ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 52
Financial Times  

Postal Dept. desperate for structural reforms

By Bandula Sirimanna

The Postal Department faces an urgent need for structural reforms if it is to be commercially viable and improve the services it provides through a countrywide network of 4,000 post offices.“Public and private sector partnerships to improve postal services have been stalled due to union and political pressure but some improvements can be done even within a departmental framework,” Post Master General, K .A. Sherwin Senadeera told The Sunday Times FT. He said there was one post office for every 14 km and every 4,100 persons. The department has the highest distribution force in the country.

Most of the businesses send their local mail through the Postal Department and use courier services to send their foreign mail.
The Post Master General said that around 7,500 postmen are engaged in the delivery of mail throughout the country and their mode of transport is still the bicycle because most of them have to cover remote rural areas with poor road conditions. He noted that it was feasible to use bicycles even in some urban areas as they had to deliver mail to households situated in narrow by lanes where the road conditions were also poor in many parts of the country.

Asked about providing motorcycles to postmen serving in urban areas, he said this is not a viable option as the Postal Department is not in a position to bear the costs. The Department spends Rs.12 to Rs.13 to deliver a letter within the country but they charge only Rs.5. Postal charges need to be increased to cover these expenses, he said. “The Department charges Rs.5 for sending normal mail. Sri Lanka Post is operating as a non profit making institution like any other government department as its services are under priced,” he said. Senadeera said that the quality of postal services could be enhanced if charges are also adjusted.

Sri Lanka's postal department plans to venture into agency financial services to boost revenue and reduce its operating deficit. Discussions are underway with some state and commercial banks to accept savings deposits at post offices on behalf of these banks.
The department has also introduced a business postal service with the increase of postal charges. The postage for all business letters under 30 grams is Rs. 15, while the personal postage remains unchanged at Rs. 5. All letters with return addresses of businesses and post boxes, windowed envelopes and envelopes with advertisements will be identified as business letters. All bulk mail will also be considered business letters. Senadeera said that the department will provide a concession of Rs. 8 for normal mail. It expects to provide a value added service to the business mail.

The department has increased all postages except the normal mail. “90% of the totally distributed letters comes under the category of business letters and the balance is personal letters,” he said. “The department with the assistance of more flight operators plans to expand the airmail service by the end of this year. At present the department is linked with only few air lines including SriLankan Airlines in delivering mails which is not sufficient enough to satisfy the daily increasing figure of air mails,” Senadeera said.

The department has already introduced national express mail, EMS, international express mail, post fax service, fax money order service, retail post service, business mail and the telemail service under a modernization programme.

Postmen reluctant to part with Rs 100 allowance for new bicycles
The Postal Department has purchased 7,000 bicycles to be given to postmen across the country.
Of this 4,000 bicycles have already been distributed. The ownership of these bicycles will be vested in them after five years while the costs of repairs will be borne by postmen.

Earlier the Postal Department paid a sum Rs 100 allowance per month for repairs of a bicycles owned by postmen and Rs 75 owned by the department. Post Master General Shervin Senadeera said that this practice has been stopped and now some postmen are reluctant to take the new bicycle as they will not be paid the special allowance.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.