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Tuesday January 31st, 2023

Sri Lanka central bank announces credit relief for third Coronavirus wave

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s central bank has announced credit relief as a third Coronavirus wave gripped the country involving restructuring performing loans on request at Treasury bill plus one percent.

“With the outbreak of the third wave of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, requests from many concerned parties and Government Authorities were received by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to consider granting certain concessions to the affected borrowers/customers,” the regulator said.

“Further, licensed banks may offer additional concessions to businesses and individuals affected due to the third wave of COVID-19, on their request, in a way that the overall benefits to the borrower/customer are not less than the benefits offered under this Circular.”

The full statement report is reproduced below

CONCESSIONS FOR COVID-19 AFFECTED BUSINESSES AND INDIVIDUALS

With the outbreak of the third wave of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, requests from many concerned parties and Government Authorities were received by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to consider granting certain concessions to the affected borrowers/customers.

Accordingly, with a view to meeting the challenges faced by businesses and individuals due to the third wave of COVID-19, CBSL requests licensed commercial banks and licensed specialised banks (hereinafter referred to as licensed banks), to extend the following concessions to COVID-19 affected businesses and individuals (hereinafter referred to as the Scheme).

Further, licensed banks may offer additional concessions to businesses and individuals affected due to the third wave of COVID-19, on their request, in a way that the overall benefits to the borrower/customer are not less than the benefits offered under this Circular.

Accordingly, this Circular is issued to give effect to the Scheme in a consistent manner across all licensed banks, with a view to easing the burden on the borrowers of banks that are affected by the current disruption in business /income generating activities to duly repay their loans.

1. Deferment or restructuring of existing credit facilities in the performing category as at 15 May 2021

(a) Licensed banks shall defer recovery of capital, interest, or both of the existing credit facilities of borrowers who are affected by the third wave of COVID-19, on case-by-case basis, during the period up to 31 August 2021, considering the financial difficulties faced by the eligible borrowers, such as loss of job, loss or reduction of income/salaries or sales, closure of business, etc.

(b) The deferment of capital, interest or both shall be granted for one or more of the existing credit facilities granted in Rupees or in foreign currencies, considering the financial difficulties and repayment capacity of the eligible borrowers.

(c) In the case of any Rupee facilities considered for the above deferment, licensed banks may charge an interest rate not exceeding the 364-days Treasury Bills auction rate as at 19 May 2021 plus 1 per cent per annum (i.e., 5.18% + 1% = 6.18% p.a.), for the deferred period and only on the amount deferred amount. In the case of foreign currency loans, licensed banks may charge a concessionary interest rate considering the prevailing low interest rates.

(d) Alternatively, licensed banks may restructure the existing credit facilities over a longer period, considering the repayment capacity of the borrower and an acceptable revival plan. In this case, the licensed bank and the borrower shall agree on an interest rate, considering the prevailing low interest rates.

(e) Licensed banks shall extend the due dates of revolving credit facilities, including but not limited to facilities such as working capital, pawning, temporary overdrafts, short-term trade finance facilities, etc., during the period up to 31 August 2021, provided such due dates fall during 15 May 2021 to 31 August 2021. Licensed banks may charge interest for the deferred period and only on the amount deferred amount as stated in I (c) above.

(f) Penal interest shall not be accrued or charged during the concessionary period, i.e., 15 May 2021 to 31 August 2021.

(g) Licensed banks shall accommodate any request from affected borrowers to delay the due dates of loans repayment by few days (maximum 10 working days) due to the ongoing travel restrictions, without deferring or re-structuring such facilities. Licensed banks shall not charge any additional interest or other charges for such delay.

(h) Borrowers who are currently enjoying deferment of lease repayments under Circular No. 03 of 2021 issued on 13 March 2021 or moratorium under Circular No. 04 of 2021 issued on 19 March 2021 are not eligible for concessions provided above.

2. Concessions for credit facilities in the non-performing category as at 15 May 2021

(a) Licensed banks may reschedule the existing non-performing credit facilities as at 15 May 2021, over a longer period, considering the repayment capacity of the borrower and an acceptable revival plan. In this case, the licensed bank and the borrower shall agree on the terms and conditions including the interest rate.

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Sri Lanka shares down for 2nd day as tax hike, delay in Chinese debt assurance weigh

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged down on Tuesday as worries over delay in financial assurances from China which is mandatory for a $2.9 billion dollar IMF loan and rise in protests against tax hike kept investors in check, analysts said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) edged down by 0.28 percent or 24.62 points to 8,865.05. It fell for the second session after hitting more than three-month high.

