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4th October 1998

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First APMF board meeting in Lanka

The Director's Board Meeting of the Asia Pacific Marketing Federation (APMF) will be held for the first time in South Asia, with Sri Lanka being selected as the venue for this prestigious event.

The APMF is made up of the 18 National Marketing Institutes in the Asia Pacific Region to which the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing, as this country's national institute of marketing, is affiliated.

Scheduled to be held on October 22 at the Hotel Taj Samudra in Colombo, the Director's Board Meeting would bring together a large number of delegates from the eighteen member countries in the Asia Pacific region which are Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan ROC. Thailand, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Malaysia and South Africa, with Canada and New Zealand being the most recent to join the federation.

Hermawan Kartajaya, President of the Asia Pacific Marketing Federation and the Indonesia Marketing Association will preside.

Mrs. Pennapha Dhanasarnsilp, first Vice President and President Marketing Association of Thailand, and Cheong Kun Pui, Second Vice President of APMF and President of the Marketing Institute of Singapore will also participate.

A number of events including workshops and seminars have been organised by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing, to allow marketers in Sri Lanka to profit by the expertise and experience of internationally recognised marketers of the calibre of Mr. Hermawan Kartajaya, Mrs. Dhanasarnsilp and Cheong Kun Pui, during their stay in Sri Lanka.

ABD develops private sector

Private sector development in Sri Lanka will be accelerated and domestic long-term savings mobilized for productive investment with a $ 70 million package of assistance being approved by the Asian Development Bank. The assistance consists of a Partial Credit Guarantee and Loan in respect of a Credit Enhancement Facility (CEF) for Private Enterprises, says an ABD news release.

The manufacturing sector has become one of the main engines of growth in Sri Lanka over the past decade. However, as capital markets have not yet developed into a source of long-term funding for manufacturing enterprises in Sri Lanka, they have to rely mainly on two development banks, one of which is DFCC Bank, for term loans.

The two financial institutions, however, lack long-term sources of funding and have only been able to provide local industries a limited amount in term loans.

The main objectives of the CEF are to provide DFCC Bank access to international capital markets and channel long-term funds from international investors to assist medium and large private enterprises in capacity expansion and technology upgrading. Further, the CEF aims at helping to promote the Sri Lankan debt market.

The CEF will mobilize private resource flows through the bank's partial credit guarantee facility to meet the financing needs of industries.

It is anticipated that the combined resource of $70 million will generate investments of at least $250 million by assisting more than 100 private medium and large enterprises, and possibly generate about 30,000 jobs.

NSB's profit in '97 highest ever

National Savings Bank has made a profit of Rs. 494million (without the interest differential) for the year 1997, the highest ever made by the Bank. This is an increase of over 100 per cent compared to their previous financial year's profits. This is attributable to the increased investment in government securities, mortgage loans and investment in licensed commercial banks, the NSB annual report for 1997 said.

Though the profit was the highest on record, it is lower compared to last years profit available for appropriation. This is because of the interest differential not being included to this year's profit.

The total investment for the year increased to Rs 73,711million, a 16% increase over last year. With the growth of 30% in deposits from Rs 7570m in 96 to Rs 9840 in 97, acquiring 23.3% of the market share, the report said.

The NSB has been able to mobilize a sum of Rs. 9840 mn as savings in 1997. A growth of 30 per cent over last year. This is a 6 per cent increase over the budgeted target.

Singer: Stronger outlook

Corporate Profile

By Company Watcher

Singer is poised to perform better than last year. "The fundamentals of our business is stronger than ever before. Our channels of distribution now cater to every segment of the market, while each of our six major product categories are poised for strong sustainable growth. Both expenses and cash flows remain well managed and under constant scrutiny of our management team", says Singer Chairman Hemaka Amarasuriya.

"What remains to be achieved is to obtain a better rate of return on our associate company profits and this is being currently addressed on a case by case basis", he states in his mid-year review to shareholders.

Singer has recorded a turnover of Rs. 1,787 million during the first six months of this year, a 17.5% increase over the corresponding figure last year. Profit before tax recorded a 34.5% increase (Rs.176.7 million) and net profit a 31.6% increase (Rs. 113.7 million).

