India opens support to Sri Lankan SMEs

One of world’s most dynamic SME and MSME collectives has come forward to support Sri Lankan MSMEs to fulfil its long cherished dream of going global. The offer, made to Lankan SMEs for the first time in its history, also includes free marketing and tech know-how assistance for Lankan SMEs. “Our Prime Minister HE Narendra Modi wants to increase Indian MSME’s contribution to GDP in a big way. If we support Lankan SMEs, the Lankan sector in turn will supply us and support us too. But we are not talking of support to Sri Lankan SMEs for entering only Indian markets but we are ready to support them to go global, at no costs” said Rajnish Goenka, influential Founder Chairman of India’s MSME Development Forum (IMSME-DF) the first integrated and Unified Platform for the huge Indian MSME sector. Chairman Goenka was addressing Sri Lankan Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 17 September in Colombo during his courtesy call on Minister Bathiudeen. Despite being born to an affluent Indian freedom fighters’ family, Chairman Goenka himself is a proven entrepreneur, having created a successful and a vast business empire that now spans beyond India-to Dubai, China, and the USA. He is a member of the Indian National Board of Ministry of MSME and was also the National Convenor of the ruling Bhartiya Janatha Party (BJP)’s Micro and Small Industries Cell during 2014.

“We MSME-DF are working in tandem with Indian government. We are ready to extend support for marketing, promotion and technology for Sri Lankan SMEs. We are not able to give financial support since there is a huge demand by Indian MSMEs for that. We can provide a good platform for Lankan SMEs. My discussions with Minister Bathiudeen and some local entrepreneurs shown that Sri Lankan SMEs and MSMEs are faced with three types of issues-in finance, marketing and technology. We will support marketing and technology aspects. For example I met Lankan entrepreneurs in Colombo who developed medical equipment related innovations but are unable to find any market opportunities here. We shall provide such Lankan SMEs and innovators a new market in India” said Chairman Goenka and added: “The MSME-DF not only has a strong presence in Indian market, but also has 35 overseas branches in overseas including in USA, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, etc. MSME-DF has 50000 Indian SMEs as members, 500,000 affiliated Indian SMEs and a database of another two-million SMEs. We also serve Indian micro enterprises. As for tech support, it depends on the type of request made by Lankan SMEs. India is the cheapest technology hub in the world. Even many US, French satellites are now launched in India since the costs are very low-only one sixth of the cost in comparison to their countries. Similarly many small technologies that can be used by Lankan SMEs could be transferred on a win-win basis. We are ready facilitate B2B matchmaking for Lankan SMEs with our MSME sector and even with our corporates- totally free. Even if Lankan government agencies have a problem in B2B connectivity with Indian SMEs, we will arrange that free of charge since we are supported by Indian government. Our Prime Minister HE Narendra Modi wants to increase Indian MSME’s contribution to GDP and economy in a big way. If we support Lankan SMEs, the Lankan sector in turn will supply us and support us too. But we are not talking of support to Sri Lankan SMEs for entering only Indian markets but we are ready to support them to go global, at no costs by improving quality, and preferably on a win-win basis.”

Minister Bathiudeen warmly welcomed Chairman Goenka’s proposals and thanked him. “India has helped us in many ways and our bilateral cooperation dates back to centuries” he said and added: “Sri Lanka has a little more than one million registered SMEs and together with micro enterprises and unregistered SMEs, they are a major contributor to our GDP.  The first national SME Policy of Sri Lanka has been introduced by NEDA under me. Still, financing and micro credit, marketing, innovation, technology and incubation are major hurdles and areas that need support for our SMEs. Therefore I believe that Indian MSME-DF’s assistance would be invaluable to us. I am sure that our SMEs shall welcome such support including B2B links immediately and also like to partner with Indian SMEs for win-win projects. I shall instruct my Ministry officials and SME agencies under me to move forward on your suggestions.”

India’s dynamic MSME sector is over 46 million units and is one of the largest such sectors in the world, taking 29% of Indian GDP (both SMEs and MSMEs -US $ 783 Billion of $ 2.7 trillion Indian GDP, in 2018). India aims to increase MSME’s contribution to GDP to 50% in the next five years under its US $ 5 trillion GDP target.

