An Echelon Media Company
Friday March 31st, 2023

Sri Lanka debt restructuring: opposition MP warns of “China go home” protests

TNA MP Shanakiya Rasamanickam – Image credit: Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka opposition legislator Shanakiyan Rasamanickam, who has been on the warpath with Beijing over an apparent lethargy in helping the crisis-hit island nation restructure its debt, has warned of a “China, go home” protest campaign similar to the “Gota, go home” protests that unseated the country’s powerful former president in July.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP told parliament on Friday December 02 that Sri Lanka owes 7.4 billion dollars to China, a nearly 20-trillion dollar economy, and if the latter was was a true friend, it would agree to either write off this debt or at least help restructure it.

Nearly a fifth of Sri Lanka’s public external debt is held by China, according to one calculation.

“If China, who has nearly 20,000 billion dollars, is truly Sri Lanka’s friend… offering 9 million litres of diesel or half a million kilos of rice isn’t real help,” said Rasamanickam, speaking in Sinhala.

“I say to China and the Chinese embassy that, as 22 million Sri Lankans irrespective of ethnic or religious differences got together to say ‘Go home, Gota’, don’t push us to a place where we will be saying ‘China, go home’,” he said.

The Batticaloa district lawmaker has been raising his voice in parliament and elsewhere in recent days over what he claims is a hesitance on the part of China to assist in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring efforts. The 2.9 billion dollar extended fund facility (EFF) that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has offered to extend to the island nation is contingent upon the successful restructure of this outstanding in addition some stringent reforms that experts say are long overdue.

Colombo has been vague at best on the status of ongoing restructure talks with Sri Lanka’s creditors, and opposition lawmakers and others have expressed concern over what seems to be a worrying delay. Rasamanickam and others have claimed that China, Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral creditor, is the reason for the apparent standstill.

Addressing parliament on Wednesday, the TNA MP said China was not Sri Lanka’s friend but rather a friend of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s. He pointed to the Colombo Lotus Tower and the largely unused convention centre in the southern Rajapaksa stronghold of Hambantota as examples.

“What have the Chinese done in this country? If you look at the [Chinese built] Hambantota Port, China has taken it over. Tell me a single investment that the Chinese have made in this country where Sri Lankan people have been given employment [besides labour]. There’s not a single industry,” he said.

“They have forced  investments down this country thanks to the Rajapaksa family. Investments that are useless,” he added.

If China was a true friend, the MP reiterated, it would help the IMF programme.

“There is no democracy in China, no human rights, Uyghur Muslims are being detained and ‘rehabilitated’. Is such a country trying to turn Sri Lanka into a state like that, a state that doesn’t respect human rights? Is that what China wants?”

The Twitter account the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, known for its sardonic tone, was quick to respond. It said the MP’s understanding of the issue was wrong and incomplete.

“Sorry Mr. MP, your understanding is incorrect and incomplete. China is the biggest supporter to Sri Lanka in fighting COVID=19 and livelihood relief, including in your district Batticaloa. China is also the first responder to Sri Lanka”s financial crisis since its default in April.”

“As a major shareholder of IMF, China has been encouraging IMF and other international financial institutes to promptly support Sri Lanka. China actively participated all the creditors’ meetings of Sri Lanka, and China is not the only or the largest creditor of the island,” the embassy said in a five-tweet long thread.

China also funded the Norochcholai coal plant, the best investment the country has made since Mahaweli projects of the 1980s, according to the Auditor General of Sri Lanka.

However, China gave several monetary instability loans to Sri Lanka from 1980s onward when forex shortages emerged from money printed under flexible inflation targeting, sometime called ‘bridging finance’ in Sri Lanka.


China on track to bail out Sri Lanka with US$1.25bn in 2018

Sri Lanka signs US$500mn loan with China Development Bank

Sri Lanka inks deal for RMB2.0bn loan from China Development Bank

Such loans are were not tied to growth creating reforms unlike budget support loans given by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

India also gave credit lines to Sri Lanka in 2022 as forex shortages emerged. Analysts say India has stepped up its lending to countries in the South Asian region, in a bid to counter Chinese influence.

The Modi government is now funding a 500 million dollar, 7km bridge linking Malé, the capital of the Maldives, to a number of islands in the archipelago, four years after Chinese engineers built a 2km bridge from Malé to the airport.

India has lent over 32 billion dollars to foreign governments in lines of credit since Modi came to power in 2014, and “development” assistance has doubled to 107 billion dollars from 55 billion dollars in 2014, according to the Financial Times.

Indian companies have also expanded in South Asia over the recent years.

Analysts, however, say that India has a long way to go to catch up with China.

