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23rd January 2000

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Economics key for U.S.-India ties says Summers

NEW DELHI, (Reuters) - Economic issues will be high on U.S. President Bill Clinton's agenda when he visits India in a bid to strengthen ties between the world's two biggest democracies, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said on Tuesday.

"I do expect the president to visit India in the next several months and I expect economic issues to be an important part of the dialogue," Summers told reporters after meeting Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha.

Clinton's planned visit to India will be the first by a U.S. president since Jimmy Carter came here more than 20 years ago.Summers said he had brought a letter from Clinton to

Vajpayee "making clear that the set of issues around the economy and India's economic potential was something very important to him". But any hopes among Indian officials that Summers announce Washington's withdrawal of remaining economic sanctions, introduced after India conducted nuclear tests in 1998, proved premature.Summers said his day-long meetings had highlighted a good spirit of cooperation between the United States and India, but added he had nothing specific to say about the sanctions. Sinha said the sanctions had been discussed with Summers, whose three-day visit to India is part of a week-long tour through Asia that will also take him to Indonesia and Japan. "We have discussed some issues of bilateral importance and have agreed that over the next few weeks or months, we will take concrete steps to strengthen the U.S-India relationship," Sinha said.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh was due to hold a tenth round of talks on nuclear non-proliferation with Washington's Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in London later on Tuesday. Summers said the issue had not come up during his own set of meetings in New Delhi. No date has yet been announced for Clinton's trip, and officials say the visit still depends on how much progress the two sides make in their nuclear dialogue. Indo-U.S. relations have also been overshadowed by continuing disagreements over trade and Washington's insistence that India, along with much of the rest of the developing world, should subscribe to tougher labour standards as a precondition for greater market access in industrial countries Summers' talks on Tuesday appeared to have broken little new ground on that topic. "We came to understand each other's positions better. It was a very useful discussion," he said, declining to go into any details. Summers was due to visit India's software capital Bangalore on Wednesday before travelling to Indonesia, where he was scheduled to meet President Abdurrahman Wahid and his economic team. He will arrive in Jakarta just before Indonesia is expected to unveil its next budget and a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which should herald the resumption of desperately needed foreign loans. Summers' visit to Indonesia comes after a wave of anti-Christian riots hit the tourist island of Lombok on Monday.

The latest religious violence to hit the troubled country rattled local financial markets on Tuesday, weakening the rupiah and checking the gains on Indonesia's stock market. Indonesia was the second major Asian economy to turn to the IMF for help, winning a $42 billion international rescue deal including some $10 billion from the IMF in November 1997.


B'desh hope for more joint business

More companies are expected to set up shop in Bangladesh following the visit of a Bangladeshi delegation last week.

The President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Abdul Awal Mintoo said that they were looking at companies operating in construction and finance in addition to others to start operations in Bangladesh on their own or as joint ventures.

He said that this was a part of their strategy to improve trade between the two countries. He said that there was a lot of potential in Bangladesh for more business concerns. Companies like Vanik Inc. have already entered the Bangladeshi market and made a mark for themselves.

Mr. Mintoo also said that the delegation was keen on entering into a free trade agreement (FTA) similar to the one which India and Sri Lanka is working on right now.

He said that his team would put forward the proposal to the Bangladeshi government once the Indo-Sri Lanka FTA was finalised.

Mr. Mintoo said that trade between the two countries was US$ 11 million at present, but had dropped drastically from record levels and that they were looking at rejuvenating the industry to go back to the old levels.

The delegation was here following a visit by a Sri Lankan delegation to Bangladesh led by Prof. G.L. Pieris last year.

Officials said that this was the beginning of a series of visits officials of both countries had planned for. The next Sri Lankan delegation is set to leave for Bangladesh in March while another Bangladeshi delegation is expected to visit Sri Lanka in August.


Bank of France savours times past at 200

PARIS, (Reuters) - Born from the ashes of revolution, the Bank of France celebrates its 200th birthday on Tuesday with a toast to its founder Napoleon and a touch of nostalgia for an era being swept away by Europe's single currency.

The bank, whose power to print money and set interest rates once had governments quavering, survived two centuries of war and upheaval to become the trusted guardian of the French franc.

But it will lose its original job of printing francs in 2002 when euro banknotes take over and it ceded its right to set interest rates to the Frankfurt-based European Central Bank when the euro was launched in 1999.

Created by Napoleon on January 18, 1800, the Bank of France is one of Europe's oldest central banks after those of England and Sweden. It could have been even older but for the excessive ambition of a banker of Scottish origin, John Law, who was granted rights to print banknotes in France nearly a century earlier. The initial success of Law's adventure in 1716 went to his head and he furiously printed bank bills to fund an expanding land and mining empire, only to find he could no longer honour the bills he issued when his empire collapsed.

Law fled the country amid riots and it took another failed attempt by the Revolutionary Government in 1789 before the lesson sank home. Napoleon, who hoped to pull France out of post-revolutionary recession, started up the bank as a joint stock firm.

