12th February,  2006 Volume 12, Issue 31

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


Aussie academic skeptical
of govt.'s ICT goals

Professor Julian Teicher

Management Monthly
(29th January 2006)

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A leading Australian academic was skeptical of the government's plan in providing 'e government' to its citizens in four years time because of the bureaucracy's resistance to change.

Head, Deparment of Management, Monash University, Professor Julian Teicher, delivering a lecture on 'egovernment' on Thursday  said that at a meeting he  had with Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunge, the latter had said that the government plans to electronically 'make available to its citizens all necessary information, fulfil their obligations and apply for and receive all services for which a citizen is entitled to from one place in four years time.'

"But I'm skeptical that this target could be achieved because of the bureaucracy's resistance to change," said Teicher. "The ambitious evision for Sri Lanka, by taking the dividend of ICT to every village, is like a road map of my very own state Vicoria," he added.

Teicher however said that government institutions in Sri Lanka tend to be organized as silos-which are detrimental to egovernment. It is fashionable to think that the internet will replace the bureaucracy, but the truth is far from it, he added. Teicher also emphasised the importance of English in egovernment. "The language of the internet is English," he said. He further said that egovernment is not just delivery of services, but of inter-action between government and its citizens, government and business and government and provincial and local governments in the Sri Lankan context.

Websites may be universally available, but they have to be kept upto date, said Teicher. The other is that online transactions, like what is done in the private sector, should also be made available in government, for egovernment to be successful.

Teicher said that it is recognized that efficient management practices in the public sector contribute to creating favourable conditions for foreign investors.

 He said that egovernment is integrated and does not operate in isolation. As such from an investment point of view if the judiciary, the police and the public service do not perform to expectations, it will be very difficult to attract FDI, Teicher said.

ICT provides one of the key supports for efficient management, but of itself it does not bring about a fundamental change in the organisation and management of the public sector, he added.

Teicher also said that though advanced nations spend a lot on egovernment, it has not fundamentally changed the way governments are organized. Giving examples of his own country Australia which is considered to be technologically advanced, he said that though Australia annually spends $ 2.8 billion (more than Sri Lanka's total GDP) on etechnology and although the government is efficient and faster, 'the model of bureaucracy has not changed,' thereby impinging on the envisaged transformation.

 Australia is ranked high in egovernment, but the reality is that it does not work very well, said Teicher.

Imports hit $ 8.9 bn.

Export earnings in December grew by 21.8% reaching the highest ever monthly value of $ 625 million, the Central Bank in a press release said.

Industrial exports dominated by textiles and garments, food and beverages and rubber based products led the overall growth in exports. Cumulative exports in 2005 grew by 10.2%, from $ 5,757 million in 2004 to $ 6,345 million in 2005.

Imports declined by 6.6% in December 2005 reflecting low imports of intermediate and consumer goods.  Cumulative imports in 2005 grew by 10.8%, from  $ eight billion in 2004 to $ 8,863 million in 2005.

 Cumulative expenditure on petroleum imports which attributed to 19% of overall imports increased by 36.9% to $ 1,655 million in 2005.

 Overall imports excluding petroleum increased only by 6.1% in 2005 compared to a growth of 16.4% recorded in 2004.

The trade deficit in December reached the lowest value of $ 130 million since January 2005. However, the cumulative trade deficit in 2005 expanded to $ 2,519 million compared to $ 2,243 million in 2004.  Despite the widened trade deficit, the overall balance of payment position was further strengthened as the surplus increased to  $ 502 million by end December 2005 benefiting from  increase in private remittances (26%), the debt moratorium and the Central Bank's purchase of the net proceeds of foreign currency loans mobilized by the government.

Consequently, gross official international reserves increased from $ 2,196 million in December 2004 to $ 2,735 million in December 2005. 

High oil prices boost rubber

Rubber prices recorded dizzy heights at the public auction held on Thursday , where premium quality grades of latex crepe 1X fetched Rs.205 per Kilo which was an all time record for this particular grade of rubber, a press release said.

Industry sources said that there are two reasons for high rubber prices. They were high crude oil prices that make the manufacture of synthetic rubber expensive and the boom in the Chinese economy where consumption is expected to grow year on year to 3.5 million metric tons.

The communiqu‚ said that the record Rs 205 price was obtained by Rambukkanda Estate under Invoice Number 10 weighing 3,000 kgs and Galatura Estate Inv. No. 07 (2,800 kgs) both managed by Balangoda Plantations Ltd, a member of the Stassen Group and Elpitiya Estate Inv. No 71 (3,125 kgs) managed by Elpitiya Plantations Ltd., a member of Aitken Spence. The broker for this sale was H.W.J.DIAS Bros.(Pvt.) Ltd.

Buyers to take advantage of bear run

The bourse recorded its second lowest turnover for the year on Friday, registering a figure of Rs 124.2 million as investors were looking at the outcome of the February 22 Geneva peace talks for future direction, market sources said.

"Until then the bearish run will continue," the sources said. However others were of the opinion that bargain hunters may chance their hand in the interim period, in the run up to the talks and make certain buys at low prices.

