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Tuesday February 7th, 2023

Sri Lanka domestic debt already de facto restructured: Cooray

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s domestic debt has already been re-structured de facto due to high inflation and rupee depreciation, Sharmini Cooray, a former International Monetary Fund official who is an advisor to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“The high inflation and rupee depreciation has delivered has reduced the real value of domestic debt,” Cooray told an economic policy forum organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

“It has delivered a de facto restructuring up front to domestic debt holders. So I am hoping that the external creditors will recognize that.”

Sri Lanka’s rupee collapsed from 200 to 360 to the US dollar in 2022 as an attempt to float the currency failed due to a surrender requirement as well as too low interest rates.

Domestic creditors – some of whom are legally tied – are the only source of real financing available to the government with multilaterals whose debt area also serviced as senior creditors not giving any new financing.

The value of rupee debt has fallen by around 20 billion US dollars and dollar denominated debt has now overtaken rupee debt by June despite additional financing during the year.

Rupee tax revenues are also rising faster in inflation and tax hikes though the economy is contracting in real terms.

However, interest rates in the country are elevated due to fears of domestic debt re-structuring.

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

Almost the entirety of Sri Lanka’s  central government debt to GDP ratio jump from 101.3 percent in December 2021 to 127.2 percent in June 2022 after the currency collapse came from 44 to 68 percent of GDP jump in foreign debt, according to an analysis of official released government data and nominal GDP projections.

Due to a flaw in the IMFs current debt resolution framework, there is no upfront clarity on the treatment of domestic debt which holders are willing to roll-over unlike foreign creditors.

The IMF has tried to solve serial defaults of Latin America countries, which have among the worst sterilizing central banks in the world without much success, as the fundamental problem of activist intermediate regime central banks (flexible exchange rates) with high inflation targets above 2 to 3 percent is not solved, according to critics.

Structural reforms are a remnant of the so-called ‘Baker Plan’ while hair cuts stem mostly from the ‘
Brady Plan’.

Latin America defaults came in quick succession from the early 1980s – usually when the Fed tightened – after depreciation as a prescription for poorer countries became a fashionable among Washington based economists.

“Domestic deb t restructuring is a matter of negotiation,” Cooray said. “But I t think we have a strong argument that it has reduced significantly in dollar terms and in real terms.”

The key problem with a domestic debt restructuring is its impact on banking system. It has been said that some rupee bond holders could be ‘ring fenced’

Sri Lanka has to meet some targets on gross financing need (the roll-over volume) and debt to GDP ratios.

Cooray said there was no ‘trade off’ between banking system stability and IMF targets. (Colombo/Dec08/2022)

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  1. The roaring pussycat says:

    I don’t think anyone believes this,
    The country has made zero actions to reform its sick economical structure. Tell hungry man about the percentages and figures .He will remain hungry…

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

  1. The roaring pussycat says:

    I don’t think anyone believes this,
    The country has made zero actions to reform its sick economical structure. Tell hungry man about the percentages and figures .He will remain hungry…

Sri Lanka Railways to seek PPPs to boost revenue streams

CURFEW RUSH: Commuters scrambling to get home after curfew was declared in Sri Lanka on March 20, 2020.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Railway department hopes to expand Public Private Partnerships and earn more non-passenger revenues to offset recurring operational costs, an official said.

“For the past 10 years, except the last few years, the Railway operational income only covers around 50 percent of the operational expense of the Department,” the General Manager of the Railway, D.S. Gunasinghe told EconomyNext.

“Our plan is to increase the non-passenger revenue of the Railway department.

“And we cannot expect and do not hope for money from the government.”

Sri Lanka Railways already has agreements with Prima, a food firm, and Insee Cement, which is bringing in additional income, Gunasinghe said.

“We had agreements for material transportation such as sand in the past, however it was canceled but we hope to start it again” he said.

The department will rent out its storage facilities and circuit bungalows for the tourism sector to create additional revenue streams.

