31 July 2009

Sri Lanka Assures Safe Guarantees for US Investments

New York, 31st July 2009, asiantribune.com

Speaking at the launch of the US-Sri Lankan Chamber of Commerce (USCC) in New York, the Minister of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion Anura Priyadharshana Yapa promised American entrepreneurs their investments will be free of any restrictions permitting them to repatriate all profits, fees and capital.

”We have never nationalized any foreign property and foreign direct investment (FDI) is protected under the Sri Lankan constitution,” he told a large gathering of businessmen at New York’s Harvard Club.

The theme of his address was “Emerging Peace and Investment Opportunities in Sri Lanka.”

Duminda Ariyasinghe, Executive Director of the Board of Investment (BoI) spoke on the subject of “Transatlantic Business Opportunities: Sri Lanka.”

Anil Vitarana, who heads the North American organization of the multinational United Arab Shipping Company, was elected the first president of USCC. A Sri Lankan expatriate who has lived in the US for over 20 years, Vitarana also serves on the Boards of the Maritime Association of the Ports of New York and New Jersey and the International Institute of New Jersey.

The minister, who headed a delegation of senior government officials, pointed out that there are currently 76 American enterprises in Sri Lanka which have collectively invested about $200 million as foreign direct investment (FDI).

Most of those investments are in the information and technologies (IT) sector. It is therefore clear that much more can be done in that regard, he added.

Addressing the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he said: “I also want to add that it is a particularly great honour to meet the representatives of the Manhattan Chamber of commerce, which is the voice of over 100,000 companies in the vibrant City of New York, and represents over 1.6 million employees in the United States and 4.6 million overseas.”

With annual revenue of its enterprises totaling over US$ 630 billion, the Chamber is very significant worldwide.

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UK freight forwarder invests in Sri Lanka

31st July 2009, dailymirror.lk

The UK based freight forwarding company, Cargo Overseas Limited, is pleased to announce the opening of a new branch in Colombo, called Cargo Overseas Lanka (PVT) Limited.

Cargo Overseas Limited will be the first UK freight forwarder to invest directly in Sri Lanka. In conjunction with their long established local partner, Mr Gamini Gunaratna, they anticipate that the Sri Lankan market will provide vast potential for expanion, following the end of the unrest in the country. They will offer comprehensive tailor-made logistic solutions to local Sri Lankan businesses and companies wishing to access the Sri Lankan market. Their initial service offering will comprise sea freight, air freight, insurance, warehousing and local transportation through their global “door-to-door” network.

Phillip Curran, the group Managing Director, said "This new venture aims to take advantage of the vast potential of the Sri Lankan market. On the back of our regular weekly consolidation services, this new office will enhance the overall quality of operations. We have worked closely with Gamini for many years and he has a very strong reputation in Sri Lanka. His enthusiasm and innovative thinking has already brought great success and we look forward to this continuing in the future".

Phillip went on to say "The new business will be a market leader by providing an unrivalled service to Sri Lankan importers and exporters. We hope to provide real opportunities for local businesses to get closer to their customers throughout the world"

Cargo Overseas Lanka PVT Ltd will commemce its operation in early August.

Fishermen scoop up Sri Lanka’s peace dividend

31st July 29009, The New York Times

TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka — It was just after dawn and the fish market beneath this port city’s clock tower was humming. Fishermen shouldering baskets laden with the night’s catch tipped their Spanish mackerel, tuna and prawns onto the slick concrete floor for buyers. Sweaty men with clipboards and wads of cash leaned in close to inspect with crinkled noses, squinting eyes and prodding fingers.

With the end of a civil war, the government has eased curbs on fishing in the waters off Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, which offer a bounty of fish and other seafood. Slide Show.

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Sri Lanka plans to raise $500 million overseas after IMF loan

By Cherian Thomas and Anusha Ondaatjie, 31t July 2009, Bloomberg

Sri Lanka plans to raise $500 million from overseas investors to help rebuild the war-torn island after an International Monetary Fund loan shored up the nation’s finances.

“We will take a decision in the next few weeks,” Sri Lanka’s central bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said in an interview in Mumbai today. “We did an investor update in many parts of the world. We are here in India today to see whether there is appetite for syndicated loans, sovereign bonds.”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is seeking funds to turn the north and east of the South Asian island into productive parts of the economy after squashing the Tamil Tiger rebels’ 26-year hold on the region. The IMF last week approved a $2.6 billion loan to help Sri Lanka rebuild and replenish its foreign- exchange reserves.

“Sri Lanka has an excellent story to tell,” Nick Nicolaou, chief executive officer of HSBC Sri Lanka, said this week. “The IMF endorsement provides confidence to overseas investors.”

If Sri Lanka sells sovereign bonds to raise funds, it will be the second time since October 2007, when investors placed orders for more than three times the amount of debt sold. HSBC, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Barclays Capital had arranged Sri Lanka’s debut overseas bond sale.

Sri Lanka’s government in 2007 sold $500 million of bonds due in October 2012, at a yield 397.2 basis points higher than U.S. Treasuries of similar maturity.

Sri Lanka has tapped HSBC and JPMorgan to arrange meetings with investors in the U.S., India, Hong Kong and Singapore to highlight prospects in the island nation after the end of its civil war.

“We managed to sell the bonds in 2007 when the war was still going on,” Cabraal said. “With the end of the war, the outlook to raise funds abroad is much better.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Cherian Thomas in New Delhi at Cthomas1@bloomberg.net; Anusha Ondaatjie in Colombo at anushao@bloomberg.net.

Murali sets Test retirement date

By Sa'adi Thawfeeq, 30th July 2009, cricinfo.com

Sri Lankan offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan has said he will retire from Test cricket next year. Murali, who is the highest wicket-taker in Tests with 770 wickets in 127 Tests, announced that the two-Test home series against West Indies in November 2010 would be his last.

Speaking at the end of the first ODI against Pakistan, in which he won the Man-of-the-Match award, the 37-year-old Murali said he would focus on playing one-day cricket until the 2011 World Cup, to be held in the subcontinent, and would thereafter stick to Twenty20 cricket.

"I am not going to play for a long time. Next year's West Indies series will be the last two Test matches I will be playing," Muralitharan said. "That's the right time for me because I will be 38 years old. The 2011 World Cup is my aim, but I will enjoy playing Twenty20 cricket for a few more years.

"The hardest game in cricket is Tests. The hardest part is you have to take wickets and get batsmen out and sometimes you have to spend two days on the field. You have to mentally prepare yourself for every game. In Twenty20, you look to contain the batsmen and he tries some shots and gets out. Fifty-over cricket is also the same. In Test cricket you have to read the batsmen, set the fields properly and get the wickets."