First hi-tech training centre in Sri Lanka North launched

The first hi-tech vocational training centre in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province was launched on 18 September. The US $ 7.6 Mn new facility in Ariya Nagar, Kilinochchi gives Northern youth the sought-after, hi-tech NVQ level course offerings such as IT, electronics and automotive mechanics for the first time. “We thank the German people and GIZ Sri Lanka office for this support. Also the state of art equipment valued at Rs 350 Million donated by the Stassen Group which is led by Chairman Harry Jayawardana shall contribute immensely to enhance the industry–oriented skills of the youth here. This project shows the close relationship and partnership between the industry and TVET sector” said the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen in Ariya Nagar, Kilinochchi on 18 September. Minister Bathiudeen was joined at the Kilinochchi National Level Vocational Training Centre (KNLVTC) launch by Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera, GIZ Sri Lanka Country Director Christiane Einfeldt, HE German Ambassador to Sri Lanka Joern Rohde and officials of National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) under Minister Bathiudeen.

KNLVTC, while being the first non-University level, hi-tech TVET training centre in North, is also  the second National Vocational Training Centre in Sri Lanka set up with the support of the German Government. It fills the void of a National Vocational Training Institute in the Northern and Eastern Provinces for the first time. KNLVTC is done in collaboration with NAITA operating under Minister Bathiudeen. The investment for KNLVTC was  US $ 7.67 Mn (SL Rs 1.3 Bn). The German KWF Bank provided the financial support. The Sri Lanka German Training Institute (SLGTI) was declared opened by HE President Maithripala Sirisena on 17 June 2016. SLGTI is NAITA’s only institute conducting NVQ level 5 and 6 courses.

“Though this centre is located in Killinochchi at present, the students studying here are not only from the Northern and Eastern but also from other districts in the country. This institute is multi-disciplinary and multi ethnic in its composition. We thank the German people and GIZ Sri Lanka office for this support. This initiative shows the close relationship and partnership between the industry and TVET sector” Minister Bathiudeen added.

The campus spreads over 15 acres, and consists of modern laboratories, libraries, computer centers, lecture halls and student hostels and the construction of a new hostel complex for 400 students will begin  soon with the assistance of the Skills Sector Development Project (SSDP) at a cost of Rs 400 million.

The donation of the equipment to KNLVTC, is a result of the partnership agreement between the Stassen Group and GIZ on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Indian industrialists vie for Sri Lanka projects

Indian industrial investors are preparing for major investment moves in Sri Lankan projects-not only on mega-infrastructure ventures but even on smaller outlays. India’s powerful Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has, for the first time, expressed its new investment and funding push on Sri Lankan infrastructure projects on 17 September. “Sri Lanka is becoming a preferred destination for Indian investors due to its similar climate and close proximity to India. We are also keen on showcasing Indian expertise in Sri Lanka through large scale projects” said Praful Kumar Mutha (Director-Mohan Mutha Exports Ltd, Chennai) who was leading a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)’s 10 member business delegation to Sri Lanka. Director Praful Kumar was meeting the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 17 September joined by the members of his delegation to Colombo. The Industry-led and industry-managed CII is India’s second largest industry chamber with more than 9100 direct and over 300000 indirect membership of firms from 291 various national and regional bodies (private and public sectors, SMEs to multi nationals).  CII is no stranger to Sri Lanka and its previous teams visiting Colombo met Minister Bathiudeen on several occasions.

