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Saturday December 10th, 2022

Sri Lanka expects billion dollar credit line as Finance Minister meets Modi, Jaishankar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar as expectations rise that a billion US dollar credit line will be given after conditions are fulfilled.

Minister Rajapaksa has thanked Prime Minister Modi for its help, Sri Lanka’s High Commission in India said.

“The areas of discussion included agriculture, renewable energy, digitalization, tourism and fisheries among others,” the statement said.

“The two dignitaries also agreed that cooperation in development of renewable energy in Sri Lanka is mutually beneficial and that it should be pursued with vigour.

“With reference to India’s expertise in unique digital identity and the proposal for bilateral cooperation for Government of Sri Lanka’s similar programme, it was stressed that such identity could serve as a platform for providing common people with access to various services.”

The digital identity schemes, which allow authoritarian administrations in Sri Lanka to track citizens closely has been point of contention with civil liberties groups.

Reports in Sri Lanka said India’s Adani group will set up a renewable energy project in the North of Sri Lanka and another two power projects will be done by India in the North.

India had earlier opposed two projects being given to China which were awarded after international competitive tenders, over security concerns.

Sri Lanka last week also signed a joint venture solar project in Trincomallee in the same location where a joint venture coal plant was cancelled by former President Maithripala Sirisena.

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Sri Lanka receives over 300 medical items through Indian credit line: officials

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has already received more than 300 medicine items as of December through the Indian credit line and hopes to complete all orders by March 2023, officials said.

From the one billion US dollar credit line from India, 200 million USD was to purchase medical supplies, with the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) given the responsibility of placing the order.

Sri Lanka has seen medicine shortages since late June with the Central Medicine Storage running out of stocks.

The authorities said that, until stocks are restored, the ministry has implemented a central communication strategy to facilitate the exchange of medicines between medical institutes based on availability.

The SPC called tenders in March and, by April, the tenders were being evaluated by the officials.

“Of the 200 million US dollars we received, we allocated 55 million US dollars to the private sector supplier,” Chairman of SPC Sarath Liyanage told EconomyNext on Friday.

Orders will be placed for 674 medicine items and 17,88 surgical equipment, Liyanage said.

“So far we have received 74 medicine items through the SPC and more than 300 plus from the private sector supplier. No matter which sector you are bringing it from, the products’ origin must be India, which is a condition we have to follow.

“By December 31, we have to place all the orders and we hope by March 2023, we will have received all the medicine and equipment we have ordered.”

The island nation is currently struggling with lack of medicine in the health sector and, due to high demand and the low supply, the prices have increased in pharmacies and people have reduce their prescribed dosage.

Officials said the Indian credit line is being utilised according to a particular procedure, which took the local authorities around a month to understand along with how the letters of credit will be issued to the Indian banks and how the orders must be placed.

“We had to go through a series of documents and a specific supplier was selected to purchase a specific medicine,” said Liyanage.

According to the official, the orders will be sent to the Trade Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the high commission of India or the Delhi office and will then come to the Treasury.

A UNI number will be issued for the order and that number will be used by the SPC to place the order.

Liyanage said that, apart from the medicine and equipment that is already imported, more orders will be placed in the coming days. (Colombo/Dec10/2022)

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Sri Lanka opposition MP sees racist agenda behind behind pro-China demonstration

TNA MP Shanakiya Rasamanickam – Image credit: Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – A protest held outside the Chinese embassy in Colombo against opposition legislator Shanakiyan Rasamanickam was likely the work of a paid group with little knowledge of Sri Lanka’s crisis and pushing someone else’s racist agenda, the MP said.

Rasamanickam told EconomyNext on Saturday December 10 that the protestors were peddling a familiar narrative of racism.

“These people are clearly on a racist agenda. We know how this agenda plays out and we know who is behind it from before, so it’s not anything new. People can connect the dots and figure out who might be behind this protest,” he said.

The hurriedly put together demonstration seemed to be against Rasamanickam’s controversial warnings of anti-China protests in Sri Lanka over Beijing’s purported reluctance to restructure the crisis-hit island nation’s debt.

A small group of protestors including a number of Buddhist monks had gathered outside the embassy premises on Friday December 09 condemning Rasamanickam’s statement in parliament that people will take to the streets against China in a “go home, China” wave of protests similar to the “go home, Gota” protests that unseated Sri Lanka’s powerful former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“I was actually very happy to see a protest happening against me in Colombo. This is the first time there was a protest held against me,” said Rasamanickam.

I”f you look at the group that were protesting, they are quite unaware of the current economic situation in the island,” he added.

