further burdens will be heaped on the public?
Minister K.N. Choksy and Deputy Finance Minister Bandula Gunawardene,
grappling with the problem of reducing the cost of living with the
introduction of VAT, frown as they study a document at last week's
news conference. It was held to explain how prices would come down
as a result of the new tax system and the exemptions given to many
essential commodities. But the public remains sceptical about government
assurances. Pic. by Athula Devapriya
enterprises against the wall
The government's economic crisis is driving many
small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to the wall as public institutions
delay or simply avoid settling debts to private contractors, according
to SME representatives.
is compounded by the government's failure to force banks to soften
their treatment of companies which have defaulted on loan repayments,
SME industry leaders claim.
are a large number of companies awaiting closure," said Nawaz
Rajabdeen, vice president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce
and Industry. "The root cause is that the government doesn't
have the money to pay for what they have purchased."
In May, the
National Construction Contractors' Association of Sri Lanka' s western
province division presented the government with a list of overdue
debts owed to its members by government agencies. The total outstanding
added up to about Rs. 2 billion, according to the division's chairman,
Captain K.S.K. Perera.
almost a total blockage of the cashflow," he said. "From
the contractor's point of view it's almost an economic dislocation."
his own company, Sisira Builders Pvt Ltd, is still awaiting payment
for the construction of a state library in Badulla for which Rs.
4.9 million should have been paid by mid-March and a further Rs.
2.8 million in April.
is not the subject of any dispute or litigation, he said. Perera
said that for the past two years government agencies have routinely
delayed payment of their bills by three to five months.
But the situation
had worsened since the beginning of this year, he said. Officials
at Uva Provincial Council had told him the debt could not be paid
because they were still awaiting funds from the Treasury.
has admitted that it faces an economic crisis, with its debt repayment
obligations outstripping revenue. But it is not certain that the
problem has led to a liquidity crisis, with systemic failure by
government agencies to pay their bills.
the senior deputy general manager of treasury at Hatton National
Bank, says he had seen no evidence of the government being unable
to pay its debts.
of my clients have recently been paid very fast [by government agencies],"
said the government's cash crisis had made it impossible for many
SMEs to keep servicing their debts to banks, which were responding
by utilising their powers of "parate execution" to close
businesses down and sell their assets.The UNP government had promised
that it would force the banks to take a softer stance on defaulting
borrowers by helping them trade their way out of trouble, he claimed.
said the government had not fulfilled this promise - a failure evidenced
by the many notices that can still be seen in newspapers advertising
the sale of failed business's assets.
commercial private banks such as the Commercial Bank and HSBC were
attempting to give troubled business a second chance, the state-run
Bank of Ceylon and many smaller lenders had not followed suit, he
should resist parate litigation and case-by-case reassess and see
if you can revive the company," he said.
Pakistan delegation boosts SL trade links
A high-powered trade delegation from Pakistan met members
of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCISL)
in Colombo on Friday aimed at boosting trade ties between the two
countries, a chamber statement said.
was accompanied by the Pakistan High Commissioner for Sri Lanka
Ashraf Qureshi and Tanweer A. Khaskheli, Counsellor at the Pakistan
objective was to identify the areas of cooperation which will be
beneficial to both countries, promoting bilateral trade including
exports, imports, joint ventures, services and cooperation at government
and private level.
stay the delegation met with several leading organisations and clinched
and Pakistan have been enjoying a very cordial and strong relationship
which has helped greater bonds of friendship and exchange of cultural,
social and trade ties," said Nihal Abeysekera, Vice President,
FCCISL during the meeting.
of our nations, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, have already, achieved a
high degree of success in bringing the people of our two countries
much closer especially through the FTA and our association have
been pleasant since historic times. We will still cherish such cultural,
commercial and spiritual affinities," added High Commissioner
Seylan MB reports
1st half profit
Merchant Bank (SMB) Group has reported profits in the first half
of 2002, turning around the losses of the corresponding period last
released this week, the SMB Group reported a pre-tax profit of Rs.
6.7 million, a growth of 117 percent from a loss of Rs. 39 million
in 2001. Gross income grew 53 percent to Rs. 248 million. Seylan
Merchant Bank reported a pre-tax profit of Rs. 826,500, a growth
of 102 percent compared to a loss of Rs. 41 million in the first
half of 2001 and gross income of Rs. 203 million, a growth 40 percent.
income growth achieved by the Group and the Bank was a noteworthy
feature of this performance SMB's Director/General Manager Rohan
Senanayake said. The Group's net interest income grew from a negative
income of Rs. 7.3 million to a positive income of Rs. 28 million
and the Bank's net interest income grew to Rs. 15 million from a
loss of Rs 4.6 million in the first half of 2001.
Govt says VAT
will bring down prices
of the value-added tax (VAT) should bring down the cost of living
because a range of essential food items, drugs and pharmaceuticals
have been exempted from the new tax, Finance Minister K.N. Choksy
said last week.
aim of the VAT is to make it easier for the householder to manage
his household budget and to simplify the tax system for the benefit
of business houses," he told a news conference.