“We are interested in securing large scale projects in Sri Lanka such as refineries, IT parks, desalinisation plants, pharmaceutical zones, container terminals and vocational training facilities. Many mechanisms are available in India for funding of such large projects overseas. We at CII can be a facilitator for such project funding in Sri Lanka as well. We can move in with funding from Indian Exim Bank. The Buyers’ Credit (BC) project funding mechanism of Indian Exim Bank is one such way” said Director Praful Kumar, and added: “Such funds are for Indian exporters entering into new foreign markets where deferred credit on medium or long term basis is more practical. Interest rates are also very low at LIBOR plus 1.25% (annual) for 8 years! We are not talking about funding that comes through the usual Line of Credit Agreement through which such projects as upgrading Sri Lankan railways have been taking place. In Buyers’ Credit, project execution is done by an Indian firm called the project exporter.  Even though the fund recipient is an Indian company, the firms in the target country too benefit immensely. 75% of the material for the project needs to come from the Indian firm, but Sri Lankan contractors can supply the labour -and also the 25% materials in the BC project. Any kind of project can be done on BC funds in Sri Lanka. Usually the Indian Firm’s foreign partner is the government of that country or a government owned institution. Even an independent local partner is allowed. However, if such local project partner is not part of the government of Sri Lanka, then India Exim bank requires a sovereign guarantee from the Lankan government on behalf of the independent party. Therefore these projects are not India-SL joint ventures but 100% Indian company owned projects. The benefit of this is that there is no limit for the dollar value of the project-it could be a low US $ one million or high US $ 500 million-or much more. The US $398 Mn project commenced in Ghana recently under BC by the Indian Exim bank and the project on a new road in Maldives at US $20 Mn are examples. Average project length is three years and it takes about three to six months for initial background work. High-value projects such as ports, bridges, highways, and IT parks are a good match for BC projects. Even though revenue generating projects are preferred for most BC projects, even a social non-profit projects without revenues, too are possible. We can facilitate top Indian multinationals such as Reliance, Wipro, Tata, Aditya Birla etc to Sri Lanka in this if the projects are large scale.”

Meanwhile, since March 2018, Sri Lanka has been placed in the Positive List of Countries for Buyer’s Credit under India’s National Export Insurance Account (NEIA) by India’s Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC). 80 countries have been graded in this list. Sri Lanka earned a place in the “Second positive group” (called A2) out of seven grades (other grades are A1, B1, B2, C1, C2 and D). The A2 ranking (out of all the seven) is an attractive positioning for Indian investors eager to enter Sri Lanka.

Minister Bathiudeen welcomed CII’s interest to take on large projects in Sri Lanka, and said: “The presence of Indian companies in Sri Lanka have been longstanding. India is the fourth largest FDI provider to Sri Lanka in 2005-2017. The Unity government welcomes Indian FDI to Sri Lanka and on behalf of it I and my Ministry extend our fullest support to investors from India including CII members. Just as Indian investors are entering Sri Lanka, more and more Lankan firms too are investing in India.”

India is one of 28 countries that Sri Lanka has signed a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Treaty with. According to Sri Lanka Board of Investment, India is the fourth largest FDI provider to Sri Lanka in 2005-2017 followed by China, Malaysia and Hon Kong. The cumulative Indian investment in Sri Lanka in 2005-2017 totalled US $ 1.16 Bn. The main investment sectors that Indian FDIs in are tourism & hotels, petroleum-retail, manufacturing, real estate, telecommunication, banking and financial services. Among investments by Sri Lankan companies in India are apparel (Brandix, MAS holdings), furniture (Damro), energy (LTL Holdings), and in freight servicing and logistics (DRH Logistics and Freight Links International).

On September 17, Minister Bathiudeen also instructed his officials to promptly coordinate on CII’s future inquiries on possible projects under his Ministry and under other government offices.

Sri Lanka’s ILO backed national co-op policy becomes a reality

After a decade’s efforts involving multiple stakeholders, the first ever national policy for Sri Lanka’s historic cooperative sector is a reality thanks to the backing of International Labour Organization (ILO).

The final policy document, called the National Policy on Cooperatives, was presented to Ms Simrin Singh, ILO Country Director for Sri Lanka & the Maldives by the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 9 September. 

“The work and process on formulating the national cooperatives policy began in 2012, and involved consultations with a diverse group of stakeholders at sub-national and provincial level. This apex policy document originates from the cooperative members, and embeds the spirit of the Sri Lankan experience. The ILO initially started working with a large number of cooperatives in the Northern Province in 2011, several years after the war ended. Although cooperatives had functioned in the region before and to some extent during the conflict, it needed to be re-built and fostered with an attitudinal change to economically and socially empower men, women, youth, persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups. Through the Local Empowerment through Economic Development (LEED) project, which received funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Aid and Trade (DFAT), the ILO supported the formation and functioning of cooperatives. In the absence of trade unions in regions that lack infrastructure due to years of conflict and neglect, cooperatives became an effective instrument for collective organising and better incomes. The success of the cooperative concept on the ground led the ILO to develop a roadmap for action on furthering this people-centred, equitable and social principle at work. With technical support from the ILO’s Cooperatives Unit in Geneva, the International Cooperative Alliance, and through wide consultations with the Ministry of Cooperatives and Internal Trade and the cooperative movement at the grass-root level, a national policy on cooperatives was drafted, among several other recommendations” ILO in Sri Lanka said.

