Helping Business

Helping Business

Minister of Power, Energy and Business Development Ravi Karunanayake does not see any “practical essence” in tagging responsibility for business development on to his other tasks. It is a new portfolio, which has been added on rather incongruously to a very, important, though, unconnected, ministry.

He says that business development is there by name, but the drive does not exist, to ensure that start-ups progress – these are the very companies which have problems. And he thinks he knows the cause.

“I think the biggest problem in our country is the Central Bank. Their monetary policy is certainly defeatist to the government. With the fiscal policies after I was appointed finance minister in 2015, we increased revenues almost 100% over the two years’ period that I was there. That was sizeable, it is what is keeping the government going on at the moment, but it did not match the monetary policy pursued by the so-called Central Bank. I mean, they pursue a more negative-growth-oriented monetary policy. Today, an innocent person going to the bank, you have to pawn yourself to get a loan from the bank, and it is just not helpful for a start-up to a small and medium enterprise. So our interest is to try and galvanise the support of the banks and every conceivable chamber, and to make it meaningful. If we are able to give a rate of about 5-6%, which is the regional trend in lending, I guess you don’t have to go after handouts which are being given liberally, which is nonsensical. On one side the Central Bank push it up, which they say is anti-inflationary, but we see inflation going up and interest rates also down. I think this has been the root cause of the negativism that is there. I think it is high time that the government pursues a pro-small and medium enterprise-oriented approach. Lack of knowledge of a business environment by the people who sit in offices, in administrative areas, or decision-making positions, has been the biggest problem.”

Ambitious

The entrepreneur, he says, comes into business thinking gloriously and ambitiously, to create a business empire. However, they do not receive assistance. They are faced with bureaucratic delays.

“You don’t have quick decision-making. If you go to an environmental entity to get approval, it takes a long time. Banks are a fiasco. You go to get a LKR 500,000 loan, you have to pawn your entire future life and you come out not knowing whether you have come out with a benefit or with a permanent liability. These are the areas that need to change, and this is what I was doing in 2015 to 2017, until the changes took place. But I am sure that we will be able to get back into the driving seat and able to get things moving from a more pro-Sri Lankan perspective.”

He sees the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, as another part of the problem.
“But then, what are you going to say? You can say they are part of the problem. But we are small in a global picture. It is that we should pursue policies which are favourable to us. Unfortunately, we have bureaucrats who are basically high-standing, whose job is to perform or lure the officials that come in, so that they can get a retirement job over there. This has been seen as the problem. Especially when you come across officials who don’t understand economics or finance, they easily massage their egos and get that job done.”

Conversely, he says, if you the bureaucrats do know their job, then foreign “experts” coming in does not help at all.
“End of the day, they take professional assistance from us, they put a foreign label, and come back and say this is the professional report that they give. This has been the bane of our society. We overly think of a foreign-skin mentality, which has always been to our detriment.”

Prospects

He thinks that some very firm, pro-Sri Lankan decisions are needed, to safeguard and develop the three most important things: national security, the national economy and the youth. “If you walk the talk, I guess we have won 90% of the problem. I think we have the ability to steer, to navigate ourselves, if we are led properly. Unfortunately, there are far too many decision-making processes which are counter-productive.”

Sri Lankans procrastinate, he thinks, at taking the correct decisions. He points to countries such as Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia as exemplars, the success in coming out of poverty of which he attributes to fast, firm, decision-making.

In Sri Lanka, on the other hand, “Anybody who works is basically targeted and alienated, but you have to have the guts to go well beyond that. That should be the revival process of Sri Lanka.”

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Were you one of those 300,000 students, who pursued their goal with the help of a Mahapola scholarship?

Were you one of those 300,000 students, who pursued their goal with the help of a Mahapola scholarship?

Were you one of those three hundred thousand students, who pursued their goal with the help of a Mahapola scholarship?

Are you aware of the financial provider, who makes every effort to lend a hand to the students of the country, extending Mahapola Scholarship, which once brought you under its shelter?

Most probably, you have no idea.

It is human nature to forget easily the giant trees, which gives us cover from the burning sun in the summer. In the same way many, who followed their education receiving the “Mahapola scholarship” may have no idea of the real body, which renders a tremendous service behind the scenes for the benefit of the sons and daughters of the country.

The Development Lotteries Board, which provided its contribution to offer scholarships to more than 306,637 students from 1983 up to 2019, is still on the same humble mission of the year whilst being the hope of our compatriots.

Establishment of Mahapola Scholarship Fund

The late Lalith Athulathmudali was the founder of this precious treasure, established to assist youth, following their higher education, who look to the future amidst various economic hardships.
As the Minister of Trade and Shipping, Athulathmudali introduced the Mahapola concept in 1980, and the fund was raised with the help of the Mahapola exhibition – a great attraction of the time – and the Mahapola lottery. At the commencement of the fund, the income was utilised to enhance schools in rural areas and, with the time, Athulathmudali considered investing the funds at national level, for the benefit of the whole country. With a view to achieving this goal, he made arrangements to establish sa cholarship scheme to help students, who follow their education at higher educational institution, including universities, amidst financial hardships.

As a result of the concept of this man of the people, ever dedicated to the improvement of the country, the Mahapola Scholarship Fund was established, its legal base was assured by means of the Mahapola Higher Education Scholarships Trust Fund Act No 66 of 1981, which underwrote the administration of the whole process.

The financial base had been built so far by holding trade exhibitions and fairs and also by the sale of Mahapola Lotteries, but was further strengthened by the establishment of the Development Lotteries Board in 1983, with an investment of LKR 22 million by the President’s Fund and the Mahapola Trust Fund. With this change, the stability of the process was assured.
Working on the foundation made by the Presidents Fund and the Mahapola Fund, the Development Lotteries Board remits its dividends directly to the President’s Fund, fulfilling statutory requirements. Thereafter, 50% of the income is sent to the Mahapola Trust Fund through the President’s Fund.

Accordingly, the Development Lotteries Board has remitted LKR 25,880 million to the President’s Fund during the period 1983 to 2019.
The Development Lotteries Board is the only Government Institution which makes financial contribution to the Mahapola Scholarships Fund.

Beneficiaries of Mahapola Scholarship

The Mahapola Scholarship always brings to mind the undergraduates of our country. Many people think that the Mahapola scholarship is offered only to those who follow their higher education at Universities.
However, today the Mahapola scholarship is awarded not only to undergraduates of our universities but also to thousands studying at other higher educational institutions under the Ministry of Higher Education.

Accordingly Development Lotteries Board lends a helping hand to those following their education at higher educational institutes such as the University of Colombo, Computer School of the University of Colombo, Sripalee Campus, University of Peradeniya, University of Kelaniya, University of Sri Jayawardana Pura, University of Moratuwa, University of Jaffna, Vavuniya Faculty, University of Ruhuna, Eastern University, Trincomalee Faculty, South Eastern University, Rajarata University, Sabaragamuwa University, Wayamba University, Institute of Indigenous Medicine, Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Institute, Uva Wellassa University, and the Swami Vipulananda Instutute of Aesthetic Studies.

Other institutes to which Mahapola Scholarships are awarded

• Buddhist and Pali University of  Sri Lanka
• Bhikkhu University of Sri Lanka
• Law College
• Technological Institutes (NDT)
• National Institute of Social Development
• Open University of Sri Lanka
• Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technological Education

The Development Lotteries Board is the body which provides financial support to you, who have completed higher education, as well as all the other sons and daughters of the country, who follow their education at the above institutes.
Education is the only path that we have to see the light of dawn amidst various barriers, difficulties and challenges. Therefore, the Development Lotteries Boards, without any hesitation, invests the money of the people, who indirectly contribute to this social care programme by buying their ticket, in the Mahapola Scholarships Fund, extending its blessing to the younger generation of the country.