Meanwhile, a Johns Hopkins University research authored by Sri Lanka’s Umesh Moramudali and Thilina Panduwawala noted that Chinese lending at the end of 2021 came to 19.6% of public external debt, much higher than the often-quoted 10-15% figures.

During 2008-2021, the effective interest rate on overall Chinese lending averaged 3.2%, higher than average rates on Japanese,
World Bank, and ADB loans to
Sri Lanka (0.9%-1.6%). But Chinese rates were significantly lower than Eurobonds which averaged

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sri Lanka tax hike: no response from president, professionals to discuss next steps

GMOA Secretary Haritha Alutghe

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s trade unions and professional associations who have been agitating against an International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed progressive tax hike will meet to discuss further union action after a letter to the president went unanswered.

Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) secretary Dr Haritha Aluthge told reporters on Friday March 31 that the unions will meet as the self-styled Professionals’ Trade Union Alliance (PTUA) collective which have so far been organising strikes and demonstrations demanding a revision of the taxes.

The PTUA has been awaiting a promised meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe for some days now. Aluthge previously said on Monday that if the meeting did not materialise, the unions would be compelled to go on strike.

The issue has become stagnant due to government inaction, said Aluthge at Friday’s press conference.

“The PTUA informed the president in writing yesterday for the last time to please understand the gravity of this situation and to immediately give us a meeting and present the government’s interim solution, through which the government can take measures to ease the sense of tension among professionals,” he said.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss an “interim solution” to the professionals’ grievances over the progressive income tax hike until a reported revision that’s due in six months when the country’s recently approved 17th IMF programme comes up for review.

“Sadly, there has still been no response,” the GMOA official said.

All unions and professional associations will meet Friday evening together with a number of other unions to discuss further action, he added.

The privately-owned English-language weekly newspaper The Sunday Times reported on March 26 that the IMF had indicated the possibility of revising some of the taxes imposed as part of the IMF’s staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka when the programme comes up for review in six months.

According to the newspaper, IMF officials had conveyed this to representatives of trade unions during a virtual roundtable held last Friday March 24. The virtual meeting was held on the initiative of the IMF and was attended by trade unions and professional associations representing the PTUA including the GMOA. (Colombo/Mar31/2023)

Continue Reading

Sri Lankan transport associations cut haulage and transportation fees after fuel price cut

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka Association of Container Transporters and fuel bowser owners has decided to reduce the haulage charges and transportation fee, after the government cut the auto diesel prices by 80 rupees, association officials said.

“Due to the recent reduction in Auto Diesel price from March30, 2023, the committee has decided to reduce haulage charges by 7 percent,” association said.

Sri Lanka Private Petroleum Tanker owners has also decided to reduce the transportation fee of fuel by 8 -10 percent from April onwards.

“We will be meeting with the association members and will be deciding on exactly how much we will be reducing,” the General Secretary of the association Nimal Amarasekera told EconomyNext.

“We hope to reduce it by 8-10 percent and will be applied.”

Meanwhile United Lanka Fuel Transport Bowser Owners Association said, the price reduction will be done, and the specific amount will be calculated using the cost per kilometer for a transporting bowser.

“We have different types of bowsers such as 13,200 litre and 19,800 litre likewise,” Association President K.W. Charles told EconomyNext.

“So the cost per kilometer per bowser is different and after we calculate only we can give a specific percentage.

“It will come to effect from this month and the payments for the next month will be based on the new prices.”

Charles said, this is only based on the price reduction of fuel, however several costs as maintenance and spare part costs should also be considered when deciding the transportation cost, which is also being discussed with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation.

Sri Lanka slashed fuel prices with effect from Wednesday (29) midnight, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said, after a protest by trade unions of state-run fuel retailer Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) resulting in queues at filling stations due to supply disruption.

The price of Petrol 92 Octane will be slashed by 15 percent or 60 rupees to 340, Petrol 95 Octane 95 will be reduced by 26.5 percent or 135 rupees to 375, Auto Diesel by 19.8 percent or 80 rupees to 325, and kerosene by 3.3 percent or 10 rupees to 295. (Colombo/ March31/2023)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka’s shares edge up in mid day trade

Stock Market. Free public domain CC0 image.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged up in mid day trade on Friday, Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) data showed.

All Share Price Index was up 1.09 percent or 100.69 points to 9,329.19, while the most liquid index was up 1.23 percent or 32.86 points to 2,697.12.

The market generated a turnover of 895 million rupees.

Top gainers during mid day trade were Commercial Bank, Hatton National Bank and Expolanka. (Colombo/Mar31/2023)


Continue Reading