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Wednesday February 28th, 2024

14 Sri Lanka firms pledge to increase female board representation to 20-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Fourteen (or is it 13) Sri Lanka companies have pledged to boost female directors and management to 20 percent by 2025, at an event initiated by the International Finance Corporation and Colombo Stock Exchange.

A ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality’ event was on International Women’s Day the Colombo Stock Exchange said.

According to an IFC study supported by Australia’s DFAT the number of women on CSE-listed boards was only 10.1 percent in 2022 up from 8.2 percent in 2018 rising from 144 to 240.

“We know that making even small inroads in closing the gender gap can yield clear and positive results for businesses especially in financial performance and better decision- making processes,” said Sarah Twigg, Manager, Women in Work Program, IFC.

“The commitment of the 13 top Sri Lankan companies is a significant step towards accelerating the progress we have made so far and this is also the time that Sri Lanka needs more women corporate and business leaders to help ensure an inclusive and resilient recovery in the country.”

Dilshan Wirasekera, Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange said the event, held for the 8th time is used as a ‘call to action’ for businesses to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality/

“We wanted to invite initially the 20 S&P companies today to pledge their commitment towards increasing female representation at the board level and in management to a minimum of 20 percent by 2025,” he said.

Reserves by IFC’s Women on Boards program, has also shown a clear correlation in Sri Lanka between increased board diversity and financial performance, with positive trends reported in line with indicators such as return on total assets and price-to-earnings ratio, the statement said.

IFC’s work on the ‘Women on Boards’ program in Sri Lanka is supported by the government of Australia under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program.

Lalita Kapur the Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives participating in the event said, as Sri Lanka navigates significant economic challenges, it is critical now more than ever to find new ways to advance gender equality.

At the event 14 companies signed onto a commitment to boost female representation at the board level and in management to a minimum of 20 percent by 2025.

“We know that making even small inroads in closing the gender gap can yield clear and positive results for businesses especially in financial performance and better decision- making processes,” said Sarah Twigg, Manager, Women in Work Program, IFC.

“The commitment of the 13 top Sri Lankan companies is a significant step towards accelerating the progress we have made so far and this is also the time that Sri Lanka needs more women corporate and business leaders to help ensure an inclusive and resilient recovery in the country.”

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) partnered for ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality’ event in Sri Lanka for the eighth consecutive year on Wednesday, celebrated in line with the International Women’s Day.

The annual global initiative highlights how greater participation of women in the economy can spur sustainable and inclusive growth, thereby shaping a more equal future.

The Global Gender Gap Report of 2022 indicates the share of women hired into leadership roles have seen a steady increase, from over 33 percent in 2016 to nearly 37 percent in 2022.

However, amid multiple global crises, sparked initially by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are concerns that women’s workforce participation has dropped, risking further backsliding on gender parity.

IFC’s commitment to the initiative is part of its strong focus on gender equality, which includes leveraging relationships with financial institutions to expand access to finance for female entrepreneurs and increase the number of women in leadership roles.

At the event 14 companies signed onto a commitment to boost female representation at the board level and in management to a minimum of 20 percent by 2025.

“We know that making even small inroads in closing the gender gap can yield clear and positive results for businesses especially in financial performance and better decision- making processes,” said Sarah Twigg, Manager, Women in Work Program, IFC.

“The commitment of the 13 top Sri Lankan companies is a significant step towards accelerating the progress we have made so far and this is also the time that Sri Lanka needs more women corporate and business leaders to help ensure an inclusive and resilient recovery in the country.”

The female labor force participation rate remains stagnate at around 35 percent in Sri Lanka, compared with a steady male participation rate of 74 percent. Similarly, the average female unemployment rate (7 percent) remained more than double that of men (3 percent) between 2011 and 2019.

(Colombo/ Mar 12/2023)

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Sri Lanka confident of “smoother” IMF second review: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s second review for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan would be smoother than the first as the government has implemented many reforms required for the economic recovery, State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe said.

An IMF mission will visit Sri Lanka on March 7 and will engage in the review of second tranche of the $3 billion IMF loan for two weeks, he said.

“The second review will commence on the 7th of March, and we are very confident that will be a smoother review than the first review,” Semasinghe told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Wednesday (28).

He said the the first review was difficult because of hard policy decisions taken by the government in the initial stages.

The global lender completed the first review of the 48-month Extended Fund Facility (EFF) on December 12 before disbursing $337 million to support the island nation’s economic policies and reforms.

The IMF after the first review said Sri Lanka’s performance under the program was satisfactory while “all but one performance criteria and all but one indicative targets were met at end-June”.

Sri Lanka implemented most structural benchmarks due by end-October 2023, though some with delay. (Colombo/Feb 28/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s religious leaders need to cultivate harmony: Prez

ECONOMYNEXT – The responsibility of cultivating harmony rests significantly on the shoulders of religious leaders, Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said.