Today you, who have completed higher education with the support of Mahapola Scholarship, may be a person with a success story. You may be a significant figure on the ladder of any profession. You never have seen a simple person who peddles lotteries. You may have no experience of buying a lottery ticket during the past period. However, you cannot forget the roots of your success.

You can never forget the fact that, once, you held a Mahaploa scholarship. Students by the thousands are following their higher education under the shelter of the Mahapola Scholarship. It is the truth, that no one can deny. The Mahapola Scholarship will further lend its hand for the benefit of the future generations of our country.

Today you, who saw the dawn yesterday with the help of Mahapola Scholarship, may have enough funds to manage the education of your children. But we need to protect Mahapola Scholarships for the benefit of the sons and daughters of under-privileged families who are dreaming of fulfilling their children’s necessities, under bitter conditions.

Therefore, you can make your contribution now to enhance the scholarship fund, which was created by a humble man of people called Lalith Athulathmudali. The few coins you spend to buy a Development Lottery Board’s lottery will open a new path to a flourishing, bright future for the country.

Mahapola Trust Fund is the helping hand of the sons and daughters of the country yesterday, today and tomorrow. It will provide a guarantee for the education of the country. Therefore, the buyer of a lottery ticket will be the indirect provider, whilst the Development Lotteries Board makes its utmost contribution for this valuable social care programme.

When you open your pocket to buy a lottery ticket, DLB will have the opportunity to strengthen the Mahapola Trust Fund for the future of the country. In return the Mahapola Trust Fund will have enough funds to increase its contribution to the enhancement of children following their higher education.

This is the true story of Mahapola Scholarship.
Now it is high time for you to perform your duty to the country.

Achala Piyarathna

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Sri Lanka  must  industrialise

Sri Lanka must industrialise

Leading economist tells
Sri Lanka’s business leaders

A larger-than-expected crowd turned up at Colombo’s Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute to listen to Sri Lanka’s star economist Dr Howard Nicholas deliver a lecture on “The Current State and Future Directions of the Global and Sri Lankan Economies”. The event, organised by ETIS Lanka, together with George Stuart Capital, Daily FT, and Hardtalk, on 11 July.

An Associate Professor at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Rotterdam’s Erasmus University, Dr Nicholas has wide-ranging teaching experience in business economics and financial markets in a number of countries, especially in Asia. He won the best-teacher award at ISS in every one of the 18 years since its inception.

Born in Colombo’s Slave Island, brought up on an estate in Kalutara district, and educated at St Anthony’s, in Kandy, he moved to the West with his parents at eight years of age. Dr Nicholas followed his parents’ admonition to be Sri Lankan despite his British passport, and returned to the land of his birth in 1987, helping to set up the Institute of Policy Studies, and then moving to the University of Colombo to help set up a post-graduate faculty of economics and to develop post-graduate training in economics.

He has had substantial policy experience in Sri Lanka, having worked closely with the Ministry of Finance and Planning on a number of different projects and being lead author in the 2005 UNDP study Pro-poor macroeconomic policies in Sri Lanka. He returns from time to time to speak on economic trends, this country usually being the first place at which he reveals a new trend.

The following is a report on the part of his talk which focussed on Sri Lanka.

Optimistic

In 1990, optimistic about Sri Lanka’s future under the pro-manufacture economic programme of the then president, Ranasinghe Premadasa, he invested his money in equity in the country, advising everybody else to do the same.
“President Premadasa started this aggressive export-orientated development strategy,” he says, although “A lot of us didn’t like Premadasa, because he was brutal in some ways… We knew that if this continued Sri Lanka would reach developed country status in 10 to 15 years.”

The demise of Premadasa saw an end to the export-led industrialisation strategy, and since then government after government has ignored it, so Dr Nicholas has had no interest in investing in Sri Lanka.

He pooh-pooh’s the theory of comparative advantage, saying it was taught by rich countries to poor countries to get the latter to do what the former wanted them to. The theory posits that if everyone does what they are good at, and exchange goods, then all the parties would benefit and can thus grow. However, he rubbishes it, describing it as riddled with theoretical and empirical flaws. He lambasts the hypocrisy inherent in the theory of free trade, since whenever it suits the advanced countries, they refuse to liberalise trade in areas they consider vital, protecting their market.

Under-performed

He notes that Sri Lanka’s economy has underperformed in comparison to its peers. It has not grossly under-performed, but the system lacks dynamism. This is primarily due to a structural shift in the economy, away from agriculture and industry towards services. Manufacture has been losing its share of industry, as construction has surged ahead. Although there has been a construction boom and financial services growth, the manufacturing sector has been neglected.

However, the construction boom is losing steam. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s share of world trade has stagnated, and its share of the global export markets has stagnated. Sri Lanka is losing the global garments and textile export market share. its export engine is losing steam and the government is not granting any concessional facilities to propel growth. Industrial goods have declined in their share of merchandise exports, in comparison to agricultural goods. More importantly, exports’ contribution to the current account balance has declined, and together with the decline in overseas workers’ remittances, the tourism sector has increased in importance. These two sectors are now the two major avenues of foreign exchange earnings.

Tourism is far more dependent on the vagaries of climate and terrorism than the others, and especially on the economic health of the advanced nations whence the tourists come, so the economy is now dependent on an unstable component. The events of Easter Sunday and the disruption caused to the tourism sector, especially brought home the absurdity of a strategy based on a precarious foreign exchange-earning industry, and the lack of diversity in the economy.

Sri Lanka must diversify. The country needs to see a shift towards manufacturing to enhance export dynamism. Manufacturing is at the core of any sustainable growth of an economy. All the global superpowers in history became powerful due to the growth of their manufacturing dominance.

“China has taken over as the world’s largest manufacturer,” Dr Nicholas points out. “It also has the largest retail market. China is driven by massive technological change. We are in the middle of a gigantic technological change. We know Huawei and 5G are between 3 and 5 years of ahead of anyone else in the world. Huawei has 94 % of all the patents on 5G. They can say they don’t want Huawei but they are holding the patents.”

Prospects

No country has ever developed without export-oriented manufacturing and as there is a massive market in the developing world, Sri Lanka should focus on export manufacture-driven economic growth. He also says that, although Singapore is often cited as an example for Sri Lanka to follow, that country has not prospered so much because of trade, but that its economy is driven by manufacturing.

In the short-term, Nicholas predicts weakness in economic growth along with the rest of the world, pressure on reserves and the exchange rate as tourist arrivals fall sharply and world import growth slows, and increasing domestic price level, depending on exchange rate. The extent to which expansionary fiscal policies may be pursued, will be limited by balance of payments constraints.

“Sri Lanka could become one of the beneficiaries of the continuing relocation of production from advanced to developing countries (also away from China),”in the long-term, he says. “The extent to which Sri Lanka can benefit from the relocation away from advanced countries will depend on how successful it is in developing its own manufacturing base and shifting production to higher value-added products in the long run.”

Sri Lanka‘s equity market has performed weakly, and in order to draw in foreign direct investment, the country should be able to point to a thriving manufacturing sector. He cites the example of Vietnam (where he has served as an adviser), which has diversified exports heavily into manufacture. Both Vietnam’s exports and imports have increased rapidly to about 1.2% of global trade. It is able, unlike Sri Lanka, to benefit from the China-US trade dispute, especially in the crucial electrical machinery and mechanical appliances sectors. This is due to the government’s whole-hearted commitment to a strategy of export-based manufacturing.

