Commercial Banks in Sri Lanka have registered an upsurge in business in the recent months. In the month of October alone these banks have provided new loans amounting to Rs. 50 Billion, which registers a 20% increase over the same period last year. Loans from foreign exchange banking units have increased by Rs. 5.2 billion to Rs. 156.3 billion.
However, loans to the government from the banking system, including the central bank, have fallen steeply by Rs. 36.6 billion to Rs. 565.5 billion as the government repaid credit following a billion dollar sovereign debt sale.
Credit from the Central Bank to government has also fallen by Rs. 15 billion to Rs. 85 billion.
Last year, loans to private business contracted as the government ran a deficit of around 10% of gross domestic product and banks bought risk free Treasury bills instead of lending to risky private business. Financial sources said that following a balance of payments crisis in 2008 and 2009, banks curtailed credit and were facing rising bad loans. Central bank data indicates that bad loans were now falling appreciably.
With many incentives and concessions given to the private sector in the new budget potential for banks to increase businesses, especially their lending portfolios have increased and business analysts comment that banks have every possibility of getting further strengthened in the future months.(niz).
Total credit to the private sector increased by 15.5 percent to Rs. 1.36 trillion year-on-year in September with domestic banks increasing their lending by 17.4 percent to Rs.1.21 trillion and foreign banking units increasing their lending 1.8 percent to Rs.150.1 billion.
A year ago, total credit to the private sector had declined 5.3 percent amounting to Rs. 1.17 trillion, with domestic banking sector loans decreasing by 4.4 percent to Rs. 1.03 trillion.
Net credit to the government increased by 6.8 percent to Rs.693.1 billion. Credit from monetary authorities increased 43.1 percent to Rs. 100 billion, increased by 9.4 percent to Rs.495.4 billion from the domestic banking sector and increased 9.4 percent to Rs. 97.7 percent from foreign banking units.
Total credit to public corporations increased by 48.6 percent to Rs.104.6 billion with the credit from the domestic banking sector increasing by 14.4 percent to Rs. 80.5 billion.
The average weighted prime lending rate, applicable to high net-worth individuals and corporations, was 9.43 percent as at November 26, 194 basis points lower than 11.37 percent a year ago.
The average weighted deposit rate of the banking sector was 6.43 percent, 333 basis points lower than 9.76 percent a year ago.
The average weighted fixed deposit rate was 8.48 percent, 457 basis points lower than 13.05 percent a year ago.
The total number of active credit cards amounted to 816,521 as at end September down 2.85 percent from 840,509 a year ago. Outstanding balances amounted to Rs. 29.12 billion down 7.16 percent from Rs. 31.3 billion a year ago.
Excess liquidity in the banking system averaged Rs.126.33 billion each day during the week ended November 26.
Sri Lanka said keen on public-private partnerships
Dec 13, 2010 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is keen on partnerships between the public and private sectors in developing its economy, the International Finance Corporation, which is supporting the initiative, said in a statement.
“Sri Lanka is actively considering options to increase private participation in development,” it quoted Sarath Amunugama, Sri Lanka’s Senior Minister of International Monetary Cooperation as telling a forum.
“A sustainable public-private partnership model is an important part of our framework for economic growth and infrastructure development.”
The IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, said it is working with policymakers and private sector players to help meet Sri Lanka’s ongoing development agenda through public-private partnerships.
The forum held in Sri Lanka Monday was part of a series of IFC-led events in South Asia to identify and address concerns and challenges related to public-private partnerships among stakeholders, it said.
The event brought together specialists and expert speakers from around the world and was attended by officials of ministries and public sector departments of health, transportation, and municipal infrastructure and other multilateral partners.
“Improving quality of services in Sri Lanka, gaining efficiencies, and boosting economic growth through private participation in social and physical infrastructure were part of the discussions,” the IFC said.
“Long lasting public-private arrangements receive public ownership while generating interest among local private sector players and other development partners with shared goals,” said Vipul Bhagat, Manager of IFC Advisory Services for Public-Private Partnerships in South Asia.
The Sri Lankan government is committed to facilitating the transition necessary to boost the country’s economic growth and build on development fundamentals, the IFC statement said.
“Public-private partnership activity can make an important contribution to help address the country’s immediate infrastructure needs and garner needed funding for the purpose.”