Welcoming the finalised policy document, Minister Bathiudeen said: “We thank ILO for its support towards formulation of our National Cooperative Policy. ILO’s contribution is valued by us greatly.”

The 111 year old Sri Lankan cooperative sector employs 46000 and packs a membership total of a little over 8 million. The Lankan cooperatives assets and savings base is estimated at a huge US $ 2.8 Bn (2017/’18). At present there are a more than 14400 cooperatives -in various sectors -including production, services, SMEs, women’s development, rural banking, insurance and farming -active across Sri Lanka’s nine provinces.

STC launches Sri Lanka’s first state owned WAC

No sooner the first ever state run Wheel Alignment Centre (WAC) for the four wheel light vehicle class was launched on 11 September, demand for its services peaked –that too, not from state owned vehicles but from private vehicle owners hungry for trustworthy servicing. “Eight vehicles, including high-roof ambulances, have been serviced within just seven hours’ of opening of STC Wheel Alignment Centre (STCWAC). More private vehicles are now being booked” said a pleased Chairman of government owned State Trading (General) Corporation (STC) Hussein Bhaila on 12 September. STCWAC is a free gift to the STC by Unimo Enterprises Ltd –the fully owned subsidiary of United Motors Lanka PLC –and was launched by Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 11 September in Colombo, joined by his State Minister Buddhika Pathirana, Chairman Bhaila and STC Executive Director Reyaz Salley.

STCWAC is the first ever state run Wheel Alignment Centre providing services to the public –and at very competitive prices. “STC sells ten tyre brands and one such brand is Yokohama, the Japanese made tyre which is among the global top ten. We sell Yokohama tyres on behalf of Unimo Enterprises Ltd, its sole distributor in Sri Lanka. Unimo Enterprises Ltd gifted the WAC to us” said Chairman Bhaila. STC uses a number of auto-technicians and auto servicing assistants in its WAC.

At the 11 September’s WAC launch event, Minister Bathiudeen thanked Unimo Enterprises Ltd and United Motors Lanka PLC for their free grant to STC. “We thank them for this gift. We now start with light vehicles, and based on its success, we can open a new one for heavy vehicles too. Also based on the success of this WAC, we will go for more WACs in the other eight showrooms of STC” added Minister Bathiudeen.

“Thanks to Unimo Enterprises Ltd and United Motors Lanka PLS, STC is now becoming a one stop shop for customers visiting to purchase their tyres as they can correct their wheels right here. This WAC is not for heavy vehicle class but for light vehicles –though it can service high roof light vehicles including ambulances, SUVs, and double cabs” said Chairman Bhaila on 12 September.

The total value of setting up the STCWAC is around Rs 5 million (excluding the land value). STC, under Minister Bathiudeen’s Ministry, is the sole, state owned diversified conglomerate in Sri Lanka, offering a vast range of products and services -from household equipment to industrial machinery.

Sri Lanka packaging industry in fresh surge

A critical group of Sri Lankan industry sub-sectors is set to reap bigger gains riding on the surges in e-commerce as well as Indian and Asia-Pacific markets. For the first time, Sri Lanka SMEs are receiving government’s direct support for their packaging efforts. Meanwhile, Colombo’s 38th international industry expo on packaging, paper and printing records the largest local and international industry supplier turnout in recent times. “Asia-Pacific has become the leading market in the global retail e-commerce packaging. This opens new opportunities for Sri Lanka’s packaging sector- especially our packaging industries who are looking to enter international markets. I call our industry to use these openings and capitalize on them” said the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICRPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 11 September. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the launch event of 38th anniversary of the Lankapak exhibition series at BMICH. Joining Minister Bathiudeen were (HE) High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu, State Minister of ICRPDPCDSDVT Buddhika Pathirana, President of Asian Packaging Federation Rohan Victoria, Indian PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry representative Rakesh Shangrai, and President of Sri Lanka Institute of Packaging Anuradha Jayasinha. One the most important industry exhibitions to take place in Colombo, the Lankapak series has been supported by Minister Bathiudeen’s Ministry and focuses on the five P’s-Packaging, Processing, Printing, Paper and Plastic. This year’s expo is attended by exhibitors from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and India. 40 Indian companies in these sectors are a key highlight of this event. “In 2016, 40 companies from all countries took part but this year, it has grown to 87. Also this year almost 38 connected sub-industry sectors are taking part” said Minister Bathiudeen, and added: “Printing and packaging are important elements in branding Sri Lanka to global markets. In that, packaging plays an important role in our exports. As a result international packaging and safety requirements are impacting on our export packaging industry, which innovates on this. Also my Ministry with the Sri Lanka Institute of Packaging has introduced service programmes for SME’s at regional level for the first time. This is to strengthen SME value chains. As a result our SMEs have entered the packaging sector. 40 SME industries in the North and East have already been trained under the Packaging Technology Improvement Program in the first stage.”