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29 July 2009

Kandy Esala Perahera, the most beautiful pageant in Sri Lanka, begins

S M Jiffrey Abdeen, 19th July 2009, The Sunday Observer

The historic Kandy Esala Perahera of the Sri Dalada Maligawa will commence on July 27 with the Kumbal Perahera and conclude on August 5 with the final Randoli Perahera. The Day Perahera will be on August 6 said the Diyawadana Nilame of the Sri Dalda Maligawa Nilanga Dela Bandara.
The planting of the Kap will take place on July 22.

Diyawadana Nilame Nilanga Dela Bandara said with the ending of the thirty year war and normalcy being restored, a very large gathering is expected for this year's Esala Perahera. Large crowds will throng to see the first Kumbal Perahera.

This year the route of the first Kumbal Perahera on July 27 will be extended. It will start from the Maligawa Square and proceed along Dalada Veediya, D.S. Senanayake Veediya (Trincomalee Street), Pansala Para, Deva Veediya, Srimath Bennet Soysa Veediya, Kotugodella Veediya, Raja Veediya and back to Maligawa Square.

With the planting of the Kap, the Inner Perahera will commence on July 22 by parading within the Sri Dalada Complex from July 22 to July 26 before it takes to the streets on July 27 with the Kumbal perahera which concludes on July 31.

The grand Randoli Perahera will commence on August 1 and conclude on August 5. The Diyawadana Nilame said that the annual Perahera of Sri Vishnu Devale of Devinuwara and the Esala Festival of the Ruhunu Kataragama Devale will also be held at the same time and there will be a heavy demand for elephants to participate in the Peraheras.

Despite this 80 - 100 elephants will participate in the final Randoli Perahera.

The Water Cutting will take place in the early hours of August 6 at the Getambe ford of the Mahaweli Ganga and conclude with the Day Perahera on August 6.

Kandy Esala Perahera - - Youtube Video 1

Kandy Esala Perahera - - Youtube Video 2

28 July 2009

State-of-the-art Sigiriya Museum opens doors to history of this World Heritage Site

Kumudini Hettiarachchi, 31st May 2009, sundaytimes.lk

It is a tale of treachery and deceit, love and hate, triumph and disaster that has fascinated people down the ages. It is also a tale of craftsmanship and sensuous art, the legacy of which still holds people in awe, more than 15 centuries later.

All about Sigiriya and more will now be available to “discerning” tourists, both local and foreign, at the state-of-the-art Sigiriya Museum and Information Centre -- having as its backdrop the formidable rock fortress – to be opened shortly.

Many are familiar with the Kasyapan period (477-495 AC), when King Kasyapa, after murdering his father King Dhatusena made his home at Sigiriya, creating a different image of this forbidding rock outcrop, starting with a passage leading through the lion’s paws and encompassing the lion staircase, the mirror wall, the beautiful apsaras, the water gardens, moated palaces, boulder gardens, terrace gardens et al.

But what of the pre- and post-Kasyapa period, asks Central Cultural Fund (CCF) Director-General Prof. Sudarshan Seneviratne, explaining its many-layered history.

Sigiriya, in addition to being a World Heritage Site, is also one of the very few large secular sites with an unbroken history from 5,000 BC to contemporary periods. It depicts a “microcosm” of the cultural and technological phases of Sri Lanka, he says.

The museum represents all these facets in their totality, he adds, explaining that the concept was conceived by the first Director of the Sigiriya Project, Prof. Senake Bandaranayake who later took up the mantle of CCF D-G, assisted by various eminent scholars. The concept was translated into the material structure by Architect Chandana Ellepola, while the internal design was handled by Japanese experts who were advised by a team of Sri Lankan specialists.

While the whole area is naturally landscaped to blend with the environment, the location is scenic, built on the Yan Oya, with most of the trees branching skyward through the museum and streams winding through it giving out a merry tinkling tone. “This is in keeping with the ability of the ancient builders who not only laid out the garden elements in a grid pattern but also embraced organic beauty and asymmetry, moulding their building on to boulders although they had sufficient engineering knowledge to remove them,” he says.

All important features of Sigiriya such as the frescoes, spiral staircase and bubble fountain have been replicated, The Sunday Times understands. “This is a bonus for anyone who cannot scale the rock,” says the DG.

The Sigiriya Museum and Information Centre has been funded by Japan, through JICA, under its Project for the Development of Culture-oriented Tourism (COT) which hopes to promote nature-culture-traditional lives.

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Former Japanese PM, Yasuo Fakuda arrives in Sri Lanka

28th July 2009, news.lk

On an invitation extended by the Sri Lankan government, former Japanese Prime Minister, Yasuo Fakuda arrived in the island last night (27). Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama welcomed the visiting dignitary at the airport.

Fukuda will attend the opening ceremony of a new museum in Sigiriya today.

Japan is a strong friend os Sri Lanka for many decades and has been funding many projects here.

Japan has also played a key role in the national crisis of the country in the past with special envoy Yashushi Akashi vising Colombo on 18 occassions.

Bahrain Prime Minister arrives in Sri Lanka

28th July 2009, Asiantribune.com

On the invitation of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain will be on an official visit to Sri Lanka from 28-30 July 2009.The visiting Prime Minister of Bahrain will hold bilateral talks with Sri Lanka President. The talks expected to cover a wide range of issues including expanding the economic cooperation between the two countries.

This is the first high level visit to Sri Lanka from Bahrain after a lapse of 33 years. The late Sheikh Isa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa, the Amir of Kingdom of Bahrain, visited Sri Lanka for the Non Aligned Summit Conference in 1976.The Bahrain –Sri Lanka diplomatic relations, formalized in 1992, continued to expand into practical cooperation on labour matters as well as on matters of mutual interest in regional and international forums. It is expected that the high level visit will further enrich and expand Sri Lanka’s friendly relations with the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Bahrain is one of the fastest growing economies in the Middle East with a high per capita income. In the recent past, many countries have shown interest in strengthening economic relations with Bahrain. Following the restoration of peace in the North and East of Sri Lanka with the end of terrorism, Sri Lanka is seeking assistance from friendly countries for the reconstruction of North and the other less-developed areas. The Government of Sri Lanka hopes that such assistance will help boost the country’s economy and national development.

According to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry, “Sri Lanka’s main focus during the visit will be to attract Bahrain – based companies to invest in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. There are a number of investment opportunities which have opened up in Sri Lanka in recent times.

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Bridge link with India a visionary approach – Sri Lankan Transport Minister

26th July 2009, firstlanka.com

Transport minister Dalas Alahperuma addressing the second meeting of the SAARC ministers meeting of Transport yesterday (25) said the proposal for the railway link with India and a land bridge is viewed by our Government with a visionary approach as the project of the Century. The linkage through this to see fulfilled sooner than later, enabling us to become a more vibrant of a larger region.

