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Friday January 27th, 2023

Sri Lanka minister wants IMF bailout, hints at letting national carrier go

ECONOMYNEXT – Amid reports that cash-strapped Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition is split down the middle over an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout, another cabinet minister on Wednesday (29) spoke in favour of IMF assistance, even going as far as to hint at the sale of the country’s national carrier.

“We will have to go to the IMF. There is nothing wrong with that… since we have no other option,” Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said speaking to reporters on Wednesday (29).

Amaraweera is a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which is increasingly at odds with the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana  Peramuna (SLPP). State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara, the SLFP’s general secretary, had also recently advocated going to the IMF.

“Of course, we need to not accept every condition put forward by the IMF,” said Amaraweera.

“We have been informed that the central bank governor and the Treasury Secretary will be joining the cabinet meeting next Monday (03). I think we will be able to reach a final consensus then,” he added.

Co-cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma on December 21 told reporters that the cabinet had “exchanged views” on an IMF bailout for the second week in a row but no decision had been made.

Minister Amaraweera, meanwhile, also commented on SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier, and other under-performing state owned enterprises (SOEs).

“At this point, we may have to let go of certain institutes. For example, SriLankan suffers losses in the billions. These losses are borne by people who have never even touched [an aircraft],” he said.

A day before Sri Lanka raised fuel prices last week, Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena told reporters that the IMF would ask to cut the bloated public sector, reduce the budget deficit, make state enterprises profitable, and raise fuel and electricity prices.

A few days earlier, State Minister Jayasekera said after last week’s cabinet meeting that the IMF imposes conditions such as making state enterprises profitable.

“It is a good thing to do that,” Jayasekera said.

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa had already said the state workers and state enterprises were a big burden on the economy.

Older IMF baiout programs typically involve cutting the deficit with tax hikes (revenue based), trimming expenses (spending based) expressed as a net domestic finance target, a foreign reserve target and a reserve money target.

However Sri Lanka’s last failed extended fund facility from IMF program where money was printed within the program to create forex shortages and worsen foreign debt, an inflation target was given and the budget target was defined as a primary deficit.

Instead of a measurable reserve money or ceiling on central bank credit an inflation target was given, allowing the trigger happy central bank to print money and trigger a currency crisis within the program.

Under revenue based fiscal consolidation, state spending soared and the currency collapsed from 151 to 183 under a so-called flexible exchange rate where the exchange flipped from pegged to floating rapidly and interventions were sterilized on top of it. (Colombo/Dec29/2021)

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Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite rising costs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite higher taxes, rising costs like energy, officials said as the country goes through the worst currency crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank.

High inflation following a collapse of the currency has reduced real incomes of customers.

“There are many factors to consider, especially with the last price increase we did in last year did not resulted in a significant increase in revenue” Pradeep De Almeida · Group Chief Technology Officer at Dialog Axiata said at the launch of its Future zone at Lotus tower.

In September,2022 following an electricity tarrif hike dialog increased its tariffs on Mobile, Fixed Telephone, Broadband Plans and Value Added Services (Prepaid and Postpaid) by 20 percent while tariffs on all Pay Television Services were raised 25 percent.

Value Added Tax (VAT) was also raised by the government from 12 percent to 15 percent on all Telecommunications and Pay TV services.

“Even though we increase the prices we only saw around 8-9 percent increase in revenue,” Almeida said.

“That is because many users cut off their usage to limit the spending”.

Dialog will increase efficiencies and manage costs in an attempt to avoid prices increases for customers, he said.

Over the 24 months to December 2022, Sri Lanka;s central bank has generated inflation of 76 percent, based on the Colombo Consumer Price Index official data shows. Following the currency collapse, more power tariff hikes are planned.

“We are trying to mainly bear the cost from our side. We are getting a massive support from our parent company Telekom Malaysia International,” Navin Peiris, Group Chief Enterprise Officer at Dialog told EconomyNext.

“Therefore as of now, there is no plan to increase prices”. (Colombo/Jan 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka shares fall at market close on profit taking

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares fell on Thursday as profit taking entered the market mainly on financial and diversified sectors, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) fell 0.13 percent or 11.50 points to close at 8,926.56.

“The market was trading on dull trade mainly due to profit taking,” an analyst said.

“Also we saw investors taking a sideline as quarterly reports started to come”.

The earnings in the first quarter of 2023 are expected to be negative with revised up taxes and an imminent electricity tariff hike.

Earnings in the second quarter are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

The central bank’s policy decision was expected and investors have been eying on IMF deal with hopes of rapid economic recovery from the current unprecedented economic crisis, however since the market gained in the last sessions profit taking has come about, analysts said.

The market has been on a rising trend on the hopes of a faster IMF deal. However, the central bank government said the IMF deal is likely in the quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 fell  0.33 percent or 9.21 points to 2,798.

LOLC had seen some attention by investors as the firm disposed 90,256,750 shares held with Agstar PLC at 15-17.50 rupees a share.

The market witnessed a turnover of 1.2 billion rupees, lower than the month’s daily average of 1.9 billion rupees.

Expolanka dragging the market down closed 2.36 percent down at 186.7 rupees a share. Sampath bank fell 1.41 percent to close at 42 rupees a share while Royal Ceramic Lanka closed 2.59 percent dwn at 30.1 rupees a share.

(Colombo/Jan26/2023)

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Sri Lanka bonds yields steady at close

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bond yields were steady at close on Thursday, dealers said, while a guidance peg for interbank transactions by the Central Bank remained steady.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.00/20 percent unchanged from the last close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 26.60/90 percent, up from 28.50/70 percent on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 28.60/85 percent, up from 28.50/60 percent at the last close.

The three months bill closed at 29.75/30.25 percent unchanged from the last close.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank US dollar transactions appreciated by another 2 cents to 362.14 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at 360.49 rupees on Thursday, data showed.  (Colombo/Jan 26/2022)

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