Biz community corrupt, says Chandra

Chandra Jayaratne, former head of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and Managing Director of Eagle Insurance, last week slammed the business community, saying it was corrupt, unethical and not transparent.

Questioning the private sector's conduct at a seminar organised by the chamber on "Rebuilding Public Trust: Opportunities for the Business Community", Jayaratne said a major fault of the business community was that they do not care for, and spend very little on, social development.

"If the business community needs to rebuild public trust, they've got to be responsible to the society as a whole, and must adopt and employ independent analysis and accept media reviews of their conduct," he said.

Jayaratne criticised the business community by saying that they were not accountable for the investments they undertake, are networked among themselves and are corrupt, unethical, and not transparent. Sri Lanka's productivity was very low when compared to other countries in the region and Sri Lankans lack entrepreneurial skills, are risk aversive and not forward-looking, he said.

Dr. Dayanath Jayasuriya, director general of the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the seminar that the business community should have the courage to admit mistakes and not jeopardise their profession.

"If anyone in a decision making position has the slightest doubt of conflict of interest, it is better not to participate" in meetings where such conflicts arise, he said.

Speaking of the role of the regulator, Arittha Wikramanayake, Partner in Nithya Partners and himself a former SEC director general, pointed out that in Sri Lanka there are inefficiencies in many regulating bodies such as the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission and the Fair Trading Commission.

"De-regulation does not mean removing regulators or regulation, rather it is making regulation more effective," he said. In order to achieve better regulation market participants need to be familiar with the rules.

Speaking of the lessons the Sri Lankan business community could learn from global business, Sujeewa Mudalige, Partner, Pricewaterhouse Coppers said that with the collapse of firms like Enron and WorldCom, the US government has responded with tough new laws and tougher enforcement.

Sri Lanka, before facing such catastrophes, should bring in laws and put public confidence on a firm footing.

Laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the most far reaching legislation affecting the financial services, accounting, auditing, financial reporting and professional services firms, should be introduced, he said.

This law enforces regulations such as the requirement for members of audit committees to be non executive, established a Public Accounting Oversight Board to regulate public accounting firms, forbade most of the non audit services performed by auditors for their clients, and made it necessary for CEOs and chief financial officers to prepare a statement to accompany the audit report to certify the appropriateness of the financial statements.

"In the US the regulators such as SEC commissioners give up their personal interests as soon as they are appointed to the regulatory bodies," Mudalige said.

"In Sri Lanka we've got many commissioners as some commissioners have conflicts of interest and cannot participate in decision making with regard to certain companies."

Mudalige recalled how the former chairman of the US SEC, Harvey Pitt, resigned with dignity and grace from his position last November, as he was unable to tell his fellow commissioners that William Webster, whom he recommended to the accounting oversight agency, chaired an audit committee of a company that facing an accounting scandal.Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria, Advisor to the Ministry of Training and Tertiary Education said, "The public should be beware when finance companies or banks advertise high interest rates on deposits as companies cannot pay unrealistic interest rates when the Central Bank has announced a certain rate of interest."

Campaign to register Jaffna scales

The Measurement Unit and Standard Services Department will be launching a special campaign in Jaffna soon to calibrate and register scales and other measuring equipment used by Jaffna traders.

A department spokesman said that most of the weighing and measuring in the North have not been registered or calibrated in the last two decades due to the civil war and the situation was brought to notice of the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake during his recent Jaffna visit.

The minister has instructed that urgent measures be taken in order to ensure the consumer gets the correct weight and measurements of the goods they buy from the market.He said that under the programme, measurement unit inspectors will visit retail and wholesale merchants and good sheds to inspect scales and measuring equipment and will encourage them to calibrate and register their accordance with the department specifications, according to Commerce Ministry statement.

Call for professionalism in government service

Minister of Power and Energy Karu Jayasuriya has called for greater involvement of professionals in public service saying that their contribution was required to raise the standards of the administration.

"Professionals need to join hands with the government so that there is professionalism in government administration," Jayasuriya told the inauguration of the CIMA Business Club. The government should be accountable and transparent, so that the people's economic and social rights are satisfied, he added.

CIMA Colombo Division launched its Business Club in order to enhance interaction between its 1,500 active members mainly to provide

a better service to the business community.

Members of the Business Club will have an opportunity to discuss common professional areas of interest, form professional alliances, share business leads, enjoy informal out-of-office fellowship and also develop enhanced business proficiency through soft skills development programmes.

This club would organise events such as karaoke nights, evening of grooming, annual club dance, World Cup evening and many other social gatherings.

Jayasuriya also launched the official website ( of the Business Club. Through this website members can communicate with other members via chat rooms and have access to a job database.

CIMA Colombo Division President Sudarshan Senaratne said the Business Club was a long felt need as the interaction of its members with each other was poor.

This would give them an opportunity to strengthen their relationships with each other and foster fellowship, he added.

Sheikh Ahmed heads top level Emirates delegation to Shanghai

More than 100 guests attended a VIP reception in Shanghai, China marking the successful launch of twice-weekly non-stop cargo services to and from Dubai by Emirates, the award-winning international airline.

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates Group Chairman, announced that so much freight is now moving between Shanghai and Dubai that Emirates may soon add a third freighter frequency, as well as launching passenger flights in August, according to an Emirates statement.

Sheikh Ahmed attended the reception with His Excellency Juma Rashed Jassim,

UAE Ambassador in Beijing, Ram Menen, Director Cargo Emirates, Ghaith Al Ghaith, Emirates' Commercial Operations Director, and Emirates' Prakash Nair, Cargo Marketing Manager, and Michael Qu, Cargo Manager Shanghai.

Xia Xing Hua, Director General of the East China Regional Administration of CAAC, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, shared views with Sheikh Ahmed on boosting civil aviation on the route and said that Emirates had chosen an ideal time to launch it.

Fast-growing Emirates plans to launch passenger flights between Shanghai and Dubai in August.

It already serves 64 cities in 45 countries with a fleet of 44 modern jets, winning more than 200 awards for service.

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