During 1997, Singer revenue passed the Rs. 3 billion mark which was a 13.7% increase over 1996. Profit before tax was Rs. 254.5 million.Commenting that Singer performed strongly in the first half year amidst concerns over a slow down in overall growth patterns, Chairman Amarasuriya says that the improvement of the growth rates was in sharp contrast to the growth environment. Singer has gained a market share in several major product lines.

While sewing machines retained traditional consistency both in domestic and industrial segments, home appliances in particular stepped up growth during the first half of 1998.

The year also saw the famed 'Whirlpool' brand, global No. 1 in the White Goods category, being launched selectively via a multi-channel entry strategy. With early shipments being sold out, distribution was broadbased island-wide in response to consumer demand.

"We have leaned on selective new product introductions from time to time to sustain our growth formula and new products are as important an ingredient in our continuous growth strategy. We are therefore happy to report that steady progress is now being made in the two product categories which disappointed last year", Mr. Amarasuirya points out.With the introduction of a kitchen furniture line, Singer now boasts of the most comprehensive furniture line sold through an exclusive retail network. Meanwhile, the entire agro-implement line is under scrutiny through an upgrading process and a new product line is to be presented shortly.

The addition of Lanka Loha mammoties complements the Singer product offering to the farmer, which is once again, the most comprehensive among retailers and follows the established Singer tradition of providing a complete service to the customers.

The company is hopeful of an improved performance in both furniture and agro-implements in the second half of the year.

The success of the Mega Store in Kandy, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka and a forerunner to a burgeoning new channel, has prompted Singer to open the second Mega store in a selected suburb of Colombo city. Meanwhile, the traditional channels of distribution continue to be strengthened with selective addition to new shops and dealers.

Singer has also taken the initiative to further develop and improve on the product offering of 13 major categories of products and services. 13 committees of internal management experts from marketing, manufacturing, finance and operations are working towards advancing the Company's product lines to the upper levels of international ranking in quality, reliability and in the range on offer.

Steady progress is being made and most product categories are expected to reach new heights before the new millennium, in response to consumer needs.Looking at the coming months, Mr. Amarasuriya is reasonably confident of sustaining the operating growth patterns throughout the year under review.

Industrial relations Forum

Q1: During a salary increase in our company 10 months ago, we had paid one employee in excess by mistake. Only now we have realised our fault.

1.Can we revise his salary and is it legal?

2.Is there a specific time period given, where we could recover and revise the salary?

3.Can we recover the overpayment from his salary?

4.Can the company take disciplinary action against him?

If the employee was placed on a higher salary due to a mistake, it can be corrected later and placed in the correct salary point. However, recovery of the excess amount from his salary cannot be made without employee's written consent. You can take disciplinary action against him if you have sufficient evidence to prove that he acted in a dishonest manner in this instance (i.e. if he received excess salary knowing well that he is not entitled to receive it.)

Q2: A Storekeeper of our company was suspended from duty after Internal Auditor detected shortage of 25 ceiling fans. Our business is importing and selling ceiling fans. This storekeeper has been served with a show cause letter and he has requested our permission to examine stores records and other documents relating to the missing ceiling fans to enable him to answer the show-cause letter. Is it necessary to allow his request?

A show cause notice is issued to an employee to enable him to explain why he is not guilty for a charge. The principle of "Natural Justice" require the employer to give all opportunities to the employee to prove his innocence. Your storekeeper may not be in a position to answer the charges without examining relevant documents and if you follow the principle of "Natural Justice" his request should be allowed.

Q3: We dismissed an employee for abusing a senior executive during working hours after a Domestic Inquiry. He appealed to the Labour Tribunal and at the L.T. he has taken up the position that no impartial inquiry was held at the workplace before his dismissal. He admits that a Domestic inquiry was held but he was not allowed to defend himself. He has signed in the inquiry proceedings that he participated in the inquiry. How can we dispute the position taken by him?

There is no legal requirement to hold a Domestic inquiry before dismissing an employee. However, our Labour Tribunals may view such dismissal without an inquiry as being arbitrary. If a Domestic inquiry was held the Management should convince the L.T. that an impartial inquiry was held. For this purpose, it is necessary to obtain a statement from the accused employee and record it in the proceedings of the inquiry with his signature stating that "I am satisfied with the manner the inquiry was conducted".