The market cannot go down any further, barring incidents connected to the LTTE question, these sources opined. If at all it will go up, they said. If the market does not pick up this week it will remain flat until the outcome of the February 22 talks, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the lowest turnover figure recorded by the market so far for the year is Rs 93.6 million, which was on January 16. The benchmark ASI on Friday closed at 2,147.61 points, 8.27 points more than Thursday's closing figure, while the more sensitive MPI closed at 2,735.38 points, 8.34 points more than the previous day's closing figure.

Foreign purchases for the day were Rs 19.4 million and foreign sales, Rs 17.1 million. Among the main trades for the day were NDB, Rs 22 million on a share volume of 100,000. NDB closed at Rs 220, 50 cents more than its previous closing price. It is believed that an institution and a high networth individual bought nearly 50,000 shares each of NDB at Friday's trading.

JKH Rs 13.6 million on a share volume of 96,100. JKH closed at Rs 142.50, Rs 1.50 more than its previous closing price and Kuruwita Textiles Rs 11.4 million on a share volume of 234,200. Kuruwita closed at Rs 49, Rs 3 more than its previous closing price.

Upward pressure on interest rates

Yield rates of treasury bills in the primary auction held on Wednesday  increased marginally for this week, the Central Bank said. The auction was over-subscribed with bids received amounting to Rs.18.9 billion as against the offered Rs. 11.8 billion and accepted-Rs. 9.8 billion from the market, while Rs. 1.9 billion worth of treasury bills were retired. The treasury bond auction for three year maturities was held on Tuesday, where settlement fell on Friday. The auction was over-subscribed with bids received amounting to Rs. 1.74 billion as against the total offered: Rs. one billion. At the auction, Rs. 0.3 billion was accepted from the market at 11.15% interest. Total outright transactions reported by primary dealers for the week ended on Wednesday amounted to Rs. 16.2 billion, of which Rs. 6.6 billion were reported for treasury bonds and Rs. 9.6 billion for treasury bills. The repurchase and reverse repurchase transactions by primary dealers continued to outweigh outright transactions volume with Rs. 40 billion reported for the period.

Market preference continues to rest in benchmark treasury bonds with short-term maturities. Yield rates for treasury bonds with short-term maturities showed a marginal decline in the secondary market compared with the previous week.

Meanwhile, a treasury bill auction will be held on February 15 with settlement on Friday and Rs. one billion  treasury bonds under the series of 7.50% 2009 "A" will be offered to the market on an auction basis tomorrow  with settlement  on Wednesday. 

Overseas trips for NDB customers

Not many depositors get a chance to fly to the continent of his or her choice, everything found and a bagful of dollars to spend. One NDB Bank (NDB) savings account holder had the luck to clinch this rare deal.

A press release said that Lalitha Padmini Brouwar from Dehiwela was the lucky one. She was excited as she walked into the NDB head office the other day.  She went home a happy depositor armed with two return air tickets and $ 2,000 in her handbag to travel to all countries in a continent of her choice.  "A lifetime opportunity to travel to all countries in a continent with $2,000 spending money", is how she described her prize.

Amongst the large number of NDB customers who opened savings accounts with the hope of exploring the world at the end of nine months, she had the fortune of being the sole winner of the Grand Draw. To qualify, they had to maintain a minimum daily balance of Rs.20,000 in the savings account for one month prior to the draw.

"The response was encouraging. Savings account holders found it an exciting promotion," Indrajit Wickremasinghe, NDB Vice President - Consumer Banking and Marketing said. "With each multiple of Rs 20,000 gives an additional chance, there were many who maintained additional amounts thereby increasing their chances of winning."

Customers maintaining the specified amount in any of NDB's savings accounts were eligible for these draws

From April to November last year monthly draws were held where eight winners won a return air ticket to any destination in Asia. In addition, three branch draws were held in June, September and December, where 54 branch winners were sent to India, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Dubai respectively. These winners too were also eligible for the Grand Draw. In total there were 63 savings account holders who got the opportunity to travel to different destinations under the NDB savings promotion.

"The world-class Sri Lankan bank has proved its desire to serve its customers in a typical world-class manner by providing a world-class promotion", an NDB customer quipped. 

Pinsent on UK

One of UK's most successful Olympic athletes and one of the greatest rowers of all time, Sir Matthew Pinsent says: "The UK is a great place to live and I hope you enjoy studying here as much as I did. As an international student at a UK university or college you will be able to get an excellent education. At the same time you will have the opportunity to pursue other interests, whatever they may be," a press release quoting Pinsent said.

 "I was able to concentrate on my rowing whilst I studied for a  Geography degree at St Catherine's College, Oxford. I was President of the Oxford Rowing Club and in 1990 and 1991 we won the famous Oxford versus Cambridge Boat Race. In 1992, I took a year out from university to compete in the Barcelona Olympics with Sir Steve Redgrave in the coxless pairs. The following year, having won my first Olympic gold medal with Steve, I returned to Oxford to complete my degree.

