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Saturday May 25th, 2024

Sri Lanka in talks for US$4-5bn pipeline of swaps, credits except IMF: Central Bank

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in talks for up to 5 billion US dollars of funding through swaps and loans outside of a program with the International Monetary Fund, and all debt falling due will be met, central bank officials said.

Governor W D Lakshman said required foreign exchange would be sourced from the market and gaps would be filled with swaps and loans.

“There are a number of negotiations going on, the details of which I am not going to come out, with overseas agencies to raise some of the required to raise foreign exchange inflows, through swaps and loans and that sort of mechanism,” Governor Lakshman said

“[There are] negotiations with overseas central banks, overseas banks and other agencies. Multilateral agencies are included though the IMF is not there in that list – yet.”

He said Sri Lanka was following a market oriented economy with state guidance, involving some controls and restrictions.

Such a framework would not be successful under an IMF program, he said.


Sri Lanka economy managed in ‘alternative’ way, critics on wrong track: CB Governor

Sri Lanka in state guided market oriented economy with 1970s elements: CB Governor

Deputy Governor Dhammika Nanayakkara said around 4 to 5 billion US dollars in potential funding was in the pipeline.

The maturities ranged from around 1 to 8 years, and the price from 1 percent to around 6.5 to 7.0 percent.

Some of the funds would be precautionary.

“I do not say that the entire 4 to 5 billion is going to be utilized because as the Governor mentioned we will be looking at some of the requirements form the market as well,” Nanayakkara said.

Commercial banks were asked in late January to surrender about 10 percent of remittances converted to dollars by customers at market rates to the central bank.

In 2021 the central bank was targeting about 7.5 billion US dollars of remittances, up from 7.1 billion dollars in 2020.

“If 6 billion (dollars) has been converted to LKR that means 600 million is sourced from the market towards whatever obligation that is falling due,” he explained.

Analysts however had warned that rejection over-subscribed bids to Treasury auctions and turning inconvertible Treasury securities into convertible rupee bank notes by taking them into the central bank’s balance sheet will create forex shortages and make it difficult to general dollars.

Successful bond auctions at a market rate will crowd out imports through the domestic credit system and make dollars available to the Treasury. Injections would do the opposite.

Sri Lanka’s forex reserves had dropped to around 4.8 billion US dollar by January 2021 in the wake of the injections.


Sri Lanka forex reserves slip to US$4.8bn in January 2021

Governor Lakshman said Sri Lanka would maintain its unblemished record in debt repayments despite ‘doomsday predictions’.

The doomsday predictions were based on what had happened in the second half of 2010 decade, involving high depreciation, high inflation and high deficits despite rhetoric claiming that there was fiscal rationalization, he said.

“These are all being changed and we expect better results,” Governor Lakshman said.

Analysts have pointed out that the 2015 – 2020 economic framework also failed due to injections made largely through open market operations and a failed attempt at inflation targeting while running a pegged exchange rate, which triggered currency crises and consumption collapses.

A publicly articulated real effective exchange rate targeting exercise also ensured that the exchange rate did not bounce back, when credit collapsed.

Analysts have also argued that in the guise of inflation targeting which requires a floating rate where the reserves money is unchanged Sri Lanka had been selling dollars to peg and had been over-sterilizing interventions to target a call money rate with excess liquidity.

It has been argued that instead of targeting inflation, Sri Lanka is targeting interest rates as a final target triggering currency shortages. (Colombo/Feb14/2021)

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Sri Lanka power outages from falling trees worsened by unfilled vacancies: CEB union

HEAVY WINDS: Heavy rains and gusting winds have brought down trees on many location in Sri Lanka.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s power grid has been hit by 300,000 outages as heavy winds brought down trees, restoring supply has been delayed by unfilled vacancies of breakdown staff, a union statement said.

Despite electricity being declared an essential service, vacancies have not been filled, the CEB Engineers Union said.

“In this already challenging situation, the Acting General Manager of CEB issued a circular on May 21, 2024, abolishing several essential service positions, including the Maintenance Electrical Engineer in the Area Engineer Offices, Construction Units, and Distribution Maintenance Units,” the Union said.

“This decision, made without any scientific basis, significantly reduces our capacity to provide adequate services to the public during this emergency.

“On behalf of all the staff of CEB, we express our deep regret for the inconvenience caused to our valued customers.”

High winds had rains have brought down trees across power lines and transformers, the statement said.

In the past few day over 300,000 power outages have been reported nationwide, with some areas experiencing over 30,000 outages within an hour.

“Our limited technical staff at the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) are making extraordinary efforts to restore power as quickly as possible,” the union said.

“We deeply regret that due to the high volume of calls, there are times when we are unable to respond to all customer inquiries.

“We kindly ask consumers to support our restoration teams and to report any fallen live electrical wires or devices to the Electricity Board immediately without attempting to handle them.

