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Thursday February 22nd, 2024

Sri Lanka court requests CB to furnish USD 500 mn ISB January repayment details

ECONOMYNEXT – A Sri Lankan court has requested the central bank to furnish payment details of a 500 million US dollar international sovereign bond (ISB) repayment in January when former governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal was head of the central bank, a lawyer said on Monday (23).

The court requested the details after political activist Ranjith Keerthi Tennakoon asked for the data while his case filed against Cabraal’s alleged misappropriation during his first tenure as the governor from 2006-2015 has already resulted in an extended travel ban until July 25.

“The court has requested the central bank to give the details on which sovereign bond holders were paid in January this year,” Maithri Gunaratne, a lawyer who appeared on behalf of Tennakoon, told Economy Next.

Critics of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government have raised questions over why Cabraal decided to pay 500 million US dollars to bond holders from the country’s dwindling foreign reserves as the country was facing a severe shortage of dollars.  Sri Lanka is now experiencing queues for fuel, kerosine, and cooking gas because the country does not have any dollars to import them.

The shortage of dollars also resulted in extended power cuts in the island nation hitting its manufacturing and services sectors since February. People have also complained about lack of essential medicines in hospitals due to the lack of US dollars.

Cabraal’s successor, Nandalal Weerasinghe, and Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena have already suspended all foreign debt repayments with effect from April 12 as the country ran out of dollars in the reserves.

Some sources say the central bank under Cabraal did not want to default the 500 million US dollar sovereign bonds because some of his close allies had bought the bonds before it matured fully. Cabraal has denied any wrongdoing in the past.

Cabraal was not immediately available for comment on the court’s request. (Colombo/May23/2022)

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Sri Lanka to consolidate all vocational training institutes into one college: president

ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka plans to consolidate all vocational training institutes in the country into a single vocational college, offering contemporary subject-related courses, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

Speaking at an observation tour at the Ratmalana Lalith Athulathmudali Vocational Training Centre on Thursday February 22, Wickremesinghe highlighted the need to restructure vocational education to align with the demands of the modern world.

A statement from the president’s office said quoting the president that such restructuring is needed to ensure that Sri Lanka’s youth are equipped to excel in the competitive global job market.

According to the statement, Wickremesinghe had also outlined to students at the institute the government’s plans for a swift digital transformation and the prioritisation of advancements such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“He expressed optimism about Sri Lanka’s trajectory in embracing evolving technologies,” the statement said.

A University of Vocational Technology was established in 2008 under the University of Vocational Technology Act Number 31 of 2008. The institute has the same legal and academic status as any other national university in Sri Lanka.

According to former Vice-Chancellor of University of Vocational Technology Dr T A Piyasiri, Sri Lanka sees a 30 percent dropout rate in its tertiary education sector.

One reason dropouts were high among those who joined state-owned tertiary education institutes after leaving school, was that they were free, he said speaking at an event in December 2023.

“The reasons for the dropouts; The first is that students have found employment – 21.5 percent of students have dropped out for employment. The second reason is economic hardships, and the third is incorrect choice by students,” said Piyasiri.

According to World Bank Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives Chiyo Kanda, around 20 percent of Sri Lankan school graduates go on to further education while one-third of them enroll at training colleges.

Half of Sri Lanka’s students do not receive a post-secondary education, or tertiary education, including college, university, and vocational courses.


Sri Lanka tertiary education dropouts at 30pct: Vocational training professional


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ADB country chief hopes Sri Lanka could sustain policy reforms despite elections

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) expects Sri Lanka not to reverse its International Monetary Fund-led policy reforms despite elections soon, the ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono said.

The island nation has witnessed repeated reversals of policy reforms in the past due to greedy politicians who misled  the people to vote for them by sowing the seeds of subsidy mentality with unsustainable debts at expensive borrowing costs, economists say.

That led the country into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with a sovereign debt default. Sri Lanka is still struggling to come out of the crisis.

The IMF has strictly placed some reforms including in state sector enterprises, fiscal and monetary sectors.

Sri Lanka has implemented the painful IMF reforms so far including higher personal income taxes, but economists have raised concerns over the sustainability of the current reforms due to possible changes in the policies in the event of a new president or government comes to power after democratic elections.

“If that kind of reversal happens, we also cannot justify our support,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono told EconomyNext on late on Wednesday.

“We do expect these policy reforms to be sustained. So that is our expectation. That is the premise which we are providing our budget support. If they reverse, the whole premise will be collapsed. That kind of policy reversal cannot happen.”

The island nation had sought IMF bailout package for 17 times including the ongoing support. However, the authorities have failed to complete most of the past IMF loan disbursements due to politically motivated contradiction with the global lender’s tight fiscal policies.

Sri Lanka has shown some signs of recovery in the third quarter of 2023 with the economic growth turned to positive from contraction for the first time in seven quarters.

However, opposition political parties have promised to revisit the IMF deal if they come to power.

Higher taxes, soaring cost of living, and lack of salary hike have made President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government unpopulour among the public, analysts say.

Wickremesinghe has said the country will hold both presidential and parliamentary election by 2025.

Some government politicians have told EconomyNext that the higher taxes would be eased from April and the authorities will try their best to meet the IMF conditions for the third disbursement in June this year.

The presidential polls should be held by October this year, but opposition parties have said President Wickremesinghe is in the process to delay the poll.

However, Wickremesinghe’s office last week said Presidential Election will be held “within the mandated period”, without giving an exact time.

It also said the General Election will be held next year, “according to the current timeline”. (Colombo/Feb 22/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 310.95/311.05 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 310.95/311.05 to the US dollar Thursday, from 311.30/50 on Wednesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were down.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.60/80 percent from 10.65/85 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.05 percent from 12.05/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed at 12.10/25 percent from 12.20/35 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.20/95 percent from 12.45/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.40/95 percent from 12.35/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2031 closed stable at 12.45/13.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/13.30 percent from 12.50/13.20 percent. (Colombo/Feb22/2024)

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