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Monday April 15th, 2024

Ethiopia in debt restructuring, downgrade after printing money, despite low deficit

ECONOMYNEXT – Ethiopia had been downgraded to ‘CCC’ from ‘B’ by Fitch Ratings after it applied for ‘Paris Club’ debt relief having printing money through central bank advances, despite relatively low government debt and a budget deficit of only 2.8 percent of gross domestic product.

The “Common Framework for Debt Treatments (G20 CF) goes beyond a May 2020 announced Debt Service Suspension Initiative for sovereign debt and “explicitly raises the risk’ of extending capital payments or interest for private debt under its conditions, Fitch said.

Ethiopia’s government has maintained “considerable budgetary discipline” with what Fitch said was a “moderate” increase in the budget deficit to 2.8 percent of GDP.

Government debt to GDP was 31.5 percent while total state enterprise debt to GDP was 25.6 percent. There could be pressure on state finances due to Coronavirus, Fitch said.

Central Bank Credit

An International Monetary Fund program has been attempting to wean Ethiopia’s central bank away from money printing, and starting Treasury bill auctions, after the currency fell and inflation rose.

“Government financing has continued its transition towards market-based T-bill auctions and away from the long-standing system of direct advances from the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE, the central bank),” Fitch said.

“This is a core part of the IMF programme, which seeks to promote monetary policy reforms to help gradually tackle inflation that has remained extremely high at close to 20 percent.”

In Sri Lanka despite having a well-functioning Treasury bill market, bids are now rejected and large volumes of cash are injected to trigger forex losses amid high deficit.

In 2015 and 2018 the central bank triggered currency crises, mostly with aggressive open market operations and ‘operations twist’ style activity, critics have said.

Despite low debt and low deficits, money printing has pushed the Ethiopian Birr from 29.11 to the US dollar in November 2019 to 39.3 to the US dollar by February 2021.

Analysts have also warned that IMF programs usually encourage a ‘flexible exchange rate’, a highly inconsistent money regime with money exchange rate and money policy which are at loggerheads with each other.

It involves neither a fully floating rate (no interventions, no sterilization) nor a consistent peg (unsterilized interventions), leading to rapid depreciation as the monetary authority switches rapidly back and forth rapidly from a peg to a float and back within the same trading session.

The extent of how debt will be affected will be decided by an IMF debt sustainability analysis of Ethiopia which is currently being done, Fitch said.

Ethiopia Debt

The bulk of Ethiopia’s public external debt is official multilateral and bilateral debt.

Government and government-guaranteed external debt was 25 billion US dollars in fiscal year to June 2020.

Of this, 3.3 billion dollar was owed to private creditors. There was a billion dollar Eurobond (1 percent of GDP) due in December 2024, with minimal annual debt service of 66 million dollar until the maturity.

There were 2.3 billion dollars of government-guaranteed debt owed to foreign commercial banks and suppliers.

State enterprise debt owed to private creditors came from Ethio Telecom and Ethiopian Airlines was 3.3 billion dollars.

“While this is not guaranteed by the government, it represents a potential contingent liability,” Fitch said.

Ethiopian Airlines is one of the most profitable airlines in the world.

Ethiopia’s external financing requirements were more than 5 billion on average from financial years to 2021 to 2022 including federal government and state enterprise amortization.

Foreign reserves are expected to remain around 3.0 billion dollars or two months of current external payments.

Debt Re-profiling

The extent of debt treatment required will be based upon the outcome of an International Monetary Fund Debt Sustainability Analysis for Ethiopia, which is currently being updated, Fitch said.

“The G20 CF, agreed in November 2020 by the G20 and Paris Club, goes beyond the DSSI that took effect in May 2020, in that it requires countries to seek debt treatment by private creditors and that this should be comparable with the debt treatment provided by official bilateral creditors,” the rating agency said.

“This could mean that Ethiopia’s one outstanding Eurobond and other commercial debt would need to be restructured, potentially representing a distressed debt exchange under Fitch’s sovereign rating criteria.

“There remains uncertainty over how the G20 CF will be implemented in practice, including the requirement for private sector participation and comparable treatment.

“Fitch’s sovereign ratings apply to borrowing from the private sector, so official bilateral debt relief does not constitute a default, although it can point to increasing credit stress.”

“Within the context of Paris Club agreements, comparable treatment requirements are not always enforced and the scope of debt included can vary.

“The Paris Club states that the requirement for comparable treatment by other creditors can be waived in some circumstances, including when the debt represents only a small proportion of the country’s debt burden.