Central to post-war reconciliation efforts is undoubtedly the political aspect. However, there exists in Sri Lanka, four key strategic points of intervention which ought to be mainstreamed into the national reconciliation project by all stakeholders involved in furthering the imperative of nation building.
Politics By Other Means
At a cursory glance, the links between sport and inter-state reconciliation seem abundant. Some pundits credit Ping-Pong Diplomacy with facilitating the subsequent thaw of U.S.-China relations in the 1970s. Others point to Table Tennis Diplomacy and the attempted Olympic Diplomacy as effective difference-bridges between the two Koreas in the latter decades of the 20th century. More generally, there has been a widely held sense that sports, as Jeremy Goldberg states in his ground-breaking work titled ‘Sporting Diplomacy: Boosting the size of the Diplomatic Corps,’ serve as “a ‘safe’ way to ease a country out of isolation, acting as a first step of engagement.”
This transformation of conflict-laden bonds is not limited to inter-state rivalries. In 2007, the apparent success of the Côte d’Ivoire’s national men’s football team in rallying the country and ending a five-year long civil war between Northern rebels and the government-controlled South was hailed as a testament to the remarkable power of sport in peace-building.
Judging from both the Ivorian example and the images of a celebrating multi-ethnic Iraq following that country’s victory in the Asian Football Confederation Championship, it would seem that sport has at least a temporary ability to create intra-state linkages between conflicting factions.
In both Côte d’Ivoire and Iraq which experienced either “cold” (potential) or “hot” (open and violent) inter-state and intra-state conflicts, there have been concrete examples in which at least a segment of those involved point to sport as a significant factor in obtaining reconciliation.
Acknowledging the power of sport as both a strategy and tool for healing and reconciliation, national cricketing heroes in Sri Lanka came forward last year, in what was hoped would provide impetus for further and future sports for reconciliation projects in the country. The Murali Harmony Cup 2012 got underway on the 8th of September 2012 and concluded on the 12th of September 2012 ahead of the International Cricket Council ( ICC ) World T20 Series in Sri Lanka.
All matches were played at five post-conflict school venues across Sri Lanka’s northern regions of Mankulam, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu and were actively supported by the presence of Sri Lanka’s star national cricketers.
The event was designed as a catalyst for much-needed cricket development in the under-resourced schools of the war-affected northern and eastern provinces which will serve as a platform for involvement in national sporting events.
While sports by itself cannot start the process of reconciliation, it can prove invaluable in a broader programme of national reconciliation that is robustly supported by favourable governmental policy.
An example of such is seen in the recent work of the Department of Sport and Recreation of the Government of Western Australia which is the lead agency responsible for putting into practice government policy and initiatives relating to sport and recreation. Accordingly, the Reconciliation Action Plan 2008 – 2009 which specifically supports the development of a diverse sport and recreation system that encourages participation, develops talent and contributes to the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities and people with the intent of contributing to reconciliation in the country, has been promulgated. Sri Lanka, not unlike Australia, is a sports loving nation. What is required, therefore, is to harness the spirit and enthusiasm for sport that exists across ethnic and communal divides, and channel it into avenues that can foster collective healing and nation-building.
Has the time come for Sri Lanka to use the unifying power of sport to devise a reconciliation plan, similar to models used in countries such as Australia, which would in turn fit into the broader framework of national reconciliation efforts?
A Social Conscience While Generating Profit
In Sri Lanka, there has begun a national momentum to raise awareness on the need to develop the social conscience of the private sector, following the conclusion of the three-decade war that ravaged the country. In this context, what is required is a more radical reprioritizing of the national agenda in the post-war situation to socio-economic and political aims to facilitate such a progressive movement.
What must be recommended is the adoption of investment in four areas as critical to a strategy for contributing to reconciliation and peace-building: First, livelihood and income generation activities; second, training and empowerment through capacity building in soft-skills including those that increase innovation, entrepreneurship and employability; third, a need to engage directly with individuals and communities in war-affected regions of the country and finally, to ensure that all endeavours undertaken embrace the vision of preventing economic stagnation which has been at the root of most political conflicts.
The attractiveness of investing in the north of the country must not be forgotten in this endeavour. The availability of rich natural resources in the region such as limestone, land, groundwater, sea salt, fisheries and agriculture could be tapped into in order to create industries, income generation and livelihood opportunities.
