Council for Business with Britain Hosts 13th AGM
The Council for Business with Britain (CBB) held its 13th Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday, 31st July, 2013 at the British High Commission in Colombo. His Excellency John Rankin – British High Commissioner was the Chief Guest.

Delivering the speech of acceptance as Chairman, Mr. Shirendra Lawrence thanked the members for placing confidence in him and appointing him as the Chairman of CBB for 2013/14. Placing on record he commended the great job done by his predecessor Mr. Nick Nicolaou and congratulated him for being awarded OBE , Queens’s Birthday Honours list for 2013, for promoting Business interests and his support in uplifting English language in the country via CBB – ELT project. Mr. Lawrence assured his fullest commitment to bring the council to new heights and concluded his speech by giving highlights of the events and activities lined up for the next few months.

Addressing the gathering, The Chief Guest His Excellency John Rankin, British High Commissioner said, “The UK remains Sri Lanka’s second largest trade partner by volume, after India. In 2012 Sri Lanka exported £907 million worth of goods to the UK, a 13% increase from the previous year. UK exports to Sri Lanka amounted to £146 million – a rather large trade balance in favour of Sri Lanka, which I would like to see become more equal.

Latest figures also show that the UK is within the top 5 investors in Sri Lanka. We have over 100 UK companies successfully operating here, and expanding their businesses as the Sri Lankan economy grows.

We are also winning new business. In the past quarter, I have been delighted by major multi million pound contracts won by UK Companies in the construction sector and in the airline sector, for both air frames and aero engines. These contracts have amounted in total to over £3 billion worth of business. They are good for the UK economy and for Sri Lanka.

Education is another growing sector, on which we work together with our colleagues in the British Council. There are now 27 UK Universities providing access to their qualifications here in Sri Lanka in partnership with local education partners. And one UK University has well developed plans to set up the first direct overseas University Campus in Sri Lanka in 2015 – a first in South Asia.

There are nonetheless challenges ahead. There has been some softening in Sri Lankan economic growth. Figures for the first quarter of this year show a slight decrease in Sri Lankan export to the UK. Growth in the UK also remains sluggish.

But there are some encouraging signs. The UK economy grew in the second quarter of this year, driven by a strong performance in the services sector. Manufacturing and construction also expanded after a poor performance in Q1, providing further evidence that the UK economic recovery is beginning to take hold. A study from the British Chamber of Commerce also suggested that exporting activity is at its highest level since 2007. UK exports to Sri Lanka in January to April 2013, amounted to £53 million, an 11% increase compared to 12 months ago.”

Mr. Shirendra Lawrence, Managing Director, MAS Active (Pvt) Ltd, was elected as the Chairman of the Council for the year 2013/2014.

Mr. Giles Watkins, Managing Director, Coats Thread Exports (Pvt) Ltd, was elected as the Vice Chairman of the Council. Meanwhile, Mr. Sam Swire, Chief Operations Officer , Finlays Colombo PLC and Mr. Sarath Ganegoda, Group Director Hayleys PLC, were elected as the Hony. Secretary and Hony. Treasurer, respectively.

The following were appointed as Committee Members for the year 2013/2014: • Mr. Anil Wijesinghe, Chairman/Managing Director, AWS Institute of Education (Immediate Past Chairman, CBB) • Mr. Romesh David, President, Transportation, John Keells Holdings PLC • Mr. Manesh Fernando, General Manager, Hilton Residence Colombo • Ms. Tania Polonnowita Wettimuny, Managing Director, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics (Pvt) Ltd. • Mr. Mohammed Ziauddin, Managing Director, Norfolk Foods (Pvt) Ltd. • Mr. Felicio Ferraz, Chief Executive Officer , Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC. • Mr. Patrick Gallagher, CEO, HSBC Sri Lanka and Maldives.

The following were invited to attend Committee Meetings for the year 2013/2014:  Mr. Michael Halpin, Head of UK Trade and Investment, British High Commission, Colombo  Director, British Council, Sri Lanka  Mr. Sunil Wijesinghe, President, National Chamber of Commerce

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce provides Secretarial services to the Council for Business with Britain.

The CBB has a diverse membership of over 140 companies, making it one of Colombo’s most prestigious networking business associations. The Council organises a series of events throughout the year for the benefit of its members, ranging from luncheon meetings with guests speakers on topical interest to sporting and social activities.

Following the Annual General Meeting, CBB and British Council signed a contract on CBB – ELT project Phase 5. CBB’s CSR initiative, the English Language Teaching (ELT) Project, now in its Eighth year and run on their behalf by the British Council in association with the National Institute of Education and the Ministry of Education. Aimed at improving the English language skills of pupils in rural schools, the programme concentrates on building the capacity of English language teachers so they can deliver lessons more effectively. Another dimension to this programme is that CBB members also have the opportunity to sponsor individual teachers in an area of their choice and share in that individual’s teaching progress. This year the project reached another mile stone by training over 1000 teachers since 2005 and benefitting over 100,000 students across the island.