Savithri Guruge

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Safety is fully restored

Safety is fully restored

Sri Lanka Tourism supremo Kishu Gomes is upbeat about the industry’s prospects

Tourism is a relatively sensitive industry, more easily affected than others by the vagaries of climate and world economy. It is particularly vulnerable to acts of war and to natural disasters. So, while the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 21 April left all industries and businesses reeling, the tourist trade was among the worst affected. Profit and job losses of unprecedented magnitude were feared. Tourist arrivals plunged in April and May. In the light of the worrying news, OSL – THE Investment Magazine spoke to Kishu Gomes, the chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), on the state of tourism in the aftermath of the attacks.

Formerly Managing Director/CEO (for 22 years) of Chevron Lubricants Lanka PLC, Gomes, who holds an MBA from the University of Leicester and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, accepted the post in order to serve the country. Brought in as a breath of private sector air into a public sector institution, he is directing Tourism Sri Lanka’s global brand-rebuilding efforts.

Before the attacks, Sri Lanka had been awarded the world’s best travel destination 2019 accolade by the publishers of the influential Lonely Planet guidebook, and Asia’s top destination 2019 by an expert panel of five of the best-renowned travel bloggers and influencers, organised by the leading Travel Lemming website. The goodwill built up might well have dissipated as a result of the attacks.

According to Gomes, the fears were worse than reality, as the market proved more resilient than expected. “We worried we might not be able to stand up in two years. We had a sharp decline during the month of May. Last May, compared to previous year’s May, was a 70% drop. We still had 30% of the tourists coming, despite it being a major calamity. But by June we were able to recover significantly. In June, we grew the industry by 70%, on a month by month basis. To share the specific numbers, in the month of May we had 1,300 tourists on a daily basis, which went up to 2,300 in June. Now that travel advisories have been softened by 14 large countries, including all the target markets other than US and Russia, we expect to keep growing these numbers and keep the momentum we had prior to the attack.”

Gomes went on to explain that SLTPB was taking many measures to attract tourists back, to overcome negative sentiment about Sri Lanka. “We are working with a global advertising agency to do a campaign covering all the target markets for 6 months. We are also running a PR campaign together with our global PR agency to further change the sentiments towards Sri Lanka to be positive. Tourism being a very competitive industry, for us to have a competitive edge, we need to continue to tell the world that Sri Lanka is a safe place now and after the incident on the 21st, we’ve had not any issue in the country.”

Word of mouth, and recommendations by visitors who have experienced the island play a large part in building the brand. So he was pleased that many of the tourists, who had visited Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the attacks, were voicing how they enjoyed their stay on social media. “Anyone who came here after the 21st found the environment to be safe. These messages get out in the world and will help us to try and recover faster than ever before. The tourists who have come here have found life to be very normal. They have enjoyed their stay. Given that prices have fallen and so many offers being presented to the world by stakeholders, there will be more and more tourists looking at Sri Lanka.”

Commenting about the security measures now in place, such as the scanners and metal detectors, Gomes said that they were important assurances of safety to tourists. “Technically, there is no threat now. But when these things are in place, it gives confidence to the tourists. They know we’re concerned about their security. I think it is a positive. Look at other countries of the world. These have been part of their life. It has now come to Sri Lanka as well. Tourists seeing that would be convinced we have taken the right measures to ensure that Sri Lanka will not have to face another attack. I think it is a big positive.”

When asked about what he had to say to potential investors in the Sri Lankan market, Gomes replied “the investors surely had serious concerns about the ability to bounce back fast. We have proven that we are a very resilient market. Safety is fully restored. The military has made a very bold statement saying no terrorist group will be able to have another co-ordinated attack in Sri Lanka. With that, there is confidence being built.”

“Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. The size of global tourism industry is 8.8 trillion dollars per annum. It grows more than 4%. With us being able to restore normality and create a safe environment, and travel advisories being lifted, in a few months’ time, we will certainly get the numbers. Apart from promotional activities I mentioned, we have an integrated marketing communication strategy that we are executing across all target markets. With that I’m positive that we will recover fast.”

In parting, Gomes had this message to the world industry. “I must tell the entire world that this is global terrorism. Where there is tourism, there is terrorism as well. To counter global terrorism, we need to stand together. All tourism destinations have to come together against global terrorism. It’s not just making Sri Lanka safe, it’s about creating the entire world and all tourism destinations safe. So my request to the entire world is to let us stand together against terrorism to make the world safe for the entire world population on this beautiful planet.”

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Bankers to the Nation, Bank of Ceylon Celebrates its 80th Anniversary

Bankers to the Nation, Bank of Ceylon Celebrates its 80th Anniversary

Sri Lanka’s No.1 bank, the Bank of Ceylon is geared to celebrate its eight decades of dominance in the banking industry on 1st August 2019. With the heritage that explicitly showcases its commitment to the Nation, the Bank of Ceylon is considered to be among the top most important contributors towards the economic and social development of the country. The saga of the Bank of Ceylon begins in the early 1900’s, when a lack of finance deprived many Ceylonese businesses of the ability to make use of the opportunities that were available at that time. It was then that the Member of the State Council of Ceylon for Kandy, Hon. George E. De. Silva moved a motion to look into the situation with regard to the ordinary Ceylonese, who were deprived of financial assistance to get involved with businesses, unlike a few elite Ceylonese businessmen and foreigners, that led the Governor of Ceylon to appoint a commission to look into this situation. Finally, the Bank of Ceylon Ordinance was enacted in 1939 and the Bank was declared open on 1st August 1939 at 41, Bristol Street in Colombo Fort, by the Governor, Sir Andrew Caldecott. Since then, for eight decades, the country’s banking giant has delivered an unparalleled service to Sri Lankans at all levels, and an unmatched contribution to the economy. The Bank of Ceylon grew rapidly opening branches in every major city within a decade, followed by a branch in London. By the mid-1950s it was a force to be reckoned with and, with the passing of each decade, it has continued to grow in both size and influence, subsequently becoming a tool for effecting economic growth on an even broader scale. However, growth to this size, the complete range of products and services it offers and the role it plays should not come as a surprise. That is because the origins of Bank of Ceylon are steeped in history. Its formation is an important event in the history of commerce and of the Sri Lankan economy.

Leveraging on the strength gathered over eight decades, Bank of Ceylon has continued to dominate the Sri Lankan banking landscape at many different levels. It is the Bank that is involved in uplifting every socio-economic stratum in Sri Lanka, by comprehensively penetrating into the everyday life of Sri Lankans as a household brand. Currently BOC is a major contributor to economic and social development by fostering good Governance and ensuring banking services are made available to every socio-economic group in the country.

“We are a Bank that stayed together with the Sri Lankan community at all times. By understanding the true needs which emerge from within our community, our efforts have always been to address those by financial assistance given through a proper mechanism” began the Chairman Bank of Ceylon, President’s Counsel Mr. Ronald C. Perera.

Challenging path

“The path the bank had to take has always been a challenging one, but the resilience of the Bank and its capacity to overcome these formidable challenges have been demonstrated along its eight decades. It has developed its market leadership by confronting market volatility, channelling and aligning resources to ensure business growth and achieving transformation through technology. As we step into the 80th Anniversary, I have to mention that we have realised the goals, we have had in our plan. Now our focus is towards the Bank’s 100th Anniversary, which will come in the year 2039. Being the Bank for the future youth, we look forward to build more Sri Lankan entrepreneurs, encouraging youth to actively contribute towards economic growth and become future business leaders. The Bank will also extend its international network to emerging markets, further establishing its brand as an International Sri Lankan Bank” said he.

