4th November 2001

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  • Events and announcements
  • Are foreign workers to blame for Singapore's rising unemployment?
  • Lanka Ceramic reports losses in uncertain climate
  • ColorZone opens for business
  • Lubricants: A slippery playing field
  • Strict conditions for use of Indian credit line - BoC
  • UAL sponsors FCCISL entrepreneur awards
  • NSB, SCB launch new co-branded credit card
  • Stock Market Report
  • Newspaper price hike sends COL index up
  • chamber team for WTO
  • Win more with Mobitel
  • Lanka Bell invests in IBM server
  • New MP3 players from LG
  • People's Leasing flying high
  • German sports group in Sri Lanka 

  • Events and announcements

    NDB branch
    With the opening of the Chilaw Branch, NDB has now extended its network to 12 offices in Sri Lanka. Chilaw is a fast developing commercial centre and the opening of this branch will give an added impetus to the economic growth of the region, the NDB said in a statement.

    The Chilaw branch will offer medium to long-term project loans, working capital and leasing facilities for business enterprises. The branch will also operate special lending schemes such as SMILE, The Perennial Crop Development Project (PCDP) and Environmentally Friendly Project (E-Friends).

    M. F. M. Fakir, Manager, Chilaw Branch, said: "We are very excited about our prospects in Chilaw. We found that lots of business people and industrialists from this area were going all the way to our Negombo or Puttalam branches to get facilities from NDB. Now those financial facilities and more will be available at their doorstep."

    The 43rd annual general meeting of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) will be held on November 19 at the Galadari Hotel in Colombo. The chamber has invited Trade and Industries Minister, Ronnie de Mel as chief guest, and Karu Jayasuriya, deputy leader of the United National Party and Prof. G.L. Peiris as guests of honour.
    "Khomba baby" range grows
    Swadeshi Industrial Works recently launched baby talc and baby cologne expanding its portfolio of products branded "Khomba Baby" the popular nature-friendly baby products brand.

    The new products contain extracts of "Khomba" (Margosa) and Venivel (Coscinium fenestratum) traditional herbal remedies with antiseptic properties, making them unique in the local market, the company said.

    New CIM chairman
    Lasantha Abeywickrema has been elected chairman of the CIM Sri Lanka branch for 2002, taking over from Dr. Uditha Liyanage who served in this position for the last two years.

    Abeywickrema is the managing director of MTI Consulting Sri Lanka, the local subsidiary of the international marketing consulting firm, MTI. His prior appointments include being CEO of Spectrum Marketing (Pte) Ltd, the local distributor for Procter & Gamble and Marketing Director of Hemas Marketing (Pte) Ltd.

    Construction exhibition
    CDB Conventions (Pvt) Ltd together with the National Contractors' Construction Association of Sri Lanka (NCCASL) is organising a delegation from Sri Lanka to visit BAUCON ASIA 2001 to be held in Singapore from November 20 to 23.

    BAUCON ASIA is the largest exhibition in the construction industry in South East Asia and attracts more than 25,000 visitors from overseas, CDL said in a press release.

    New ComBank outlet
    The Commercial Bank has opened a special customer service outlet at the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation head office promising added convenience to customers of both institutions.

    In addition to the normal banking facilities, the outlet will also have instant banking (CAT machine), opening of savings and deposits both in local and foreign currencies and issue and encashment of travellers cheques, a bank statement said.

    Quality convention
    Sri Lanka was a participant at the International Convention on Quality Control (ICQCC) 2001 held in Taipei last month. Sunil Wijesinghe, president of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Quality & Productivity (SLAAQP) attended the meeting and those of the coordinating committees.

    The ICQCC, one of the biggest international quality events held every year in a member country, attracted 820 delegates from 15 countries. Sri Lankan companies generally participate in all these conventions but this year due to poor economic conditions in the country, only one company took part, the SLAAQP said.

    Sampath ties up with Ananda College OBA
    Sampath Bank recently joined hands with the Old Boys' Association (OBA) of Ananda College to launch a Visa affinity Credit Card.

