
Competitiveness Initiative of USAID.
Moir, who presented a paper on 'Coir Globally: Status and
Perspectives', declares that even though India and Sri Lanka are the
major exporters of coir fibre and products and other exporters include
Asian countries such as Thailand, China, the Philippines, Indonesia,
and Singapore, as well as Mexico, Venezuela and Tanzania, the Sri
Lankan coir industry is rather backward.
"It is apt then, that with conferences like these,
the industry could be developed because even though global production
of coir has expanded in recent years, particularly in India, fibre
production in Sri Lanka has, at the same time, declined.
These trends in production are matched by export data, where we
see some growth in total exports in recent years led by exports of
mats and mattings from India, together with some expansion in exports
of yarn, while fibre exports, largely from Sri Lanka, have continued
At present, Sri Lanka's major input into the global coir
industry is through raw material.
Moir believes that be adding value to this product, it will
help the economies of scale and improve the industry gradually.
"Things will happen slowly," he says.
"But it is not too late to start now.
The priority areas to work on now are for technology
investment, knowledge enhancement and one or two key areas to add
value to the fibres. Start
small, that is critical." An estimated 500,000 people, 80 percent
of them women, are employed in the coir industry in India with a
further 40,000 families in Sri Lanka depending on the coir industry as
their main source of income.
Moir states that the main objective for the next
conference should be the selling up of a structural organisation,
which will act as a facilitator and motivator to the industry.
"There has to be a focused study on new product
development, more value addition and international co-operation, which
could either be co-operation between Sri Lanka and India (which might
be a start), co-operation within the region or a multi-country
The expert resource panel comprised eminent personalities
involved in the industry, R&D and marketing, from India, Germany,
the USA, Netherlands, Rome and Sri Lanka and concluded with the
formulation of an Action Plan for joint R&D programmes and
marketing development with a more pro-active and market oriented focus
for the survival of the coir industry.
HSBC introduces EDCA
HSBC recently introduced electronic documentary credit
advising (EDCA) for the first time in Sri Lanka. This service which is
offered free of charge is targeted at exporters who export under DCs.
It is quick, efficient and convenient unlike the standard DC advising
practice which can be time consuming.
Manager, Commercial Banking, HSBC. (Sri Lanka), Ajith
Pasqual said EDCA is a quick and easy way for exporters to receive
copies of export documentary credits in their favour direct to their
office by e-mail or fax.
The moment an export DC is received by HSBC via the SWIFT
network and recorded in their banking system, an automatic e-mail (or
fax) will be generated to the beneficiary of the DC attaching a copy
of the full text of the DC or amendment.
This service by HSBC combines the latest electronic
banking technology with a highly practical solution for any exporter's
This unique service is guaranteed to provide exporters
with the fastest access in the market to export DCs.
Pasqual said, "We at HSBC place service first and we
are constantly developing banking solutions which address our
customers' specific needs. We realised that exporters want fast access
to their DCs so that they can commence manufacturing or other
preparatory activities ASAP. EDCA caters precisely to that
Manager, Trade Services, HSBC (Sri Lanka) Shajeev
Wanigasekara said they have signed on 17 customers to this service
within the first two weeks of its soft launch on June 20. He expects
their entire clientele engaged in exporting under DCs to use their
service, because it is free of charge and offers many advantages such
as speed, efficiency, convenience and flexibility. The recipient of
the e-mail can forward it direct to their factories out of Colombo,
make copies of attachments or even 'copy and paste' extracts of the
text to facilitate the preparation of export documents.
Furthermore, because EDCA operates off ordinary e-mail,
all the subscriber needs to have in order to utilise the service is a
valid e-mail address.
This service is not restricted to HSBC's existing clients
but is also available free of charge to non-customers.
Wanigasekara noted that EDCA is used widely in the
Asia-pacific region which is highly export-oriented. It is also
pertinent to mention that the internationally reputed Trade Finance
Magazine has selected HSBC as the best trade documentation bank
for seven consecutive years.
Globally, HSBC Trade Services has played a prominent role
in international commerce since 1865, when the Hong Kong and Shanghai
Banking Corporation, the founding member of the HSBC Group, was set up
to finance the growing trade between China, Europe and the United
Since then, HSBC Trade Services has constantly developed
its products, services, people and global network to keep customers
ahead in an increasingly complex trading world.
HSBC has also been in the forefront in introducing new
banking technology to Sri Lanka. It installed the island's first ATM
machine in 1986 and pioneered electronic online banking through the
Hexagon system in 1991. Pasqual said they are working on a number of
internet-based solutions for exporters, to assist in the preparation
They intend introducing a new service called Document
Express by the end of this year or somewhere next year. It will be
particularly useful once Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is
introduced to Sri Lanka. HSBC also plans to introduce cheque
outsourcing on a wider scale particularly for the issuing of dividend
HSBC has operated in Sri Lanka for 110 years. It
presently has 10 branches and 16 ATMs here, and employs around 780
people. The branches are located at Fort, Bauddhaloka Mawatha,
Colpetty, Union Place, World Trade
Centre, Nawam Mawatha, Wellawatte, Nugegoda, Pelawatte and Kotugodella
Veediya in Kandy.