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Tuesday November 29th, 2022

India gifts Sri Lanka drugs as currency collapse, price controls hit supplies

ECONOMYNEXT – India has gifted Sri Lanka 25 tonnes of medical supplies to Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, its High Commission in Colombo said as the country reels from a shortage of drugs due to a currency collapse and price controls.

Some of the supplies would go to General Hospital Hambantota, Teaching Hospital, Peradeniya and Teaching Hospital, Jaffna.

A part of the medical supplies would go to the Suwaseriya paramedic ambulance service which was initiated as a grant aid project in India.

The supplies were sent in response to a request by opposition legislator Harsha de Silva, who helped set up the service during the ousted Yahapalana administration.

Acting Indian High Commissioner in Colombo Vinod K. Jacob handed over the supplies worth 260 million rupees to Health Minister Rambukwella On May 27.

The relief supplies were sent on the Indian Naval Ship (INS) Gharial, a 5600 tonne Landing ship.

India had previously sent drugs to the Teaching Hospital, Peradeniya on the Indian Naval Ship Gharial.

Sri Lanka is facing drug shortages after money printing led to a currency collapse and forex shortages. Suppliers had also blamed the price controls of the National Medical Regulatory Authority for shortages.

Sri Lanka has an intermediate regime central bank which the economists in the country misuse to print money to boost growth (monetary stimulus or output gap targeting) and trigger currency crises.

Critics had also warned that the price-controlling NMRA was a key blunder of the ousted Yahapalana administration had warned that the agency would create shortages in the future whenever the currency collapsed (Sri Lanka’s pharma control Neros fiddling while Colombo burns with falling rupee). (Colombo/May28/2022)

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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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