“In Sri Lanka, His Excellency president Mhinda Rajapaksa has given us leadership in ensuring that we play our part in this regional endeavor. We have already held consultations amongst our different agencies and departments to identify the necessary measures requited to implement the two project suggested by the Inter-Governmental Group on Transport as recommended by the SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport Study. We have also already constructed the required local infrastructure to commence the proposed ferry service from Colombo to Cochin and to Tuticorin.

The lack of regular direct flights between many SAARC countries is proof of existing gaps that we need to mend. Sadly even between Sri Lanka and India, the regular ferry service that used to operate from Talaimanner to Rameshwaram has not been able to operate for over 25 years.

Since the word economy depends largely on vibrant regional economies, of we choose to postpone these initiatives, we will continually fall behind even though individual countries may gain growth. Such a situation will result in greater intra-regional disparities that may have an adverse impact on regional social well-being. To avoid such debilitating phenomena, we need to promote our growth as a region.

Our people , a majority of the 1.5 billion of us who cannot afford luxuries such as air travel, therefore languish in isolation, lacking the means of connectivity that is essential for increasing intra-regional trade and other forms of interaction”.

Courtesy: Government Information Department

Hikkaduwa Beach Festival 2009

17th July, 2009 ColomboPage News Desk

The Hikkaduwa Beach Festival 2009, one of the largest beach festivals in South Asia is to be held from July 30th to August 3rd at Hikkaduwa. The event is a major item in the tourism calendar of Sri Lanka and is expected to draw a large number of foreign as well as local visitors.

The first Hikkaduwa Beach Festival last year has generated an income of Rs. 120 million during the five days it was held, said Faizer Mustapha, Minister of Tourism Promotion.

According to the Minister this year's beach festival has generated greater interest and already over 500 packages have been sold in India and the Maldives.

This year's festival includes a drum festival, rave, beach carnival, beach sports and a sandcastle building competition. The main goal of the festival is to project Hikkaduwa area as the entertainment strip of South Asia.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau organized its first event in 2008 to promote tourism in Sri Lanka and it was a success.

25 July 2009

Colombo Stock Market Review - 24 July 2009

24th July 2009, News.lk

On Friday, the Colombo Stock Market remained positive with the market indices recording substantial gains and the turnover reaching over Rs.1 billion due to high foreign investor interest in selected blue chip shares. The All Share Price Index (ASPI) which tracks the movements of all stocks closed the day at 2,491.75 points, up by 11.19 points or 0.45% while the Milanka Price Index which tracks the most liquid stocks closed the day at 2,793.13 points, up by 29.71 points or 1.08%. The ASPI growth for the year to date stands at 65.78%.The turnover for the day was Rs.1,085.91 million compared with Rs.557.81 million recorded on the previous trading day.

Heavily traded stocks for the day, in terms of volume were Dialog Telekom, John Keells Holdings, Nations Trust Bank, Lanka Cement ,John Keells Hotels, Seylan Merchant Bank (Nov Voting), Piramal Glass Ceylon, Sierra Cables, Sampath Bank and National Development Bank.

The highest contributor to the market turnover was John Keells Holdings contributing Rs.478.15 million to the market turnover. The share gained Rs.4.25 or 3.15% to close the day at Rs.139.25, while trading at a high of Rs.141.00 and a low of Rs.135.00.

In the hotels sector, Hotel Developers which owns and operates the Hilton Hotel, gained the most with an increase of 4.04% to close the day at Rs.135.25 while Kandy Hotels was up by Rs.4.50 or 3.87% to close the day at Rs.120.75. Tangerine Beach Hotels closed flat at Rs.50.00. John Keells Hotels too closed flat at Rs.13.00.

Index heavyweight Sri Lanka Telecom was down by Rs.0.25 or 0.53% to close the day at Rs.47.00 while Dialog Telekom closed flat at Rs.5.25.

Peru, China and Sri Lanka lead 10 of the world’s best performing stock markets. Investors funneled $32 billion this year

By Shiyin Chen, 24th July 2009, Bloomberg.com

Emerging-market equity funds drew $2.6 billion in the week ended July 22, boosted by optimism that U.S. demand for exports will recover, EPFR Global said.

The inflows into emerging-market stock funds were the most since the period ended June 10, the research firm said in a statement yesterday. Global emerging market equity funds attracted $1.08 billion, while those investing in Asian excluding-Japan shares took in $973 million.

Investors have funneled almost $32 billion into emerging market stock funds this year, helping the MSCI Emerging Markets Index to a 45 percent rally. All 10 of the world’s best- performing stock markets belong to developing nations, with Peru, China and Sri Lanka posting the strongest gains.

“Flows into emerging market equity funds rebounded during the third week of July as optimism about a recovery in U.S. demand helped many individual equity markets gain between 3 percent and 8 percent,” EPFR said.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index today added 0.3 percent as of 5:20 p.m. in Singapore, poised for its highest close since Sept. 25.

U.S. stocks rallied this week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average topping 9,000 yesterday for the first time since January, after EBay Inc., Ford Motor Co. and AT&T Inc. posted earnings that beat analyst estimates.

Rebounding exports and increased household spending helped South Korea’s gross domestic product jump 2.3 percent in the fist quarter, data released by the Bank of Korea today showed. That’s the fastest pace in almost six years.

China, India

South Korea’s Kospi index rose 4.3 percent this week. In China, the Shanghai Composite is added 5.7 percent increase, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, which tracks the H shares of Chinese companies in Hong Kong, has rallied 7.5 percent, Asia’s best performance. India’s benchmark index is set for a 4.2 percent gain this week, extending a 9.2 percent advance last week.

“At the moment, I’m still positive on China because it is one of the two countries in Asia, including India, that will give us GDP growth of 8 percent or more,” Daphne Roth, head of Asian equity research at ABN Amro Private Bank in Singapore, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today.

Funds investing in the so-called BRIC nations of Brazil, China, India and Russia added $2.1 billion for an 18th straight week of gains, EFPR said. China funds posted the largest gains, adding $243 million, while Indian funds attracted $148 million. Mexico funds also posted their strongest weekly inflows since June 2008, gaining 7.2 percent, the research company said.

Equity funds absorbed a total $3.44 billion while fixed income funds had a “rare” week of inflows, attracting $3.98 billion, EPFR added.

“The outperformance of China and emerging markets in recent months demonstrates that decoupling survived last year’s episodes,” Jonathan Garner, Morgan Stanley’s chief Asian and emerging markets strategist, wrote in a note yesterday. “When investors last believed in decoupling back in 2007, we saw substantial hot money inflows into China. That has started to resume.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Shiyin Chen in Singapore at schen37@bloomberg.net

ADB to lend Sri Lanka 50% more to help rebuild after civil war

By Anusha Ondaatjie, 23rd July 2009, Bloomberg.com

The Asian Development Bank plans to increase its lending to Sri Lanka by 50 percent to help the South Asian island rebuild after ending its 26-year civil war.

