21st September 1997


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Tractors change route

Though Sri Lanka is an agro-based economy, most of the new tractors purchased are not used in agriculture but procured by the Sri Lankan Army for transport of men and equipment, according to a leading tractor importer. Many people who purchase tractors have found it more lucrative to lease them out to farmers and others, than for cultivation purposes, agents for Massey Ferguson Tractors, Brown & Company said.

MF tractors have been serving the domestic market for nearly 46 years. In 1996, the company sold around 550 new tractors. Demand for tractors which have a lifespan of over 20 years rise during the Yala and Maha seasons.

"Massey Ferguson (MF) tractors which were bought many years ago, are still in operation after a complete overhaul,'' Brouwn Director Lasantha Wickremesooriya told journalists. Massey Ferguson also said to have a good second-hand market. A brand new MF tractor costs around Rs. 850,000 (including 10 per cent duty), ''But re-conditioned MF tractor is sold for around Rs 350,000, probably double the price it was purchased at that time,'' Mr.Wickremesooriya said.

The company has so far re-conditioned about 900 tractors. At present, Massey Ferguson is believed to command a staggering 60 per cent share in the domestic tractor market, despite the challenge from low priced Indian-made tractors.

Mr.Wickremasooriya said the British-made Massey Ferguson had the edge over other manufactruers in technology and after sales service, though the strength of the Sterling tended to make British tractors more expensive.

He said it was not viable to set-up an assembly plant in Sri Lanka because the country's agro-base is too small for such a large operation.

Setting standards for agriculture

Sri Lanka is playing a major role in the formation of an international accounting standard for agriculture, after the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (ICASL) introduced a standard for plantations companies.

"The ICASL was the first to introduce a standard for plantations following the privatization of plantations," ICASL President Reyaz Mihular said.

Mr. Mihular is chairing an international steering committee which also has members from, India, Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Thailand and France.

The steering committee has already issued a draft statement of principles which is the first step towards a new International Accounting Standard.

This would be followed by a statement of principles and later an exposure draft, before the standard itself is issued somewhere in 1999, Mr. Mihular said.

South Asia's travel barriers to be broken

By Imran Vittachi

SAARC tourism ministers will descend on Colombo this week to discuss ways to increase the flow of travellers both to and within South Asia by forging stronger regional links.

Ministers from the six other member-states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Pakistan are due in the capital tomorrow, the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation announced.

They will join their host and Sri Lankan counterpart, Dharmasiri Senanayake, for two days of talks at the BMICH on Tuesday on matters of common interest.

"All the seven tourism ministers will be discuss matters and problems relating to tourism and tourism development in the SAARC region in its effort to promote the region as a multi-destination," Minister Senanayake told reporters.

"We will also promote each other in what we call intra-regional tourism among the states."

The talks would mark SAARC's first meeting in this area as well as the first such one to be held among South Asian nations since they convened in Colombo in 1969.

"This, therefore, is going to be a very important meeting where the political heads, the tourism ministers in the region, will meet after a lapse of 28 years," Mr. Senanayake added.

The long delay had been caused mostly by political turbulence throughout the region over the decades, he said.

Tourism, it seems, has been chosen as flavour-of-the-month in Sri Lanka.

The Sept 23-24 ministerial roundtable would be followed at the BMICH by back-to-back meetings related to regional tourism. President Chandrika Kumaratunga is scheduled to attend all three functions, Mr. Senanayake said.

On Sept 26, the Travel Agents Association of India will hold its own meeting there. This will be followed on Sept 29 by the graduation of the Class of '97 from the Ceylon Hotel School, he said.

In their roundtable agenda, the ministers will tackle a range of items, Mr. Senanayake said. These would include measures to loosen immigration controls for travellers, establish direct air links between SAARC capitals, and explore prospects for convertibility of SAARC currencies inside its borders.

"As parliamentarians, have a type of stamp on our passport for free entry into any SAARC country, now we are trying to urge that the visitors tourists, business people, and others should have the same facilities, because we feel that obtaining visas [is a waste of time] for business people who are shuttling up and down from Delhi to Colombo and Colombo to, say Dhaka...."

It was also important that the skies over South Asia be made more accessible to SAARC carriers and extra-regional ones. The freeing up of bi-lateral civil aviation accords would spur competitiveness between carriers and benefit Sri Lanka, because it depends heavily on air traffic for its tourist dollars, he added.

"Now, there's nothing called going by ship today," Mr. Senanayake said. "For example, Sri Lanka gets 99.5 percent traffic into the country by air."


By Business Bug

Liquor expectations

A fall out of the recent tragedy in Batticaloa where over fifty persons died after drinking contaminated liquor was the clamour for reduced taxes on the legal liquor trade.

The appeal has been made in the past, but has always fallen on deaf ears, mostly because of the billions of rupees involved.

But this time around, it might be different and the trade has great expectations for a change, possibly in the Budget....

Tenders probed

A third Committee has been appointed to probe the awarding of tenders in importing vaccines.

But what no one disputes is that many drugs that are not properly registered are being imported as a matter of routine.

With this controversy, that is likely to change. New laws which ban the import of "provisionally registered" drugs are likely to be introduced shortly.

Malaysian boys needn't worry

During the state visit to Malaysia, we hear there was a lot of talk about the enterprising bank that seems to be in a spot of trouble.

But the Malaysian boys need not worry. All they need to do is conform to the local laws by selling a bit of their stock, and the green light will be given.

At least, that was the message conveyed to those who made discreet inquiries from the Lankan delegation.....

Child's Play

Toy shares that were going for peanuts may suddenly be worth much more, market watchers say.

That is if buyers from across the water decides to take a piece of the pie.

Continue to Business page 3 * Better management skills vital * Market Focus

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