Mind your Business
No fueling around
Now that there is every possibility of fuel distribution also being handed
over to the private sector, there are many aspirants for the job.
Many blue chips have entered the fray and are canvassing the right connections
to have a slice of the cake.
But the deal will be transparent, they have been told and besides, no
single company will have a monopoly.
Viewing with caution
There was once a time when it was thought that this little land had too
many television stations than it needed.
But with the advent of the greens to the seats of power, all that seem
to have changed and at least two more operators want to join the crowd.
They have their reservations, however, they will wait and see what control
the proposed Media Commission will have over TV stations, before taking
Sweep aside stragglers
The new boys in the Treasury are busy with their plans to resurrect what
is left of the economy.
And one strategy is to issue an ultimatum to identified loss-making
They will be told to meet certain performance targets within a specified
If not, they will either be privatised or shut down, we hear.
The proposals are not finding favour among many quarters but the new
brooms at the Treasury are determined to make a clean sweep of it.
Reviving business ties with Jaffna
With a ceasefire in place and the economic embargo on the Wanni being lifted
on Tuesday, the prospects of doing business with the north have improved.
First off the blocks was the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and
Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL), which sent a team to Jaffna for talks with
the Yarlpanam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The two-day visit, at the invitation of their counterparts in Jaffna,
was to meet businessmen in the peninsula, revive business links and explore
ways of helping trade and industry there, FCCISL president Macky Hashim
said. He described trade in Jaffna as "vibrant" and said that most consumer
items were available there.
"All the brand names you see here, are there," Hashim told a news conference.
"Some companies have authorised distributors. "Once the obstacles are cleared,
as soon as you open up, the market is there," he added. "Business has boomed
in the last two weeks," said Tissa Jayaweera, another member of the delegation.
Ceylon Cold Stores is also looking at marketing its Elephant House products
in the north. "We are looking at it," said director of marketing, Billy
Elephant House soft drinks are now shipped in plastic bottles by independent
traders. "Because all merchandise is taken by ship, the drinks are sent
in plastic bottles," he said. "If they take glass bottles there's the problem
of returnables." The company has an established network of dealers although
it is not functional right now.
"The north and east were important markets before the troubles," Walpola
said. "Our core business - soft drinks and ice cream - is weather-related.
When it rains business is affected because people don't thirst as much
as they would in hot weather."
The alternating monsoon cycles meant that the market in the northeast
helped compensate for the downturn in business during the rainy season
in the western part of the island, he said. "The north and the east used
to contribute 25 percent of our total volume - that shows how important
it is," he said.
A senior official in the Bank of Ceylon's Jaffna branch said people
welcomed the truce and the decision to lift the embargo on the Wanni. "If
the embargo is lifted and if the road to Jaffna is opened, prices will
come down considerably and the availability of goods will improve," he
In Colombo, a senior Bank of Ceylon official said that recently the
bank had introduced new concepts such as Saturday banking, pawn brokering,
non-resident foreign currency accounts and buying foreign currencies in
Jaffna. "There are no large industries in Jaffna due to lack of road transport,
uninterrupted power supply and lack of transport to get down raw materials
and reach outside markets," he said.
S.M. Godwin, managing director of Vallibel Lanka, which has a shipping
service to Jaffna, said they had received inquiries from businesses wishing
to expand trade with Jaffna. The company operates a 3,000 cwt cargo ship,
MV Induruweli, that takes food and other items such asbestos sheets and
cement to Jaffna.
Each voyage takes about a month to complete because of the lack of a
proper harbour in Jaffna in which to unload cargo, and delays caused by
getting security clearances and bad weather. From Jaffna, the ship brings
back onions, tobacco and palmyrah products.
Peter Kanagasingham, director of marketing at multinational Glaxo Wellcome
Ceylon Ltd, said they have no intention of immediately going into Jaffna
because of the political uncertainties. "We have no direct sales there,"
he said. "Once the uncertainties clear, we will certainly explore the opportunities
available. For a commercial organisation there will be opportunities for
doing business in Jaffna."
FCCISL's Hashim said they had taken up with the government the difficulties
faced by Jaffna businessmen. Many construction companies and industries
which supply engineering parts had complained that the private sector was
not given tenders which go mainly to government organisations.
"So the economy of the area is strangled," he said. "If they are given
contracts it means jobs will be created, more money will circulate and
the economy will acquire some vibrancy."
The loss of skilled labour was compounding the severe brain drain, he
also said. "Even skilled people have now started to migrate - soon the
whole area will be devoid of skills."
Donors to meet in Colombo, not Paris
The Development Forum (former Aid Group meeting) organised by the World
Bank is expected to be held in Colombo this year instead of the usual venue
– Paris, authoritative sources said.
The sources said the meeting, the dates of which are yet to be set,
would bring donor countries and financial institutions like the IMF and
ADB together to discuss the country's development strategies and aid prospects.
"If the peace talks succeed, then the meeting would focus on the reconstruction
and rehabilitation of northern and eastern areas," one source said. Donor
countries would be represented at the meeting by their ambassadors and
heads of missions based in Colombo.
The last time the development forum was held was on December 19, 2000
in Paris. Financial pledges, unlike in previous years, are not made by
donors at these meetings.