The Manila-based lender plans to raise Sri Lanka’s annual allocation to $300 million in 2010 from $200 million, to fund road, power and water and sanitation projects in the island’s north and east, among others, said Narhari Rao, ADB’s South Asia lead economist.

“Sri Lanka is in an extremely favorable situation and the overall confidence of the international community is much higher,” Rao said in an interview in Colombo today. “We are trying to push ahead on various fronts since we feel it’s just the right time to give resources to Sri Lanka.”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is seeking aid and investments to help turn the war-ravaged east and north of the island into productive parts of the economy after defeating the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. The International Monetary Fund this week said it reached a staff-level agreement for a $2.5 billion standby loan for Sri Lanka to rebuild its economy and replenish international reserves.

Rao said the ADB’s board may also this year approve a $300 million “special facility” to Sri Lanka to help it better face the global recession and set up a $20 million fund in 2011 to support public-private partnerships.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka this month raised its 2009 growth forecast for Sri Lanka to as much as 4.5 percent from an earlier estimate of 2.5 percent. Gross domestic product expanded 1.5 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace in at least six years.

Foreign Reserves

The nation’s reserves declined by more than more half in the six months from September to as little as $1.4 billion as the global recession hurt export earnings, prompting Sri Lanka to start talks with the IMF in March. Foreign reserves stood at $1.705 billion as of July 20, according to the central bank.

Rao said Sri Lanka could increase its rate of economic growth to at least 7 percent in the next year or two, “contingent on the global scenario.”

He said the nation could contain its budget deficit to 7 percent of GDP in 2009, as forecast by the central bank, and narrow the gap to a “more sustainable” level of 5 percent as the economy picks up.

“With the fiscal deficit brought under control and foreign reserves being built up, there’s absolutely no reason Sri Lanka can’t attract more investment and the private sector gain more access to funds,” Rao said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anusha Ondaatjie in Colombo at anushao@bloomberg.net.

South Korean Sovereign Wealth Fund to Boost Equities Investment

21st July 2009, Bloomberg.com

Korea Investment Corp., the country’s $30 billion sovereign wealth fund, said it will increase the equities allocation in its portfolio later this year and target additional investments in the U.S. and Asia.

“We think it’s unlikely that bonds are going to continue to outperform stocks from here over the long term,” Chief Investment Officer Scott Kalb said today in an interview in Seoul. “We’re moving more towards equity.”

The Seoul-based fund, known as KIC, plans to increase its equities holdings to 50 percent of “traditional” investments by the end of this year from the current 40 percent, Kalb said. The portfolio of “high-quality equities and fixed income” securities makes up 90 percent of KIC’s total assets, he said.

The fund is seeking equity investments in the U.S. after asset values plummeted since last year’s credit rout, Kalb said. It is also interested in Asian countries, which have fared better than the developed nations in the turmoil, he said.

Asian indexes make up six of the 10 best performing stock measures worldwide this year, led by China, Sri Lanka and India, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

U.S. government bonds handed investors a 4.5 percent loss between January and June this year, according to Merrill Lynch & Co.’s U.S. Treasury Master Index. That’s the worst first-half performance in at least three decades. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, which rose to its highest level since November yesterday, added 1.8 percent in the six-month period.

State Pension Fund

Other South Korean state-run funds are also adding overseas stocks. National Pension Service, the nation’s biggest investor, plans to double its international assets within the next six years by investing in the so-called BRIC nations -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- and other Asian countries.

Foreign investments may jump to 15 percent of the world’s fifth-largest pension fund’s $204.7 billion in assets under management by 2015, up from 7.4 percent, the pension fund said.

“We need to boost returns in order to secure the long-term financial stability of the fund,” Jeon Jae Hee, who oversees the state pension fund and is the minister of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, said in New York on July 17.

KIC, set up in July 2005 to invest part of South Korea’s foreign-exchange reserves overseas, will start investing $1 billion this year in “alternative investments,” including real estate, commodities and private-equity and hedge funds, Chief Executive Officer Chin Young Wook said on July 15. Initial investments will focus on assets that would hedge against inflation, he said.


“Inflation is not going to be a concern for another year or two, but we need to have some protection,” Kalb said today. “You don’t want to buy insurance after your house is on fire.”

The fund targets returns of around 4 percent to 5 percent on its investments after adjusting for inflation, said Kalb, who joined KIC in April. He previously worked at Balyasny Asset Management LP and Black Arrow Capital Management.

KIC holds about 62 million shares in Bank of America Corp. after its holding in Merrill Lynch & Co. was converted. The fund invested $2 billion in Merrill Lynch in January 2008, nine months before the firm was sold to Bank of America.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bomi Lim in Seoul at blim30@bloomberg.net; Seyoon Kim in Seoul at skim7@bloomberg.net

23 July 2009

National Parks to be developed in Sri Lanka

23rd July 2009, news.lk

Moves are under way to develop Yala and Kumana National Parks.
The Environment Ministry has identified them as priority areas of development to conserve biodiversity of the forests.

Attracting visits by foreign nationals and thereby raking in good foreign exchange to the country is an incentive, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Champika Ranawaka said after opening an information Centre and a park bungalow at Lunugamvehera recently.

He pointed out that visitors to the Lunugamvehera and Yala National Parks were on the increase, and they were planning to open the block two of Yala National Park located between Menik Ganga and Kumbukkan Oya for the benefit of animal lovers and research.

He noted that more than 28,000 people, both foreigners and locals have visited the Yala Park up to June 30 this year and the number of visitors to the park during the same period last year was over 15,000 and foreign nationals visiting Yala has also increased from 7,532 in 2008 to 10,939 in 2009, the Minister said.

Jim Rogger’s Investment Guidance on where to invest now ..

22nd July 2009, nseguide.com

Jim Rogers is a legendary investor, a swashbuckling traveller, a man who made his fortune before he turned 40. Now, he is an author and commentator. The man Times magazine once called the Indiana Jones of the world of investing has now morphed himself into a modern dad. In an exclusive interview with Ramesh Damani on CNBC-TV18’s show RD 360, Roger discusses his latest book, A Gift to My Children: A Father’s Lesson in life and investing.

Jim Rogers’ investment strategy is to look countries where valuations are cheap or paths that are less trodden.

He said, “I do try to find things that are cheap. Normally if something is cheap, it is because it is in the dustbin. People are not looking at it. If everybody is looking at something or if everybody is investing in something, you know as well as I do that it is not cheap.

Q: Let’s talk about the lessons in investing, some of which you have outlined in your book. The first lesson is, how do you size up a country? Can you give us an example of which country you are sizing now?