The union said there were not enough workers to restore power quickly when such a large volume of breakdowns happens.

“We want to clarify that the additional groups mentioned by the minister have not yet been received by the CEB,” the union said.

“Despite the government’s designation of electricity as an essential service, neither the government, the minister in charge, nor the CEB board of directors have taken adequate steps to fill the relevant vacancies or retain current employees.

“We believe they should be held directly responsible for the delays in addressing the power outages due to the shortage of staff.”

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Melco’s Nuwa hotel to open in Sri Lanka in mid-2025

ECONOMYNEXT – A Nuwa branded hotel run by Melco Resorts and Entertainment linked to their gaming operation in Colombo will open in mid 2025, its Sri Lanka partner John Keells Holdings said.

The group’s integrated resort is being re-branded as a ‘City of Dreams’, a brand of Melco.

The resort will have a 687-room Cinnamon Life hotel and the Nuwa hotel described as “ultra-high end”.

“The 113-key exclusive hotel, situated on the top five floors of the integrated resort, will be managed by Melco under its ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel brand ‘Nuwa’, which has presence in Macau and the Philippines,” JKH told shareholders in the annual report.

“Melco’s ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel and casino, together with its global brand and footprint, will strongly complement the MICE, entertainment, shopping, dining and leisure offerings in the ‘City of Dreams Sri Lanka’ integrated resort, establishing it as a one-of-a-kind destination in South Asia and the region.”

Melco is investing 125 million dollars in fitting out its casino.

“The collaboration with Melco, including access to the technical, marketing, branding and loyalty programmes, expertise and governance structures, will be a boost for not only the integrated resort of the Group but a strong show of confidence in the tourism potential of the country,” JKH said.

The Cinnamon Life hotel has already started marketing.

Related Sri Lanka’s Cinnamon Life begins marketing, accepts bookings


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Sri Lanka to find investors by ‘competitive system’ after revoking plantations privatizations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will revoke the privatization of plantation companies that do not pay government dictated wages, by cancelling land leases and find new investors under a ‘competitive system’, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said.

Sri Lanka privatized the ownership of 22 plantations companies in the 1990s through long term leases after initially giving only management to private firms.

Management companies that made profits (mostly those with more rubber) were given the firms under a valuation and those that made losses (mostly ones with more tea) were sold on the stock market.

The privatized firms then made annual lease payments and paid taxes when profits were made.

In 2024 the government decreed a wage hike announced a mandated wage after President Ranil Wickremesinghe made the announcement in the presence of several politicians representing plantations workers.

The land leases of privatized plantations, which do not pay the mandated wages would be cancelled, Minister Siyambalapitiya was quoted as saying at a ceremony in Deraniyagala.

The re-expropriated plantations would be given to new investors through “special transparency”

The new ‘privatization’ will be done in a ‘competitive process’ taking into account export orientation, worker welfare, infrastructure, new technology, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

It is not clear whether paying government-dictated wages was a clause in the privatization agreement.

Then President J R Jayewardene put constitutional guarantee against expropriation as the original nationalization of foreign and domestic owned companies were blamed for Sri Lanka becoming a backward nation after getting independence with indicators ‘only behind Japan’ according to many commentators.

However, in 2011 a series of companies were expropriation without recourse to judicial review, again delivering a blow to the country’s investment framework.

Ironically plantations that were privatized in the 1990s were in the original wave of nationalizations.

Minister Bandula Gunawardana said the cabinet approval had been given to set up a committee to examine wage and cancel the leases of plantations that were unable to pay the dictated wages.


Sri Lanka state interference in plantation wages escalates into land grab threat

From the time the firms were privatized unions and the companies had bargained through collective agreements, striking in some cases as macro-economists printed money and triggered high inflation.

Under President Gotabaya, mandating wages through gazettes began in January 2020, and the wage bargaining process was put aside.

Sri Lanka’s macro-economists advising President Rajapaksa the printed money and triggered a collapse of the rupee from 184 to 370 to the US dollar from 2020 to 2020 in the course of targeting ‘potential output’ which was taught by the International Monetary Fund.

In 2024, the current central bank governor had allowed the exchange rate to appreciate to 300 to the US dollar, amid deflationary policy, recouping some of the lost wages of plantations workers.

The plantations have not given an official increase to account for what macro-economists did to the unit of account of their wages. With salaries under ‘wages boards’ from the 2020 through gazettes, neither employees not workers have engaged in the traditional wage negotiations.

The threat to re-exproriate plantations is coming as the government is trying to privatize several state enterprises, including SriLankan Airlines.

It is not clear now the impending reversal of plantations privatization will affect the prices of bids by investors for upcoming privatizations.

The firms were privatized to stop monthly transfers from the Treasury to pay salaries under state ownership. (Colombo/May25/2024)

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