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Tuesday May 30th, 2023

Sri Lanka hopes to ease medicine shortages as more supplies come in

Sri Lanka’s health sector priority is to make drugs available than making them at affordable price

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is expecting to ease a medicine shortage by next month with more supplies coming in from orders placed through an Indian credit line, as well as funds from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and World Bank, health officials said.

Sri Lanka’s medical supplies were disrupted in 2022 following the worst currency crises in the history of the island’s intermediate regime central bank as the country lost the ability to pay regular suppliers and private importers also could not open letters of credit or pay for earlier imports.

Sri Lanka’s State Pharmaceuticals Corporation is getting more supplies including 14 vital medicines that were short a few months back.

“So far we have purchased 267 medicine items as of February 01,” Dinusha Dassanayake, the General manager of SPC told EconomyNext.

“We have so far received 303 medicine consignments including 112 surgical supply consignments and we have purchased 267 medicine items as of February 01,”

India came forward last year with the credit line, but ordering and getting medicines takes time.

“Of the 200 million US dollar credit line we received from India, we got approval for 96.7 million US dollars,” Dassanayake said.

“And we have placed orders for 862 pharmaceuticals and 1,596 surgical items

“We hope to receive it by next April or May.”

The shortage of essential medicine lists has dropped to 155 from 169 as the medicines started coming in to the country, SPC Chairman, Sarath Liyanage said.

He said funds are also being allocated from Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the World Bank as well as other financial institutions.

Also, the country has adequate amount of drugs or the next six months, and measures have been taken to secure more stocks, a health official from the Ministry of Health said.

Before crisis Sri Lanka usually had several months of supply of each stock, which were run down as money printing created forex shortages.

Drugs that are short in one month are not the same that are short the next month. But supplies of some drugs have now been built up for six months, a Health Ministry official said.

“Last month we didn’t receive an allocated amount of drugs but now we are in a process of receiving the drugs,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Spokesman Minster Bandula Gunawardana on Tuesday said the current drug shortage is partially due to a delay of the medicines regulator.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Spokesman Minster Bandula Gunawardana said the current drug shortage is partly due to a delay of the medicines regulator.

“When the harbour release medicine consignments, they always have to get the approval of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority,” Gunawardana said.

“The regulations and methods that they practise throughout this period will not be changed due to a medicine shortage.” (Colombo/ Feb 02/2023)

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  1. D.G.W.Rupasinghe says:

    losartan is most essential drug for blood pressure patient.
    please get immediate dissention to supply it.

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  1. D.G.W.Rupasinghe says:

    losartan is most essential drug for blood pressure patient.
    please get immediate dissention to supply it.

Sri Lanka rupee at 296.75/297.25 to dollar at open, bond yields steady

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee opened at 297 /297.50 against the US dollar in the spot market on Monday, while bond yields were steady, dealers said.

The rupee closed at 296.75 /297.25 to the US dollar on Monday after opening around 296.50 /297.50 rupees.

A bond maturing on 01.09.2027 was quoted at 26.50/75 percent steady from Friday’s close at 26.50/65 percent.

Sri Lanka’s rupee is appreciating amid negative private credit which has reduced outflows after the central bank hiked rates and stopped printing money. (Colombo/ May 29/2023)

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Sri Lanka rupee appreciation squeezes exporters

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s recent appreciation is starting to squeeze apparel exporters as their domestic costs including wages and energy, were hiked over recent months, when the rupee fell steeply, an industry official said.

Companies had raised salaries and emoluments at rates averaging 25 percent for workers while transport costs have also gone up but not has come down, Yohan Lawrence Director General of the Join Apparel Association Forum said.

Apparel factories in particular also provide transport and some meals for workers.

Electricity prices have also been hiked, based on the rupee which was weaker. A tariff cut is expected from June after the rupee appreciated and imported fuel prices fell.