Owning a balance sheet that is unparalleled in the industry, with three components carrying over a Trillion of rupees each: Assets over Rs.2 Trillion, Deposits over Rs.1.5 Trillion, Advances and Lending over Rs. 1.8 Trillion; BOC boasts of being the wealthiest single business entity in Sri Lanka. This leading Sri Lankan banking giant has spread its wings across the island with a sophisticated inter-connected digital network, currently inclusive of 636 branches, 10 mobile branches, 15 SME centres and also 1110 ATMs/ CDMs and CRMs that are 24×7 operative as physical customer touch points, building up a total of 1769, enabling customers to transact at their convenience. It has already marked its overseas presence in London, Chennai, Male, Hulu-Male and Seychelles, and envisions extending its network further. The Bank currently maintains a foreign correspondent network that consists of over 800 foreign banks and over 100 exchange houses, that has enabled the brand “BOC” to reach anywhere in the world.

World-class technology

Integrating world-class technologies to provide the best-in-class banking service that is suited for the next generation customer, the Bank has brought banking to the finger tips of the customer. The digital transformation of BOC began as early as the early part of 2004, when it upgraded its branch operating network with the latest ICBS system that interconnected the entire branch banking operation into a centralized system, significantly cutting down the operation time and cost. It also marked the beginning of “paperless” operations as most of the procedures and processes were compacted reducing paper usage. The DMS system that came recently is set to completely take over the conventional record keeping, allowing the bank to be more customer-centric. Transforming its systems to evolve further, BOC embarked on a comprehensive digital platform re-launching its Online Banking with added features as Smart Online Banking, mobile banking B-App, re-vamped its card centre operations and launched a concept named “BOC Digi”, a self servicing state-of-the-art banking centre that allows customer 24×7 access to essential banking services via digital devices in a spacious, comfortable and modern environment as different from a mere ATM/ CRM outlet.

With the fundamental strength that was built over the years and adapting to the agile nature of the banking industry with new technology, the Bank of Ceylon has continued to dominate as the No.1 Bank in Sri Lanka. BOC’s structure is sustainable in the longer-run which is developed around a profound vision, mission and a set of corporate values. The assurance the Bank has earned throughout these years is validated by all stakeholders especially all Sri Lankans. As for the Future, the Bank aims to confront future challenges by; developing market leadership, confronting market volatility, channelling and aligning resources to ensure business growth and transforming the banking landscape digitally.

“BOC has always been committed to fulfilling stakeholder interests. We are a Bank that has rendered assistance to the socio-economic development goals of the Sri Lankan Government for eight decades. Over the years, from generation to generation, Bank of Ceylon has seen many individuals, small businesses and many companies make very modest starts and with the Bank’s help to grow from the SME class (i.e., Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) to achieve positions of financial stability and holders of substantial market share. Some have eventually developed into conglomerates and large company groups. We consider ourselves lucky to have seen all these success stories. The Bank of Ceylon is also currently one of the significant contributors to the economy. It has been the highest profit earning single business entity in Sri Lanka for several years and closed 2018 achieving a record of Rs.31.9 billion Profit Before Tax (PBT). With that we take pride in telling that our effort towards development of this country has been fruitful. Empowering youth is a special task the Bank of Ceylon always has had on its agenda. BOC will continue to pose itself as the most relevant and sophisticated bank for the “future customer”, assisting them to fulfil their aspirations by adding value to their lives through providing convenience that will be required at that time” Mr. Ronald C. Perera further added, promising a brighter future for the Bank and all its stakeholders.

Inclusion

Assisting and enabling financial inclusion has been one of Bank of Ceylon’s top priorities from the very beginning – actually since it opened its doors in 1939. By now it has made it easier for customers to carry out their banking activities whenever they want to. The nature of these services is one of the reasons why Bank of Ceylon is the No.1 Banking Brand in the country as the banker to over a half of Sri Lanka’s population and carries over Rs 50 billion as brand value.
BOC has inclusively looked into an advanced and progressive agenda to meet social needs. The assistance was heightened during the post-war period where many projects that were started back then have now reached maturity and many of the Micro segment farmers have risen to become successful SME businesses through agriculture-based production in North and East regions. Going beyond the normal business norms, in 2014 the Bank of Ceylon provided financial assistance to rebuild the Northern Railway station which was inoperative for almost thirty years, as a gesture of bridging the Northern Province with rest of the country.

“It is needless to state what we have become, but I wish to tell the nation that it is the strength of our staff throughout this journey that paved the way towards the pinnacle of success. Beginning with a handful of staff back then we have grown to become a large organization with over 8700 employees as at today. Having a like-minded, dedicated and knowledgeable staff is the best resource we have. It has to be emphasized that many of our digitalization projects were pioneered by the Bank’s own staff” stated the General Manager/CEO Mr. Senarath Bandara. “Operationally we have always been down to earth and have always referred back to our customers to understand what is required of us. It was this insight that enabled us to come up with many concepts such as “Branch on wheels”, SmartZones and BOC Digi in the recent past. By enhancing digital eco-systems via a sophisticated banking platform, the bank has incorporated even the most rural sectors of the economy to take part in economic activities efficiently. They too no longer visit the branch to transfer funds or receive funds from the anywhere within the country but instead comfortably rely on online banking or an off-sight ATM/CDM or CRM. Further we assisted the most essential part of social and environmental commitment by incorporating the “Green Banking” concept to our banking practices in a comprehensive manner. Even though we have been practicing some essential parts of Green Banking we opened our minds to the emerging concept and completely embraced these values and communicated such to all our stakeholders in order to get them aboard this movement” he added. The Bank of Ceylon is on a mission to transform its branches into Green Branches and currently has 41 such branches with the capacity of 1.85 MW connected to the national grid.

With the deep empathetic bonds that BOC has formed with the people, its stands to genuinely address their need to out-grow their shells of socio-economic obstacles and become more economically-able to achieve their goals in life. Geared to celebrate the first century of its existence in 2039 the Bank of Ceylon is determined to continue to spearhead the industry combining its visionary direction together with digital technoloAgy to add value to Sri Lankan lives.

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Japanese Investor confident in Sri Lanka

Japanese Investor confident in Sri Lanka

“In the aftermath of the disruption caused by the tragic events on Easter Morning on
21April 2019, the Board of Investment (BOI) represented by Media and Publicity Director Dilip S. Samarasinghe, spoke to Jitsuo Mikasa, President of Tosslec Co. Ltd, of Kyoto, Japan whose subsidiary Tos Lanka Co. (Pvt) Ltd, has been in operation in the Biyagama Export Processing Zone since 1995.”

 

 

 

Could you please share with us your synergies with the Electronic Manufacturing Services Industry?

In my younger days I was invited to join Japan’s NIDEK which was a reputed global leader in hard disk technology. The President of NIDEK was my personal friend. However due to reasons of a compelling personal nature I was more interested in venturing on my own, and 38 years ago I set up Tosslec Co. Ltd located in the heartland of Kyoto, Japan.

Tosslec which is a medium-scale electronics manufacturing services company, specialises in printed circuit boards (PCBs), was a key player in the domestic supply value chain for electronics manufacturing in Japan, with links to major brand names such as NIDEK, GS Battery, Fuji Denki, Nippon Denso and the Iconic Toyota.

What was your motivation to set up a subsidiary in Sri Lanka?