Q4:Reply to Kurunegala reader. Your query is not published due to the length.

1.If is not possible for the to predict how long it will take the High Court to hear your case.

2.The ACL should look after the case at the High Court trial.

3.In your case, the State (on behalf of the ACL) should appear before the court. However, it is better if you can retain a lawyer to assist the ACL or the state. The payment has to be negotiated and it varies depending on the lawyer.

4.Normally, when an appeal is made against a LT order, back wages due should be deposited before the appeal. That provision will not apply to your case as back wages have been paid.

5.Further appeals from M.C. can be made to be court of appeal and Supreme Court.

6.You may have to obtain appeal brief (with M.C. proceedings) for your use and your lawyer's use.

7.You can request for cost at the H.C.

8.When a person is re-instated, back wages and all other benefits the employee would have received, had he continued in service, should be paid to him/her.

These includes increments, salary increases, etc.

CIM workshop on power of PR

Business, governmental institutions and NGOs are increasingly facing situations that require them to build and protect their corporate image, respond to competitive and controversial issues, protect their business from external threats, deal with crisis situations, transform their organisations and manage change, and not least, stretch their promotional budgets.

This one-day workshop targets CEOs, corporate affairs and public relations managers, marketing managers and public communications officials in governmental and non-governmental organisations, and seek to share a greater understanding of the relevance, potential and techniques of the relatively new communications discipline of Public Relations in dealing with these situations effectively and cost-effectively.

The workshop on October 17 will cover:
* An understanding of the scope and nature of Public Relations
* Its practical relevance to numerous situations faced by organisations in Sri Lanka today
* How to maximise media publicity coverage and build your corporate profile
* How to deal with controversial issues and crisis situations
* Change management communications
* How cost-effective PR can stretch your communications budget and maximise return
The workshop will be conducted by Nimal Gunewardena.

New CEO at Delmege

Dr. Kamal Weerapperuma has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Delmege Group of Companies, with effect from October 1.

Dr. Weerapperuma holds a Bachelors Degree in Science from the Univerisity of Ceylon, Peradeniya, Masters and Doctoral Degrees from the U.K. He is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow member of the Institute of Materials (Polymer) of the UK and an Alumni of Insead, Fontainebleau.

Dr. Weerapperuma managed Central Industries Limited from its inception for seven years as Director/ General Manager, and latterly as Managing Director for five years. More recently he was the Chief Executive officer/ Director of Kelani Cables Limited. He was also associated with two companies in the Delmege Group over the last four years, first as a Director and latterly as Chairman of one company.

Profit forecast clears clouds over tea

By Shafraz Farook

A Compound Average Growth Rate (cagr) of 13% net profit has been forecast for the FY2000-2003, relieves the current overcast scenario for the plantation sector, a special report on plantations by John Keells Stockbrokers released last week states.

The forecast comes after factoring in a 53 per cent rouble depreciation and an 18 per cent increase in the wage bill. This could be mainly attributable to the liberalisation of tea imports from the saarc region by India and the depreciation of the SL rupee.

Though the Russian crisis is a cause for concern, it is expected that only prices of poor grade high-growns and certain varieties of low growns to decline. Therefore the national sales average (NSA) for 1998 has been revised from Rs.135 per kg to Rs. 132 per kg, an increase of 11% over 1997.

The devaluation is anticipated not to cause a drop in consumption considering tea to be the cheapest beverage in Russia. Though all this seems well and good for the tea trade with Russia, it is not without fears of a drop in the price and quantity of tea flowing into Russia. This is because most local banks dealing with Russia have adopted a cautious approach. This could affect the attractive credit terms offered to Russian buyers. The rouble crisis could also suspend Russian imports in general, resulting in the Russian buyers becoming price sensitive.

India's decision to liberalize tea imports might be the break Sri Lanka needs right now with the Russian crisis. Given India's proximity to Sri Lanka and its high tea consumption, it is expected to be a good business opportunity for SL tea traders.

The SL rupee depreciation, though the result of the Asian currency crisis, is in line with the Indian and Pakistani currencies depreciating against the US dollar. In the past depreciation in the rupee would result in high tea prices. But with the present situation it is expected to be favourable for trade.