I have been lucky enough to travel and meet people from all over the world. Prior to last year's Athens Olympics I was able to compete in and win gold medals at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics as well as the Games in Barcelona. Training might be hard work, but it has also taken me to many interesting places. Last July I spent a gruelling two weeks of training at high altitude in the Tyrol region of Austria in preparation for Athens. Rowing has really taken me places. An education in the UK can do the same for you."

Lankan appointed Rotary Foundation trustee

Rotary District 3220 (Sri Lanka) past Governor and CEO Printcare (Ceylon) Ltd K. R. Ravindran  becomes the first Sri Lankan to be appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Rotary Foundation (RF), a press release said.

Ravindran is a member of Rotary Club Colombo. His term of office as Trustee of the RF will run from 2006 to 2010. The Chicago based RF is one of the largest and 'prestigious' foundations in the world with combined assets exceeding  $ one billion and annual charitable payouts in excess of $ 150 million.

The Foundation is administered by a Board of Trustees numbering 15 selected from around the world. Three of the trustees are from Asia.

Established in 1917 by Arch C. Klumph, Rotary International's (RI's) sixth president, the Foundation is an endowment fund for Rotary "to do good in the world."

The 'not for profit' corporation supports the efforts of RI to achieve world understanding and peace through international humanitarian, educational and cultural exchange programmes.The Foundation's Humanitarian Programmes fund international Rotary cluband district projects to improve the quality of life, providing health care, clean water, food, education and other essential needs primarily in the developing world. Through its Educational Programmes the Foundation provides funding for some 1,200 students to study abroad each year.

Grants are also awarded to university teachers to teach in developing countries and for exchanges of business and professional people. One of the Foundation's major programmes - Polio Plus - seeks to eradicate polio worldwide. In Sri Lanka, RF provided financial support for the country's polio eradication programme to the extent of several million dollars. Currently RF in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank is helping Rotary-Sri Lanka to rebuild 25 schools damaged or destroyed by the Tsunami at a cost of $ 12 million.

1,600 Lankan students opt for UK

The financial gain from going to a university in the UK is greater than anywhere else in the developed world, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a press release said. An OECD survey of education in its 30 member nations found that men in the UK could expect on average a 17% return on the time and money they invested in their education. The figure for women was slightly lower at 15%.Andreas Schliecher, the OECD head of indicators and analysis also revealed that for the first time the report was able to show that the UK was ahead of other nations in offering short, flexible courses to improve qualifications throughout the workforce. Every year 1,600 Sri Lankans select the UK for their higher education and take advantage of the shorter courses which means they can start earning earlier. This figure is expected to rise as many more Sri Lankans want to take advantage of 'Fresh Talent Scotland visa extension scheme.'The British Council fairs in Colombo and Kandy will once again offer students and parents an opportunity to speak to representatives from institutions in the UK. The event in Colombo is expected to attract 59 institutions. The Fair with dates and times are:BMICH -March 4- 5 from 1100 to 1800 and Suisse Hotel, Kandy -March 7 from 1300 to 1900. 

IT boss heads SEC

President Mahinda Rajapakse in his capacity as Finance Minister has appointed Informatics Chairman Gamini Wickremasinghe as the new Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as well as the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka (IBSL).

A press release said that Wickremasinghe is a Fellow of the British Computer Society and the Chartered Management Institute, UK. He is keen on increasing the number of listed companies in the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) while at the same time enhancing the Corporate Governance of Listed Companies. Wickremasinghe intends focusing and bringing apparel, IT, manufacturing and SMI sector companies to the CSE which at present contribute significantly to the domestic economy. This is expected to result in improving market capitalization at the CSE.

Furthermore, he will work towards enhancing the domestic investor base of the country which at present accounts for 80% of the total turnover of the CSE. He is of the view that good awareness programmes could convert domestic savings into active investments in the Stock Market.  Wickremasinghe at the same time will use his experience to encourage and facilitate foreign investments to the Sri Lankan capital market.

He will also endure to protect the rights of shareholders, and ensure that a high standard of professionalism is maintained in the capital market as mandated by the SEC Act.

Wickremasinghe graduated with an MSc in Systems Analysis from the University of Aston, Birmingham, in 1976 and worked for more than five years for Philips Petroleum Company both in the U.K. and at their European Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium as the IT Manager for Europe/Africa and the Middle-East.

He returned to Sri Lanka in 1983 and founded the Informatics Group of Companies, which today consists of seven operating companies with a work force of 600 employees. It has one of the largest software houses in Sri Lanka with ISO 9001 and SEI CMM-Level 4 accreditation.

In 1990 Informatics embarked on an 'ambitious' IT Education project in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University and thereafter with University of Westminster, and Keele University, UK. The Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT) is today the largest private technology university in Sri Lanka offering both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from British universities.

In addition to carrying out large off-shore software development projects, Informatics have been instrumental in bringing foreign investors to Sri Lanka and have established a number of joint ventures with leading IT Organisations from Sweden, Norway, UK and Australia to develop software, providing employment for more than 750 local IT professionals. Informatics has also invested in agriculture. It has a 1,000-acre plantation in the Mahaweli System "C" under cashew, teak, coconut, papaw and pineapple cultivation and a dairy farm as well, employing nearly 200 people.