A: As I look around the world right now, I am not investing in many countries because if I am right about the world economy, we are in for an extended period of difficult times. So, the only place where I bought shares in the past year or so has been China. I have got Sri Lanka on my mind. It is just that I have been busy doing other things that I haven’t been able to get to Sri Lanka. But one of the things that I have learnt is that if you get to a country after a long and bitter war, you usually will find that things are very cheap, you will find a lack of capital, there is low morale, and everything is despondent, and there are usually great opportunities. So, Sri Lanka is on my list as a place where that sort of thing is happening, but there are not many, not these days.

Q: How do you size up a country? What are you looking for?

A: I am looking for two things. I am looking for them to be cheap, for whatever reason: War is a good reason. Cheap and change, where there is some kind of positive change taking place. Sri Lanka is cheap, because it has had a 30-year war and if I am right there is positive change because the war is over now. So, there is going to be peace and so the country can spend a lot of its time, energy and money on pursuing peaceful pursuits.

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Sri Lanka invites bids for coal

22nd July 2009, lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka has invited bids to supply 2.4 million metric tomes of coal for the country's first coal power plant built by state-run Ceylon Electricity Board, which is scheduled to be commissioned next year.

Lanka Coal Company (Private) Ltd, a specially incorporated company for coal procurement, said in a advertisement in the The Daily Mirror newspaper that bids would close on September 10, 2009.

Lanka Coal said it had been set up in January 2008, and its shares are held by Sri Lanka's Treasury, Ceylon Electricity Board, Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Ceylon Shipping Corporation Limited.

The company said 2.4 million tonnes was the annual requirement of the 300Mega Watt plant and bids were invited on FOBT (Port of Loading) basis.

Suppliers could also quote on CIF (cost insurance and freight) to the jetty of the plant.

The CEB is building the coal plant in Sri Lanka's western coast in Puttalam, north of the capital Colombo, with Chinese financing.

The government signed up additional financing from China in June to build the second stage of two 300MW plan.

Sri Lanka international airport plans expansion

23rd July 2009, LBO

Sri Lanka's sole international airprot has plans to expand further if traffic grows beyond existing capacity with the end of a three decade internal war, a senior official said. Existing capacity at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), north of Colombo, is enough to handle aircraft, passenger and cargo movements until 2013, under current projections, said Samantha Abeywardena, senior assistant airport manager.

Abeywardena of Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka), which operates the island's airports, said there had been a significant increase in traffic at the airport in June, just a month after the end of the war.

Govenrment forces defeated the Tamil Tiger separatists in May, ending a 30-year conflict that had retarded economic growth and kept tourists at bay.

Abeywardena said the airport authority has plans to further expand the BIA, the island's main gateway, should traffic grow beyond current projections.

"We're geared at the BIA - the runways, taxiways, parking bays, pier, boarding gates, bus gates, and aerobridges are adequate to manage up to 2013. The three cargo terminals are also adequate until 2013.

"In our future plans under phase two, stage two of our expansion plan, if passenger, cargo or airline movements go up, we'll have a split level terminal with a new pier and eight aero bridges (for passengers to board or disembark from aircraft."

Abeywardena said the airport and aviation industry was very sensitive to security concerns and had witnessed harp drops in traffic after upsurges of violence in recent years.

A key Sri Lankan road is re-opened

22nd July 2009, BBC News

The main highway in Sri Lanka linking the northern Jaffna peninsula to the south has been opened to civilian traffic after years of conflict.

The A9 road came under government control this year during the final onslaught against Tamil Tiger rebels.

The rebels controlled parts of it for nearly 20 years.

BBC correspondents says the opening of the road will ease the provision of essential goods and services in the north and improve trade links.

22 July 2009

Sri Lanka is meeting global investors in New York, Boston and London

22nd July 2009 www.financial24.org

HONG KONG, July 21 - Sri Lanka is meeting global investors in New York, Boston and London this week to appraise them about the situation in the country after the end of its 25-year civil war, a source close to the development said.

Although a global bond issue is not imminent, the possibility of such a debt offering cannot be ruled out, the source said. Officials from the South Asian country met with investors in Hong Kong and Singapore last week. The meetings are being arranged by JPMorgan and HSBC.

On Monday, Sri Lanka and the International Monetary Fund reached a $2.5 billion loan deal to help the country cope with the global financial crisis and pay for post-war rebuilding.

'They are doing roadshows, they are meeting with investors, telling them the story post the end of the conflict and obviously the IMF is something very positive,' said the source, adding that no mandate had been issued and no terms were discussed for a possible bond sale.

Sri Lanka last tapped the global bond market in 2007, issuing $500 million of 5-year bonds at a yield of 8.25 percent. The bonds are currently offering a yield of about 10.75 percent, off a high of 25 percent struck last year.

Yields have fallen from 17 percent in a steady decline since the conflict with separatist rebels ended in May. Sri Lanka is rated B by Standard&Poor's, 5 notches below investment grade .
Fitch Ratings has a B-plus rating. Both agencies have a negative outlook on the rating.

National Intellectual Property - US Patents and Trademark Workshop

22nd July 2009

The National Intellectual Property Office of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the US Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA), held a workshop this past Saturday, July 18, at the Hotel Galadari in Colombo.

The event, held in cooperation with the Sri Lankan Attorney General’s office, informed legal officers from the Sri Lankan Government about current intellectual property law within Sri Lanka and international instruments for enforcing intellectual property laws.

The workshop served as a forum for discussing emerging trends in national and international intellectual property law. Topics discussed included civil litigation against the infringement of intellectual property rights, the relative effectiveness of criminal sanctions in combating piracy of copyrighted material, and intellectual property’s role in economic and social development. Speakers included Dr. D.M. Karunaratna, the Director General of the National Intellectual Property Office, the Hon. Justice Saleem Marsoof PC, a Judge of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court, and Mr. Dominic Keating of USPTO. The chief guest was . Attorney General Mohan Peiris PC.

Lankans in France to assist northern children

22nd July 2009

Sri Lankan community leaders in France have formed a new association called Suriya Udawa to mobilize funds for child development projects in the north and east. The new association will launch its first project later this year to help rebuilding of school buildings in Vavuniya, Mannar, Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu districts.

‘Suriya Udawa’ will implement several projects on child rehabilitation, education, child health and social upliftment of children within the next three years.

Stating this, President of Suriya Udawa, Saman Mannapperuma said that several leading Sri Lankans abroad including Mr Collette Senanayake of United States and Mr Edward Perera of Germany would raise funds from individual philanthropists and organizations in Europe and United States to assist Suria Udawa projects in Sri Lanka.

