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Tuesday November 29th, 2022

Flexibility, culture likely to decide Sri Lanka post-pandemic workforce

ECONOMYNEXT – Flexible job hours and a corporate culture companies have established during a Coronavirus pandemic will decide the future direction in a highly challenging post-pandemic revival, Sri Lanka’s human resource experts say.

Intermittent lockdowns since March last year have forced millions of Sri Lankans to work from home – a shift that has been embraced by many companies as a possible long-term solution, allowing cost savings and flexibility for workers.

The situation is the same globally with many companies including multinationals having laid off employees in the face of falling revenues and profits as consumer purchasing power declined during lockdowns.

Now there is a growing consensus that more staff will in future be hired remotely, work from home and have an entirely different set of expectations of their managers.

Companies are now faced with a difficult choice – whether they could sustain their highly talented workforce.

“Working from home means your work force is definitely a global talent pool. There is no geographic boundary for talent anymore,” Ishan Dantanarayana Group Chief People Officer at Brandix, a Colombo based apparel maker with overseas operations said.

“Most of them don’t like to work full time job, may be 8-hour job. So, we are talking to hourly, weekly, daily jobs. Or assignment based or flexi jobs. When this happens you also have to align your rewards and through the rewardsyour retention because the fact that it is a global pool of talent with this emergence of covid.”

He was speaking at an online forum on “Managing talent in a post pandemic in Sri Lanka” organized by EconomyNext and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

Dantanarayana’s firm Brandix, which has voer 50,000 employees, has already introduced a flexible working arrangements for its employees.

“All our processes are to see how do we adjust our processes for the new way of work and that’s where the way we looked things in the past has to be drastically changed to adapt to this transformation and change,” he said.

A surveyfor the World Economic Forum among 12,500 employed people in 29 countries found that a majority want flexible working to become the norm. And almost a third (30 percent) said they would consider looking for another job if they were forced to go back to the office full time.


Unlike in the past, human resource experts say many employees, especially the youth do not work only for money. Rather, they look for job satisfaction and a better corporate culture they can happily work with.

Chandi Dharmaratne, Vice President, Human Resources at Virtusa, an information technology firm, said the company’s work in the years before the pandemic including creating an appropriate culture is now paying the returns to employees.

“All that happened was with the Covid it accelerated it, and we got the opportunity to truly leverage the decades of work that has been done in building the foundation for employ engagement, connectivity, and digital transformation,” she said

“What should be happening now and what is happening now, is using all of that in order to offer the employee even more personalized emotional connect as a result of it.”

The pandemic, which according to has infected around 199.2 million people and killed more than 4.2 million worldwide as of August 2, has up-ended industries and workers across the globe.

Hospitality and tourism are among those sectors worst-hit by stringent social-distancing rules and travel bans, while sectors that support the work-from-home economy are adding jobs, albeit often in low-wage roles.

About 75 percent of Sri Lanka’s workforce or 1.5 million employees are facing a high risk of falling in to poverty, with 68 percent in informal employment amid a Coronavirus crisis, a survey done by a Colombo based think tank Institute of Policy Studies showed in November last year.

Some companies have faced a tough time because their high performing employees have left owing to various reasons amidst practical difficulty in retaining the workforce also due to lack of a conducive culture in companies.

“What I’ve realized during the past 18 months, what actually helped is to retain as well as attract more than hefty pay checks or packages, it has been culture,” said Surani Amarasinghe, Head of Human Resources at Lion Brewery

“Even the millennials are also very very keen on moving in the careers in those companies that would allow them to experiment and learn.”

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A new Sri Lanka monetary law may have prevented 2019 tax cuts?

ECONOMYNEXT – A new monetary law planned in 2019, if it had been enacted may have prevented the steep tax cuts made in that year which was followed by unprecedented money printing, ex-Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy said.

The bill for the central bank law was ready in 2019 but the then administration ran out of parliamentary time to enact it, he said.

Economists backing the new administration slashed taxes in December 2019 and placed price controls on Treasuries auctions bought new and maturing securities, claiming that there was a ‘persistent output gap’.

Coomaraswamy said he keeps wondering whether “someone sitting in the Treasury would have implemented those tax cuts” if the law had been enacted.

“We would never know,” he told an investor forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, a Colombo-based brokerage.

The new law however will sill allow open market operations under a highly discretionary ‘flexible’ inflation targeting regime.

A reserve collecting central bank which injects money to push down interest rates as domestic credit recovers triggers forex shortages.

The currency is then depreciated to cover the policy error through what is known as a ‘flexible exchange rate’ which is neither a clean float nor a hard peg.

From 2015 to 2019 two currency crises were triggered mainly through open market operations amid public opposition to direct purchases of Treasury bills, analysts have shown.

Sri Lanka’s central bank generally triggers currency crises in the second or third year of the credit cycle by purchasing maturing bills from existing holders (monetizing the gross financing requirement) as private loan demand pick up and not necessarily to monetize current year deficits, critics have pointed out.

Past deficits can be monetized as long as open market operations are permitted through outright purchases of bill in the hands of banks and other holders.

In Latin America central banks trigger currency crises mainly by their failure to roll-over sterilization securities. (Colombo/Nov29/2022)

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Sri Lanka cabinet clears CEB re-structure proposal: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet has cleared proposals by a committee to re-structure state-run Ceylon Electricity Board, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijeskera said.

“Cabinet approval was granted today to the recommendations proposed by the committee on Restructuring CEB,” he said in a message.

“The Electricity Reforms Bill will be drafted within a month to begin the unbundling process of CEB & work on a rapid timeline to get the approval of the Parliament needed.”

Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Electricity Board finances had been hit by failure to operate cost reflective tariffs and there are capacity shortfalls due to failure to implement planned generators in time. (Colombo/Nov28/2022)

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Sri Lanka new CB law to cabinet soon as IMF prior action

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s new central bank law will be submitted to the cabinet as a prior action of International Monetary Fund with clauses to improve governance and legalize ‘flexible’ inflation targeting, Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

Under the new law members of the monetary board will be appointed by the country’s Constitutional Council replacing the current system of the Finance Minister making appointments.

“It will be a bipartisan approach,” Governor Weerasinghe told an investor forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, Colombo-based brokerage.

“The central bank’s ability to finance the budget deficit will be taken out. Thirdly the flexible inflation targeting regime will be recognized in the law as the framework.”

The law will also make macro-prudential surveillance formally under the bank.

There will be two governing boards, one for the management of the agency and one to conduct monetary policy.

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