Overall the JKH report is a BUY on the plantation sector. This is because the sector is trading at a discount of 38 per cent to the market, which they believe is unjustified given its improved growth prospects, post privatization.

Reinvestment and efficient production methods are paving the way for higher profitability.

JKH's top picks September 1998, are Balangoda Plantations Ltd., Bogawantalawa Plantations Ltd., Kelani Valley Plantations Ltd., Maskeliya Plantations Ltd., and Watawala Plantations Ltd.

Lanka tackles Y2K without panic

By Amanthi Jayasuriya

As the countdown to the millennium draws nearer many of those who were caught napping have woken up. Unless they want to greet the turn of the century with grinding halt of all operations, the millennium bug has to be killed.

The Sunday Times Business spoke to a cross section of sectors from state administration to banking to industry to figure out how they are each treating the millennium bug code name Y2K.

The government understanding the gravity of the problem appointed a Special Task Force to look into the year 2000 bug and to make recommendations.

Against this backdrop the Council for Information Technology (CINTEC) took the initiative to alert the ministers to the problem and obtain a directive to have all state agencies investigate the Y2K issues and also obtain recognition for the CINTEC Y2K Task Force earlier this year.

"The effect will certainly be felt but we should not be alarmed since steps are taken to investigate the matter," CINTEC Chairman, Professor V.K.Samaranayake told "The Sunday Times Business."

The much talked about problem that will make computers and computer controlled devices fail or malfunction at the dawn of the year 2000 and thereafter, came about with the use of two digits to indicate the year instead of four because at the beginning of the Development of Information Technology saving space was imperative.

When it comes to year 2000 it will be shown as zero zero (00) years in keeping with the method used.

Then certain processors may not understand what this zero (00) year is.

Professor Samaranayake says this microprocessor problem in turn can affect computer programs since the program itself may have these digits stored.

The Microprocessor too is affected when the date is stored in two digits.

At present computer programs are looked into and adjusted, re-written or replaced.

" It's a long task, one has to find out where the problem is and remedy it," said Professor Samaranayake .

The processors, which are embedded in various instruments, have further problems.

Companies, departments or organisations have to check with the manufacturers or suppliers, which is a tedious task.

Professor Samaranayake added, "if in the year zero zero (00) some equipment is not working it may have to be replaced.

It won't be critical, it won't be a matter of life or death," he said.

"The respective government institutions and departments are sending in their reports at present and we will be studying them to assess the situation," said a spokesman for CINTEC.

The spokesman said most commercial banks and airport and aviation services have already concluded their assessment while the Ceylon Electricity Board and National Water Supply and Drainage Board are in the process of assessing their situation.

Although the initial response to the Y2K or the year 2000 bug had been poor, with follow up work done by CINTEC the response seems to be on the increase.

On a daily average the centre receives 5 to 7 queries from various organisations and institutions inquiring about the problem and how the companies should set addressing the issue.Certain companies, departments and institutions still have embedded microchips and systems, which are 10-12 years old, and the suppliers of these systems cannot be found today.

According to CINTEC, the best method to tackle the bug would be to have a contingency plan to ensure the functioning of operations.

Millenium Technologies Chief Executive, Tony Weerasinghe said Sri Lanka is not in the red zone but in the middle as the country is not heavily dependent on computers.

"If investigating and testing cannot be done on time the best would be resort to manual procedures," he said. Cost-wise big companies will have to spend something in the range of Rs. 50-100 mn. Then again, the amount differs from company to company.

Most multinational companies such as Nestle, Unilever and Ceylon Tobacco meanwhile are reported to have concluded their assessments and are in the testing stages.

The Central Bank has taken the initiative and is working closely with the banking sector.

"We have already asked all banks to check their systems and identify areas that need to be further looked into," Central Bank Governor, A .S. Jayawardena told "The Sunday Times Business."

He said most banks should be able to test their systems to see whether it is year 2000 compliant before the end of next year.

Mr. Jayawardena said there was no reason to panic since the banking sector was under control.

Commercial Bank of Ceylon Limited like any other bank has already created internal awareness and have got in touch with other local and foreign banks who have the same packages to see what is being done. The bank which is at the moment one of the largest computerized banks with 54 link branches, says they have to be watchful since the bank depends heavily on computers.