This was done
despite the "very difficult" revenue position of the government
and a heavy outflow of funds to service debt, he said.
that were previously subject to the 12.5 percent Goods and Services
Tax and the 6.5 percent National Security Levy were now exempt from
VAT, he said.
rice, rice flour, wheat, bread, infant powder milk, liquid milk,
coconuts and coconut products, vegetables, eggs, fish, fruit, spices,
crude oil, kerosene, bunker fuel, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.
coupled with previous cuts in taxes and surcharges should result
in lower prices, he said.
would lose about Rs. 800 million in revenue because of these exemptions.
a very definite reduction in these prices," Choksy said. Traders
should co-operate with the government to ensure the benefits of
the VAT exemptions are passed on to consumers, he added.
Minister Bandula Gunawardene said that the government would have
to take stern action against businessmen trying to profit from the
new tax system at a time when the country was facing serious economic
With no taxes
on most essential food items, any price hikes would be the result
of factors other than VAT such as the depreciation of the rupee
and rain and drought which affect supplies, he said.
was not clear how VAT on inputs would affect prices.
A 10 percent
VAT has been imposed on poultry feed, planting materials and vegetable
seeds, fertiliser including rock phosphate, unprocessed meat, powdered
milk, coconut oil, potatoes, onions and chillies.
declined to answer a question on how taxes on inputs such as fertiliser
would impact on prices.
of associations of traders of vegetables, fruit, rice, fish and
motor vehicles and bicycles who were present at the news conference
said there would be some reduction in prices.
But the official
representing bicycle manufacturers was unable to say how the VAT
will lead to a reduction in prices because of the tax charged on
parts used to assemble the bicycles.
re-conditioned motor vehicles from Japan said there would be some
reduction in prices but that they were unable to pass on the full
benefit of a lower VAT owing to the appreciation of the yen.
Future shape of SL-Malaysian trade ties
Economic relations between Sri Lanka and Malaysia are likely
to take a new form as a result of the recent visit to Kuala Lumpur
by a high powered investment promotion delegation led by Prof. G.L.
Peries, Minister of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy, Investment
Promotion and Constitutional Affairs and including BOI Chairman/
Director General Arjuna Mahendran.
A BOI statement
said that what was clear is that Malaysian interest in Sri Lanka's
development is focused on infrastructure. Malaysian money and expertise
will go into areas where that South East Asian nation excels in,
namely port development, highways, low cost housing and township
was overwhelmed by the interest of a large number of companies specialising
in infrastructure development. This interest will pave the way for
a visit to Sri Lanka, in the near future, of a Malaysian government/
private sector delegation headed by Sami Vellu, Minister of Works
and Public Utilities.
West Port is
a good example of an enterprise that has shown considerable interest
in further developing Colombo Port. A similar company is Port Tanjun
Palapas Port, which has also looked at developing a Sri Lankan port.
Hambantota, Galle and Trincomalee have all been earmarked for future
modernisation and are potential candidates for Malaysian investment,
the statement said.
contender is United Engineers, Malaysia Berhad listing among its
major projects the futuristic new Kuala Lumpur International Airport,
the modern stadium where the previous Commonwealth games were held,
the North-South Highways and the Monorail-Light Rail Transport System
(MRT & LRT). This company has been an active player in the development
of Malaysia and has also undertaken major contracts in India, Morocco,
the Philippines and Thailand.
met officials from Perodua, a Malaysian automobile constructor which
has expressed interest in the manufacture/assembly of the "K"
car in Sri Lanka.
also resulted in a boost to existing Malaysian investment in Sri
Lanka. After a visit by the minister, the Chairman of Malaysia Telecom
announced that they would invest $ 90 million in their existing
MTN system in Sri Lanka.
of Commercial Bank has ATMs
Bank has strengthened its commitment to the ongoing peace initiatives
and to the people of the northern province by fully refurbishing
its nearly 100-year-old Jaffna branch and linking it up with their
island wide network.
Managing Director of the bank, recently opened the fully refurbished
branch which is equipped with the latest technology while every
modern banking convenience available in other parts of the country
is now made available to customers in Jaffna.
He said: "Our
history in Jaffna goes back nearly a 100 years and even during the
war, the Commercial Bank branch was open to the public.
But due to
obvious technological and logistical reasons, we could not offer
all the services and facilities available in other parts of the
country. As the country's premier financial institution we have
a responsibility to provide comprehensive financial services to
the citizens of Jaffna and we are very happy that we have fulfilled
that by providing the latest banking technology and facilities to
of Jaffna residents said, "with the current positive outlook,
normal life is gradually returning to Jaffna. Those who left due
to the war are now returning to their homes. Some companies have
already started their operations in Jaffna and a large number have
expressed great interest in setting up businesses. The people of
Jaffna are pleased to see Commercial Bank taking the initiative
to provide people with up to date banking technology".
