20th May 2001
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Employment boost for the disabled

Taking a cue from employer efforts in the United Kingdom and with the assistance of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) has taken the initiative to set up an Employers’ Forum on Disability.

The forum is designed to promote employment opportunities for the disabled. In 1999, on the invitation of the ILO, Mrs. Meghamali Aluwihare, a Senior Industrial Relations Advisor of the EFC and Mr. Anver Dole of CEI Plastics Ltd., proceeded on a study tour to the UK to assess the feasibility of setting up an Employers’ Network on Disability on the same lines as the UK Forum. The study tour led to the setting up of a steering committee with representation of 15 leading member Companies of the EFC in the plantation, hotel, banking and manufacturing sectors.

The steering committee has laid the ground work by way of an introductory measure, to develop an awareness raising campaign to dispel negative attitudes regarding employment of disabled persons and instead create a positive environment among employers for the recruitment of disabled persons and also expand employment opportunities for them.

An awareness building workshop, which is due to come up with a follow-up action plan, has been fixed for Friday, May 25, 2001 at the Galadari Hotel Colombo. The resource persons for this workshop include senior specialists from the ILO on vocational rehabilitation, the Chief Executive Officer of the UK Employers’ Forum on Disability, Mrs. Susan Scott Parker and Dr. Narme Wickremasinghe, President of the Ranaviru Seva Authority of Sri Lanka.

The support of the Ministry of Social Services for the efforts of the employers has been very positive and the participation of ministry officials and NGO’s among employer representatives is expected at the workshop. The Director-General of the EFC, Mr. Gotabaya Dasanayake said that this project is a further reflection of the commitment of the EFC and its members towards social responsibility in the broader interest of balanced socio-economic development.

He said that the EFC looks forward to the practical contribution it could make by being a link between the business community and different government and non-governmental organisations for the benefit of the disabled in not only securing employment but the provision of access to forms of vocational training.

With the current projections indicating an ageing population for Sri Lanka and the increase in the number of disabled due to the current war situation, the issues expected to be tackled by this employers network, he said is all the more significant today.

Fund management entity launched

Nextventures Ltd., a venture capital fund management company and a fully-owned subsidiary of the People’s Bank, was launched recently in Colombo.

The company will be the new face of the People’s Venture Investment Company (PVIC), which has made a name for itself as an aggressive player in the local venture capital industry. Under the new agreement with PVIC, Nextventures will manage the PVIC fund with the aim of raising its value in the next five years.

PVIC was incorporated in 1992 by the People’s Bank, which broadbased the equity capital by bringing in the National Insurance Corporation Ltd (NICL) as a significant shareholder in 1996.

It has carried out a strategic planning exercise to determine its future direction to the next level as a venture capital fund.

Effective April 1, 2001 the entire management team and support staff of PVIC became employees of Nextventures. A Nextventures statement said that under the agreement, PVIC has effectively transformed itself from an open-ended fund to a “close-ended” fund which is a significantly more advantageous position for the People’s Bank and NICL from an investor standpoint, whilst conforming to internationally accepted norms of venture capital methodology.

Nextventures will also have the freedom to engage in mobilising and managing funds from other investors under separate agreements.

The statement said the additional funds raised would not dilute the stake of the two original investors.

Nextventures is a suitable concept for the present-day market fluctuation and also a successful technological initiative for the modern day despite the technological advancement.

Hayleys profits swing upwards

The Hayleys group, one of Sri Lanka’s top three conglomerates listed at the Colombo Stock Exchange, has reported a consolidated gross turnover of 10.8 billion rupees for the year to March 31, 2001, up from 9 billion rupees in the previous year.

The group said, in an announcement last week on its annual accounts, that post-tax profits rose to one billion rupees against 644 million in the 1999-2000 year. It said the Board of Directors has decided to pay a final dividend of 20 percent, making it a total dividend payment of 35 percent for the year under review. Hayleys, which deals in a range of industrial and trading activity including activated carbon, rubber-based products, plantations, hotels and shipping, said the annual general meeting of shareholders would be held on June 28.

Hayleys Photoprint clicks award

Best Annual Report won for the seventh time

Hayleys Photoprint Ltd., the sole distributor in Sri Lanka for Fujifilm Imaging products and high quality paper products from Arjo Wiggins, has received the award for the Best Annual Report and Accounts in the category, Non-Group Companies - Quoted, for its 1999/2000 annual report.