Additionally, the market demand for produce and jobs is increasing with the return of formerly displaced persons to their original habitats. Further, there exists potential for development of tourism-related infrastructure as Jaffna is gaining increasing currency as a tourist destination, both by locals and foreigners.
It was recorded that with the removal of travel restrictions to the north of the country, a total of 31,000 persons had travelled to the north in 2012 alone. This in itself is a testament to the promise for both local and foreign tourism in the north of the country which would benefit immensely from private sector investment.
The business community is well placed for developing capacity of potential entrepreneurs by playing a major role in skill building. Hence, recognition of such a role for the private sector and business community must be taken seriously. Although engagement of the business community has been acknowledged as essential for peace-building by both the World Bank and the United Nations, a system of rewards to lure early private sector entry has yet to be devised, at the international and national levels.
In Sri Lanka, the need for economic prosperity or at least movement away from abject poverty and economic hopelessness is pivotal to moving towards reconciliation and peace building if the spirit of peace is to not falter and be extinguished. It is the private sector that can provide in the long-term economic growth opportunities, jobs and wealth creation.
The Future Has Arrived
Given that both the ignition of the ethnic conflict and the JVP insurrections have stemmed from our Universities as well as from other sections of the youth population, a national strategy for youth engagement in reconciliation must be considered.
Increased investment in the country’s most potent social capital becomes imperative in post-war efforts at development, security, and reconciliation and peace-building. In contrast to most countries in the developing world, the case for investment in youth is very strong particularly in a country like Sri Lanka which records a high literacy rate of over 90%. This means that there already exists a resource pool with a degree of skills and knowledge which is an ideal springboard to move society to a largely middle – income status.
There are more reasons why youth have special power and potential in peace-building. First, young people are more open to change – Young people are searching for new ideas and open to new challenges while adults have already formed their dogmatic discourses.
Second, young people are future-oriented. Since they have more time ahead, they are willing to try alternatives and are more bound to “forget” the past than those who were directly involved in a painful moment of history.
Third, many revolutions were started and led by young students or activists. Students often have more time to think, read, meet colleagues and develop ideas. They also have more time to engage different activists groups. Students historically have always been in the vanguard of social change.
Fourth, youth also create ideas that solve old problems in innovative ways. Youth seek for alternative roots of power and influence.
Fifth, young people are also less experienced and willing to try new adventures. This risk-taking nature combined with a belief in a cause and a situation that cannot get worse pushes them to be courageous, especially when others believe that change is impossible.
Sixth and perhaps the most important case for calling for a role for youth in peace building is because a peace agreement’s endurance depends on whether the next generations accept or reject it, how they are socialized during the peace process, and their perceptions of what that peace process has achieved. Child and youth dimensions are central to the structural issues of peace building – such as inequality, poverty, and unemployment.
In post-war Sri Lanka, youth experience a unique situation – they undergo a dual transition, that is, from youth to adulthood against a larger backdrop of the country’s conflict to peace transition. This dual transition is particularly challenging for the youth of our country and must be taken seriously in all national plans and programmes.
Five key areas need to be targeted for ensuring that youth are potent peace-builders in Sri Lanka in such a national strategy: The perception of youth as being granted equal opportunities and space for growth and development is critical.
In addition to job training and employment training for youth, young people should have access to training opportunities in conflict transformation, mediation, negotiation skills, facilitation of group decision making processes, project and organisational management and other themes of their interest and relevant to their social contexts.
Meaningful participation by the youth in political, inter-ethnic and cultural dialogue must be encouraged at all levels of social interaction. Youth should thereafter be given responsibilities according to their capacities and their contributions taken seriously.
Last and certainly not the least is the need for a sound value-based education for youth of the country. As famously said by the renowned educator Maria Montessori,’ Establishing a lasting peace is the work of education; All politics can do is keep us out of war’.
The State has shown interest in working with war widows, female single headed households and military widows. These women need to be helped further with assistance to rebuild their lives, gain livelihood options and other basic amenities. They must also be empowered so that their voices are heard in the development drive taking place in the conflict affected areas.
Livelihoods are considered the most important issue in post-conflict Sri Lanka. The Giritale consultation held in 2010 recommended the following to strengthen livelihood options for women: skills training in non-traditional occupations for women; the Presidential Task Force in the Vanni to have a Gender Advisory Team; create networks for exchange and sale of seeds and farm produce among women’s groups working in agricultural and fisheries sectors; supporting traders in the north and east to carry out business and to travel and engage in trade and commerce outside of the north and east; and develop credit and loan services that will correspond to the specific needs of women in resettled communities and that will give them access to the material and financial resources they need to build up their livelihoods.