In view of the continuous escalation of manufacturing costs in Japan, I strategised the need to shift our manufacturing base offshore. China was the first option. However, my decision in 1995 in setting up Tos Lanka in Biyagama was the outcome of my intrinsic affection and attachment to Sri Lanka. First and foremost, I value our common heritage in Buddhism. I have also read with much gratitude the historic role played by the great Statesman President J.R.  Jayewardene and his plea on behalf of Japan at the San Francisco Conference at the end of the war. My decision to invest in Sri Lanka was further strengthened due to the friendship I shared with Merrick Gooneratne, who has done his post graduate studies in Kyoto University, speaks fluent Japanese and who was awarded the Emperor’s Order of the Rising Sun in 2014. He has been my partner for the past 24 years as the CEO of Tos Lanka.

Could you please share with us your synergies with the Electronic Manufacturing Services Industry?

In my younger days I was invited to join Japan’s NIDEK which was a reputed global leader in hard disk technology. The President of NIDEK was my personal friend. However due to reasons of a compelling personal nature I was more interested in venturing on my own, and 38 years ago I set up Tosslec Co. Ltd located in the heartland of Kyoto, Japan.

Tosslec which is a medium-scale electronics manufacturing services company, specialises in printed circuit boards (PCBs), was a key player in the domestic supply value chain for electronics manufacturing in Japan, with links to major brand names such as NIDEK, GS Battery, Fuji Denki, Nippon Denso and the Iconic Toyota.

 How significant is Tosslec today in the Japanese electronics industry vis- a- vis the major brand names in Japan?

Over the years, Tossslec strengthened its position in the Japanese value chain in manufacturing, and through the efforts of a team of young engineers, dedicated to flawless quality and timely delivery, we have established ourselves as a reliable supplier of a multi-faceted range of PCBs for major brands such as NIDEK, GS Battery, Fuji Denki and Nippon Denso. Currently Tosslec runs a continuous manufacturing programme for automotive air conditioning sensors for Toyota.

What was your motivation to set up a subsidiary in Sri Lanka?

In view of the continuous escalation of manufacturing costs in Japan, I strategised the need to shift our manufacturing base offshore. China was the first option. However, my decision in 1995 in setting up Tos Lanka in Biyagama was the outcome of my intrinsic affection and attachment to Sri Lanka. First and foremost, I value our common heritage in Buddhism. I have also read with much gratitude the historic role played by the great Statesman President J.R.  Jayewardene and his plea on behalf of Japan at the San Francisco Conference at the end of the war. My decision to invest in Sri Lanka was further strengthened due to the friendship I shared with Merrick Gooneratne, who has done his post graduate studies in Kyoto University, speaks fluent Japanese and who was awarded the Emperor’s Order of the Rising Sun in 2014. He has been my partner for the past 24 years as the CEO of Tos Lanka.

 What is your overview of Sri Lankan Manufacturing Competence in the background of Tos Lanka’s Operations for nearly 25 years?

I was impressed with the comparatively high level of education, literacy and numeracy skills in Sri Lanka, which facilitate the assembly of a competent workforce. The average Sri Lanka factory operative is diligent, agile, understands instruction, and is capable of meeting the highest quality standards in manufacturing. With the leadership of educated young engineers, specialised in electronic manufacturing skills, my core workers at Tos Lanka have established a niche market position as a supplier of “low volume high value” electronic components to sophisticated markets of Japan, North America and Europe. I recall my visit to Norway and travelling to distant manufacturing sites in Norway promoting Sri Lankan electronics with much success. I have also visited Germany, Finland and Vancouver in Canada and through these visits established a customer network in Germany and Vancouver for low volume high value electronic assemblies including PCBs for multi end users such as bio-medical engineering, surveillance equipment, telecommunications, oil drilling and consumer electronics and of course automotive sector.

Our Products have won the confidence of our buyers for compliance with the highest quality standards backed by mandatory International Certification Procedures.

How would you characterise your Company’s operations in Sri Lanka?

First and foremost, the emphasis at Tos Lanka is on achieving Global Quality Standards. I believe in upgrading human skills. With this in mind I initiated, in 1997, a continuous HRD programme, under which batches of my core workers from Tos Lanka are sent on short term and long term training in manufacturing and quality management techniques in my Japanese Company’s facilities in Kyoto and Nakatsugawa. Under this programme, I am proud to have enhanced Sri Lankan engineering skills by training a workforce of over 300 young men and women over the past 23 years. Most of them continue to work at Tos Lanka up to date and some serving other sectors. I believe that the Japanese work ethic, based on discipline and innovation and out of the box thinking, is relevant to upgrading Sri Lankan Manufacturing to global standards.

Are you diversifying your Company’s activities in Sri Lanka?

We hope to play an important role, by supplying the Set Top Box when Digital TV is introduced to Sri Lanka, hopefully under the Japanese standard. We are also since 2016 working on an electronics solution for moth repellents, to control the loss to Sri Lanka’s Agriculture due to plethora of moths, especially nocturnal moths. Our product is also targeted towards controlling the fall army moth, which was a plague on Sri Lankan Agriculture in the recent past. We are working closely with State Institutions such as Horticultural Crop Research and Development Institute and privately owned organic farms. Already our innovative LED Lamp is being used, successfully, to repel moths on some organic farms concentrating on fruits and vegetables.

Meanwhile we are also strengthening our efficiencies in our ongoing operations related to automotive safety harnessing and air bag assembly, which we pioneered in Sri Lanka in 2002. We are also consolidating our operations in coil assemblies.

What would you perceive to be your other major contributions to Sri Lankan manufacturing?

Under my leadership, Tos Lanka is committed to taking Sri Lankan electronics into its villages and hinterland. With this in view I set up an outsource centre in Mullaitivu, with the assistance of a Swiss NGO. Unfortunately, this could not be sustained due to the reluctance of the youth in that area to work in a manufacturing environment and also the logistics issues involved. We were also involved in employing several displaced youth in the Eastern Province in the aftermath of the war. My CEO, Merrick Gooneratne is dedicated towards National Reconciliation and has always endeavoured to employ a multi-ethnic workforce.

I am happy to note that my outsourcing centres at Kegalle and Mawanella are working successfully. We are now in discussion with a few Entrepreneurs in setting up outsource centres in other parts of Sri Lanka’s hinterland.

 Is your Holding Company in Kyoto, Japan involved in other initiatives?

We are at this time concentrating on developing ultra-fine bubble technology, which is an exciting innovative technology, which opens up innovation for agriculture, food processing, cleaning and medical applications. If this present initiative in Japan works out well, I hope to diversify the activities of Tos Lanka accordingly, as I see much relevance of this technology in Sri Lanka’s growing marine farming Industry.

 What was your reaction to the tragedy and trauma of Easter Morning in 2019?

This happened on the morning after arrival in Sri Lanka on my monthly short-duration visit. I was at golf at the Royal Colombo Golf Club when Merrick Gooneratne phoned me and informed me of this terrorist attack. Of course this is nothing new to me. I maintained my calm and recollected an incident in 1995, when I came to Sri Lanka to sign the agreement with the BOI to commence Tos Lanka operations. The Central Bank had been bombed and the country was in a state of panic. I was undisturbed. Since 1995 we built Tos Lanka and sustained its operations, at the worst times of the war up to achievement of peace on 18th May 2009. I was never discouraged by the many experiences of disaster and disruption during the years of the LTTE conflict. But in the same spirit I remained undeterred by the tragedy of the Easter morning. I reaffirm my commitment to Sri Lanka and to the further progress of my Company in Sri Lanka towards new investment, without any break or disruption of my customer network.

