ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s central bank denied knowledge of an economic report by the International Monetary Fund, which should have been made public in December, and instead said the multilateral lender may have withheld it.
However, authorities in Sri Lanka are denying knowledge of such a report.
"In December there was no staff report that I am aware of," Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran told reporters.
Sri Lanka is still repaying a loan from a bailout program dating back to the balance of payments crises generated by the Central Bank in 2009 and 2011 and the IMF monitors the country every six months.
The IMF concluded its 4th post-program monitoring mission in September 2015 and the report went to its board in December, and remains in limbo for over four months.
On December 10, 2015, the 3rd post-program monitoring report, which went to the IMF Board in May 2015, was released after a seven month delay.
The fourth report has now been withheld for over four months.
"I don’t know the intricacies of how and when they issue reports," Governor Mahendran said.
"All I can say is this. Last year they were running under their previous stand-by facility they gave Sri Lanka. We have been repaying that steadily for the last few years, including last year."
"Look, we are not consciously suppressing anything, I can tell you that much," Governor Mahendran said.
"I’ll ask the IMF what this is all about. I can assure you that nothing is being supressed here at all. If anything, we are being transparent as possible."
Governor Mahendran said the IMF may have withheld the report.
"The Prime Minister had already made a statement in parliament just after the budget that we are going in for negotiations with the IMF," he said.
"So may be on that basis the IMF also decided to withhold any reports they have prepared, in anticipation of these Article IV consultations that are happening now. That is perhaps what happened."
IMF officials have referred reporters back to Sri Lankan authorities when questioned over blocked staff reports in 2015 soon after the new administration came to power on a platform of good governance and transparency.
The central bank followed transparent policy on IMF economic reports in the mid-1990s but the current policy of suppressing staff reports was adopted during the Rajapaksa administration.
In September 2015, when questioned by reporters, the central bank took cover under IMF rules and said a member country can withhold the "consent" for the lender to publish the report. (Colombo/April15/2016)