He made it independent of government interference so that it would be solid enough to rebuild public trust in paper money, while printing banknotes to oil the wheels of trade and commerce and get the country moving again. At the outset its banknote activity was limited to Paris and it took decades before to win wider, exclusive rights to print money which other governments had to accept as legal tender. One of the fundamental tasks of modern central banks was bestowed on the Bank of France only in 1927 authorisation to intervene in foreign exchange markets to stabilise the currency.

Nationalisation followed World War Two, and then a series of devaluations which once again left French people wondering about the value of their French franc banknotes.

Then in the early 1980s, the Napoleonic view of a solid currency to give France economic clout came back into fashion under the late president Francois Mitterrand, who vowed to marry the franc to the powerful German mark in a single European currency. That meant jacking up interest rates to keep the franc on a par with the mark, sometimes putting the bank in the firing line of governments aghast at the fallout on economic growth and rising unemployment among their electorate. Its governors earned the nickname of the Ayatollahs of the strong franc for their commitment to defending the currency, raising interest rates even in the face of recession.

But at least for Bank of France chief Jean-Claude Trichet, the policy was vindicated, with a move first to fully-fledged independence in 1993, the creation of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt in 1998, and the euro's launch in January 1999.

It is the launch of the euro itself that is forcing the bank to fend off criticism that it no longer needs its 16,000 staff, from cheque cashiers to currency traders, nor its nine-member Monetary Policy Council of highly paid monetary gurus. The sumptuous headquarters bought from the Count of Toulouse in Paris in 1808, with its Fragonard paintings and gilded halls, only serve to highlight its roots in the past. Business magazine Capital recently accused the central bank of living the high life at a huge cost for an institution which "no longer plays the role of a central bank". Trichet is struggling to halve the cost of the notes printed by the Bank of France and shake the habits of an old monopoly on French francs which ends when the euro takes over.


U.S. tires of leading world economy alone

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - The United States is tired of being the world's economic locomotive and both Japan and Europe's economies must pick up some of the slack, U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said on Friday.

Setting out his agenda for a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the world's major economies next week in Tokyo, Summers said Europe and Japan should take a lesson from the booming U.S. economy and work on boosting their own growth rates to levels hitherto thought unattainable.

"Governments, workers and businesses in Europe and Japan are increasingly recognising that they do not have to limit themselves to the hope that growth will return to traditional estimates of potential," he siad.

Summers, repeating long-standing criticism of Japan's rigid economic system, said the world's No. 2 economy needed to increase efforts to deregulate and open up its vast markets.

But he made clear there were limits to Japan's ability to spend its way to a lasting economic recovery, and that it was up to monetary policy to make sure recession does not return.

"Over the medium term, Japan faces important fiscal challenges and going forward, there may be increasing limits on the role for fiscal policy as the major source of domestic stimulus," he said.

"But...the greatest threat to the economy's long-term fiscal health would be allowing the economy to slip once again into recession.

This makes it all the more important that the overall macroeconomic stance continue to be accommodative as growth becomes more firmly established," he added.

Washington, along with the rest of the Group of Seven (G7) major industrial nations, has urged Tokyo to keep its monetary policy stance extremely lax to help the economy emerge from years of decline.

They are expected to ask Japan's central bank once again to stick to that commitment at next week's meeting.

But that was not enough, Summers said. Japan also had to continue working on cleaning up its debt-ridden banking sector, making sure that bad loans are disposed of quickly and efficiently, and unsound institutions shut down promptly.


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Gateway opens its eighth branch in Nugegoda

Encouraged by a 300% growth in the year 1999, Gateway Kids School of Computing will open its eighth branch in Nugegoda. As an organisation which is less than 3 years old, Gateway has recorded an excellent growth as the student population has now reached 3000. Gateway currently operates 4 branches in Colombo and one each in Kandy, Negombo and Kurunegala. Mr. R.I.T Alles, Chairman, Gateway believes that his organisation is making a significant contribution to the youth of this country by providing them the opportunity of being second to none in Information Technology. He is of the opinion that IT will be as important as reading and writing in the new millennium.

Gateway, has also the distinction of franchising its educational programme to a neighbouring country. The programme has been well accepted in Bangladesh where it was introduced last month. In less than a month one hundred and fifty students have joined the programme and the local investors are now making preparation to launch a second centre.

Gateway provides training through the "Kids School of Computing" to kids of 4 to 14 years and through the "Centre For Information Technology" (CFIT) to school leavers and adults. Training offered at CFIT includes courses in Office Applications, Visual Programming, Desktop Publishing and Computer Aided Designing. CFIT courses offered at all Kids centres on weekday mornings and weekends.

The kids training programme at Gateway is based on the British National Curriculum for Information and Communication Technology. Gateway is the only organisation in South Asia which is approved by the International Curriculum and Assessment Agency (ICAA). This approval and affiliation enables Gateway to offer the Primary and Secondary Information Technology Certificate of Competence (ITCC) schemes to its students. These schemes are currently offered in more than 2000 centres in the world in countries such as the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

The training at the Kids Schools is structured into 3 Key Stages: Key Stage1 (5 to 7 years), Key Stage 2 (7 to 11 years) and Key Stage 3 (11 to 14 years). Students receive certificates endorsed by the University of Southampton at the end of each Key Stage. Each Key Stage consists of several modules and at the end of each, successfully completed module, students receive certificates from the ICAA.