“The market is looking for more macro cues because of faster Chinese debt assurance was expected. The market is also hit by fall in corporate earnings due to high taxes,” an analyst said.

China has given an initial response on debt re-structuring to Sri Lanka though analysts familiar with the process say it is not a ‘hard assurance’ sufficient for the IMF program to go through.

The International Monetary Fund is working with China on extending maturities of Chinese loans to defaulted countries like Sri Lanka, as there is resistance to hair-cuts, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told reporters on January 14.
The earnings for first quarter are expected to be negative for many corporates with higher taxes and rising costs. However, investors had not expected earnings to be low in the December quarter because of year end pick ups on heavy counters, the analyst said.
Earnings in the second quarter of 2023 are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

However, the central bank said the IMF deal is likely in the first quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 dropped by 0.64 percent or 17.74 points to 2,764.51 points.

The central bank has said it could cut interest rates in future when the country sees fall in inflation, which has already started decelerating.

The market saw a turnover of 1.7 billion rupees, slightly lower than the month’s daily average of 1.8 billion rupees and while being significantly lower than 2022’s daily average turnover of 2.9 billion rupees.

The bourse saw a net foreign inflow (NFI) of 93 million rupees extending the net offshore buying to 413 million rupees so far this year.

Top losers were LOLC, Royal Ceramics Limited and Hayleys. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)

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Sri Lanka exports fall in December as global recession weighs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s merchandise exports earnings fell 9.7 percent in December year-on-year as the island nation saw a drop in buying from its key export destinations which are facing a looming recession after the Russia-Ukraine war.

The earnings from the merchandise exports recorded $1.04 billion  in December 2022 compared to the same month in the previous year as per the data released by the Sri Lanka Customs.

“This was mainly due to the decrease in export earnings from Apparel & Textiles, Tea, Rubber based Products, and Coconut based Products, Food & Beverages, Spices & Essential Oils and Fisheries products,” the Export Development Board (EDB) said in a statement.

“The reason for this decline was due to the ongoing recession in major markets due to rising cost of production, energy etc. Imports declined sharply due to inflation and demand for goods and services are reduced.”

However, Sri Lanka saw a record export earning of $13.1 billion in 2022 due to increased demand in the key exports throughout the year

Earnings from all major product sectors except Electrical & Electronic components as well as Diamonds, Gems & Jewellery fell in December.

Exports of Apparel & Textiles decreased by 9.6 percent to $480.3 million in December 2022.  Export earnings from Tea fell by 3 percent to $107.3 million, Rubber and Rubber Finished products dropped 20.3 percent to $74.5 million,

However, export earnings from the Electrical & Electronics Components increased by 16.18 percent to $42.9 million in December 2022, while Diamond, Gems & Jewelry jumped 35.7 percent to $30.8 million. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)

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Sri Lanka records over 6,000 dengue cases in first three weeks of January

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka recorded over than 6,000 dengue cases in the first three weeks of January 2023 after a spell of heavy monsoon rain though a drop in cases is likely from February, officials said.

Health officials identified 6,204 dengue patients by January 22, up from 5,793 recorded in the corresponding period last year.

“A rise in cases can be observed in the November-January period with the heavy rain due to the northeast monsoon,” an official from the National Dengue Control Unit told EconomyNext.

Of all reported cases, 46.3 percent were from the Western Province, official reports showed.

Akuressa, Batticaloa, Eravur, Trincomalee, Madampe, Badulla, Eheliyagoda, Kegalle, Kalmunai North and Alayadivembu MOH areas were identified as high-risk areas for dengue during the third week of January by the health officials.

“We are expecting a decline in dengue cases soon. The Western province is always in the top position with the highest number of dengue cases. Apart from that, we are seeing a higher number of cases during this period in areas like Puttalam, Jaffna districts. A certain number of cases have also been recorded in the Kandy district,” the official said.

“Usually the cases peak in December, but they decline by February. This year, too, we are facing this scenario. There is an increase of dengue during the months of November, December and January”.

Due to the economic situation in the country, the Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) in an earlier report said, diesel and pesticides are not being provided by the ministry.

However, rejecting the allegation, the official from the NDCU said the government has provided enough funds for get the necessary pesticides but it is being used according to a scientific method to avoid building a resistance in the dengue mosquito.

“The recommendation is to do the fogging if there is a dengue outbreak or if there are few patients reported from the same locality.

“If you use this pesticide haphazardly, the mosquitos will develop resistance against it,” the official said, adding that there are adequate stocks of the chemical available. (Colombo/ Jan 31/2023)

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