On the same
day Commercial Bank commissioned the second ATM in Jaffna, which
will add more convenience to customers.
As the peace
initiatives progress, Commercial Bank intends to open more ATMs
and branches in the north, a bank statement said.
Sangakkara Associates join SJ Associates
and Sangakkara Associates, an independent firm associated with Deloitte
Touche Tohmatsu (DTT), has joined up with SJ Associates to launch
Senior Partner and P.E.A. Jayawickreme Managing Partner of SJ Associates
said, "We are indeed delighted that SJ Associates joins Manoharan
and Sangakkara Associates to represent DTT in Sri Lanka. Our clients
will benefit through the combined service capabilities of our two
entities and the support offered by the global DTT network."
Partner of Manoharan and Sangakkara Associates said they were pleased
to join SJ Associates and said the joint venture would create a
bigger and more diversified organisation.
will have 14 partners and 330 staff making it one of the largest
professional services organisations in Sri Lanka.
Tohmatsu is one of the world's leading professional services firms,
delivering world-class Assurance and Advisory, Accounting, Auditing,
Tax and Management Consulting Services.
More that 90,000
of its professionals in over 130 countries serve nearly one-fifth
of the world's largest companies as well as large national enterprises,
public institutions and successful fast growing companies.
education for schools
Ever heard of a group of students posing an economic threat
to their school canteen?
When 30 students
of Gothami Balika Maha Vidyalaya calling themselves the Silver Line
Company started selling food items within the school premises they
were requested to change their line of business by the school administration
as the school canteen incurred losses in consequence. The company
is much like any other business; they have their own president,
a board of directors, conduct board meetings and even carry business
cards. The students are part of a practical business education programme
operating under the guidance of Young Entrepreneur Sri Lanka (YESL).
YESL, a non-profit,
non-government organisation, has been conducting practical economic
and business education programmes in Sri Lanka since 1996. Yet very
few are aware that this organisation last year encompassed 20,000
students at various levels in its programmes.
becomes very useful especially at a time where the education curriculum
in Sri Lankan schools and universities is being criticized due to
its failure to gear children to face the challenges of the business
environment when they leave school. YESL is an affiliate body of
Junior Achievement International (JAI), the world's largest and
fastest-growing non-profit economic education organisation that
conducts programmes in 112 countries.
Line Company project is aimed at the senior students in schools
who have completed their Ordinary Level examinations. The students
at Gothami BMV finally had to settle on selling printed bookmarks
when their economic threat to the canteen worried school administrators.
requires students to group together, conceive a line of business
and float a company to conduct the business. These companies are
just like normal businesses but are registered under YESL. After
the registration trained volunteers conduct a few business initiation
sessions with the students. Subsequently the students have to venture
on their own with an assigned teacher-in-charge as they are given
guidance material by YESL.
have been designed by JAI and provide instructions on how the students
should conduct board meeting, marketing programmes, maintain accounts,
etc. The students are also required to follow a set of regulations
they way businesses have to abide by company laws.
them workforce ready", says John Geier, Director - South Asia
Region who operates from the JAI regional office at the Hilton JAIC
Tower. He further explained, "The programme also promotes civic
mindedness and business ethics as the students have to pay a nominal
fee as tax, do some social service for the school, and even return
the capital and declare dividends once the company realises profits
and is liquidated at the end of the year." The programme has
proved to be very successful. A group of students who had floated
a company with Rs. 1,500 conducted a musical show and realised profits
to the tune of Rs. 550,000.
benefit of this programme in Sri Lankan schools is English education
because the programme requires conducting all affairs in English
including meetings, correspondence, etc. In addition, it has 24
different programmes designed for all levels from Grade 1 to 13
together with teaching material.
At the elementary
level it starts with simple activities like story telling which
has a connected economic aspect. However, "teachers don't know
much about the programme and they see it as a waste of time"
said one of the students.
The local programmes
that started with nine schools today covers 200 schools. YESL has
the approval of the Ministry of Education for its programmes and
is looking at expanding towards some of the lesser accessible schools
in rural areas. Many leading businesses have been sponsors of the
programme but the organisation is hoping that more sponsors will
come on board. Patrick Amarasinghe, President of YESL says that
the demand has grown and they need more support from the private
added that this is the only programme where the private sector businesses
not only gain mileage from sponsorship and new customers but also
a new workforce that is business ready. According to him some of
the companies that have supported them have also recruited some
of these young entrepreneurs.
also emphasised that the contribution always need not be cash. He
says that the organisation needs volunteers from the business circle
who could follow the guidance material and guide a large number
JAI also has
other programmes that are funded by large global companies and bring
together some of the world's best from member countries through
exchange programmes, computer simulated competitions, etc. JAI was
founded in 1919 in the US where it now has a network of 156 offices.
organisation annually covers over 5.5 million young people from
countries such as Albania to Zimbabwe. The YESL could be contacted
at 27B, Railway Avenue, Nugegoda. Tel: 815162