Ultimately, the call has to be for all stakeholders involved in rebuilding the country to accept and realize that women play an important role in structuring the very nature of peace. Women are not merely a vulnerable group, they are empowering as well. They can bring about change at local level through diverse means. What they now need is to be given the opportunity and space to do so.
The phrase ‘double standards’ has been given a new definition by the University Grants Commission (UGC). This feat was achieved by the inconsistency in decision-making with regard to a very important function vested by the University Act in the UGC i.e. the granting of “Degree Awarding Status” to institutions of higher education.
The Institute of Technological Studies and the OASIS Hospital (Pvt) Ltd
In 2008, the above institute applied for “Degree Awarding Status” in order to establish a Medical Faculty which grants the MBBS degree. The application was forwarded to the UGC and at its 768th Meeting held on 20.11.2008, a subcommittee was appointed to make recommendations on the proposal to the UGC.
The committee comprised the following most distinguished academics.
Prof. M.T.M. Jiffry, Vice-Chairman, UGC (Chairman)
Prof. Rohan Rajapakse, Member, UGC
Prof. Sarath Abayakoon, Member, UGC
Prof. Janaka de Silva, Member, UGC
Prof. Rajitha Wickramasinghe, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya
Dr. H.H.R. Samarasinghe, President, Sri Lanka Medical Council
Appointment letters were issued on 08.12.2008 and Dr H.H.R. Samarasinghe who was the President of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) back then declined to be a member of the subcommittee citing “Conflict of Interest”.
The committee convened 4 times and subsequently forwarded its recommendations to the UGC. The UGC at its 772nd Meeting held on 22.01.2009, considered the subcommittee recommendations and made the following decisions.
The Commission having considered the recommendations made by the Committee decided that the application for establishment of a Medical Faculty attached to the Institute of Technological Studies and OASIS Hospital [Pvt] Ltd cannot be approved in the present form and the shortcomings of the application be conveyed to the Director-General, Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka.
The Commission also decided that the proposed degree programme should conform to the guidelines given in the documents published by the Sri Lanka Medical Council and the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council.
It was further decided to convey the following to the Chairman, BOI, and the Chairman of UGC conveyed the same with a letter dated 11.02.2009
(A) The application does not give enough basic details regarding the following areas;
Whether the course is a traditional or integrated course.
Facilities available for teaching and learning, specially for clinical and para-clinical training, Library facilities.
Qualification framework and procedure for assessment.
Quality Assurance guidelines and mechanism.
(B) The submitted names of the lecturers for the course are inadequate.
(C) The proposed degree programme should conform to the guidelines given in the following documents published by the Sri Lanka Medical Council and Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council.
Document on minimum standards required for medical schools in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka Medical Council)
Benchmark statement for Medicine (Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council)
Deficiencies in Clinical Teaching
The Committee appointed to appraise the proposal cited the following as “shortcomings” in the process of reaching their conclusion.
a) The patient spectrum in private hospitals is much narrower than in government teaching hospitals. Hence methods to be adopted to ensure adequate coverage of medical conditions for undergraduate clinical training should be considered.
b) Private hospital patients may not be willing to be used for clinical teaching — i.e. examined by medical students (including internal digital examination of rectum and vagina, training in management of childbirth). The minimum number of such procedures required by a student and the feasibility of achieving this should be considered.
c) Although there appears to be several medical and surgical units in the document, there are only two Paediatric units and one Obstetrics & Gynaecology unit. One unit in each of these disciplines will have to be reserved for final year training (equivalent to Professorial units in established medical faculties). The others are required for third and fourth year clinical training. If this is the case:
Where students will have the third and fourth year Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Paediatric clinical training should be specified.