Crush 'under world' and criminals - Sri Lanka Defence Secretary

21st July 2009

Law enforcement authorities seek the support of the public i to crush the activities of the underworld members and organized criminal gangs.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse has urged the public to provide any information they know about criminal gangs to the nearest criminal investigation unit of the police or directly to himself.

Security units have the capability to find out the sources of such information, defence sources claimed. Rajapaksa said a special programme was now in progress to eradicate activities of underworld and organized criminal gangs.

A special unit that comprises officers of police and special task force has already been established in this regard. The defence secretary has said cooperation of the military will also be obtained if required.

After the LTTE was defeated an upward trend in underworld members,activities and armed groups have been witnessed.

The government and defence authorities are determined to end the menace of criminalism and the under world activity.

IMF loan catalyst for market activities

21st July 2009

The Colombo Stock Market continued its positive momentum with the market indices recording significant gains for the third consecutive day and the turnover reaching over Rs.1 billion following the reports that the IMF loan is provisionally approved.

The All Share Price Index (ASPI) was up by 50.65 points or 2.09% to close the day at 2,473.57 points while the Milanka Price Index was up by 48.33 points or 1.79% to close the day at 2,749.08 points. The ASPI growth for the year to date stands at 64.57%. The turnover for the day was Rs.1,013.45 million compared with Rs.312.81 million recorded on the previous trading day.

Heavily traded stocks for the day, in terms of volume were Dialog Telekom, Piramal Glass Ceylon, Pan Asia Banking Corporation, Hotel Reefcomber, Sierra Cables, John Keells Holdings and John Keells Hotels and Tokyo Cement (Non Voting).

The highest contributor to the market turnover was John Keells Holdings contributing Rs.222.45 million to the market turnover. The share gained Rs.2.25 or 1.69% to close the day at Rs.135.25, while trading at a high of Rs.138.00 and a low of Rs.135.00.

Sri Lanka Air Force re-commenced domestic flight services for public to any destination

21st July 2009

The Sri Lanka Air Force has now commenced domestic flight operations to any destination departing from Katunayaka and Ratmalana, Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara told www.news.lk. The general public can now seek any air route to any interested local destination.

The new service is also available from Katunayaka International Air Port enabling passengers arriving at the airport to take an air route to the domestic destination.

The domestic airline service operation was shut down due to the terrorist threats and, with the successful annihilation of the LTTE terrorists the SLAF has taken immediate steps to extend their services with the objective of providing a speedy transportation service to the public.

The service operated under ‘Helitours’ will utilize both Air Craft and Helicopters for intended tours, sources confirmed.

The airfares will be US$70 upwards.

For further information contact “Helitours” on (+94 60) 214 42 44
E-mail : helitours@slaf.gov.lk

US $ 3 billion from migrant workers in 2008

21st July 2009

Sri Lanka earned a massive foreign exchange of three billion US dollars last year through income generated from migrant workers.

Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare said a sizable quantum of this sum had been remitted through women domestic workers employed overseas.
He claimed that Sri Lanka was the first nation to formulate a National Policy on Labor Force in Asia.

The minister pointed out that children of migrant workers annually recieved scholarship to the value of Rs. 40 million through the scheme generated by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment set up to protect and promote welfare of those children.

Meanwhile, the ministry has entered into an agreement with Libya for employment for medical staff and nurses.

All roads get ready for Madhu Feast

21st July 2009

Construction work on the main road leading to the Madhu Shrine will be completed by August 6, well ahead of the church feast t on August 14 and 15, T. B. Ekanayake, Minister of Highways said.

“The cost of the construction is Rs. 157 million and the roads within the Madhu shrine will also be reconstructed before the pilgrimage begins,”the minister said. He added that construction work on the Murunkan – Silawathura road in Mannar has also commenced and would be expedited shortly.

This year's Madhu Feast will attract more pilgrims after the crushing of the LTTE terrorism.
A Special Task Force spearheaded by Senior Presidential Adviser, Basil Rajapaksa is in charge of the Madhu Church rehabilitation project.

Madhu Church is one of the holiest churches for the Catholics in Sri Lanka.

Suppression of the underworld is a trifle, Sri Lanka's new CDS says

15th July 2009, ColomboPage News Desk

Sri Lanka's new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Sarath Fonseka today said as the main person who defeated the world's most dangerous terror outfit, suppression of the country's underworld is a trifle for him.

Speaking to the media after assuming duties as the CDS, General Sarath Fonseka described the suppression of the underworld as a lower kindergarten activity.

General Fonseka said he expects to support the finalizing of demining activities and resettlement process in North as soon as possible.

The new CDS took office this morning following religious ceremonies. All the heads of security forces, Air Force commander Air Chief Marshal Roshan Gunathilaka, new Navy commander Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, new Army Commander Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasooriya, Inspector General of Police Jayantha Wickramarathna, and outgoing Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Donald Perera were among the main participants of the occasion.

Meanwhile the new Army commander Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasooriya, an old boy of the Royal College in Colombo, also assumed duties this morning as the 19th Commander of Sri Lanka Army.

21 July 2009

"A Luxury Travel Blog" unveils a new luxury hideaway in Sri Lanka - Reef Beach Villa


Reef is a new luxury hideaway set in three acres of exotic tropical gardens, just 45mins south of Colombo, Sri Lanka on the beach. With their 65m sandy beachfront, all weather tennis court, large swimming pool, lush tropical gardens, huge lily ponds, garden pavilions and gourmet kitchens, Reef sets a new benchmark for luxury accommodation in Sri Lanka.

To maintain the romance and privacy, there are just seven exclusive and palatial suites; all are air-conditioned and feature unique antique romantic four-poster canopied beds giving a feeling of relaxed grandeur. They also have spacious shaded verandas for private dining and antique Indian swings, which overlook the lush gardens and views of the sparkling blue Indian Ocean.


Sri Lanka Is Cinderella Story of Asia

Private equity investors wax poetic about Asia, but for the most part, by Asia, they mean established economies like Japan, or up-and-comers like China or India. Sri Lanka tends to be an area that gets a lot less focus, but one firm, Singapore-based Calamander Capital Ltd., hopes to change that. Calamander, headed by Chairman Roman Scott, is looking to raise $150 million to invest in the South Asian island nation. We caught up with Scott to ask him why.

How do you get comfortable with political risk in the country after a three-decade war?

Outsiders, especially Westerners, don’t understand that over the last six years, Sri Lanka has grown faster than all ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries except Vietnam. Now imagine what you can achieve without the war. The war thing has always been a perception issue. Unlike the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan or Israel, what happened in Sri Lanka over the last two years is that the Tamil Tiger rebels have been largely removed. The political risk is not the resurgence of the Tigers movement, because there are no Tigers to resurge. The risk instead is fighting the economic war, and putting in place the right economic policy.

