Govt. should relax restrictions on foreign investments
The government should relax restrictions imposed by the Board of Investment to attract large-scale investments into sectors such as deep-sea fishing and mass communications, Chandra Jayaratne, the former chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said.

Existing provisions attract only petty investments but do not encourage billion-dollar investments for the large-scale development of these sectors, he told a seminar on 'Exchange Control Act - Limitations and Opportunities'.

"The present act consists of a lot of stupid loopholes," he said. "The regime that we are looking forward to is where the intervention of the Controller of Exchange is required for transactions only where the country's economy is at stake and not in every transaction involving genuine business dealings," Jayaratne said. "The country needs real cash investments and not petty cash investments."

The government should arrange for foreign currency denominated deposits and investments by the Sri Lanka Diaspora to be channelled through managed pool funds, Jayaratne said.

It should also allow local subsidiary company employees of companies established overseas to subscribe to employee share option schemes of foreign parent companies, and allow companies under the BOI regime to obtain local banking facilities in rupees.

Listed companies should be allowed to raise short-term foreign currency debts, bonds and debentures by listing in overseas stock exchanges, Jayaratne said.
Ms. A. S. de Alwis, Deputy Controller of the Central Bank, said that one of the most recent changes to the foreign exchange control laws was to grant permission to extend foreign currency loans to migrant workers for housing purposes. The present Exchange Control Department is to be renamed the 'Department of Exchange Management'.

The department would be involved in monitoring activities to prevent unauthorised capital transfers and money laundering activities. (TM)

Apollo reaches 100 cardiac surgeries milestone
Apollo Hospitals Colombo, recently surpassed the milestone of performing 100 cardiac surgeries, after its opening in June 2002 in a significant achievement in only four months of operation.

According to Dr. Prasad Krishnan, Senior Consultant Cardiac Surgeon, who performed most of these surgeries, patients operated upon ranged from 17 days to 80 years of age. Many of these infants and high-risk patients were billed to go abroad for treatment but due to Apollo's superior tertiary care facilities they all had the opportunity to undergo surgery successfully in Sri Lanka. Over 20 of the cardiac cases were infants with varying types of congenital heart diseases, many weighing less than 9 kg.

Another unique achievement for the hospital was that patients who went through cardiac surgeries were able to leave the hospital within seven days of surgery which is mainly due to Apollo's superior infection control methodology and strict policy against the visiting of patients.

The hospital's cardiac specialities have collaborated in at least two groundbreaking operations in Sri Lanka. One such case was the use of an Amplatzer Septal Occluder (ASO) Device to treat an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) or heart defect. This non-surgical device only requires two days of hospitalisation with the patient walking out of the hospital with minimal discomfort and no scarring.

Local firm at mega auto fair
By Mihiri Wikramanayake
Sri Lanka's automotive industry got a boost when Ceylon Auto Industries was selected to participate in the world's largest automotive exhibition in Frankfurt recently.

The Auto Mechanika, held once every two years, attracts 4,200 exhibitors worldwide and this is the first time a Sri Lankan company has been selected to display its products.

Ceylon Auto Industries was selected by a government agency in the Netherlands known as CBI which promotes imports from developing countries and had to adhere to stringent selection criteria which included international environmental compliances, ISO approval and SLS standards.

According to Deepthi Jayamaha, the company's Managing Director, CBI was responsible for the assessment of the factory's quality control. The company was the only one selected from other local contenders. Although the exhibition was highly competitive, Jayamaha says the response was 'very encouraging' with lots of interest shown from CIS countries, South America and Europe.

"We were able to impress foreign buyers of our potential," he says. "We have also managed to create a niche in the German market," he added. Germany is considered to be the largest buyer of automotive parts. Ceylon Auto Industries already exports leaf springs and filters to Australia, West Asia, Taiwan and a few European destinations. While the raw material is imported for local manufacture, the value addition in Sri Lanka is over 150 percent.

"That is very high," he said. Jayamaha is disappointed with the lack of interest from the government towards the local auto parts industry. The industry must be given incentives like reasonable interest rates to promote a competitive market, he said.

ADB's tea project completes three years
The Tea Development Project launched by the Asian Development Bank and the government of Sri Lanka to assist tea smallholders through diverse credit and assistance projects completes three years this year, officials said.

The project, launched in 1999, aims at uplifting the living conditions and income of tea smallholders, private tea landowners and private tea factory owners while preserving the environment.

Under this programme, loans are granted for planting tea, establishing tea nurseries, restoration of factories, establishing centres to collect plucked leaves and buying vehicles for the transportation of plucked leaves. Over $ 21 million has been spent under the project and the ADB hopes to provide further assistance to tea smallholders.

"The project was meant to develop the tea industry within five years but we finished our funds by the third year. The response has been excellent and we hope to provide further assistance," an ADB official said.

The loans granted under the programme are payable within a period of seven to 17 years depending on the amount lent and the purpose for which the loan is granted.
According to the ADB, the project aims at strengthening tea institutions like the National Institute of Plantation Management and the Tea Research Institute and has launched a programme to plant 3,000-4,000 tea mother bushes that would give a better yield.

Plans are also underway to restructure these institutions to give maximum benefits to the tea industry. According to an unofficial survey conducted by the ADB, the restoration of roads leading to estates has improved the quality of leaves approaching factories.

"Due to quick access to factories by tea pluckers, the quality of the leaves is preserved and this has resulted in improved income.
The housing project for estate workers too has generated enthusiasm among workers and resulted in better output." (NG)

NTB acquires Amex operations
Nation Trust Bank (NTB) last week took over the Sri Lankan commercial banking and foreign exchange operations of the American Express Bank. The bank, although relatively new in comparison to the older established banks, has embarked on a dual strategy of expansion through acquisition of related strategic businesses and branch openings. It presently operates 16 state of the art branches in strategically important locations while its acquisitions include Standard Chartered's Kandy Branch, Waldock Mackenzie Ltd, Deutsch bank retail operations and now, American Express Bank.

Director/CEO of Nations Trust Bank, Moksevi Prelis said that both American Express and Nations Trust Bank were committed to a smooth transfer of operations, with the least possible inconvenience to their customers.

He said they would ensure the provision of the highest standards of service, augmented by greater accessibility and a broader product range. After the takeover of the commercial banking business of AEB, NTB will continue to operate the American Express Foreign Exchange Services in Sri Lanka.

Back to Top  Back to Business  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.