In fact, on 22nd April the day after the bombing, assisted by my CEO Merrick Gooneratne I ensured unimpeded activities of my company. Our attendance was even better than normal. There was hardly any absenteeism. There was no disruption in utilities. The Port and Airport functioned as normal. Movement of our imports and exports functioned perfectly. I noted with satisfaction the excellent response from the BOI Administration in Biyagama to restore normality in the Zone. Security arrangements were strengthened and our workforce attended work without any disruption. A German business delegation which was to have visited on 13th May postponed the visit to another date because of this incident. Beyond that I have no negative outcome from the 21 April incident. My Resident Manager, who is Japanese, continues to be in Sri Lanka leading a normal life. My employees are happy. All systems are working well. The BOI responds to our issues positively. Security is assured. Outsourcing centres work well. Our commitments to all our foreign buyers are on schedule. What is more, all Japanese restaurants are open as usual. The Golf Club is open as usual. To me life is undisrupted in Sri Lanka, and I reiterate my faith in Sri Lanka and plans for Business Expansion.

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MOC on  Colombo’s  ECT

MOC on Colombo’s ECT

Sri Lanka, Japan and India to finalise terms on port development

Representatives of India, Japan and Sri Lanka signed a memorandum of co-operation (MOC) to develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Port, part of the ongoing Colombo Port Expansion Project (CPEP). The ECT is expected to be South Asia’s largest and deepest container terminal.

During his visit to India for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration, President Maithripala Sirisena told Indian media that the MOC agreed to discussions focussing on future usage of the ECT by the three countries and was not a done deal.

Nevertheless, there appears to be far greater consonance on the matter than the President’s words indicate, and Sri Lanka’s Ports Ministry said in a statement that “the three governments will work out details based on the MOC at joint working group meetings, and advance their co-operation towards early commencement of work and operation of the ECT.”

Japan has offered a loan of LKR 500 m at 0.1% interest, repayable over 40 years, with a 10-year grace period, apparently among the best loan terms Sri Lanka has obtained.

Expansion

Colombo only had a sheltered anchorage until the 1870s, when the British developed it as a modern port, with the construction of a breakwater. The government nationalised the port in 1958 and containerisation commenced in 1973. Although capable of handling ships up to 150 metres long, and while dredged regularly, the depth of 12 m proved insufficient for large draught container carriers.

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) proposed the CPEP in 2005 as a solution to increasing cargo traffic demands. It envisaged a 5.14 km main breakwater (plus a 1.65 km secondary breakwater) enclosing an area of 600 ha of 18m depth, allowing nine deep-water alongside berths divided among three 1,200 m terminals. The old harbour, with seven container berths and four feeder berths, would continue to serve smaller carriers of up to 13.5 m draught.

The South terminal, managed by Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), commencing operations in 2013, has 3 berths at 18m deep along its 1,200 m quay. It is complemented by the older, South Asia Gateway terminal (SAGT), managed by a private consortium, which has three berths along its 940m quay, at 15 m depth; and the older, SLPA-managed Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) with two berths along its 660 m quay at 15 m depth, plus two smaller berths at 12 m and 13 m depths. Unfortunately, the JCT’s cranes are over 20 years old, and work below capacity.

The next two phases of the CPEP consist of the ECT and the West Container Terminal (WCT). According to the master plan, the ECT would have a 57 ha container yard with a capacity of 2.4 million TEUs. The business plan proposed that the ECT go into operation by 2017.

Colombo Port is currently the world’s fastest growing container port, and can handle up to 6.5 million TEUs per year. However, further increasing the handling capacity is difficult because of physical constraints at the JCT and SAGT. The three main terminal operators entered into a tripartite agreement in 2018, to operate the CICT, SAGT and JCT as single unit, mainly in respect of container handling, transhipment, ship handling and related activities. This should smoothen the functioning of the Port, but further expansion would be difficult without bringing the ECT into action. The West Container Terminal (WCT) too needs to be commissioned by 2025 at the latest.

Controversial

The SLPA completed the first phase of the ECT, a 440m single-berth quay wall, with a depth of 18 m, in May 2015. The project cost of USD 80 m came from a loan from the Bank of Ceylon. Since then, the development of the ECT has been mired in controversy.

That April the yard had commenced operation with a Chinese vessel unloading cargo using on-board cranes. No cranes or handling equipment were available at the quay because, with the change of government in January, the supply contracts had been cancelled, despite incurring a heavy penalty. In June, Cabinet approved calling tenders for the cranes needed to make the terminal operational.

Had this procedure continued, the ECT could have been operational in 2016, at an estimated outlay of USD 100 m.

However, in February 2016, the Cabinet decide to invite expressions of interest (EOI) for the development of the ECT, including operationalising the existing berth, and the design, construction, financing, and operation of the remaining 800 m of quay, as a join venture.

At the same time, the government selected the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as the USD 400 m project’s transaction adviser, The ADB signed an agreement with the SLPA, to develop the ECT as a public-private partnership (PPP) – with the SLPA owning 51% of equity.

Although bids closed in July 2016, in December the Ports Ministry cancelled the tenders. Matters became even more controversial the following year, with the appointment of a new minister, and an announcement by President Sirisena in August that the SLPA would run the ECT, and not hand it over to any party, because that would lead to the closure of the SLPA within 10 years.

The ADB responded that, if Sri Lanka had no further interest in developing the ECT, the Bank would move away from it. However, it pointed out that the SLPA had already finished evaluating the EOIs, which had not been shortlisted when the project was put on hold.

Transhipment hub

The status of the ECT has been identified as an immediate cause for the breakdown of relations between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe in October last year. While the former wanted to retain it for the SLPA in its entirety, the latter wanted it given to an Indian consortium.

Colombo Port is a transhipment hub for India, which accounts for 70% of its throughput. Hence, Indian companies had submitted EOIs for the ECT. In fact, the government had been looking for an investor from India, to balance the Chinese firm holding the CICT. Japan, another interested party, had participated in the construction and development of the JCT from the 1980s onward.

In August 2018, Cabinet approved a proposal for the SLPA to develop and run the ECT, and lease equipment until such time as it could be procured, for the earliest possible functioning of the terminal. The ECT would not run as a PPP.

Following the resolution of the political crisis, ECT development continued to be a bone of contention between the President and the Prime Minister. In March 2019, Cabinet minister Rauff Hakeem said that “The cold war between the President and the Prime Minister has caused the delay. We should have come to a conclusion by now. Unfortunately, we are yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The political decision making is very crucial and timely. Unfortunately, the debate over who will invest and who will own what terminal is delaying the realisation of Colombo Port’s potential.”

The latest announcement might mean that the deadlock has been broken, through a compromise. The latest proposal is for the SLPA to retain 100% ownership of the ECT, but for operations to be carried out by a joint venture, the Terminal Operation Company. The SLPA will hold a 51% stake in the Terminal Operation Company, while Japan and India will hold the remaining 49%, with the relative share of India and Japan not yet finalised.

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BRI brings  opportunity

BRI brings opportunity

Both China and Sri Lanka can benefit says ZOEC general manager

Following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, China lost some 20% of its jobs in manufacturing, and launched a Keynesian programme of infrastructure investment, fuelled by loans from state banks. This enabled a rapid modernisation of the country, providing the basis for more efficient industrialisation. Modernised manufacturing enterprises could lay off excess labour without concern, since the expanding economy could take up the unemployed workers. A leaner and more efficient manufacturing sector emerged.

Opportunities

In 2013, the Chinese President Xi Jinping extended this concept to economies on China’s trade routes, with the One Belt One Road initiative (OBOR) – later modified to the more inclusive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Under this initiative, China collaborates with countries on the land corridors of the Silk Road Economic Belt (the “Belt”) and on the sea routes of the Maritime Silk Road (the “Road”) to develop the physical infrastructure and improve connectivity. As an essential link in the Maritime Silk Road, Sri Lanka has been a focus for China’s BRI-related activities.