Prelis chairs SME Bank

Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has appointed a new Board of Directors chaired by senior banker Moksevi Prelis to the SME Bank, a press release said

 Prelis has previously served as CEO Nations Trust Bank, General Manager DFCC Bank, Deputy General Manager Bank of Ceylon  and Ceylon Steel Corporation and Chairman CEB, NIBM  and several other institutions on part time basis.

The other Board members are Asite Thalwatte, Raja Hewabowalae and  Kosala Wickramanayake.  

HSBC donation

A new three storey block of classrooms donated by HSBC and AFLAC International to Pamburana Shariputhra Maha Vidyalaya, Matara was handed over yesterday.These classrooms will benefit 300 children who come from smaller schools in the area that were closed following the tsunami, a communique said.

Branding lessons from politicos

Marketers should learn branding from politicians, said Singer Sri Lanka Chairman and Chartered Institute of Marketing Sri Lanka Region (CIMSLR) President Hemaka Amarasuriya.

He was speaking at the inauguration of CIMSLR's sixth annual conference that took place on Wednesday. Amarasuriya said  that Tony Blair re-branded 'Labour' which was identified as a left party as 'New Labour,' taking a more centrist position that resulted in his party being elected for a record three consecutive terms.

Similarly, the new Conservative leader David Cameron gave a change to his party's look, traditionally identified as rightist, by making it more centrist, as result of which the Conservatives have been able to increase their vote base. Amarasuriya however said that closer to Sri Lanka a certain political party has remained in the opposition for years, probably due to a branding problem.

He said that Jack Trout identified as the branding guru when he was in Sri Lanka recently, even advised that Sri Lanka should go back to its original name Ceylon as a part of a rebranding exercise.

Trout's contention was that  'Ceylon' is identified with all that which is good of this island nation, such as tea, tourism and gems, while Sri Lanka is identified as that which is negative in the country, like the trauma and bloodshed associated with the terrorist conflict. "But ultra-nationalists will look at this proposition with disdain," Amarasuriya said.

He said that Singer has been able to turnaround two indigenous brands, Unic, in the lower end of the electronics industry and Sisil-at the high end of the white goods market, which brands were market leaders in the country in the 1960s and 1970s.

The demise of the entrepreneurs that led these brands, Upali Wijewardene (Unic) and the De Zoysa family (Sisil) also sounded the death knell of these brands, he said.

However, due to Singer's efforts to revive these brands, Unic was recognized as the best turnaround brand in 2005, while Sisil is on the road to be recognized as the same.

CIM International Chairman Paul Gostick in his speech said that Sri Lanka has some world class companies like Dipped Products Ltd. (DPL), the world's fifth largest glove manufacturer. DPL however is maintaining a low profile. But Gostick was of the opinion that there were more opportunities available for DPL if they make themselves known.

He also said that the brand value of Coca Cola is $ 67.5 billion, much more than its asset value. There is a need to account for brand value in the balance sheet in the twenty first century, said Gostick. Marketing should therefore work with Finance to get this value reflected on the balance sheet, he said.

 Gostick further said that DPL daily manufactures 500,000 gloves, with virtually every house in the UK using DPL gloves. Another item that has a brand value is cinnamon, with 95% of its production coming from Sri Lanka. But low value cassia grown in countries such as Indonesia and China generally passes off as cinnamon. Gostick therefore emphasised the importance of branding cinnamon to get a higher value.

Marketing of commodities may win on price, 'but can you be the lowest cost operator all the time?' asked Gostick. "Profits come from customers, therefore it is important to understand customers," he added.

Gostick further said that CIM Sri Lanka had its beginning in 1995. It was the first international branch to be set-up outside the UK. In 2004 it moved up in the scale and was recognized as a region.

CIMSLR has 3,000 students and 800 members. Sri Lanka is CIM's largest operation outside the UK, said Gostick.

SLT CEO Shuhei Anan in his speech said that Sri Lanka should not try to concentrate only on Ceylon Tea, but it should try to make this country a hub for banking and education.

He said that the way SLT could maintain its brand value was by introducing new technology.

Dr Trichy V. Krishnan, Associate Professor of Marketing, National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School said that the 1920s was the era where manufacturers dominated marketing, a far cry from today, where it is the consumer who calls the shots.

Henry Ford, the manufacturer of the Model T Ford automobile at that time had his vehicles painted black. Ford who had a virtual monopoly in vehicle manufacture at that time, in his dry wit once said that he can give any colour which is black.

But 80 years later, his great grandson who has a problem in selling vehicles due to competition from Toyota laid off 30,000 of his workers and said that he is prepared to manufacture vehicles of his customer's choice.

Krishnan also said that Walmart, a large retailing store set-up by Sam Waltman in the 1980s, shows the influence that distributors have over both the consumer and the manufacturer. He said that the combined wealth of the four Waltman brothers and their cousin sister is twice as great as the wealth of Bill Gates of Microsoft.

$ 30 mn. fabric manufacturing complex at Thulhiriya

MAS Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., recently formed a joint venture with Elastic Fabrics of America (EFA) and Dogi International Fabrics, Spain to establish a $ 30 million warp knit fabric manufacturing facility in Sri Lanka.

