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Monday February 6th, 2023

Sri Lanka dollar borrowings drive debt-to-GDP expansion by June

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s central government rupee debt has shrunk 35 percent as the rupee collapsed after two years of money printing, and holders lost about 20 billion US dollars in value, based on data released by the Finance Ministry shows.

Around 24 percent of out of a 26 percent expansion of debt to GDP ratio from December to June came from foreign currency debt.

Sri Lanka rupee debt which was valued at 50.5 billion US dollars by December 2021 had fallen to 32.4 billion US dollar equivalent by June 2021 according to an investor update, even as the more rupee debt was taken to fund the deficit.

The dollar value of rupee debt was down 35.8 percent by June.

The fall in the original December 2021 debt re-worked at a rate of 200 to the US dollar and 360 by June was 22.4 billion US dollars or a dollar hair cut of around 44 percent.

Sri Lanka’s economy is inflating rapidly after the currency collapsed from 200 to 360 to the US dollar and revenues were up 29 percent by June. By August revenues were up 38 percent also helped by tax hikes.

Foreign investors and domestic holders of dollar debt are protected from the steep inflationary fall of value which is in the nature of a monetary default, generally known and high inflation and financial repression (IFR).

Though interest rates shot up to 30 percent, partly due to fears of second hair cut on rupee debt in the form of a re-structure.

Central government debt rose to 127.7 percent of GDP by June from 101 percent in December.

Almost the entirety of the debt increase came from dollar debt, which had shot up by 24.5 percent of GDP even as the dollar amount fell.

The US Fed issued generally better money than developing country pegged central banks with policy rates, preserving its real value better.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its foreign debt in April 2022 after several years of money printing under ‘flexible inflation targeting’ led to serial currency crises, depreciation and run down of foreign reserves.

Countries Latin America with similar central banks which were held in check during the Bretton Woods period under a gold target, also started serial defaults mostly after 1980 when errors in targeting interest rates came to compensated by currency depreciation under basket-band-crawl or BBC policy, now called flexible exchange rates.

Sri Lanka is continuing to service foreign debt of multilateral lenders.

Multilaterals including the IMF do not re-structure debt or take hair-cuts.

Market access countries with Latin America style central banks generally cannot escape from default, since the core problem of anchor conflicts involving flexible policy cannot be solved. (Colombo/June22/2022)

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Sri Lanka to address SME tax problems at first opportunity: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Problems faced by Sri Lanka’s small and medium enterprises from recent tax changes will be addressed at the first opportunity, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

Business chambers had raised questions about hikes in Value Added Tax, Corporate Income Tax and the Social Security Contribution Levy (SSCL) that’s been imposed.

It should be explored on how to amend the Inland Revenue Act, Siyamabalapitiya said, adding that the future months should be considered as a period where the country is being stabilized.

Both the VAT and SSCL are effectively paid by customers, but the SSCL is a cascading tax that makes running businesses difficult.

In Sri Lanka SMEs make up a large part of the economy, accounting for 80 per cent of all businesses according to according to the island’s National Human Resources and Employment Policy.

(Colombo/ Feb 05/2023)

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Sri Lanka revenues Rs158.7bn in Jan 2023 up 51-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government revenues were 158.7 billion rupees in January 2023 but expenditure and debt service remained high, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

In January 2022 total revenues were Rs104.5 billion according to central bank data.

Sri Lanka’s tax revenues have risen sharply amid an inflationary blow off which had boosted nominal GDP while President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also raised taxes.

Departing from a previous strategy advocated by the IMF expanding the state and not cutting expenses, called revenue based fiscal consolidation, he is attempting to do classical fiscal consolidation with spending restraint.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has presented a note to cabinet requesting state expenditure to be controlled, Gunawardana told reporters.

State Salaries cost 87.4 billion rupees.

Pensions and income supplements (Samurdhi program) were29.5 billion rupees.

Other expenses were 10.8 billion rupees.

Capital spending was   21 billion rupees.

Debt service was 377.6 billion rupees for January which has to be done with borrowings from Treasury bills, bonds and a central bank provisional advance of 100 billion rupees, Gunawardana said.

Interest costs were not separately given. (Colombo/Feb05/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices down for second week

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices fell for the second week at an auction on January 31, with teas from all elevations seeing a decline, data showed.

“In retrospect, the decline in prices would be a price correction owing to the overall product quality and less interest from some key importers due to the arrival of cargo at destinations ahead of schedule,” Forbes and Walker tea brokers said.

The weekly sale average fell from 1475.79 rupees to 1465.40 rupees from a week ago, according to data from Ceylon Tea Brokers.

The tea prices are down for two weeks in a row.

High Growns

The High Grown sale average was down by 20.90 rupees to 1380.23 rupees, Ceylon Tea Brokers said.

High grown BOP and BOPF was down about 100 rupees.

“Ex-Estate offerings which totalled 0.75 M/Kg saw a slight decline in quality over the previous week” Forbes and Walker said.

OP/OPA’s in general were steady to marginally down.

Low Growns

In Low Grown Teas, FBOP 1 was down by 100 rupees and FBOP was down by 50 rupees while PEK was up by 150 rupees.

The Low Growns sale average was down by 8.55 rupees to 1547.93 rupees.

A few select Best BOP1s along with Below Best varieties maintained.

OP1                     Select Best OP1’s were steady, whilst improved/clean Below Best varieties maintained.   Others and poorer sorts were easier.

PEKOE                 Well- made PEK/PEK1s in general were steady, whilst others and poorer sorts were down.

Leafy and Semi Leafy catalogues met with fair demand,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“However, the Small Leaf and Premium catalogues continued to decline.

“Shippers to Iran were very selective, whilst shippers to Türkiye and Russia were fairly active.”

This week  2.2 million Kilograms of Low Growns were sold.

Medium Growns

Medium Grown BOP and BOPF fell by around 100 rupees

The Medium Growns sale average was down by 33.40 rupees to 1199.4 rupees.

“Medium CTC teas in the higher price bracket witnessed a similar trend, whilst teas at the lower end were somewhat maintained subject to quality,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“Improved activity from the local trade and perhaps South Africa helped to stabilize prices to some extent.”

OP/OPA grades were steady while PEKOE/PEKOE1 were firm, while some gained 50-100 rupees at times.

Well-made FBOP/FBOPF1’s were down by 50-100 rupees per kg and more at times.

(Colombo/Feb 5/2023)

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