High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka (HE) Taranjit Singh Sandhu addressing the event stressed of the resilience of Sri Lankan economy. “Within a month I’ve attended five industry exhibitions here. The number of these exhibitions show the resilience of Sri Lankan economy and its people, which is truly impressive” said HE Singh and added: “In recent exhibitions here Indian companies far outnumbered companies from other countries due to their large scale. We believe that together we can achieve more. Some believe interdependency is a sign of weakness -but to me it is undoubtedly a sign of strength. Problems in today’s world are too complex to be resolved by a single country alone. India’s packaging industry is expected to touch US $ 73 Billion by 2020. This creates lots of opportunities for industries of both countries.”

According to Morgan Philips, throughout Central & East Asia, South East Asia & Oceania, the Asia-Pacific region packaging market “continues to enjoy strong growth with volume expected to rise by a CAGR of 5% over the 2014-2018.” According to Reuters, with the growth of online and internet shopping, the global retail e-commerce packaging market too is growing at a much faster rate-at 5.9%. 

Lanka Northern fisher-folk hear good news

Having faced a three decades’ of unrest followed by many environmental and other woes, the fishermen and farmers in Mannar region breathed a big sigh of relief on 26 August after they met their sectoral line Minister in their own soil. They also received some good news from him on the recovery of their machinery seized in offshore during 1980-‘85.  

On the invitation and request of Vanni District MP and Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Agriculture, Rural Economic Affairs, Irrigation and Fisheries & Aquatic Resources Development P Harrison toured Mannar on 26 August and met fishermen and farmers. Minister Harrison also launched several farmer support projects in Mannar on the same day.

“Minister Harrison not only visited and met our farmers and fishermen right here in Mannar, but stayed for longer hours and listened to their issues and addressed them. He also launched several projects for the farmers here today. We thank him for his interest on Mannar people’s issues” said Vanni District MP and Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training Rishad Bathiudeen on 26 August in Vankalai, Mannar. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the fishery community of Vankalai, Mannar accompanied by Minister of Agriculture, Rural Economic Affairs, Irrigation and Fisheries & Aquatic Resources Development P Harrison who toured Mannar, met fishermen and thereafter launched several farmer support projects.  

There are around 1000 fisher families in Vankalai area of Mannar. These fishermen informed of the issues they faced such as illegal fishing by foreign fishermen in their fishing grounds and how to overcome them. They also voiced their need for a new sea sand belt that would prevent heavy erosion of their beaches and also called for a new Fishery Harbour for them in Pesalai.  The fishermen also wanted compensation for their 81 ocean boats seized by the South Indian Ocean Patrol/Guards in 1980-’85 period. These 81 boats were fitted with outboard motors at the time they were confiscated in Indian waters due to the ongoing war, they said.

Minister Harrison gave the assurance to Mannar fisher-folks that he will take up the foreign fishermen’s issue and the return of 81 boat in the coming weeks along with NARA and NAQDA officials, in meetings to be held in Colombo.

Farmers and fishermen praised both Ministers for their initiatives to resolve their issues by meeting them on their own locations. “There are more than 1000 fishery families and many more farming families in Mannar for many generations. We now need support from the authorities for us to maintain our livelihoods” said Venkalai Fisherman Rajan Mark. “The loss of 81 boats in to Indian authorities 1980’s dealt a big blow to fishermen here. Since they are now unusable even if returned to us, compensation for them for us will greatly help our lives-a key request that we made to both Ministers today” Rajan added.

Minister Harrison also launched ground water pumps and the Marichchikatti Agrarian Services Centre that was completed way back in 2010 but was held back without launching till to-date due to an issue on its land. Another brand new Agrarian Services Centre was also launched in Vilankulama on the same day.