The factory which will provide employment to 250 will manufacture warp knit, a specialty synthetic stretch fabric which is mostly used in the manufacture of intimate wear (bras in particular) as well as swimwear, sought after because of its stretch factor).

The factory's output would cater to at least 50% of the country's requirement within three years. It will be located in Thulhiriya.  A communiqu‚ said that this joint venture (JV) agreement was signed at the Interfiliere Trade Show, Paris by James Robbins, President and CEO Elastic Fabrics of America (EFA), Joseph Domenech, Chairman Dogi International Fabrics, Spain and MAS Holdings Chairman Mahesh Amalean in the presence of Enterprise Development Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.

The JV will cater to the fast growing global intimate, active and sportswear segments, primarily supplying apparel manufacturers in the South Asian region catering to the North American and European markets.

 Amalean said that they were glad to partner with Dogi and EFA, the world's leading manufacturers of warp knitted fabric. "This venture will enable us to offer innovation and flexibility to our key customers and further strengthen Sri Lanka's position as a centre of excellence for intimate apparel, active and sportswear." Dogi, headquartered in Spain is one of the leading manufacturers of warp knitted fabrics with manufacturing facilities in Spain, Germany, China, Thailand and the Philippines, and commercial offices in 11 countries.  The combined worldwide manufacturing capacity of Dogi exceeds 34 million metres and is marketed under the "Dogi" and "Penn" brands.  The client portfolio of Dogi includes Sara Lee, Triumph, Chantelle, Vanity Fair, Victoria's Secret and Marks & Spencer.  Dogi is listed on the Spanish Stock Exchange.

EFA is a leading American-based manufacturer of elastomeric warp knits and circular knits.  The company's operations are based in Greensboro, North Carolina, while marketing is headquartered in New York City.  As a major supplier to the intimate apparel, active wear and swimwear markets, EFA serves major customers including Vanity Fair, Cupid Foundations, Victoria's Secret, Maidenform, Sara Lee and A&H Sportswear.

The new partnership will put into place a pioneering initiative that will cater to the growing demand for high quality warp knit fabric for the apparel industry in Sri Lanka and the Indian sub-continent.

Warp knit is a specialty fabric used in the manufacture of high quality intimate apparel, active and sportswear. These categories were identified as focus product groups in the five year strategic plan announced by the Joint Apparel Associations Forum (JAAF) to increase the competitiveness of the industry.

Robbins said that EFA is proud to be associated with their joint venture (JV) partners in Sri Lanka - Dogi who has a worldwide reputation for product innovation and customer satisfaction and MAS whose commitment to excellence and integrity is 'unmatched in the global supply chain.'

"This partnership brings 'tremendous' value to our customers by offering them strategic sourcing options in key regions of the world and further reinforces EFA's commitment to our global customer base."

Domenech said that Dogi looks forward with enthusiasm to start this venture with 'two of the greatest companies of our sector; Dogi's presence in Asia is already large, but with the addition of the operation in Sri Lanka we are going to be even closer to our customers to ensure that our service standard remains the best in class. Furthermore, the new alliance will allow us to explore together future opportunities in the strategically important Indian subcontinent.'

 Bogollagama said that the government is actively seeking foreign direct investment into Sri Lanka to encourage backward integration and to strengthen the supply base to support the apparel industry to face the increasing global competition. "We have been projecting the Thulhiriya facility as an investment destination for world-class manufacturers of textiles and are therefore encouraged to see that MAS Holdings together with partners will set up this state of the art warp knit fabric mill as part of their overall plan to develop Thulhiriya as an integrated textile city."

MAS Holdings is one of the leading providers of design-to-delivery solutions, specializing in intimate apparel, sportswear and leisurewear.  MAS Holdings' customers include Victoria's Secret, Triumph, Marks & Spencer, Banana Republic, GAP, Speedo and Nike.

MAS Holdings has joint ventures with Limited Brands, Triumph International, Sara Lee Courtaulds, Stretchline, Prym Intimates, Speedo International, Noyon Dentelles, Pacific Textiles and Brandot International.  Headquartered in Colombo, the company has 28 'world-class' manufacturing operations across ten countries and employs over 34,000 people.

UAL insures CF accounts

Union Assurance Ltd (UAL) recently entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Central Finance Company Ltd (CF) to 'add value' to the new savings schemes launched by CF, a press release said.

Customers who open these 'unique' saving accounts,  'CF  Lama '  and  'CF  Senior Citizens '  will be able to add an 'attractive'  life insurance cover, health insurance (including critical illness cover) and  personal accident cover offered by UAL.

According to CF, which  received approval to operate savings  accounts  by  the  Central  Bank recently , its tie up with UAL has  added a  new  dimension to their savings accounts by bringing in 'real value'  to its customers and to gain a competitive edge over other financial institutions.

"Our wish is to provide the benefits of insurance to a wider number of people through this type of arrangements. We are happy to be in partnership with a strong finance company like CF to provide life insurance cover to their savings account holders," said Dharshini Kurukulasuriya Wahalawatta, Manager Group Life UAL.