The award, presented by the Institute of Chartered Accountants, has been won by Hayleys Photoprint for the seventh consecutive year and is its ninth since the company commenced publication of an annual report. In the two years the company did not win the award, it was adjudged runner-up.

“We are honoured to have received this award, especially as we are a company which markets fine papers and other printers’ requisites,” said Hayleys Photoprint Director/General Manager, Ashan Abeyesundere. “This also bears testimony to the high quality products we market and we are confident that the same trend of excellence will continue with our next annual report.”

Sri Lanka supplies organic food to global markets

Organic crops grown in Sri Lanka are in high demand in global markets which offer high prices for organic and natural products, the government said.

Sri Lanka exports organic tea, coconut and rice to the US, UK, Germany and Japan. However, the supply does not match the growing demand in the local and international organic and natural products markets, according to a report by the Policy Research and Information Unit (PRIU), which is runs the government’s official website.

Eco-friendly farming has been an age-old practice in Sri Lanka till chemical fertilisers and pesticides were introduced. The main features of this system of farming are improving fertility, controlling weeds and pests in an ecologically friendly manner. The methods used in this are derived from indigenous and biodynamic knowledge rather than technological.

Mr. Ranjith de Silva, Head of Organic Agriculture NGO, Gami Sevana (GSS) and Asian Co-ordinator of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) said, “Within the next ten years Sri Lanka will have nothing to export if we don’t go organic, as there is a mounting global trend to consume more and more organic food.” He also said that Switzerland and the Philippines have already stepped into organic farming and China is converting from chemicals to organic farming.

A spokesman for the Sri Lanka Eco Conservation Organisation, Mr. G.K. Upawansa said, the Nawa Kakulam or New Kekulam - a special method of rice cultivation to sow seeds, reduced 60% of water consumed under normal conditions and an immediate increase of yield by 25 percent, has been reported from Kurunegala and Polonnaruwa.

He further said that biodynamic farming which uses cosmic power and spiritual sources is highly eco-friendly, causes no water pollution and also causes less interruption to the life circle of the useful insects.

Organic farming is a possible solution for the deteriorating food security in developing countries and this system also reduces the production cost, the PRIU report noted.

Emirates bags cargo Oscar

Emirates Sky Cargo has been voted Cargo Airline of the Year by readers of the UK-based Air Cargo News for the third year running. In addition, the airline won the Best Airline of the Year to the Middle East award for the 13th year running, Best Airline to the Indian Subcontinent award for the fourth year running and was among the top three in the Best Airline to the Far East and Australasia category.

The awards, regarded as the Oscars of the air cargo industry, were presented at a gala dinner at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel. The Cargo Airline of the Year trophy was sponsored by Atlas Air and is a new design based on the Atlas Air logo.

SL to host S-E Asian construction parley

Sri Lanka is to host the South Asian Region’s Second International Exhibition and Conference on Urban Development in the fields of infrastructure, building construction, interior design, housing finance and real estate in September, 2001.

Keeping abreast with global trends and meeting the demands of trade, industry and human settlements is of paramount importance in South-Asia. The potential of urban development in infrastructure, building construction, interior design, housing finance and real estate shall be a vital element in the economies of the region, which account for 1/5 of the world’s population,an official statement said.

The geographically strategic location of Colombo must be made use of to make Colombo the gateway and the best business city in the South-Asian region. The character of the Colombo city is now undergoing a complete change and the unplanned city will be remodelled on the plans devised by the Urban Development Authority and Compact Townships Programme of Real Estate Exchange (Pvt.) Ltd. The vision is to create a gracious city in the South-Asian region, which is functionally efficient, economically viable, environmentally sustainable and socially integrated to address the challenges emerging with the improvement of the quality of life and to act as the engine of national development of Sri Lanka in the 21st century.

Build Int Asia 2001 is organised by the Urban Development Authority and Real Estate Exchange (Pvt) Ltd. under the aegis of the Ministry of Urban Development, Construction and Public Utilities jointly with JPR International (Pvt) Ltd., a professional exhibition & convention organiser.

