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Radical reforms in the financial system will be discussed at a conference of key state and private sector representatives this week as part of the government's efforts to deregulate and liberalise the economy to enable the country to compete more effectively with other economies.
It is coordinated by the Sri Lanka Association of Investment Analysts and arranged by the Committee on Financial Reforms, Advisory Council for Industry of the Ministry of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy and Investment Promotion with the support of the International Monetary Fund.
The conference, to be held on March 18-20, is the outcome of discussions between the government and the business community which highlighted the need for drastic changes to the existing financial regulatory system and strong political will to pursue reforms, the ministry said.
The inertia in going ahead with reforms "may have stemmed from the lack of strong guidance for the public sector in reform issues," a statement said.
"With this in mind, the Sri Lanka business community has decided to host a groundbreaking conference on reforming the financial sector," it said. "The International Monetary Fund has acted as a catalyst to bring together a forum on financial sector reform."
The sponsorship of this event is an indication of the "firm commitment" from all quarters of the financial community to take part in this effort, the statement said.
A group of top speakers including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (keynote address on "Taking ownership of financial reform in Sri Lanka") would be making presentations at the three-day conference.
They are - Michael Mack, chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission, Dr. Nadeem Ul Haque, IMF resident representative, Arjuna Mahendran, chairman, BOI, Dr. N.I. Wikramanayake, president, Small Investors' Association, Sanjay Kulatunga, financial consultant, Broadmark Asset Management Ltd., USA, Nirosh de Silva, fund manager, Ayojana, S.N. Senaratne, chartered insurance broker, G. Ramanan, senior manager, HNB/HNB Securities, Ranjit Fernando, secretary, Ministry of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy and Investment Promotion and Constitutional Affairs, Rienzie Wijetilleke, CEO, Hatton National Bank, Mangala Boyagoda, Deputy CEO, Standard Chartered Grindlays, Dr. Dayanath Jayasuriya, director general, Securities and Exchange Commission, Kapila Jayawardena, CEO, Citibank, Sarath Wikramanayake, CEO, Union Assurance, Manjula de Silva, Eagle Insurance, Asanga Seneviratne, Director, Asia Capital, Murthaza Jafferjee, MD, JB Securities, Nihal Fonseka, CEO, DFCC Bank, Mano Tittawella, deputy chairman, Ceylinco International Investments (Pvt) Ltd and Ariththa Wikramanayake, Nithya Partners.
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Reference our story headlined "Central Bank eases foreign exchange controls" published last Sunday, the Controller of Exchange H.A.G. Hettiarachchi has said he has been incorrectly quoted on some issues.
The amount of Sri Lankan currency a Sri Lankan travelling abroad can take has been increased to Rs. 5,000 from Rs. 1,000, he said. This is to meet immediate expenses, such as taxi fares, connected with his or her return, and not $5,000 from $1,000 as reported.
With regard to foreign exchange that can be retained by people returning from overseas travel, a Sri Lankan travelling abroad would be allowed to retain unused foreign currency up to the equivalent value of US$2,000 of which currency notes should not be more than $500, Hettiarachchi said. At present, all unused foreign exchange has to be sold to a commercial bank.
He said that a Foreign Exchange Management Act has only been proposed, and not drafted, to replace the existing Exchange Control Act.
The Butani group of companies, under the harmonisation scheme of equating BOI and non-BOI firms, is the first to be given BOI status.
This status was given during a meeting at the BOI office where Arjuna Mahendran, chairman/director general of the BOI (second from right in picture) handed over the agreement to Butani group managing director Kishin Butani with Butani chairman Prakash Butani (second from left) and Butani General Manager Hassan Sinhawansa also being present.
The Butani group, a 100 percent export oriented company, recently achieved ISO 9002 status (RVA) EEC (UKAS) UK and now has BOI status. There are three companies in the group - Butani Exports Ltd in Colombo, PMK Garment (Pvt) Ltd and INATUB Garment (Pvt) Ltd, both in Giriulla in the north-western province. Apart from the three factories, which all provide hostel facilities for its machine operators, the group has opened a training centre at Lunugamvehera, Tangalle and is in the process of opening others in areas such as Dambulla and Kurunegala.
"The success of the Butani group has been the management's constant concern for the welfare of the staff at all levels. The group is now in the process of expanding its factories for space to enable its operators to work in a relaxed environment," a company statement said.
The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) has revised its holidays to synchronise with bank holidays.
The CSE earlier followed guidelines issued by the Employers' Federation of Ceylon (EFC) in determining the holidays for the exchange. "However, this led to certain settlement problems in instances where trading takes place on bank holidays and vice-versa. Settlement dates in respect of trades hence can fall on bank holidays creating settlement problems," a CSE statement said.
To overcome the problem, the CSE has brought its holidays - as far as possible - in line with bank holidays.
The Kapila Group, following a recent meeting of its directors, has decided to implement an Employees' Share Ownership Plan for its permanent staff and those employed on contract.
A company statement said ten percent of the issued share capital would be purchased at Rs. 15 per share in the market to participants, who are expected to fund 20 percent of the purchase consideration. The balance 80 percent would be funded by the company in the form of a soft loan at a low interest rate repayable over a period of five years.
"This scheme is expected to come into effect immediately after the details of its operation have been finalised," last week's statement said.