"When we purchase systems we see whether it is year 2000 compatible and do our own testing with the back up system we have at the bank " said Chief Manager, Information Technology, Chandima Hemachandra.

The bank is currently in its testing stages and they say the next crucial stage is 9-9-1999. If any repercussions do occur at this stage the bank would resort to a contingency plan, Mr. Hemachandra said.

He said cost - wise it is not heavy as the bank started worrying about the Y2K as early as 1996 and everything will be finalised by the end of this year.Bank of Ceylon says the awareness creating was done long ago and their target is to finalise 65 per cent of the conversion by December this year and 100 per cent by June next year.

Assistant General Manager BOC, Mr. Thileginathan said several systems in their 200 branches are Y2K compliant while the others are rolling. The tests carried out so far according to Mr. Thileginathan have been very successful.Sri Lanka can afford to wear a smile when compared to the global scenario, as we are not fully computerized.Computer analysts and Information Technology professionals say although the banking sector, a critical area is more or less under control if the other areas are not compatible then again the whole system will be paralyzed since these are inter -connected.

AirLanka, in the meantime, has already taken steps to identify certain areas under a specially identified Y2K team and at present the team is working on these critical areas.

"An airline should be year 2000 compliant in order to ensure customer safety and boost stake holders confidence amongst other issues," said Nigel O'Shea, head of Information Technology at Air Lanka.

He said AirLanka has concluded internal awareness at all levels and conducted presentations regarding the seriousness of the issue.The International Airline Ticketing Association (IATA ) has named Sri Lanka in the second tier amongst top airports in the world in terms of passenger traffic.

Mr. O'Shea said AirLanka together with IATA would be conducting a joint assessment shortly while the assessment is expected to be concluded in February or March next year.

With companies, departments as well as the private sector carrying out investigations and embarking on tests the end result will not be known before the dawn of the next millennium.

Even with all the precautionary measures taken relating to all systems and devices one cannot be hundred percent sure that everything would go ahead as planned. Against this scenario, is Sri Lanka ready to face the 21st century?

SLSI elected to ISO Council

The Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) was elected to the council of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) at the 21st General Assembly Meeting held on Sept. 17 in Geneva. This is the first time that SLSI was elected to the highest policy making body of the ISO after being a member of this institution for over 30 years.

The ISO Council of 18 members is elected by the general membership annually depending on the number of vacancies that occur from time to time. Of the 18 members on the Council five members - the Standards Institutions of USA, UK, France, Germany and Japan - are permanent members.

The rest of the members are elected from among the other 78 national standards bodies for two years each. SLSI received the highest number of votes in category IV to be elected to the Council for two years from Jan. 1, 1999.

The International Standards Institution is a non-Governmental Organization dealing with the establishment and promotion of International Standards on a worldwide basis. The ISO 9000 series of standards on Quality Management systems made this Institution world famous during the current decade.Many developing countries including Sir Lanka have benefited from the use of International Standards for industrial development and international trade.

Company News

39 Informatics students get awards

The Informatics Institute of Computer Studies (IICS) awarded their 5th batch of graduates, the BSc/BSc (Hons) degree in Computing/Information Systems from Manchester Metropolitan University UK. The Convocation was held at the BMICH recently.

The graduate roll of 39 consisted of three first class honours, 14 second class honours in the first division, and 16 second class honours in the second division, whilst 5 others received the unclassified degree together with one graduate who was awarded the BSc degree in Computing with a second class honours in the second division.

The chief guest was Deshamanya Dr. P.R. Anthonis and the degrees were awarded by the Pro Vice Chancellor and Academic Director of MMU, Professor Barry Plumb.

The Manchester academics included 9 academics headed by their Pro Vice Chancellor, the Dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering, the Heads of Departments and Senior Lecturers from both degree courses in Computing & Business Studies rendered at MMU.

Pro Vice Chancellor of MMU, Prof. Barry Plumb said he was pleased to announce that the IICS Convocation compared favourably with the 19 Convocations held by MMU over a period of 10 days to recognise over 8000 students who graduated this year from Manchester.