“The BRI brings a lot of opportunities for the countries along the Road,” Says Zhong Wenjia, “and also a lot of opportunities for Chinese companies.” Zhong is the general manager of the engineering department responsible for energy projects in Zhejiang Orient Engineering Company (ZOEC), a Chinese company located in Hangzhou. She has worked as marketing manager for overseas projects, and is in Sri Lanka in connection with energy projects.

“Basically, the purpose is to promote mutual development policies,” she says of the BRI, “to forge infrastructure facilities along the Road and to exchange cultures and also share the finance arrangements along the way. So one of the most important things is infrastructure facilities, which also come with big value. We are lucky because we are in the energy sector and we can be part of it.”

She notes that Sri Lanka’s location, at the hub of the Indian Ocean is very good. Its position in the very centre of the Maritime Silk Road meant that, from ancient times the Chinese government considered it an entrepôt of great importance. The contemporary Chinese leadership also sees it as an important stop on the modern Maritime Silk Road, so many Chinese companies have gravitated towards the island.

ZOEC

ZOEC, a state-owned company which doing international contracts on energy projects, such as like hydroelectric projects, thermal power projects, wind and solar energy projects, transmission lines, substations and so forth, is part of the Zhejiang International Business Group, a 100% provincial state-owned company. The main businesses of the group lie in international trading, finance and securities – insurance companies, banks, and other financial institutions – and pharmaceutical production.

“Under this umbrella,” says Zhong, “we are one of the companies which specialise in energy projects, overseas contracting projects. So far we have achieved more than 100 projects. The turnover of our group company last year was USD 8 bn, ranking 399th in the top 500 Chinese companies.”

Most of the projects carried out by ZOEC are medium sized. In terms of conventional power plant such as hydro-electric and thermal power, this means 5,000 kW to 300 MW, but for solar power it could be less, because the capacity of the majority of solar projects is small. For different projects, the scope of the contract will differ, and the value of the contract may vary accordingly, from only a few million dollars for a consultancy projects to several billion dollars for all-inclusive projects.

“For our company, the projects are all in overseas markets, but we have a production base in our city in China as well, which produces turbines, generators, valves, pumps; and their market is half-and-half: 50% share in the Chinese market and 50% share in overseas markets. For hydro power we have our own production base, so it is our own product, but we have a lot of projects, so we have to outsource many parts. However, we usually look for top-level products because it is the most important thing is to build successful projects by providing the best-quality equipment and service, so we always want to co-operate with such suppliers.”

Advantages

Because ZOEC has its own manufacturing base, it has considerable flexibility and can offer very competitive price levels, service levels, quality and also delivery time, which is very important for projects. Since it is a subsidiary of the Zhejiang International Business Group, it can boast a stable financial situation, and shares in the advantage of being a state-owned company, and receives considerable government support. It also has an advantage in being based in Hangzhou.

“Our province, Zhejiang Province,” Zhong explains, “is a small province, but its GDP value is the fourth out of the 34 provinces in China. So we are basically in the area where the economy is very good. The people there are very hard-working. The business location is good, it is a coastal area, close to Shanghai.”

The team is a very important factor in carrying out international projects, and especially for Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) it is vital to have an experienced contracting team. Operations management for services are also of great importance, because when doing a project, it is very important for the customers to get services on time, especially after they are put into operation, because every minute counts for profitability.

“We have a lot of expertise on that,” she says, “which is our biggest legacy of the company. We have built our own team worldwide, just in case we may need their service at any time.

We also have considerable flexibility in business models. We are evolving projects according to different models, for example, EPC, EPC plus finance, and sometimes BOT: it depends on the customer’s requirement. We have a custom-made model. Whatever they want, we can co-operate. We have a pragmatic business philosophy.
We value honesty very much,
doing business. Business is business, but the most important thing is that you must be honest in order
to be trusted by your clients, by your customers. So this is one of
the most important company values.”

Not afraid of terrorism

Why does Zhong persist in doing business with Sri Lanka, even after the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks?

“I was here around the 10th of April, to do the marketing survey, and that was my first time in Sri Lanka. The minute I got here, I feel in love with Sri Lanka, mainly because of its nice people and nice weather.  I have travelled to a lot of places, but Sri Lanka is one of my favourites.”

Just a few days after her return to China, the terrorist attack occurred, which made her very sad. Although she is not politically involved, she believes that this manner of atrocity, “ a sinful crime which they should never have committed,” must be supported by evil people, attempting to create religious conflicts. She is emphatic in her support for the Sri Lankan people in their hour of need.

“I think it is not fair that such kinds of situation happened here to this peaceful country, with its peaceful common people. I want to express my support to my friends and partners here, so I came right away, as soon as I had the chance – also to show that I am with the Sri Lankan people, that I am not afraid of these terrorists. The government has taken very quick action, so nowadays security is more serious than before. Everything is good.”

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Crisis Management

Crisis Management

A comprehensive plan for action

In the complex and highly globalised world in which we live, external factors that affect individuals, communities, enterprises and even nations occur on a daily basis. These may impact in a damaging way, in the long term.

Hence it is of paramount importance to ensure that these incidents, which could be called “crises”, are handled in a careful and timely manner to negate or minimise extensive economic damage or, in extreme cases, the loss of lives.

A clear understanding of international relations and global economics is a must to be able to provide the correct responses when dealing with such contingencies. In the past, different types of authorities have dealt with crises, giving birth to a new type of specialised area known as “crisis management”.

Ongoing Crisis

Crisis Management has identified and catalogued problems under various categories, including Acts of God, which are essentially natural disasters or technological problems such as the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents; confrontations, including demonstrations and riots; malevolence, covering deliberate acts of sabotage such as the 1982 Thylenol tampering in Chicago; organisational misdeeds; the spreading of rumours and finally acts of terrorism.

The nature of the ongoing crisis that Sri Lanka is facing would, essentially, fall under the acts of terrorism category, but may be expanded to include confrontation, malevolence and spreading of false rumours.

To counter these hostile actions, it is important to set in place a comprehensive crisis management mechanism that is capable of dealing and managing such a situation.

There are several elements that need to be taken into account.  The first is undoubtedly signal detection.  By signal detection this writer is referring to the need to identify a problem long before it actually takes place. A crisis takes an organic form and should, ideally, be detected early and resolved as soon as there are indicators that point towards a looming danger.

Second phase

The second phase in this writer’s opinion is the need to implement a mechanism that will result in increased preparedness and prevention. The institution in question, in this instance the state should prepare for the worst-case scenario. Since the crisis assumes an organic form, every effort needs to be made to prevent it from escalating.

Some organisations, such as the Red Cross, have understood this well and are well geared to manage crises at different stages of their progression.

The containment phase of a crisis is therefore of vital importance. This is essentially dealing with the subject of damage control.  From its initial meaning, covering the prevention of damage to human lives, buildings and infrastructure, damage control has been extended to encompass financial losses caused essentially by reputational damage and loss of confidence.  Containment is now increasingly about countering negative publicity.

Recovery

The next important stage of crisis management is business recovery, and States and other organisations should, even while there is an ongoing crisis, never stop thinking about how to put the state back on track and implement all the necessary measures to get back to business.

While this may be very difficult at an early stage, given that resources, both human and material, are used to fighting the crisis, the importance of the business recovery stage needs to be underscored. It is essential for the State to show that it has not been floored, and that it has by and large successfully managed the crisis.