Sri Lanka Railways recorded an operating loss of 10.3 billion rupees during 2021, compared to a loss of 10.1 billion rupees in 2020, the Central Bank 2021 annual report showed.

The total revenue of the SLR stood at 2.7 billion rupees, a 41.3 percent drop from a year ago.

(Colombo/ Feb 06/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s doctors distribute anti-tax hike leaflets to train commuters

ECONOMYNEXT – Doctors representing Sri Lanka’s Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) distributed leaflets outside the Colombo Fort railway station against a progressive tax hike, threatening to address the government in a “language it speaks”.

GMOA Secretary Haritha Aluthge told reporters outside the busy Fort railway station Monday February 06 afternoon that all professional associations have collectively agreed to oppose the personal income tax hike.

“The government is taking a lethargic approach. They cannot keep doing this. They have a responsibility towards the citizens, the country and society,” said Aluthge.

The medical officer claimed that the government was acting arbitrarily (අත්තනෝමතික).

“If it cannot understand the language they’ve been speaking, if the government’s plan is to put all professionals out on the street, if it doesn’t present a solution, all professional unions have decided unanimously to address the government in a language it speaks, ,” he said.

Aluthge and other GMOA members were seen distributing leaflets to commuters leaving the railway station. Doctors in Sri Lanka in general are likely to earn higher salaries than the average train commuter, and a vast majority of Sri Lanka’s population, most of whom take public transport, don’t fall into the government’s new tax bracket. Many doctors, though certainly not all, collect substantial sums of money at the end of every month as doctor’s fees in private consultations.

About two miles away from the doctors, the Ceylon Blank Employees’ Union, too, engaged in a similar distribution leaflet campaign on Monday at the Maradana railway station. A spokesman promised “tough trade union” action if there was no solution offered by next week.

Sri Lanka’s cash-strapped government has imposed a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax on all Sri Lankans who earn an income above 100,000 rupees monthly, with the tax rate progressively increasing for higher earners, from 6 percent to 36 percent.

A person who paid a tax of 9,000 rupees on a 400,000 rupee monthly income will now have to pay 70,500 rupees as income tax, the latest data showed. This has triggered a growing wave of anti-government protests mostly organised by public sector trade unions and professional associations.

Even employees of Sri Lanka’s Central Bank recently joined a week-long “black protest” campaign organised by state sector unions against the sharp hike in personal income tax, even as Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said painful measures were needed for the country to recover from its worst currency crisis in decades.

The government, however, defends the tax hike arguing that it is starved for cash as Sri Lanka, still far from a complete recovery, is struggling to make even the most basic payments, to say nothing of the billions needed for public sector salaries.

Economists say Sri Lanka’s bloated public service is a burden for taxpayers in the best of times, and under the present circumstances, it is getting harder and harder to pay salaries and benefits.

Sri Lanka’s new tax regime has both its defenders and detractors. Critics who are opposed to progressive taxation say it serves as a disincentive to industry and capital which can otherwise be invested in growth and employment-generating business ventures. Instead, they call for a flat rate of taxation where everyone is taxed at the same rate, irrespective of income.

Others, however, contend that the new taxes only affect some 10-12 percent of the population and, given the country’s economic situation, is necessary, if not vital, at least for a year or two.

Critics of the protesting workers argue that most of the workers earn high salaries that most ordinary people can only dream of, and, they argue, though there may be some cases where breadwinners could be taxed more equitably, overall, Sri Lanka’s tax rates remain low and are not unfair.  (Colombo/Feb06/2023)

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Sri Lanka bond Yields end steady

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s bond yields closed steady on Monday, dealers said while a guidance peg for interbank transactions remained unchanged.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2025 closed at 32.15/30 percent, steady from Friday’s 32.05/10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2027 closed at 28.90/29.10, steady from Friday’s 28.90/20.05 percent.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank US dollar transactions appreciated by one cent to 361.96 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at 370.35 rupees on Monday, data showed. (Colombo/Feb 06/2023)

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