Seylan Bank issues Rs. 300M Debentures: expects sell-out

A press release from Seylan Bank states: "Seylan Bank Debentures amounting to Rs. 300 M (with an option to retain up to a further Rs. 300 M in the event it is over-subscribed) are now being issued for a five year term, carrying a nominal value of Rs. 100.

They are unsecured, redeemable, subordinated debentures which can exist through the Colombo Stock Exchange.

The biggest benefit is the fixed interest of 14.37 p. a. or 13.5 p. a. paid monthly or one percentage point above the simple average of the one year weighted average Treasury Bill rate at the previous four primary auctions, initially applied on the date of issue and renewable at the expiry of every 365 days thereon until the redemption on the same basis, with a floor (a minimum interest rate) at 12.74% p. a. and a cap (a maximum interest rate) at 18% p. a. payable annually on parvalue.

The value of the debentures does not fluctuate like in ordinary shares because rate of interest is fixed. Further, Seylan Bank will redeem the debentures on the maturity of the investment.

Collateral: the Debentures could be kept as security for a loan from any financial institution.

The Bank of Ceylon will be a supporter who will look after your rights as owner of the debentures.

Hawk Express wins FedEx award

Mountain Hawk Express Licencee of Federal Express in Sri Lanka again made the news but for a very different reason. At FedEx's 25th anniversary celebrations held in Dubai recently, which was a spectacular event with a gathering of over 400 participants which included employees, key customers and GSP's Mountain Hawk Express was declared the winner for their outstanding performance in promoting the FedEx brand (Best Visual Effects) in the Sri Lankan market. This prestigious nomination was accomplished by building their own marketing activities around advertising with prominent and strategically placed outdoor billboards and the complete repainting of public transportation vehicles, which offer the greatest number of media exposition.

FedEx express transportation company is represented in Sri Lanka by Mountain Hawk Express Ltd, a Mercantile Merchant Bank Ltd group company in Kollupitiya. It has a branch network covering Katunayake, Biyagama, Kurunegala, Kandy and Galle.

With customer in mind

The Shell Gas Co. recently reinforced their commitment to customer satisfaction by signing an agreement with Diesel & Motor Engineering to equip their entire fleet of trucks and light vehicles with Michelin tyres.

The decision to equip the fleet with Michelin tyres claimed to have one of the highest safety standard and quality, further strengthens their objective to ensure their customers receive their goods at the time and place they require it. It also reinforces their concern for the safety of the public, their employees and the environment.

With immediate effect all trucks, bowsers, forklifts and light commercial vehicles of Shell Gas Co. will be fitted with Michelin tyres.

Diesel & Motor Engineering Co. Ltd. who over the years have contributed greatly towards improving the transport industry will provide total service back-up for Michelin tyres.

DIMO will inspect all tyres every two weeks at nominated Shell depots and submit a written report to the Shell Transport Manager.

It's all in how you say it

In order to achieve optimum results for a stated corporate goal, it is imperative that the idea be communicated to each and every individual in the organisation from top to bottom, a Human Resources Development expert said recently.

Rohan Panditha-koralage,manager Group Human Resources and Development, Aitken Spence who spoke on Human Resources Development at last Wednesday's SundayTimes/Celltel Business Club meeting said that the three cardinal tenets of Human Resource Development are: attract the right people. retain them motivate them.

Another important aspect of Human Resources Development is the continual improvement of performance by facilitating learning.

This includes Employee training which is a quick process entailing immediate results and Management Development which is a gradual process leading to the achievement of long term goals.

It is a combination of these two strategies that lead to institutional development, he pointed out.

He also observed that motivation will be possible only if a person is willing to be motivated, for which it is necessary to place him in an environment where the acceptance of such motivation could be made possible.

Mr. Panditha-koralage pointed out that it is indeed unfortunate that when an employee is sent on a training mission his superiors do not subject him to some interrogation and pressurising in order to make good use of his newly acquired knowledge and skills.

Another important aspect of Human Resources Development is what is known as EAP (Explore All Possibilities) which has great potential as borne out by such activities like quality circles where a good number of brains are tapped for the benefit of the company.

It is also important not to think in terms of corporate divisions as the marketing department etc. but to have a broader macro picture of common corporate goals.

For this to become effective, it is necessary to make known such corporate objectives from top to bottom, he added.

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