Sri Lanka rural youth create start-up successes

Having dared to break into entrepreneurship despite graduating with a Sri Lankan university Degree, 73 Lankan youth clinched financial grants from Sri Lanka’s National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) in a celebration of their start-up success.  Some such SMEs have even succeeded in nailing projects for them from well-known blue-chips.

The grants, made under ‘Upadidaree Vyavasayaka Udanaya’ (Graduate Entrepreneurs’ Awakening –GEA of NEDA) imparts cash to small business start-ups (mostly) belonging to the rural youth graduates. The grants are given to new small businesses that proved to be viable and profitable after their NEDA backed business registrations were completed. Their entire new business setup process-from business registration, training, production outputs, and to sales and marketing were solely assisted by NEDA’s GEA program. With 30 August grants to 73 new SMEs, such NEDA supported youth entrepreneurs’ total count now stands at 173. Around 70% of who received grants on 30 August are from the rural sector. Grants ranged from Rs 150000 for single owner start-ups and Rs 400,000 for jointly owned start-ups.

“Our Ministry is investing Rs 100 Million for NEDA’s GEA project. Today 73 more rural youth entrepreneurs who proved their start-up successes are getting grants from us to strengthen their SMEs” said the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 30 August. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing his NEDA’s GEA awards event at Narahenpita.”I extend my wish the best for these youth entrepreneurs turned graduates who are setting an example by not running after government jobs but creating new jobs for others by themselves through their personal efforts.”

Despite being small and mostly rural, many new NEDA start-ups seem to readily embrace modern or advanced ideas-and such tech for their new SMEs, in manufacturing and services. One such SME, now a ompany “La Leavens” (Web: laleavens.com) began in 2015 with NEDA backing, by processing spice products with “KOLONNA” brand, (“to provide the natural taste and aroma of spices”). It transformed to a private limited company in 2017. The company has recently entered “Industrial Automation and Customized Industrial Machinery Manufacturing” sector, under another new brand called “Qtom”. According Sajith Warnakula -the young entrepreneur CEO behind the creation of La Leavens- among the large companies now  supported by La Leavens’ Qtom projects are MAS Holdings and Lanka Sugar Industry (Sewanagala).

Sri Lanka’s second modern training centre launched

Sri Lanka’s state run job skilling apparatus, the Technical, Vocational Education Training (TVET) sector, is now poised to receive its largest project funding in its history. Once agreements are finalised, a US $ 50 million facility is set to spawn a fully-fledged Ocean University in Sri Lanka. Also nine new hi-tech training facilities across the country, modelled on the lines of the ground-breaking and ultra-modern South Korean backed KTEC Training Centre unveiled in Orugodawatte as recently as 21 August, is to be set-up. 

“Today I met PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and we discussed how to create more modern TVET training centres in Sri Lanka. We decided to set up nine more new centres similar to recently launched Korea-Sri Lanka National Vocational Training Institute in Orgodawatte with South Koren funding. We thank the people of South Korea for this valuable support” said the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 28 August in Gampaha. Joined by his State Minister Buddhika Pathirana, former President Chandrika Bandaranike Kumaratunge, Minister of Skills Development and Vocational Training Karunatilleke Paranavithana, Minister of Transport Arjuna Ranatunga, HE South Korean Ambassador in Sri Lanka Heon Lee, and the Country Director of Colombo Representative Office of Korea Eximbank Daekyoo Park, Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the launch event of modernised Gampaha Technical College (GTC) in Gampaha. The GTC, launched exactly 20 years ago, has been modernised by a US $4.5 Mn South Korean loan funding which is part of the second phase of the two stage US $26 Mn project (the first stage was the Korea-Sri Lanka National Vocational Training Institute launched on 21 August in Orugodawatte). “We are also planning to set up a fully-fledged Ocean University at a cost of US $ 50 Mn. We will be able start work on it in the coming weeks. The Ocean University we have at present is not a fully fledged institution“ said Minister Bathiudeen and added: “A Sri Lankan industry study last year showed that 400000 new jobs will be available in Sri Lanka in the next three years in hotel, tourism and industry sectors. According to a study by the University of Colombo 58% of unfilled vacancies in Sri Lanka are in apparel sector 20% in food industry and 33% in other manufacturing sectors. Therefore the Skills Development and vocational training institutions under my Ministry we are working to address this situation.”