HNB donates library to orphanage

Hatton National Bank has donated a library to the Pamunuwa Shri Sucharithodaya.

Chief Guest at the presentation ceremony was HNB MD, Mr. R. T. Wijethilake.

Hatton National Bank has been helping this orphanage for the last two years by way of opening Singithi Savings Accounts for small children and making cash contributions to these accounts.

Celebrations included a magic show, distribution of toys, sweets, individual gifts and refreshments.


A new range of soaps from "The Heart of Nature"

Sri Lankan women who favour the benefits of skin care products made from natural plants now have a new range of toilet soaps from the "heart of Nature". The new soaps are the latest additions to the Naturalle range of skin care products marketed by Hemas, the media release said.

The Naturelle Cream Soap range was formally launched at the "Hotel Tree of Life" at Yahalatenna, Kandy, on January 8.

This location was specially selected because of its natural, scenic setting and abundance of plants and trees which best correspond with the brand image.

Naturelle Cream Soap comes in 3 variants : Aloe Vera, Kohomba and Sandalwood.


Debug wins award from MGE UPS Systems

A world leader in total power protection, MGE UPS Systems has honoured Debug Computer Peripherals, its authorised distributor in Sri Lanka for MGE UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) with an award for the best achiever and the global performer in marketing MGE UPS Systems for 1998/99. The award for the "Top Distributor for Southern Asia and Pacific Area" was presented by MGE UPS Systems France to Debug for building up the brand image and the market for the full range of UPS Systems in Sri Lanka since the company's appointment as authorised distributor three years ago, a news release says.

Also in contention for the award were distributors from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Debug, a market leader in Sri Lanka for UPS Systems from 220 VA to 800 KVA, also has MGE trained engineers who provide after sales service for the systems sold by the company. MGE UPS Systems is the worldwide UPS leader for computer and industrial protection. Established in 1964, the company's turnover during the 1998/99 financial year was US $ 515 million, a growth of over 30 per cent from the previous year. The company has four production sites in France, USA and China and employees over 2500 personnel in the factories.


Fast Graphics introduces new printing system

Fast Graphics has for the first time used a six colour printing system (hexachrome) to print the company's calendar this year, a company press release said.

Hexachrome (SIX colour printing) was introduced as the most advanced innovation by printing technologists in overcoming the loss in transfer from primary to secondary colours. Four colour technology is usualy used in printing and this results in the loss of some colours in the process of transfer of primary colours to secondary colours.

Copies of Fast Graphics calendars are being issued to all printing companies, advertising agencies, publication companies and media institutions.


Bodyline tops National Productivity Awards

Bodyline (Private) Limited has won the prestigious National Productivity Award organized by the National Institute of Business Management in collaboration with the Ministry of Industrial Development.

The company which won in the large scale sector, had an annual turnover in excess of 3 billion rupees for the financial year 98/99, Bodyline has surpassed industrial giants such as Ceylon Tobacco Company who are the runners-up.

Incorporated in 1992 Bodyline (Private) Limited, a BOI approved joint venture between MAST Industries Inc. USA, Triumph International Germany & MAS Holdings Sri Lanka started its humble beginnings with a floor area of 12,910 sq. ft. and has now grown to a company with a capital investment of over 1 billion rupees, a capacity of 10 million pieces per year and 3,500 employees all housed under one roof, a company release said.

Bodyline makes ladies foundation apparel for world renowned brand names such as Victoria's Secret, Triumph, Jockey & Lane Bryant and 95% of production is exported to the USA. Moving on, Bodyline is in the process of setting-up a satellite unit in Pimbura, Matugama on which it is planning to invest 500 million rupees and this plant would generate employment to another 1,000 persons in the area.

Bodyline which believes that its people are the most important asset of the company, is one of the few organizations which invests in personnel development and employee welfare and as our CEO Mr. Dave Ranasinghe says, it is evident that happy people make good products, the news release added.

The mission of the National Productivity Movement is to facilitate the improvement of productivity levels of Sri Lankan organizations to be in par with internationally acceptable benchmarks.


Studio Seven Arts Colour Labs win award

Kodak, announced that Mr. Rohan Gamage owner Studio Seven Arts Colour Labs, has won the Kodak Express Award for Excellence, in 1999. Mr. Jagath De Silva of Sirisara Colour Lab won the first runner-up award and Mr. Kamal Welarathne of Malsha Colour Lab, Ja-Ela was declared the second runner-up.

The Kodak Express Excellence programme was introduced to ensure that all Kodak Express Stores maintain the highest quality services as per Kodak's stringent international standards. All Kodak Express Stores are monitored regularly to ensure that the printing and development facilities, and customer service conform to Kodak's benchmarks. The awards are also given for the lab owner's entrepreneurship and innovation to ensure better turnover, a news release said. Kodak is marketed in Sri Lanka through its local business partner Millers Ltd.

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