There are only a few full time specialists in the private sector. It may be difficult for the private sector to find sufficient high quality specialists with academic credentials to cover wards/units in all the specialties required in a fully fledged teaching hospital. Most specialists who work in the private sector are employed in the government sector and are available in the private sector only after 4 pm, and too only in the OPD. Methods to overcome this problem should be considered.
d) It is suggested that academic posts and qualifications for academic posts conform to those approved by the UGC.
e) A significant part of the bedside teaching is done by Senior Registrars and Registrars (postgraduate trainees of the PGIM, Colombo, preparing for MD and MS degrees and Board Certification as specialists) in state teaching hospitals as consultants cannot be expected to be available around the clock: Such grades of full time “consultants-in-training” do not seem available in the private hospital. Details of such positions should be given serious consideration.
f) Private hospitals usually do not receive the number of acutely ill patients seen in a casualty ward in a state hospital. Private hospitals also lack fully fledged set ups for accident and emergency care. The facilities indicated in the document seem inadequate. Consideration should be given to admission of adequate numbers of acutely ill patients and provision of adequate infrastructure for clinical training.
g) The teaching of Community Medicine is field based. In a setting where primary health care is exclusively delivered by the state sector, the manner in which this subject is to be taught should be detailed.
h) Forensic Medicine is a specialty that is almost exclusively under the purview of the government, sector. How such services will be accessed for clinical training should be considered and outlined.
Consistency and persistence
A revised proposal was submitted by the Institute of Technological Studies and the OASIS Hospital (Pvt) Ltd and a subsequent panel which comprised the following distinguished members denied the requested “Degree Awarding Status” on 2nd September 2010, yet again.
Prof. Rohan Rajapakse Vice Chairman UGC
Prof. H. Abeywardana Member of UGC
Prof. Janaka de Silva Member of UGC
Prof. Lalitha Mendis President SLMC
Prof. Rajitha De Silva Dean Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya
It is pertinent to note that the Institute of Technological Studies and the OASIS Hospital (Pvt) Ltd had the OASIS Hospital which was a fully functional private hospital at the time of applying for the “Degree Awarding Status” and it had not just an OPD with less than 15 patients per day but many disciplines including Surgical, Medical, Gynaecology and Paediatric wards. But it is evident that the high-profile academics of the committees appointed by the UGC were of the opinion that even such an institute is inadequate for an accepted undergraduate training for an MBBS degree.
A different Fortune
However, another institute which was established at or around the same time period had a “different turn of fortune”. Yet another BOI approved project, the South Asian Institute of Technology and Management (SAITM) which also incorporated the word “Technology” (strangely) applied for a Medical Faculty with “Degree Awarding Status” to grant MBBS degrees. The fortunes of SAITM were such that it was granted “Degree Awarding Status” in 2011 by Gazette notification. This was of course way before the institute even started an OPD service in April 2013 which the institute called the “Teaching Hospital”. Unlike the unfortunate OASIS hospital which did not recruit students before it was given recognition, the second institute had already recruited four batches by the time it was granted “Degree Awarding Status”. The four batches, however, were not included in the Gazette notification as the law cannot be applied retrospectively.
Many are wondering what made the very UGC which denied the OASIS hospital in 2009 and 2010 “Degree Awarding Status” was so “convinced” to grant the same to SAITM. Questions are being asked how the latter had fulfilled the same requirements raised by the two expert panels with regard to facilities and training. It is pertinent to know how an institute which still does not have a functioning hospital, can provide the correct “clinical mix” of patients for 10 batches of medical students?
How has the said institute overcome the “obstacles” cited by the two subcommittees with regard to patients and compliance in private sector?
It was revealed at a recent submission to the Supreme Court (SC/FR/512) the actual permanent teaching staff of SAITM comprises many non-medical professionals (A/L teachers, paramedics etc.) and many of the doctors were either MBBS or MD (Russian) qualified doctors. Even some senior lecturers were without post-graduate qualifications. What happened to the suggestion (d) of the subcommittee which specified that “It is suggested that academic posts and qualifications for academic posts conform to those approved by the UGC.”?
Questions to answer
Were there any new “strategies” proposed to be employed by SAITM to avert the obstacle of providing clinical teachers without the services of Post Graduate trainees such as Registrars and Senior Registrars?
What were the proposals to overcome inadequacy of teaching in Forensic Medicine and Community Medicine?
In the face of the Health Ministry’s stern decision NOT to allow government hospitals to be used by a private business venture to profit and the GMOA very clearly and rightfully objecting to the use of state hospitals jeopardizing the teaching of state university students, it is unlikely that the said shortcomings are fulfilled by this institute.
The only possible answer would be that the wisdom of those who “recommend” such institutes to be granted “Degree Awarding Status” would have been much, much higher than those who made the former.
*Dr Sankalpa Marasinghe; Medical Officer, Castle Street Hospital For Women