One banner displayed by the pro-China protestors contained the words “let us strongly condemn the ‘Go home China’ statement by separatist Rasamanickam” in Sinhala, though the organisers had been careful to omit the word ‘separatist’ in the English translation of the slogan.

It is unclear at present who was behind the protest, but a placard carried by one of the protestors read “is this going from anti-Gota to anti-China”, indicating the possible involvement of pro-Rajapaksa elements.

“It looked like a paid  group of people who came with no knowledge of the country’s situation and was completely under the agenda of somebody else,” said the MP.

The Batticaloa district lawmaker claimed that some people had offered to organise a counter-protest against the pro-China demonstrators but he declined the offer.

“I refused it because the citizens aren’t silly. They are aware of their surroundings and what is going on, so we need not protest in that way,” he said.

A commotion also ensued at the demonstration when a woman started recording it on her mobile phone, prompting some of the protestors to demand that she leave. Words were exchanged, with the visibly agitated woman yelling at the protestors that they were conspiring to sell Sri Lanka to China.

What triggered the protest was an explosive remark by MP Rasamanickam on December 02 that if China were a true friend of Sri Lanka’s, it would agree to either write off the island nation’s 7.4 billion dollar 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.

Whatever the agenda behind Friday’s protestors, they are not alone in their opposition to Rasamanickam’s strong words against China. Main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Harsha de Silva was strongly critical of the statement, insisting that Sri Lanka cooperate with all countries.

Rasamanickam told EconomyNext that his words were misrepresented.

“What I said was ex President Gotabaya Rajapaksa didn’t listen to the voices of the people and people ended up saying ‘Gota Go Home’ and if the Chinese fail to address the issues and act in the interest of the Sri Lankan community, naturally people will start opposing them also. If that happens, I simply said that I will support them because for us our country and our people are the priority,” he said, adding that his speech had raised awareness among the public of the situation.

The MP 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.

Meanwhile, IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva has called on China to speed up restructuring of debt in Sri Lanka and Zambia following a meeting with the leaders of the country.

“We had a very fruitful exchange, both on the G20 Common Framework and on some specific cases,” she said in a statement after the meeting.

“We need to build on the momentum of the agreement on Chad’s debt treatment and accelerate and finalize the debt treatments for Zambia and Sri Lanka, which would allow for disbursements from the IMF and multilateral development banks,” she said. (Colombo/Dec10/2022)

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IMF chief calls on China to speed up Sri Lanka, Zambia debt overhaul

ECONOMYYNEXT- International Monetary Fund Chief Kristalina Georgieva has called on China to speed up restructuring of debt in Sri Lanka and Zambia following a meeting with the leaders of the country.

“We had a very fruitful exchange, both on the G20 Common Framework and on some specific cases,” she said in a statement after the meeting.

“We need to build on the momentum of the agreement on Chad’s debt treatment and accelerate and finalize the debt treatments for Zambia and Sri Lanka, which would allow for disbursements from the IMF and multilateral development banks.”

Sri Lanka is discussions with the Export Import Bank of China as the lead lender to the island, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe told parliament.

China has informed Sri Lanka that they will also hold bilateral discussions with the IMF and World Bank he said.

China has been asking questions from Sri Lanka and lenders were trying to assess the impact on credits to other countries as well as the domestic economy, he said.

China is a top lender to Sri Lanka along with Japan, the Asian Development Bank and Japan.

Some of China’s infrastructure loans have also been questioned for lack of proper feasibility, though a coal plant is generally acknowledged to be best investment the country has made since the 1980s and is enough to cover many since.

But China gave several so-called ‘cover up loans’ to Sri Lanka which was not linked to infrastructure or economic reforms when the country ran into forex shortages under ‘flexible inflation targeting/output gap targeting’ compounding borrowings from sovereign bond investors.

Sri Lanka calls such monetary instability linked borrowings ‘bridging finance’.

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank or Japan does not give such ‘bridging finance’ or budget support loans without reforms to expand economic activities.

Sri Lanka central government net debt (after deducting foreign reserves) which was 17 billion US dollars after almost 65 years of foreign borrowings shot up to 32 billion US dollars over 7 years of extreme monetary instability. Meanwhile foreign reserves became negative.

Resorting foreign borrowings to meet foreign repayments comes from a Mercantilist fallacy known as the ‘transfer problem’, analysts have said.

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Sri Lanka debt crisis trapped in spurious Keynesian ‘transfer problem’ and MMT: Bellwether

Policy makers believe that a current account surplus is magically required to make foreign repayments and not higher interest rates to curtail domestic investments and consumption which make resources available to meet such payments which will in turn reduce the imports and any current account deficit. (Colombo/Dec10/2022)

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