"  We have chosen UAL as our strategic partner looking at its corporate strength and stability as well as speed and quality of  service.

It is for the first time that a personal accident cover is made available to senior citizens upto the age of 75, " said  Rajanayake - Senior Manager CF Deposits, at the MOU signing ceremony. 

Morisons fetes long service employees

At a ceremony held recently, J L Morison Son & Jones (Ceylon) Ltd. felicitated 50 employees who had served the Company for 25 years and over.

A press release said that they all received gold medals and long service certificates. J L Morisons as one of the top distributors in the country in both FMCG and pharmaceutical products, agro and  diagnostics as well as being a pioneer in manufacturing pharmaceutical products, has good employer - employee relations which has resulted in large numbers receiving long service awards.

The ceremony was attended by managers and executives of the company.  R. Abeyawira, Chairman J L Morisons, speaking at the ceremony, reminisced of the beginnings of J L Morisons and said that events such as this symbolizes the cordial and mutual relationship that exists between employer and employee.

 He said that he looks forward to other employees too emulating the example and would be recipients in the future. Managing Director A Samaranayake paid tribute to Abeyawira and said that his able guidance and astute decision making skills and ability helped tremendously in achieving success.

 He also remembered with gratitude past directors of the Company- H.R. Gunatilleke and B. J. Karunatileka, who, along with the current chairman (who himself has served the company for over 50 years) were 'fathers" to every one who had the good fortune of being a part of the 'Morison' family.

 Samaranayake said that one should always think as 'we' rather than 'I' and ask "what we can do for our company" rather than "what has the company done for us." He wished that the "ship"(which is the logo of the company) would continue to brave any storm as it has done for over decades and continue on its path of success.

J L Morisons apart from CSR activities, has also over the years been a promoter of sports and their Champion cricket team, who won the PPA Trophy for 2005, too were felicitated at this ceremony. A special token was presented to the Chairman, by the Managing Director Mr. N. Samaranayake, for his long service & guidance.

The Chief Guest at the Awards Ceremony cum Dinner was, Mr.Peter Hoare a former Director of the Company in UK; and his charming wife Mrs.Sheila Hoare, who had travelled from UK to be a part of the celebrations.

The occasion ended with entertainment provided by Annesly Malewene & his band and performances by the 'Channa Wijewardena Dance Academy' during the ceremony. 

Top architects at annual sessions

The Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (SLIA) will hold its Twenty Third Annual Sessions and Trade Exhibition at the BMICH from February 22-26, a press release said.  The National Conference in Architecture will  start on February  23 and will be inaugurated by Housing and Construction Minister Ferial Ashraff.  The Theme for the 2006 National Conference is "A National Identity in an International Context" and the keynote speaker for the event is architect Raj Rewal of India.

"Our National Identity has been a popular topic of discussion in the academic world of architecture- although whether or not this aspect was given adequate attention in practice is a question."  The importance of  'identity' is highlighted without identifying the meaning.  It has simply become a personal or corporate expression built in relation to a given context. One could argue that an identity is the true reflection of a period, but the important fact that has escaped attention is that the architecture and buildings reflect the culture of the given time.

Traditionally communities were isolated geographically and their life styles were reflected in their buildings. Technology too evolved slowly through trial and error.  However, in the modern world, improved mass scale manufacturing of innovative materials and the availability of materials globally has minimized the individual craftsmen's touch in construction and has also had an impact on the economy of construction. 

The expression of political ideologies requires the development of international identities by corporate and individual clients.  Export of skills is another phenomenon to be discussed in detail.  These innovations and aspects have contributed to the loss of a 'National Identity.'  Now, high rises and mega projects appearing in all parts of the globe look similar; there are no adaptations to local conditions - climate, culture, history or the community.

Perhaps the invention of Post Modernism was an attempt to overcome this situation, though the issue is whether people are ready to accept it in its original form. The objective of the Twenty Third National Conference on Architecture is to discuss the issues outlined in detail with several architects and practitioners from Sri Lanka and abroad. 

The keynote speaker Rewal of Raj Rewal Associates, India and architect Kate Schwennsen, President of the American Institute of Architects will discuss specially chosen topics: "National Identity in an International Context and Contemporary American Architecture".

Presentations will also be made by architect Rocco Yim, Principal Architect of Rocco Design Ltd. Hong Kong and also by Sri Lankan born Architect Monte Cassim, Vice Chancellor/President Ritsumeikin Asia Pacific University of Japan.

Among the local presenters would be architect Tilak Samaraweera of Tilak Samarawickrema Associates who will talk on "National Identity or Universality in Design - a Personal Quest"  and Dr. Harsha Munasinghe, Director Post Graduate Studies, Faculty of Architecture, Moratuwa University on "Architecture and Identity Reflecting Messages of the Concept of European City of Culture."

With his international experience Professor Kanishka Goonewardena, Associate Professor, Urban Design and Planning, University of Toronto will speak on "Space, Globalisation and Empire." Architect Prasad Botejue's topic will be "Architecture-Production of Space, Globalisation - Politics of Production", while Architect Mudhura  Prematilleke, Team Achitrave will approach the theme through "Pelpath".