Many crises can be very unpleasant and indeed tragic experiences, which the affected states would like to forget and put behind them. But this may well be the wrong approach and, ironically and to a large extent paradoxically, the challenges may prove to be valuable lessons on how best to respond in the most trying of circumstances. Hence the need to see the crisis as a learning experience. A country that has faced such a challenge is indeed a stronger country and it will be better prepared in the future.

Communications

A key element to the management of any crisis is the communications angle of it.  It is vital that the messages that the state wants sent out should reach all levels of society.  The communication strategy should target all stakeholder in society including, on the one hand, the political, economic and intellectual elite of a country and on the other the masses which constitute the average people and the majority For such a crisis to be effectively managed on the Communications front, the messages should be clear, consistent, credible and regular. Media organisations play an important role in communicating the right messages. These are some points that can be considered in crisis management.  They are applicable for a country such Sri Lanka, which has faced challenges both manmade and natural disasters in the past but has shown remarkable resilience and maturity in managing crises.

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Getting back in shape

Getting back in shape

Ruwan Ratnayake thinks that he has a solution

Between 2008 and 2018, tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka quadrupled. The biggest increase was seen among Asians (more than 450 %) followed by Europeans (more than 330 %). Indeed, the preponderance of these two nationalities among the arrivals to Sri Lanka was seen in the final count of the dead from last month’s Easter Sunday attacks as well: among those killed were one Dutch, one Portuguese, three Indians, three Britons, two Turks, and one Japanese.The biggest impact on the tourist sector over the last decade was, of course, the end of the war. Ever since the government recognised it as a formal sector in the’ 60s, tourism in Sri Lanka has been marred by a conspicuous lack of consistency, as seen in the incapability to stick to one specific promotional slogan. The war, for a brief period at least, pushed officials to prioritise the streamlining of the industry to try to get in much needed foreign exchange, at a time when garment exports and remittances from expatriates were dwindling. Their efforts eventually paid off when tourism became the third highest contributor to GDP.

Flaws

It was therefore to be expected that with the cessation of hostilities in 2009 the industry should record exponential growth at rates unparalleled in not just the country, but the region and indeed the world as well. From 2009 to 2010, tourist arrivals almost doubled to 654,476; three years later it doubled again to more than 1.2 million. Average annual revenue growth was reported to be more than 40 % from 2009, and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) recorded the country’s 31 % arrival growth rate between 2010 and 2011 as the world’s highest. By 2014 the rate had stabilised at 26.7 %, four times greater than the Asia-Pacific average. To get a sense of proportion, consider that the equivalent figure for Bali was 14.94 % and for India 5.9 %.

Assessments made of the sector during this period revealed what the numbers quite obviously pointed out: that the tourism boom was due more to the end of the war than anything else. In other words, as Verité Research put it in 2014, what got us here in the post-war boom was not going to help us get there to the then government’s ambitious target of 2.5 million arrivals. Hotels sprang up in every corner, but so did shady motels, and the result was a conflict between growth in tourist arrivals and also in assault cases. It didn’t help that politicians were involved in many of those cases, or that “tourist police” turned puritan and imposed their notions of cultural correctness on the same people who had contributed to the hike in the sector.

The Easter Sunday bombings, in that sense, revealed the flaws at the centre of the government’s ambitious plans for tourism. The plan had been rationalised in terms of horizontal growth: more hotel rooms, more employee training programs for hotels, more concessionary rates for tourists. What the industry lacked, in other words, was a globally competitive edge: when the same things were being advertised to the world (despite a change of approach in the #SoSriLanka campaign) there was nothing much to expect other than the saturation of the industry.

Given this gloomy picture of tourism and the added woes of the Easter attacks, what would be an ideal way out for the sector?

Recovery

With a track record of 15 years in the industry, Ruwan Ratnayake, the man behind Beyond Escapes and Leopard Nest, thinks he can offer a solution. “Tourism is a sensitive sector. That it survived the 30-year war speaks volumes about its capacity to withstand, but what you’ve got to understand is that never, in the history of that conflict, were our hotels targeted like they were in India. This is the first attack after 10 years, and any analysis of why it happened must start from the premise that officials did not take necessary precautions.” However, Ruwan added that the shortcomings of the State have been compensated for by the diligence of the armed forces: “The support of the Army has been significant to us all. In fact, it is because of them that affected hotels were able to open with a fortnight of their closure.”

The effects, of course, will be there for a long time. “Normally it takes 13 months, a little over a year, for the sector to recover from an attack like this. Mind you, recovery is not impossible. There was a time when Indonesia was a witness to massive frequent hotel bombings: take the 2002 attacks on Bali. But in each case the government responded firmly and swiftly and put down the possibility for further attacks. Concurrently, it partnered up with various organisations to promote the country’s image.”

Indeed, the response of the Indonesian government was quick. With catchy slogans like Bali for the World and a series of heavily publicised memorial services for those killed in the attacks, the country made a rapid comeback despite the Marriot Hotel bombing less than a year later in Jakarta. However, Indonesia was a part of the global war against terrorism; in other words, unlike here, radicalism had been domesticated there in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Provided that Sri Lanka puts down the possibility of such domestication, the Easter bombings will turn out to be a one-off tragedy that, tragically, could have been avoided.

So what can we expect in this 13-month recovery period? “I believe around 70 % of all bookings in the country have been cancelled so far,” Ratnayake told us. “The numbers are a little hazy, but we can certainly expect massive cancellations in the coming few weeks. In any case, from late April to mid May we have a slump in tourist arrivals; it begins to pick up again towards December. What we get in this intermittent period are clients who prefer to cut down on costs. However, that is not to say that it will be beds and roses once this period is over.”

Safer destination

With net hotel bookings dropping by “a staggering” 186 % (according to travel consultancy ForwardKeys), there will certainly be more cancellations than bookings, though Ratnayake tells us that “the rate of cancellations has dropped in the last two weeks.” The solution, according to him, would be to provide a relief package for the industry, which is indeed what’s happening: the government has reduced the VAT on registered hotels and tourist operators from 15 % to 5 %, and has allocated more than LKR 1.5 bn under the Enterprise Sri Lanka program to help them meet debt obligations. All these measures must be implemented alongside stronger security measures, though: “We cannot afford another Easter 2019. We are a small country.” In a way that Indonesia is not, he might have added.

There have been countries, even in the West, which have faced attacks on hotels more frequently than us, a point that Ratnayake quickly moved to. To be sure, over the last few years the death toll from ISIS-related attacks in India has been much lower than the toll from the Easter attacks, which points at the blatant inability of the government to prepare for this tragedy, but then again such attacks have never happened before; even with the carnage, Sri Lanka thus still remains a safer tourist destination than many of its neighbours in the subcontinent.

What it needs to do now is to oil its intelligence units and resort to foreign influencers (among other creative methods) to promote the image of the country. In opting for such influencers, the sector has expressed its willingness to get through what happened; Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Kishu Gomes admitted as much when he stated that, if no other attack occurs, the sector will “bounce back to its growth momentum” within a year.

In any case, while tourist arrivals are set to face a slump, there will not be any toning down or cancellation of the usual cultural events like the Perahera. “We will have less people this year for events like the Perahera. Our priority must be to ensure the security of them all.” In addition, Ratnayake sees in the much hyped Cultural Triangle – Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy – the potential for a resurgence. “None of these places was targeted by the radicals. We need to promote them. The private sector has a role to play: provide more tours, at attractive rates.” At a time when Pasikudah, Mirissa, and Arugam Bay will see a reduction in arrivals, in other words, the Triangle might well be a salvation for the sector, and with it the country too.

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