The aim of the exhibition is to identify how development could be accelerated with private sector involvement and investment in the urban sector of the South-Asian region with special focus on making Colombo the Best Business City in the region.

The theme of the event is “Towards Regional Urban Development Excellence” and it is bound to make Sri Lanka play an internationally in the South-Asian region.

World Bank calls for more cooperation

The World Bank recently released World Development Indicators 2001, a yearly update of significant development facts, figures and analysis, which tracks countries’ development progress.

The new data shows that while some developing countries, especially in East Asia, may achieve many of the global welfare targets, others, most notably in Africa, will not succeed without concerted international cooperation.

The World Bank is calling for urgent global action to help more countries reach the International Development Goals, which include reducing poverty, achieving universal primary education and other improvements in human well-being.

“This first part of the 21st century offers a rare window of opportunity,” said Nicholas Stern, World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President in a statement. “The picture emerging from these new figures is sobering but not without reason for hope. If developing countries, donor countries, and international organisations can work together with urgency, hundreds of millions of people will then have the opportunities to escape severe deprivation.”

Stern warned that progress is dramatically uneven. Barring a sudden improvement in current trends, hundreds of millions of people may stay destitute as many countries fail to meet one, or more, of the seven international development goals.

“If China and India continue with their economic reforms and achieve sustained high rates of economic growth, the international goal for reducing poverty can be attained at a global level,” Stern said. “But at the national level, given current rates of progress, many countries will fall short of this target. The picture is similarly mixed for other development targets.”

The International Development Goals, devised during a series of United Nations conferences in the 1990s, were endorsed last September by Heads of State from 149 nations at the Millennium Summit at UN headquarters in New York.

The goals call for halving the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015. Also included are targets for progress in school enrollment, gender equality, infant, child and maternal mortality, access to reproductive health services and environmental protection.

The new statistics in the WDI 2001 are a stark reminder of the challenges ahead:

* Of the world’s 6 billion people, 1.2 billion live on less than a dollar a day * About 10 million children under the age of five died in 1999, most of from preventable diseases.

* More than 113 million children do not attend school - more of them girls than boys.

About half-a-million women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth from complications that could have been easily treated or prevented if the women had access to appropriate care.

HNB Annual Report best among banks

Hatton National Bank has once again gained recognition in the corporate financial world by winning the prestigious award for the ‘Best Annual Report - 2001’ in the banking sector at the annual awards ceremony held on May 14, 2001. The bank was also adjudged the first runner-up in the overall competition.

The competition organized by the ICASL has played a vital role in improving the standards of Annual Report, which are used by the government, shareholders, fiscal authorities, students and the general public to gather information for their particular needs. Some of the important criteria used in evaluating the reports are timeliness, governance, compliance, clarity and consistency.

Major changes were brought into the evaluation criteria adopted by the Institute for the current year’s competition by bringing in ‘industry specialist review panel’ and ‘regulatory experts review panel’ into the evaluation process.

HNB was the winner in the ‘Banking Institutions’ category and was adjudged the runner-up of the Overall Competition at the competitions held in the years 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 & 1999 as well. HNB also won the Overall Award in the competitions held in 1993 & 1999 and was adjudged the Joint Overall Winner in the competition held in 1992.

‘Dangerkids’ from OSC at Bishop’s College

On May 25, 26 Bishop’s College Auditorium will once again play host to the Overseas School of Colombo’s Primary School Play Following on from last year’s huge success ‘A Kidsummer Night’s Dream’, this year’s play is another fast-paced musical, entitled ‘Dangerkids,’ or where the heck is Carmen San Francisco?.

The Dangerkids are a group of very smart youngsters whose missions (when they are no too busy playing computer games or hiding in their tree house) have taken them all over the world. This time, the Dangerkids are called upon by the HOGs, or Heads of Government, to locate the evil villainess Carmen San Francisco. Carmen has a rocket which she is planning to fire into space. This rocket will affect all video games, making sure that the baddies win all the time.

Of course, the Dangerkids are just as concerned as the HOGS that this should not be allowed to happen, and so they follow a trail of clues around the world in their search for the Queen of Mischief, Carmen San Francisco. Will they succeed? You’ll have to wait and see, but their mission takes them on a journey full of clues, songs, mysteries and some really bad jokes.