Architect Anura Rathnavibhushana of Anura Rathnavibhushana Associates will share "Some Random Thoughts on National Identity in an International Context." "Form Follows Function, the Mahathupa  and Modern Technology" is the subject of Architect Shereen Amendra of Sun Consultants, while "The 'Thalas' of Space and Form, an Architectural Search for Contextual Identity" will be presented by Architect Bernard Gomez of B.G.L.F. Consultancy.

A half-day architectural educational forum on the subject "Architectural Education in the Era of Globalization" will be held on February 24  at the same venue.  Several well-known architects have been invited to chair the sessions and would include Architect Dr. Paul Hyett, Past President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Architect Gaetan Siew of Mauritius, President of Union of International Architects (UIA) and Architect Yolanda Reyes, Chairperson of Architects Regional Council Asia (ARCASIA). 

Intl. corporate adviser at CIMA seminar

CIMA Sri Lanka Division's  Mastercourse on Finance Transformation - 'robust solutions for long term value creation'  will be held at the Ceylon Continental Hotel on February 24, a press release said.

It will be conducted by Dr Martin Fahy of the National University of Ireland, Galway.

The programme is aimed at group finance directors, chief financial officers and other finance professionals who are tasked with building a 'quality' value driven finance function and with delivering value added business partnering across their business, the release said.

 Fahy is a recognized thought leader in the areas of Shared Service/BPO and Finance Transformation. Organizations that he has advised or consulted include Michelin, Oracle, HSBC and Bank of Ireland.

In this  master course Fahy will 'explore' the challenges facing finance professionals as they work to implement finance systems, and processes that deliver long term value to shareholders.

 He will examine how 'Finance' can become a 'true' business partner in delivering value added insights to senior executives and decision makers by embracing process standardisation, automation, and continuous improvement techniques, the communiqu said.

 Specifically he will argue that firms need to move beyond the rhetoric of strategy and focus on finance professionals who are tasked with building a quality value driven finance function and with delivering value added business partnering across their business.

Fahy who is also an author, has written extensively and his most recent books include "Beyond Governance"; "ERP Levering the Benefits" (a joint venture with CIMA and PWC); "Strategic Enterprise Management Systems" and has co-authored "Shared Services an executive briefing". 

Air Arabia flies to Tehran

Air Arabia LLC, 'the first and only low-fares airline in the Middle East and North Africa which has demonstrated strong growth and expansion plans, has added Tehran to its list of destinations, a press release said.

The airline will operate three weekly flights. Air Arabia's Sri Lanka Manager, Mayank Dhingra said, "Air Arabia is delighted to start flights to Iran. We are committed to developing new routes and will continue

to expand to meet the demands of our customers. We look forward to growing trade and tourism links between Sri Lanka and Iran and offering more opportunities for people to travel, whether for business or leisure".

Dhingra said that the connection to the Teheran flight from Colombo was convenient  "We fly daily to Sharjah from Colombo at  04:50 and the connecting flight from Sharjah lands in   Tehran at 12:20 local time." 

"This service will benefit business travellers looking for flights between Colombo, Iran and the GCC and will be of benefit to the Colombo businessman who has business dealings in the Middle East."

Air Arabia offers a visit visa service for passengers arriving in Sharjah as well as 96 hour transit visas for passengers connecting to other destinations via Sharjah.

"The addition of Tehran takes Air Arabia's destinations to twenty six with more to come and we are rated as one of the fastest growing airlines in the region," said Dhingra.

 Current destinations include Aleppo and Damascus (Syria); Alexandria, Assiut, Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt); Aqaba and Amman (Jordan); Astana and Almaty (Kazakhstan); Bahrain; Beirut; Colombo; Dammam, Jeddah and Riyadh (KSA), Doha; Khartoum (Sudan); Kuwait; Moscow; Mumbai and Nagpur; Muscat (Oman); Sana'a (Yemen) and Sharjah (UAE).

 Air Arabia was established as a fully fledged commercial airline of the UAE in 2003. The fleet consists of five modern A320 aircraft flying directly to destinations in Bahrain, Egypt, India, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Flights to Moscow are operated by Armenian International Airways.

AATSL, fast track to becoming an accountant

Given the growing demand for accounting technicians and the shortage of such personnel in the country, qualifying as an accounting technician is a solid professional qualification  to enhance one's employment opportunities.

The Association of Accounting Technicians of Sri Lanka (AATSL) exams are a fast track to become a chartered accountant or chartered management accountant, obtaining a university degree (management / administration / commerce / law / computer), gain admission to a foreign university or obtain employment.

AATSL is the only professional institute conducting accountancy  exams at technician level in Sri Lanka.  Established on the initiative of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (ICASL), AATSL is most suited for GCE (O/L) and A/L students of any stream. Presently, due to requests by parents and students, the ATT registration date has been extended and students who sat for the GCE (O/L) December 2005 exam can apply for registration pending results.

AAT exams are held at three levels-Foundation, Intermediate and Final  in all three media twice a year, in June and December.  The exams can be completed subject by subject and are held in Colombo, Kandy, Matara, Jaffna, Batticaloa, Bandarawela and Kurunegala.