    "This credit card will benefit the school as well as outside customers," OBA Project Manager, Bimal Wijayasinghe said at the official launching ceremony. He said half of the annual fees for every purchase of this card would go to the Ananda College fund.

    Sampath will also provide special facilities and discounts to cardholders and promote educational activities.

    Cathay returns
    Cathay Pacific Airways will resume its three-weekly service between Hong Kong and Colombo from December 1 via Bangkok, an airline statement said.

    It said the service had been suspended since July 24 when an insurance surcharge was introduced for flights operating into Colombo following the incidents at the Colombo airport.

    Kieran Bowers, the airline's country manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, noted that Cathay Pacific Cargo has always played an important role in the Colombo market especially catering to Sri Lanka's garment exports to the US and tuna fish shipments to Japan. "We will continue to closely work with freight forwarders," he said.

    New Sinhala book on marketing
    Deepal Sooriyaarachchi's second book in the series Sinhalen Business on "Customer Care" will be launched at the Sarvodaya annual book launching ceremony on November 5 at 5 pm at the John de Silva theatre in Colombo.

    This is the second in a series of marketing books in Sinhala by Sooriyaarachchi, past president of the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing and currently General Manager -Personnel at Eagle Insurance.

    The book is titled "Paribhogika Sathkaraya" and covers key aspects of customer care.

    Amitha Gooneratne, Managing Director/CEO of the Commercial Bank, will be interviewed on "Business Matters" on Rupavahini's Channel Eye on November 5 at 10 pm by Parakrama Dissanayake, management consultant.
    Blue Diamonds AGM
    The annual general meeting of Blue Diamonds Jewellery Worldwide Ltd will be held at the BMICH on December 11, the company said adding the board of directors was not recommending a dividend to shareholders this time.

    The company has been in the news in recent years due to differences between Ceylinco Group Chairman, Lalith Kotelawela and former Deputy Chairman, Daya Senanayake, over alleged irregularities by the latter in the running of Blue Diamonds (a Ceylinco subsidiary). Senanayake is no more a part of the group.

    Are foreign workers to blame for Singapore's rising unemployment?

    Singapore, like the rest of Southeast Asia, is reeling under a severe economic downturn. Among its citizens, unemployment is a hot topic. There have been layoffs in all sectors, from manual workers in the plantations to top executives in the boardrooms. School-leavers are hitting a brick wall. This year, an estimated two-third of Singapore's new graduates will be unable to find work. Lee Hsien Loong, the city-state's Deputy Prime Minister, concedes that unemployment will continue to rise.

    "It's bound to go up," he said recently. "I wouldn't be surprised if it goes back to 5 percent, which was what it was in 1998, maybe somewhat higher than that."

    What adds to the general discontent is the fact that, while many Singaporeans cannot find jobs hundreds of thousands of foreign workers continue to be employed.

    Of Singapore's 2.1 million-strong workforce, almost a third — an astonishing 612,000 — are non-citizens. Native folk wonder why their government lets all these foreigners come in and get jobs when so many of their own people are unemployed. Should this generous open-door policy on labour be stopped? Or at least drastically curtailed until the crisis passes?

    The Singapore government has shown no indication that it plans to reverse its liberal policy on accepting foreign workers. Its position is that incoming foreign talent can lead to more jobs, as a flexible labour market makes Singapore a more attractive place for overseas investors. "Properly managed, the admission of foreign workers actually helps to create more jobs and to protect some existing jobs for Singaporeans," says Deputy Prime Minister Lee.

    Unfortunately, it is the "properly managed" part that many Singaporeans are starting to doubt. Why so many foreigners, they lament? After all, in Hong Kong foreign workers make up just 13.5 percent of the workforce —as opposed to the whopping 29.2 percent in Singapore.