The focus will instead be on some combination of lowering coupons and lengthening grace periods and maturities.

However, any material change of terms for private creditors, including the lowering of coupons or the extension of maturities, would be consistent with the definition of default in Fitch’s criteria.

There was also a conflict in Tigray region.

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  1. Nimal says:

    We must not follow Ethiopia and print money, down on the government’s extravagance.

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  1. Nimal says:

    We must not follow Ethiopia and print money, down on the government’s extravagance.

Iran President to visit Sr Lanka on April 24 anid rising tension, inaugurate Omaoya power project

ECONOMYNEXT – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will arrive in Sri Lanka on April 24 on a one-day official visit to inaugurate Tehran-assisted $529 million worth Uma Oya multipurpose development project with 120MW hydro power generation capacity, official sources said.

The announcement on President Raisi’s visit comes two days after Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel in its first direct attack on Israeli territory, a retaliatory strike that raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.

“The President is visiting to inaugurate the Omaoya project. He will be on a one-day visit,” an official at Iran embassy in Colombo told EconomyNext.

A Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official confirmed the move.

This is the first time an Iranian President coming to Sri Lanka Iranian after then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit in April 2008.

The Omaoya project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015, but had been delayed several times due to unexpected issued faced during the project cycle and funding issue after the United States imposed economic sanctions on Iran and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

The project was started in 2010 and the funding was to be received as loan grant from the Iranian government. However, Iran was able to provide $50 million before the sanctions. Sri Lanka has to bear the cost after the sanctions.

The project includes storing water in two reservoirs with dams before being brought through a 23 km tunnel to two turbines located underground and generating hydro power with a capacity of 120 megawatts and added to the national grid.

After power generation, the water is expected to be brought to three reservoirs while supplying water to 20,000 acres of old and new paddy fields in both the Yala and Maha cultivating seasons.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction was signed between the two countries in 2007 while Sri Lanka’s Cabinet approved the execution of the contract agreement between the Executing Agency, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management (MOIWM) of the GOSL and Iran’s FARAB Energy and Water Projects (FC).

When commencing the project on March 15, 2010, the scheduled date of completion of the project was on March 15, 2015. But the schedule completion date was extended to December 31, 2020 due to the unexpected water ingress into the head race tunnel and followed by social impacts.

The trade between the both countries suffered after the US sanctions. However, Sri Lanka inked a deal in December 2021 with Iran to set off export of tea to Iran against a legacy oil credit owed by state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to the National Iranian Oil Company.

Sri Lanka owes $251 million for crude imported before the US imposed sanctions on Iran. (Colombo/April 15/2024)

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Sri Lanka to discuss two contentious points with bondholders: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka and sovereign bondholders are to discuss two matters in the near future which the two sides failed to reach agreement at March talks in London, a media report quoting a top aide to President Wickremesinghe as saying.

Sri Lanka and bondholders had discussed four matters on restructuring international sovereign bonds in late March and agreement had been reached on two, President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake was quoted as saying on state-run ITN television.

A restructuring proposal by bondholders was not in line with IMF requirements, and Sri Lanka had sent a counter proposal, he said.

The matters will be discussed at round of talks in the near future.

Sri Lanka was optimistic of reaching an agreement with the bondholders before June, officials have said.

According to matters already in the public domain, sovereign bond holders are keen to get a bond tied to dollar gross domestic product, as they feel IMF growth projections are too low.

In past re-structuring so-called value recovery instruments, a type of warrant, gave their owners extra payments if a country did better than expected and were tied to items like oil prices.

Bondholders had initially proposed bond which would have a lower hair cut initially, and it will have additional hair cuts if growth is low (about 3.1 percent) as projected in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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BIMSTEC Secretary General visits Sri Lanka, discusses regional cooperation

ECONOMYNEXT – The Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), discussed measures to enhance regional cooperation, during his visit to the island last week.

Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Secretary General of BIMSTEC visited Sri Lanka from 07 – 12 April 2024, following his assumption of office as Secretary General of BIMSTEC in January this year.

The Secretary General “met with senior officials of relevant Ministries/Agencies to discuss measures to enhance regional cooperation under various BIMSTEC initiatives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Several BIMSTEC countries have bilateral trade agreements, such as Sri Lanka and India, Thailand and Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but no collective regional agreement to enable intra-regional leverage.

During the visit, Secretary General Pandey held discussions with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and paid courtesy calls on the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Secretary General Pandey participated at an event on “Regional Cooperation through BIMSTEC” organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI) on 9 April. (Colombo/April15/2024)

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