What kind of investors are you marketing the fund to?
We’d like to have an investor base as mixed as possible and hope to have no more than one-third of investors coming from the U.S. and Europe. But for the majority, our focus is on Asia, particularly Indian institutions and high-net worth individuals, and to a lesser extent, ASEAN and the rest of Asia. That’s because they understand the Sri Lanka story. It’s the Cinderella story of Asia. Like all Cinderellas, Sri Lanka is the prettiest girl although she works in the kitchen infested with rats – and Indians understand that. It’s closely tied to the Indian economy, almost like another province of India.

Why does the fund plan to invest in commodities?
The demand for soft commodities in Sri Lanka is dependent on Asian demand. For example, demand for rubber is tied to Asian growth and future global growth, and is less tied to Wal-Mart. Demand for tea, for example, is more fundamental. If you have a cup of tea in the morning, the demand is resistant to recession and consumption doesn’t change much. Demand for building and construction products remains strong in Asia, especially as much of the Asian governments’ economic stimulus packages goes into construction projects.

How do you plan to create value?
Virtually every company in Sri Lanka is not adequately capitalized and is not efficient. For instance, some tea factories in the country are using machinery that’s 90 to 100 years old, and some are still powered by steam engines. The country has the biggest concentration of low-hanging fruit on the planet. It has been in a war for 25 years, which means no investment for 25 years. We are taking something out of the 19th century and into the 20th century. Accordingly, we will use very limited leverage, no more than one-third of the transaction value. And the leverage will be primarily for working capital needs.

What is your exit strategy?
Exits will rely on trade sales to larger companies from the Asian region that are looking for a foothold in the country or a supply of goods. For example, the Indonesians and the Chinese are interested in rubber assets, and the Singaporeans and the Malaysians are interested in building materials.

19 July 2009

Sri Lanka - An Adventurous Tropical Island Getaway beckons fun seekers

“The island nation is one of the most exciting places to visit this summer with peace finally prevailing" - Ms. Al Mansoori

This summer Sri Lanka offers the adventurous holiday maker an exciting array of options. The Indian Ocean island is rapidly becoming a destination of choice for those who want a stimulating vacation to recharge their batteries and energise their outlook.

Whether it’s wandering calmly over the lush central highlands, hanging in a wicker basket as you gaze over the breathtaking views passing lazily beneath you, or the more high-octane thrills of crashing down tumbling river flows in a white water raft, Sri Lanka promises experiences that will persist in the memory long after the thrill of the activity has subsided.

“With peace finally prevailing after almost three decades of strife, Sri Lanka is an ideal getaway for regional travellers being only three and a half hours flying time away from the Gulf," said Heba Al Ghais Al Mansoori, Middle East Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.

“It’s not all necessarily adrenalin pumping stuff as for the more leisurely inclined explorer, there are pastimes that will allow you to experience the wonders of this tropical isle without so much as breaking into a sweat including hiking tours that take in the varied landscapes of the island and can be conducted at a gentle pace opening up the colourful and abundant array of plants, bird species and other wildlife to be found across the countryside," remarked Ms. Al Mansoori.

Cycling and mountain biking are another way to get about, with undemanding trips available for those who wish to visit the ancient ruins and temples of a country whose history and heritage stretches back thousands of years. Pedalling unhurriedly through the country lanes, you can hear the rustle of the forest come alive and enjoy the whiff and heady scent of flowers in bloom. For those who prefer a greater exercise challenge, the undulating roads of the hill country make for a more intense cycling workout.

If heights are your thing, you can spend some time around the central highlands, home to Mount Pidurutalagala, Sri Lanka’s tallest mountain. Here you can paraglide, flying over the forests and lakes like a bird, or indulge in rope sports, abseiling down sheer cliff faces close to magnificent waterfalls.

Hot air ballooning is also an extremely popular activity in this part of the island and offers a unique way to explore the country as you silently float over the lakes and forests, you can spy deer and elephants who are oblivious to your presence, along with the occasional bemused farmer who has happened to glance upwards!

Water features as a significant part of Sri Lanka’s inland landscape, with turbulent rivers, spectacular falls and calm lagoons for the intrepid enthusiast to enjoy. White water rafting is one of the longest established adventure sports on the island, with rivers providing thrills, glorious scenery and the chance to view life in the villages en route.

The most popular area for rafting is along the Kelani River in Kitulgala, close to where the classic film ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ was shot. Canoeists and kayakers can also explore the various waterways, with professionals able to run some extremely challenging rivers that run through the forests.

With all this activity available inland, it’s easy to forget that Sri Lanka also has some magnificent beaches, with one at Unawatuna being acclaimed as one of the world’s top 10. Being a relatively small island, you will never be far from the azure waters and bronze sands of the coast and if lying down and absorbing the rays isn’t for you, you can try your hand at surfing in waters that average a blissfully warm 27°c. Arugam Bay, on the east coast, has long been established as a surfing hotspot, with sufficiently high waves to attract international contests. When conditions are ideal, it is possible to catch a wave that will carry an experienced board rider 800 metres.

When the season finishes at Arugam Bay, it’s just opening up at Hikkaduwa, on the west coast, about 100km from Colombo. The waves here are around 2 metres high and of sufficient interest to attract international surfers during the season. If your interests lie under the water, you can scuba dive and snorkel at a number of resorts, exploring coral reefs and old Dutch shipwrecks that are home to vividly coloured tropical fish and other aquatic life. If it’s faster paced water sports that you want, you can hire out jet skis, learn to wind surf or try your hand at water skiing.

Taking a break from all these sporting activities, the capital Colombo offers all the attractions of a busy city, with star-rated hotels, shopping malls and a vast array of restaurants and clubs that cater for all tastes. A relaxing day can be had at the renowned Hakgala Botanical Gardens, with 27 acres overflowing with roses and ferns and at the Peradeniya Gardens in the city of Kandy, where you will also find the ancient Temple of the Tooth. If you are keen to discover the origins of your morning cuppa, the central highlands feature tea estates where you can learn how the world’s most popular brew travels from luxuriant bush to your breakfast table.

Regardless of whether it’s excitement or relaxation that you crave, Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage and history is sure to leave you as captivated and charmed as the countless travellers who have visited throughout the ages. The island is only four hours flying time from the UAE and travelling there is easy with S

riLankan Airlines. The operator flies to Colombo from Dubai ten times a week and runs a daily service from Abu Dhabi. The operator has been voted Central Asia’s Airline of the Year for two consecutive years.

See also: Lanka Challenge 2009

Not for the faint hearted! - What is this "The Lanka Challenge 2009" thing every one is talking about?

17th May 2009, www.capetownalive.co.za

The Lanka Challenge 2009 will see intrepid travelers from around the world traverse the spicy island of Sri Lanka from the 5th-15th September 2009, in one of the funkiest modes of transport invented by man; the humble Auto Rickshaw. This three - wheeled mean machine will become your best companion as you compete in a "master of disaster" challenge through mountains, rainforests, coastal villages and bustling cities, not to mention some of the most breathtaking scenery you will ever witness.