Sri Lanka’s rupee collapsed in 2022 from 200 to 360 to the US dollar as interest rates were suppressed with liquidity injections and a failed attempt was made to float the rupee with surrender requirement in place.

From the second half of 2022, with higher interest rates and negative private credit, the central bank has avoided printing money under conditions which are generally accepted to be difficult, and is broadly running deflationary open market operations, triggering a balance of payments surplus and putting the rupee under upward pressure.

Central bank net credit to government which was 3,302 billion rupees in September in 2022, was down to 3,209 billion rupees by March 2023, part of which was due to rollovers, analysts say.

Market pricing of fuel and electricity by the Ministry of Energy and also spending controls and tax hikes buy have also helped contain domestic credit.

Sri Lanka also has mandatory conversion rules, imposed on exporters, which is a concern for exporters.

“We believe rupee should be at its natural level, but with forced conversions you won’t get the correct picture,” Lawrence said.

Sri Lanka has to release a plan to remove import controls, exchange controls and other restrictions imposed in the period where policy rates were suppressed with liquidity injections (so-called multiple currency practices and capital flow measures) by June under the IMF program.

Apparel exporters have also seen orders fall amid tighter conditions in Western markets.

The central bank has to peg (intervene actively in forex markets and create money) to meet reserve targets under an IMF program and cannot free float (avoid creating money through international operations) the rupee.

The newly created money has generally been absorbed in an overnight liquidity shortage.

There have also been foreign purchases of rupee Treasuries. Amid a contraction in credit, the inflows also do not turn into imports fast as the money if the money is spent.

By making purchases a little below what is allowed by the contraction in domestic credit, the rupee can be allowed to appreciate, analysts say.

The central bank has so far allowed the rupee to appreciate to around 300 to the US dollar from 360 levels under a transparent guidance peg up to February.

Except after the 2008/2009 currency crisis, Sri Lanka’s central bank has not previously allowed to the rupee to appreciate under IMF programs where the first year in particular sees balance of payments surpluses, before private credit and domestic investments picks up again.

One of the considerations used by third world central banks are Real Effective Exchange Rate indices.

The REER of the Sri Lanka rupee based on a basket of currencies calculated by the central bank was 61.12 points in February before the rupee was allowed to appreciate by lifting a surrender rule.

In March the index went up to 69.55 points, but remained steeply below 100. Real effective exchange rates are calculated also taking into account inflation in counterpart trading nations.

Sri Lanka’s inflation index had hardly risen since September amid rupee gains. Falling food prices can help contain pressure for further wage hikes, analysts say. (Colombo/May30/2023)

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Sri Lanka forum to discuss central bank independence vs sound money

ECONOMYNEXT – Central bank independence and sound money will be under discussion at a public event organized by the Sri Lanka chapter of the Bastiat Society today, May 30, as island is recovering from the worst episode of monetary instability since independence.

The forum will feature Lawrence H White, Professor of Economics at George Mason University in the US, and W A Wijewardene, former Deputy Central Bank Governor, of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

“The discussion will compare the current system against alternative systems and explore the relationship between such banking systems and sound money,” the organizers said.

White specializes in the theory and history of banking and money. He is the author of “The Clash of Economic Ideas” (2012), “The Theory of Monetary Institutions” (1999), “Free Banking in Britain” (2nd ed., 1995), and “Competition and Currency” (1989).

Wijewardene has been speaking on central bank independence in Sri Lanka long before it became a topic of wider discussion, but also on accountability.

In April, a Central Bank Independence and Other Matters, which includes a collection of his orations on the subject over the years as well a recent development was published.

The discussion comes as independent central banks in the West have created the worst inflation since the 1970s and early 1980s and are apparently unaccountable to parliaments and the public.

The early 1980s also saw the first wave of external debt crises in so-called soft-pegged countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe in particular as the US and UK tightened policy to end the Great Inflation.

The discussion will be held at 7.00 pm at the Lakmahal Community Library and those interested can register online, the organizers said. (Colombo/May30/2023)

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