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Sunday March 26th, 2023

Re-nationalization will harm Sri Lanka films again: Industry pioneer

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s plan to re-nationalize film distribution in Sri Lanka signals a return to a failed era and will cripple the industry which is already facing competition from online platforms, Ceylon Threatres group, an industry pioneer has warned.

"As we look back over the past, it appears that the movie industry has turned a full cycle, with the proposal to effectively nationalize the distribution of movies in Sri Lanka," CT Holdings Chairman Louis Page told his shareholders in the annual report.

"The previous period of nationalization of the import and distribution on movies from the 1970s to 2000 was not a successful one and we fear that a return to the distribution of movies by the National Film Corporation would herald a similar period of instability and downturn."

Ceylon Theatres set up in 1928 operates movie theatres and was a pioneer domestic film producer of hit films before state interventions retarded the industry. In 1956 it set up Ceylon Studios starting domestic production. Hit fims produced by the group include ‘Golu Hadwatha’ and ‘Nidhanaya’.

Unlike in the 1970s cinema halls in particular are facing competition not only from television but online platforms.

"At a time when the digital and online media platforms are making giant strides, bringing restrictions of any sort will only further cripple the industry, obstruct new investments and cause its eventual demise," Page said.

Page said that policy makers may have good intentions but interventions should be made after talks with stakeholders.

"We do appreciate some of the good intentions of the policy makers in proposing these changes," he said.

"However, these should take account of not only the present situation but also the future as well."

"We hope that this matter would be further discussed and the concerns of all parties taken into consideration prior to the same being implemented."

The government on July 03 issued a gazette nationalize film distribution and screening in Sri Lanka giving a state-run National Film Corporation and final powers to its politically appointed chairman.

A group of commisars representing the fields of anthropology, psychology, environmentalism, ‘educationology’, technology, business management, medicine and three other academics will decide whether the film has "classical-attractive", "commercial-attractive" or combination of attractiveness.

In countries with successful film industries viewers decide which film is better while critics also provide early guidance, providing an incentive to produce better films.

A scheduling committee, which will also include industry representatives will schedule the films.

However a ‘specific’ film could be screened outside the procedure taken for normal films.

Importers should get written permission from the Chairman of the NFC before bringing down films. (Colombo/July26/2019)

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Sri Lanka seeks to settle India ACU debt, credit lines over 5-years

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has requested India to settle payments due to the country under the Asian Clearing Union mechanism and credit lines given in 2022 over 5 years, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, an advisor the island’s government said.

Sri Lanka is negotiating with India to settle the money over a 5-year period, Coomaraswamy, a former central bank governor told an online forum hosted by the Central Bank.

“Our request from the Indians is to settle it over five years,” he said. “That I think is still in the early stages of negotiation. The same with the one billion line of credit.”

Sri Lanka’s central bank owed the ACU 2.0 billion US dollars to the Asian Clearing Union according to a year end debt statement, issued by the Finance Ministry.

Sri Lanka owned India, 1,621 million dollars according to ACU data by year end, excluding interest.

India has given a 1 billion US dollar credit line to Sri Lanka as well a credit line for petroleum.

Sri Lanka in March 2024 has paid 121 million US dollar out of a 331 million US dollar IMF tranche to settle an Indian credit line.

Indian credits were given after the country defaulted in April 2022 as budget support/import when most other bilateral lenders halted giving money. (Colombo/Mar26/2023)

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Sri Lanka coconut auction prices up 1.16-pct

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s coconut auction prices went up by 1.16 percent from a week ago at an auction on Thursday, data showed.

The average price for 1,000 nuts grew to 83,219.45 from 82,260.58 a week earlier at the weekly auction conducted by Sri Lanka’s Coconut Development Authority on March 23.

The highest price was 92,500 rupees for 1,000 nuts up from the previous week’s 90,600 rupees, while the lowest was 76,500 also up from 70,000 rupees.

The auction offered 900,010 coconuts and 583,291 nuts were sold. (Colombo/Mar 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka in talks for billion dollar equivalent Indian rupee swap

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in talks with India for a billion US dollar equivalent Indian rupee central bank swap, to facilitate trade, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, ad advisor to the government said.

“The amount is still uncertain it could be up to the equivalent of a billion US dollars,” Coomaraswamy told an online forum hosted by Sri Lanka’s central bank.

The money will be used to facilate India Sri Lanka trade, he said.

India has been trying to popularize the use of Indian rupees for external trade and also encouraged Sri Lanka banks to set up Indian rupee VOSTRO accounts.

However the first step in popularizing a currency for external trade is to get domestic agents, especially exporters, to accept their own currency for trade, like in the case of the US or EU, analysts say.

India’s billion US dollar credit to Sri Lanka given during the 2022 crisis is settled in Indian rupees (transaction need).

However the Indian government itself has chosen to denominate it in US currency for debt purposes (future value).

In most South Asian nations, receivers of remittances are willing to accept domestic currencies, leading to active VOSTRO account transactions.

Sri Lanka is expected to repay a 400 million US dollar swap with the Reserve Bank of India next year under an International Monetary Fund backed program for external stability and debt re-structuring.

Central bank swap proceeds sold to banks, which are then sterilized with inflationary open market operations, can trigger forex shortages and currency crises, analysts warn.

Sri Lanka went to the International Monetary Fund after two years of inflationary monetary operations by the central bank’s issue department (money printed to suppress interest rates) triggered the biggest currency crisis in its history and external sovereign default.

Sri Lanka had gone to the IMF 16 times with similar external troubles except for the April 2003 extended fund facility under Central Bank Governor A S Jayewardene which was a purely reform-oriented program with the World Bank (PRGF/PRSP) program at a time when he was collecting reserves with deflationary monetary policy and perhaps the lowest inflation since the Bretton Woods collapsed. (Colombo/Mar26/2023)

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