As you ascend and descend this enigmatic island you will come across colorful villages, paddy fields, coconut palms, forest reserves, national parks, tea plantations and golden beaches. Along the journey you will also discover and admire the holy temples, monuments, statues, and colonial forts punctuating this beautiful island.

The Organizers of this Crazy event say "Come and savor the true essence of this devilled island; admire the power of religion, absorb its captivating culture, engage with its charismatic people and learn its "machan" ways. We will ensure that your contributions leave a positive footprint on the local community and every one touched by this event."

For more information on this funky race check out www.lankachallenge.com

Full Story

18 July 2009

Sigiriya, Eighth Wonder of the World

18th July 2009, InvestSriLanka

Sigiriya, well known rock fortress in Sri Lanka is a World Heritage Site. Some say that Sigiriya is the Eighth Wonder of the World. Famous frescoes of Sigiriya, most magnificent ancient frescoes in South Asia add colour to this site.

Seeing is believing

We are glad to introduce a wonderful website that brings 360 degree views of Sigiriya and its environs: http://www.world-heritage-tour.org/asia/south-asia/sri-lanka/sigiriya

Sri Lanka Poised to Raise Incomes as War Ends, World Bank Says

By Anusha Ondaatjie, 17th July 2009,Bloomberg.com

Sri Lanka is poised to raise its growth and income levels as the South Asian island rebuilds after the end of a 26-year civil war, the World Bank said.

“Ending the armed conflict definitely is an opportunity for Sri Lanka to graduate from a low-income country to a fully fledged middle-income country,” said World Bank Sri Lanka Director Naoko Ishii.

The island nation needs to strengthen its “business environment” and develop its “educated and skilled labor force” to help sustain higher growth levels, she said in an e- mail today in response to questions from Bloomberg News.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka this month raised its 2009 growth forecast to as much as 4.5 percent, from an earlier estimate of 2.5 percent, after the government in May crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam separatist rebels. Income per head rose to $2,014 last year from $1,634 in 2007 and $900 in 2000, according to the central bank.

“Reconstruction expenditure will give a short-term boost to the growth process,” said Dushni Weerakoon, deputy director of the Institute of Policy Studies in Colombo. “But if it is combined with a broader reform agenda, it will give the private sector a conducive environment to operate in and make a return on investments.”

Sri Lanka moved up to 29th position in 2008 from 47th place in 2007 for ease of starting a business in the country, according to the World Bank. The island allows 100 percent ownership to foreign investors in all businesses and places no restriction on repatriation of earnings.

Interest Rates

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is seeking aid and investments to help turn the war-ravaged east and north of Sri Lanka into productive parts of the economy.

Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal has driven down interest rates this year, taking advantage of inflation at a five-year low, in a bid to spur spending and investment and make up for slowing exports.

The World Bank last year announced a $900 million three- year program for Sri Lanka to help reduce poverty and fund infrastructure development, including in areas affected by the conflict. Heightened violence in the island’s civil war contributed to a 1.1 percentage point “falloff” in economic growth in 2007, the bank said last year.

“The country-assistance strategy emphasizes the importance of our engagement being conflict sensitive and at the same time has chosen development of conflict-affected areas as one of priority,” Ishii said.

“We are in discussion with the government on how our programs can best assist the government’s effort for reconstruction and development of the conflict-affected areas and its people.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Anusha Ondaatjie in Colombo at anushao@bloomberg.net.

Sri Lanka highlights opportunities in northern transport

17th July 2009, LankaBusinessOnline

Sri Lanka's private sector has been told a host of investment opportunities have emerged in rebuilding transport infrastucture in the north and east, much of which was destroyed or neglected owing to war.

Transport specialist Rohan Abeywickrema said there were opportunities to create facilities to link farmers and factories in the northern and eastern rgeions with markets elsewhere in the island.

Areas for investment include private-public partnerships such as in setting up cold storage facilities to store and process fish, vegetables and fruit, he told a seminar on reviving the economy of the north-east organised by the Chamber of Construction Industry.

The government and private sector are looking for ways to revive and northern and eastern regions after security forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May.

"Building processing centres and warehouses is another area of investment for the private sector," said Abeywickrema, a member of the Strategic Enterprise Management Agency, which overseas state enterprises.

The private sector could also invest in railwaye terminals and central freight stations, and logistics centres for packing, unpacking, labelling, tagging, and storage.

"We recommend that rail be used as a priority mode of transport provided the railway provides a good service," Abeywickrema said.

"At least a daily goods train running to and from Colombo. And delivery conditions must be smooth, without delay, to ensure for instance that fish harvested in the evening and beached can be transported to Colombo next morning."

Improving transport infrastructure could ensure better revenue for producers while reducing prices for consumers, Abeywickrema said.

"Almost 60 pertcent of perishables produced in the north and east is lost because of the absence of modern logistics managemenent systems,"

"We propose to reduce it to 10 percent which is the world standard."

Better processing in centres of production themselves could help reduce wastage and minimise garbage problems in consumer areas.

"We can also ensure producers do not have problems in selling produce particularly at harvest time," he said.

"We're looking at generating adequate economic actviity and employment by setting up processing and storage centres in the northern and eastern regions."

UK 'impressed' with development in Sri Lanka's east, and a lot of enquiries from UK business community on investing

18th July 2009, DailyMirror.lk

The British government has expressed support for the efforts to resettle displaced and the development in Sri Lanka's north and east.

After a fact finding mission to eastern province, British High Commissioner in Colombo, Dr. Peter Hayes, told BBC Sandeshaya that he was impressed with the improvement in the security situation.

"First thing I noticed was greatly reduced number of check points on the roads, particularly the roads up to Trincomalee from Colombo and around Batticaloa," he said.

The provincial government is the east has an 'ambitious agenda' to develop the region, Dr. Hayes said, but struggling to implement it due to lack of funding.

He added that the British High Commission in Colombo is getting "a lot of enquiries" from UK business community regarding investing in Sri Lanka.

"As a result of improving security situation in Trincomalee town, Arugam Bay and Yala national park, tourists and business people are more likely to come, invest and spend," Dr. Hayes said.

He said the UK government has allocated funding for the displaced in the north and next step for the British government is to help Internally Displaced People (IDPs) to get out of the camps.

However, it does not mean that the UK condone human rights violations and threats to media in Sri Lanka, according to the High Commissioner.

"We expressed concerns about human rights, media freedom consistently. We have been supporting media and human rights defenders. It has not been changed."

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had made pledges to safeguard human rights and media freedom, he said. (BBC Sandeshaya)