“While politicians often pursue power, religious leaders strive to maintain their positions, frequently resorting to the perilous avenues of racism and bigotry. This unfortunate trend has plagued our country since the 1930s, yielding disastrous outcomes,” Wickremesinghe was quoted by his media division as saying at the ‘Religions to Reconcile’ national inter-religious symposium, organized by the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, held today (28) at the Bandaranaike International Conference Hall (BMICH).

“Our nation has endured the bitter consequences of racism and religious extremism, culminating in a devastating conflict.

“With the military conflict resolved, Sri Lanka’s political challenges are now receiving attention, necessitating a renewed focus on coexistence,” Wickremesinghe said, adding that steps are being taken to resolve land disputes, address the issue of missing persons, release certain individuals, and initiate a delimitation of powers.

The President’s speech:

Having acknowledged the intrinsic connection between religion and reconciliation, our nation has endured the bitter consequences of racism and religious extremism, culminating in a devastating conflict. Following the cessation of hostilities, our main objective has been to foster coexistence among all communities.

The responsibility of cultivating harmony rests significantly on the shoulders of religious leaders. It is imperative that we remain mindful of our intentions. While politicians often pursue power, religious leaders strive to maintain their positions, frequently resorting to the perilous avenues of racism and bigotry. This unfortunate trend has plagued our country since the 1930s, yielding disastrous outcomes that require no further explanation.

Take Singapore, for example, where the absence of racism and bigotry has contributed to its rapid development despite its diverse linguistic landscape. With the military conflict resolved, Sri Lanka’s political challenges are now receiving attention, necessitating a renewed focus on coexistence, a topic also being deliberated in Parliament.

Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, served as the Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Religious Affairs and Co-Existence when he was serving as the Speaker. This committee was established in response to conflicts involving Muslims in March 2018, as well as incidents in Galle in 2017 and Beruwela in 2014. Various proposals were put forth by these committees to address these issues, and consensus was reached on their implementation. It’s crucial that we uphold this agreement and continue working collaboratively to resolve these challenges.

Towards the close of last year, numerous Buddhist monks and Tamil leaders presented the Himalaya Declaration, a document we are currently adhering to. As we move forward, the final phase entails fostering synergy, particularly through discussions with Tamil political parties and MPs, aimed at addressing lingering issues. Steps have been initiated to resolve the matter of missing persons, with further updates forthcoming in the near future. Additionally, arrangements have been made for the release of certain individuals held in connection with these matters.

The primary concern at present revolves around the fate of the missing persons. To address this issue, we’ve presented and successfully passed a bill in Parliament to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Numerous reports from Disappearance Commissions have been reviewed, and one report authored by Judge A.H.M.D.Nawaz was selected.

Following the approval of the draft for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged his support for these initiatives. Similar assistance is being extended by other nations as well, enabling us to advance these critical endeavours.

Addressing the on-going political challenges, our attention is directed towards resolving land disputes, particularly in regions like Jaffna where tensions persist between villagers and the Wildlife Department. Similar conflicts also arise in areas such as Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa, and Mahianganaya. We aim to address these issues through inclusive dialogue, involving all concerned parties. Furthermore, I have instructed to proceed in accordance with the 1985 map. Additionally, I anticipate meeting with Tamil MPs in Parliament next week to discuss these matters further. Following consultations with the security forces, agreements have been reached to release more land, providing a pathway forward in our efforts.

Another pressing issue is the delimitation of powers. A key demand is the empowerment of the 3rd list of devolution, with an emphasis on not interfering with police powers at present, leaving them open for future consideration. The Land Act is slated for presentation, and there are no objections to the delegation of other subjects in the 3rd list. However, securing the necessary consensus with other parties in Parliament to achieve a two-thirds majority remains crucial.

Simultaneously, discussions are underway regarding the implementation of the Provincial Board of Education. Proposals have been made to establish provincial professional training institutes in each province. Additionally, plans are underway to appoint provincial-level committees to lead the modernization of agriculture, establish a tourism board, and undertake related initiatives.

Additionally, the work of five provincial ministries is expected to be distributed among twenty ministries. This restructuring cannot simply resemble a general ministry, so officials are currently deliberating on adjusting their structure accordingly.

I eagerly anticipate addressing the final aspect of this matter, the decentralized budget, once all parties have convened. There’s also a call for a secondary board, akin to a Senate, which the government does not oppose. However, such an initiative would need to coincide with the framing of a constitution, potentially requiring a referendum. I also intend to engage in discussions on this topic with other party leaders.

These measures aim to lay the groundwork for a new era in our country. Religious leaders have been entrusted with significant responsibilities in this endeavour. I am confident that further discussions on these matters will yield fruitful outcomes.

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 310.00/15 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 310.00/15 to the US dollar Wednesday, from 310.25/50 on Tuesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.60/80 percent from 10.60/75 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.00 percent up from 11.80/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed stable at 12.00/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.20/50 percent from 12.25/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed stable at 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2031 closed at 12.55/75 percent down from 12.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/90 percent down from 12.55/13.00 percent. (Colombo/Feb28/2024)

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