    Steve China, secretary-general of the opposition national Solidarity Party, says he is open to bringing in foreigners for positions requiring skills or talent that local don't have. "But let us not set up a policy or attitude that discriminates (against) locals in favour of foreigners," he says. A particular problem area is the increasing influx of junior and middle-ranked professionals who are perceived as taking jobs that Singaporeans feel they could hold down. As a concession to public sentiment, the government has sought to curtail the intake of these people by raising the minimum salary required for a professional work pass.

    The government should hold firm on its open door labour policy. In this global era, any attempt to set the clock back by putting up barriers, be they for trade, funds or workers, is doomed to failure. Foreign workers have contributed to keeping Singapore's economy humming over the past decades, and it is their influx that has topped up the labour market when local people have failed to provide the numbers to do so. The foreigners are held responsible for taking away much-needed jobs. But in most cases, the positions are ones Singaporeans either reject or are not qualified to fill.

    The majority of such jobs involve manual labour that locals deem beneath their dignity; a small proportion are in top-end executive posts for which there are simply not enough qualified and experienced Singaporeans. To turn on the "outsiders" simply because there is an economic downturn would be extremely short sighted.

    That said, the government and employers must be understanding. Qualified Singaporeans who have been retrenched should be considered ahead of younger foreign workers. Rejecting people simply because they are over 35 or 40, as is routinely happening, is as senseless as blaming foreign workers for the high unemployment. This need not be a zero-sum game. (Courtesy – Asiaweek)

    Lanka Ceramic reports losses in uncertain climate

    Lanka Ceramic Ltd, now part of the Ceylon Theatres group, says its net losses for the year ending March 2000 are partly due to an uncertain economic climate.

    "The company has continued to operate, overall, in an environment in which it was restrained by many factors arising from weak economic fundamentals, which were not conducive to growth of private enterprise," company chairman G.V. Divitotawela told shareholders.

    The company's net loss after taxes rose to 69 million rupees from 59 million in 1999. 

    This was also due to the inability to achieve higher selling prices to offset the increasing cost of manufacture.

    However, turnover of LCL and its 100 percent subsidiary LCL Distributors Ltd, through which local sales are channelled, rose by 6.5 percent from the previous financial year.

    The company said the Ceylon Theatres group made a mandatory offer and acquired controlling interest of the issued share capital of LCL during the year, resulting in the board of directors being reconstituted to reflect the current shareholding.

    The report said the company was unable to achieve the required volumes of production for a new range of crockery at both its factories, which led to losses. 

    This was aggravated by fuel and electricity costs rising sharply by approximately 86 percent. This added 30 million rupees to the cost in the manufacturing process.

    "Repeated attempts made by energy intensive industries to get concessions from the government proved futile, threatening their long-term stability," the chairman noted.

    The report said a new executive deputy chairman and a finance director were appointed to the board in August this year.

    The board of directors of the company, in addition to the chairman, comprises Air Vice Marshal P.M. Fernando (executive deputy chairman), J.A. Jayasekera (executive director), S.R. Casie Chitty (finance director), Prof. C.V.L. Jayatillake, Anthony A. Page, E.A.D. Perera, Ms. C. Muttukumaru, T.D. Jayanithie, V.R. Page and A.T. Edirisinghe.

    ColorZone opens for business

    ColorZone (Private) Ltd, a new BOI approved screen printing company, began commercial operations last month at an ultra modern factory at Pannipitiya costing Rs. 35 million.

    According to Firoze Cassim, Chairman and Managing Director, the company employs over 150 workers and adopts several screen printing techniques such as table system, board system, semi- automatic carousel system, etc.

    The company already has a high profile customer base such as Next Sri Lanka, NV Production, Hemas, Jewelknit, Readywear Industries, Ranliya Group, WW Group and Nobleswear. Some of the brands it services are Next, Disney, BHS, Blues, Woolworths, La Redoute, Ralph Lauren, Adams, J C Penny, Kickers, Warner Bros, Reebok and Slazenger.

    Picture shows ColourZone Director Tissa Weerasinghe (right), a Sri Lankan based in France, and Chairman/Managing Director, Firoze Cassim (next to him) at the opening of the new screen printing venture at Pannipitiya.

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