The duration of each level is six months and GCE (O/L) and A/L students  can complete the three levels in one and a half years. GCE A/L commerce students can complete all three levels in one year.

Practical training and experience are also indispensable for a successful career as an accounting technician and two years practical training is mandatory for admission as a member (MAAT) of the association. Therefore, AAT has a programme to assist students to obtain placements for practical training as well.

Criteria for student registration is six passes at the GCE (O/L) exam (Sri Lanka/UK) or two passes at GCE (A/L) examination (Sri Lanka/UK)or  five years experience as an accounts clerk, audit clerk, book keeper, or accounts trainee in a recognised establishment or any other equivalent or higher qualification acceptable to the governing council.

Those without minimum qualifications can sit and pass the Certificate in Accounting and Auditing (CAA) and proceed to Intermediate level, getting exemption from the Foundation level exam. A student can also sit for all four subjects of the Foundation exam and all four subjects of the Intermediate exam at the same exam.

A student can even sit for any combination of these subjects according to his or her wish and complete the two levels in any number of attempts.  The Final exam of AATSL has been recognised by a number of professional institutes for registration of students.

Passed finalists of AATSL are also eligible to register for several other professional  courses and university exams as external students and for foreign university exams as internal students.

All students who wish to register should obtain a student's guide which  contains all details of AAT exams, syllabi, subjects, application and forms for registration.

AATSL is an Associate Member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and is also an Associate Member of the Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA).

Hemas records Rs 7.1 bn. turnover

Hemas Holdings Ltd (HHL) during the first nine months of the financial year 2005/06 recorded a Group turnover of Rs 7,085 million and a net  profit of Rs 599 million, its CEO Husein Esufally in his review of the company's performance said.

Growth in turnover compared with the corresponding period of the previous financial year was 13.4% increase and profits, a Rs 21.3% increase.  This year's profit growth was mainly on account of the contribution from the Power sector and good performances by the Transportation and FMCG Sectors. Profit growth for the quarter ended December 31, 2005 was 11.3%. It was adversely impacted by the decline in the Leisure Sector performance during this quarter.

The FMCG Sector continued to perform well posting a revenue growth of 9.8% and a profit growth of 18.1% over the nine months. Market demand continued to be strong and the Sector did well to maintain or improve market share across most major categories. 

For the period under review, the Healthcare Sector recorded a turnover growth of 11.5% and a profit growth of 9.1%. For the quarter ended December  31, 2005, the Sector recorded a profit decline of 15.6% owing to the downsizing of its own brand business. The Sector continued to perform well in its core business of Pharmaceutical distribution and continues to grow faster than the market.

The Transportation Sector continues its impressive performance this year with a 26.9% turnover growth and a 52.5% profit growth for the nine month period. An overall growth in passenger travel and cargo movements has helped all areas of the Sector to perform well and post healthy growth rates.

 The recovery of the tourism industry from the tsunami has been slower than expected and the seeming resumption of hostilities in the North East made matters worse. Tourist arrivals were down and resort occupancies even more so.

Etihad takes delivery of custom built Boeings

Etihad Airways' first of five new purpose-designed and built Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft has just landed at Abu Dhabi International Airport after a direct from Boeing's construction airport in Washington State, a press release said.

The arrival of the Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft has been designed to Etihad specifications, and will provide our Guests with higher standards of hospitality and service across our expanding global network.

Several senior Etihad and Boeing executives were on board the airline's first twin-aisle aircraft including Sheikh Ahmad Bin Saif Al Nahyan, chairman, Abu Dhabi Civil Aviation and Etihad Airways, as well as Lee Monson, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of sales for the Middle East and Africa, and John Craig, president Boeing Middle East.

The new Boeing offers passengers special features including 'mood lighting' and high-speed wireless internet access through all zones. Passengers can send or receive email, including those with large attachments using the advanced 'Connexions by Boeing' system. They will be able to browse the internet the same way they would at home, and also securely access company intranet and business applications. 

This is a two-zone aircraft with a total capacity of 378 seats, 350 in the Coral Zone and 28 in the Pearl Zone. Twenty first century air travel demands sophisticated audio and video facilities. Passengers will be able to access 30 movies, 16 hours of TV programming, 24 hours audio programming, 25 audio CDs and 26 Interactive Games.

Guest comfort has also been enhanced and the seating in Pearl zone has been arranged into individual cabins, configured 1-2-1, and can transform into a 6'1" bed. Coral seats are configured 3-3-3 across and 'ample' spacing is provided with up to a 33" seat pitch between the seats.

Etihad has made history by placing an order worth $ 8 billion for new aircraft within the first two years of operation. As well as purchasing the five Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft, Etihad has also ordered 24 Airbus aircraft-four A340-500s, four A340-600s, 12 A330-200s and probably most 'exciting' of all, four double Decker A380s. 

"This first aircraft will be used on our route to Frankfurt. The other aircraft in the new fleet will be arriving over the coming weeks and months-and also will be introduced on some of the many new routes that will be announced shortly."

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