The whole of the Primary School is involved in the play, with the youngest children in school playing goats and goatherders (watch out for the Von Shut Your Trapp family!) and the oldest Primary students playing the lead roles.

‘Dangerkids’ will be presented at Bishop’s College Auditorium on May 25, 26 at 7pm. Tickets will be available from the Overseas School of Colombo (Tel: 864920), or at the door.

HSBC makes steady progress

Last year was a year of exciting developments for HSBC. It was marked by organic growth, by the integration of recent acquisitions and by important new initiatives as HSBC laid the foundations for the future growth of business.

“The costs of taking such initiatives, although significant, were absorbed by cooperating profits which, before provisions for bad and doubtful debts, grew on a cash basis by 13 per cent to US $1211 billion. With bad debt charges falling 55 per cent 10 US $932 million, our cash profit attributable to shareholders grew 31 per cent to US $7,153 million. After absorbing goodwill amortisation of US $525 million, reported earnings rose 23 per cent to US $6,628 million. Reflecting the strong increase in cash earnings, the Board has declared a second interim dividend of US $0.285 per share making US $0.435 per share for the year, an increase of 28 per cent.

“A number of developments illustrated HSBC’s progress and were in line with the strategic plan:

In July HSBC completed the acquisition of the highly respected French Bank, CCF.

This was a major step forward for wealth management strategy and gives a substantial platform in the curo-zone. CCF is already making a significant contribution. HSBC was delighted by the announcement on February 22 this year that CCF had been chosen by the French Government to acquire Banque Horvet.

Greenwich Lanka expands rapidly

Greenwich Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., which began in 1996 as a medium sized business Organization has within five years expanded to stake a claim as one of the largest integrated solution providers in the area of Human Resources Development, in Sri Lanka.

With a local staff of 28 all trained in Singapore and USA Greenwich Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., has also moved to other business areas of strategic importance. All solutions provided use a variety of Data Capture/Transfer devices to give the customer the most effective solutions.

Already the Company’s liaison offices are functioning in USA and in Dubai.

In a highly competitive environment Greenwich Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., has adopted a two pronged approach to capture and retain the market.

Solutions and automation, is the prime area and could be identified as its core business. It involves providing solutions combining a variety of skills and components such as time and attendance, retail store systems, production management systems, access control systems etc.,

The second approach rests in trading in IT Products which involves the importation and distribution of computer components, printers and accessories imported from Singapore and Taiwan.

At the recently concluded Apparel Ball 2001 for the Members of Sri Lanka Chamber of Garment Exporters held at Colombo Hilton, Greenwich Lanka (Pvt) Ltd gave away free Greenwich Time Count - Time and Attendance Management Systems to lucky winners of the business card draw. Picture shows Mr.Tissa Gamage - Managing Director of Brilliant Apparels (pvt) Ltd being congratulated by Mr. Jehan Gamage the Marketing Manager of Greenwich Lanka after he won the lucky draw.

Ethera Isura makes your dream a reality

The People’s Bank held the 1999/2000 ‘Ethera Isura’ draw on April 6, 2001, at the bank’s Staff Training College, Colombo 10. NRFC and RFC account holders who maintain a minimum balance of US $ 500 over a period of one year, qualify to enter this scheme.

“Customers who save with People’s Bank’s Ethera Isuru scheme will have the chance to win fabulous prizes and make their dreams a reality”, said a spokesman for the bank.

The draws for 1999 and 2000 were held in combination this year, on a grand scale. The popular band ‘Siha Shakthi’ entertained the audience with a mix of new hits and all-time favourites. Leading tele-drama actress/singer Damitha Abeyratne sang some scintillating Hindi songs, while Natasha Fernando did some catchy English numbers. Athula and Samitha also did a guest spot. The toe-tapping audience enjoyed the performances of these artistes.

Mr. Asoka Subasinghe, Director of People’s Bank and the chief guest of the event drew the first prize winning number, and the other officials drew the rest of the winning numbers.

The prize distribution ceremony was held on May 10, 2001, at the same venue. Mr. Asoka Subasinghe Director of People’s Bank presented cheques worth Rs. 1.5 million each, (equivalent to the cost of a brand-new Toyota car), as first prizes for 1999 and 2000, to Mr. M.G.N.W.K. Perera and Mr. K.H.A. Pradeep, respectively.

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