The Director General of the Department of Technical Education and Training (DTET) Mrs. P.N.K Malalasekera said: “The NVQ certifications here include electrical, CNC programming, pneumatics and hydraulics, telecommunications, automobile tech, electronics, secretarial training and language training that are offered absolutely free of charge. The South Korean government is facilitating Korean language studies and youth completing studies in GTC will have priority for South Korean employment.” HE South Korean Ambassador Heon Lee stressed of the importance of TVET in development. “In South Korea, in ‘60s and ‘70s, TVET primarily aimed to provide low level training to light industries. In ‘80s and ‘90s TVET expanded to heavy industries such as ship building and electronics. The official direction of South Korean TVET is to create the fourth industrial revolution for sustainable growth. TVET also has been a cornerstone in the development history of Sri Lanka like it did in South Korea. Hence I would like to mention that this project, supported by Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) of South Korea, is an effort to share Korea’s development experience with Sri Lanka.  Eventually this support measure will support the low income bracket by providing technical training-we shall provide then high quality vocational training, leading to poverty reduction, the primary objective of sustainable development goals.”

The modernised GTC, under Minister Bathiudeen, unveiled on 28 August, not only has hi-tech courses (such a mechatronics, CNC programming, and hydraulics), but includes several new buildings, eight tech labs equipped with Korean technology, two computer labs, a language lab, a modernised library, many ‘smart classrooms’ for the youth, and many brand new staff quarters as well, making GTC to be an ultra-modern training complex with so many modern  infrastructure, it even surpasses the outlook of some Sri Lankan Universities. Korean and Sri Lankan experts train the Gampaha youth in this facility who study upto NVQ level 6 in all courses including languages. All the enrolled youth study NVQ courses, upto the final level absolutely free of charge.

Sri Lanka’s third largest reservoir opens both seasons for Northern farmers

The Rs 2290 Mn, Thanthirimale Reservoir Project – the third largest reservoir in Sri Lanka -launched on 25 August opens cultivation opportunity through both seasons for many northern farmers for the first time in a long time. “So far the farmers in this Northern region have been farming for only one season every year and this project enables them to farm through both seasons” said the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) and Vanni District MP (ACMC) Rishad Bathiudeen on 25 August in Thanthirimale. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the launch of Rs 2290 Mn, four year-long Thanthirimale Reservoir Project – the third largest reservoir in Sri Lanka once completed- joined by PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister of Agriculture, Rural Economic Affairs, Irrigation and Fisheries & Aquatic Resources Development P Harrison, several MPs of Minister Bathiudeen’s ACMC, farmers of the region and other participants, on 25 August.

Minister Bathiudeen continued: “This is a victory for farmers in this area and it strengthens them economically and agriculturally. Also water shortages faced by people in these areas, including Mannar are solved by this project. We are very happy to witness the launch of this historic project which will supply water to Anuradhapura, Mannar and Vavuniya Districts. Many previous governments tried to commence this project but it is this government that finally managed to launch it at a cost of Rs 2290 Mn. The continued efforts of Minister of Agriculture P Harrison finally resulted in today’s project launch. I am personally aware of his huge commitment to make project a reality. I personally know that HE President Maithripala Sirisena also spoke to the World Bank on this project and also aware that he is supporting to vest this project with the public upon completion as early as possible. In the last four years PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, under the leadership of HE President, has been initiating many development projects across Sri Lanka with huge investments. Recently he opened 400 schools across the country at the same time from Kurunegala and then went on to launch work on 126 new roads in Trincomalee District at a cost of Rs 800 Mn. Today on behalf of farmers of Vanni District and other Northern Districts, I thank HE President Sirisena, PM Wickremesinghe and Minister Harrison for their commitment to this reservoir project.”

12% of total sown acres of paddy in Sri Lanka (in Maha season, under all schemes) are in the Districts of Anuradhapura, Mannar and Vavuniya. Once the Thanthirimale project is completed, it is expected to irrigate 30680 acres of paddy lands in these three Districts. 50000 families in these Districts will receive water supplies. Seven irrigation lakes in these three Districts will be filled by the new reservoir. Floods in Mannar District are expected to be tamed while Thanthirimale is to be shaped as an Economic Centre for North.

Minister of Industry and Commerce