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Monday April 15th, 2024

Sri Lanka national inflation hits 14-pct in December 2021 after money printing

Sri Lanka national inflation hits 14-pct in December 2021 after money printing

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s nation-wide inflation measured by the National Consume Price Index accelerated to 14 percent in December 2021 up from 11.1 percent, after record money printing to maintain low interest rates amid a surging budget deficit and downward pressure on the rupee.

The National Consumer Price Index hit double digits for the first time in November since it started to be compiled from 2014 and the December figure is the record high under the measurement.

The NCPI grew 3.7 percent in December to 161.0 points.

Food prices jumped 6.3 percent in the month while non-food prices rose 1.3 percent.

The food sub-index was up 21.5 percent in the 12-months to December 2021, while non-foods also rose 7.6 percent in the months.

Food prices have been on the rise since August 2019 as the central bank began inflationary policy buying back bonds from old deficits to inject liquidity as part of ‘output gap targeting’.

Generally food prices rise in December and January every year due to seasonal demand but in 2021 the rise had been unusually high amid supply shortage due to heavy rains and a fertilizer ban which hit farmers.

From February 2020, record volumes of money was injected through central bank profits transfers, outright deficit finance and Covid-refinance.

Later ceiling prices were placed on bonds auctions, and hundreds of billions of rupees of securities were bought into the central bank balance sheets to general liquidity and balance as the auctions failed.

Sri Lanka authorities have a repertoire of excuses to print money and keep rates down and delay rate hikes until currency crises have been triggered. The central bank raised the key policy rates on Thursday (20) by 50 basis points for the second time in five months. However, analysts say the tightening should have been done much earlier to curb inflation.

Sri Lanka inflation is going up as the Federal Reserve also follows loose policy and fuel and export prices of goods also go up.

However the money printing central bank was set up in 1950 under US advice supposedly to follow ‘independent monetary policy’ and break up the Sterling Area currency boards, according to critics.

Sri Lanka keeps inflation indices down by suppressing market pricing of energy, uses that also as an excuse not to allow rates to go up and then later claims, ‘administered prices’ pushed up inflation.

There have been calls to change the monetary law to block the ability of the Monetary Board create inflation and currency depreciation with discretionary independence. (Colombo/Jan22/2022)

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Iran President to visit Sr Lanka on April 24 anid rising tension, inaugurate Omaoya power project

ECONOMYNEXT – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will arrive in Sri Lanka on April 24 on a one-day official visit to inaugurate Tehran-assisted $529 million worth Uma Oya multipurpose development project with 120MW hydro power generation capacity, official sources said.

The announcement on President Raisi’s visit comes two days after Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel in its first direct attack on Israeli territory, a retaliatory strike that raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.

“The President is visiting to inaugurate the Omaoya project. He will be on a one-day visit,” an official at Iran embassy in Colombo told EconomyNext.

A Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official confirmed the move.

This is the first time an Iranian President coming to Sri Lanka Iranian after then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit in April 2008.

The Omaoya project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015, but had been delayed several times due to unexpected issued faced during the project cycle and funding issue after the United States imposed economic sanctions on Iran and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

The project was started in 2010 and the funding was to be received as loan grant from the Iranian government. However, Iran was able to provide $50 million before the sanctions. Sri Lanka has to bear the cost after the sanctions.

The project includes storing water in two reservoirs with dams before being brought through a 23 km tunnel to two turbines located underground and generating hydro power with a capacity of 120 megawatts and added to the national grid.

After power generation, the water is expected to be brought to three reservoirs while supplying water to 20,000 acres of old and new paddy fields in both the Yala and Maha cultivating seasons.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction was signed between the two countries in 2007 while Sri Lanka’s Cabinet approved the execution of the contract agreement between the Executing Agency, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management (MOIWM) of the GOSL and Iran’s FARAB Energy and Water Projects (FC).

When commencing the project on March 15, 2010, the scheduled date of completion of the project was on March 15, 2015. But the schedule completion date was extended to December 31, 2020 due to the unexpected water ingress into the head race tunnel and followed by social impacts.

The trade between the both countries suffered after the US sanctions. However, Sri Lanka inked a deal in December 2021 with Iran to set off export of tea to Iran against a legacy oil credit owed by state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to the National Iranian Oil Company.

Sri Lanka owes $251 million for crude imported before the US imposed sanctions on Iran. (Colombo/April 15/2024)

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Sri Lanka to discuss two contentious points with bondholders: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka and sovereign bondholders are to discuss two matters in the near future which the two sides failed to reach agreement at March talks in London, a media report quoting a top aide to President Wickremesinghe as saying.

Sri Lanka and bondholders had discussed four matters on restructuring international sovereign bonds in late March and agreement had been reached on two, President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake was quoted as saying on state-run ITN television.

A restructuring proposal by bondholders was not in line with IMF requirements, and Sri Lanka had sent a counter proposal, he said.

The matters will be discussed at round of talks in the near future.

Sri Lanka was optimistic of reaching an agreement with the bondholders before June, officials have said.

According to matters already in the public domain, sovereign bond holders are keen to get a bond tied to dollar gross domestic product, as they feel IMF growth projections are too low.

In past re-structuring so-called value recovery instruments, a type of warrant, gave their owners extra payments if a country did better than expected and were tied to items like oil prices.

Bondholders had initially proposed bond which would have a lower hair cut initially, and it will have additional hair cuts if growth is low (about 3.1 percent) as projected in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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BIMSTEC Secretary General visits Sri Lanka, discusses regional cooperation

ECONOMYNEXT – The Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), discussed measures to enhance regional cooperation, during his visit to the island last week.

Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Secretary General of BIMSTEC visited Sri Lanka from 07 – 12 April 2024, following his assumption of office as Secretary General of BIMSTEC in January this year.

The Secretary General “met with senior officials of relevant Ministries/Agencies to discuss measures to enhance regional cooperation under various BIMSTEC initiatives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Several BIMSTEC countries have bilateral trade agreements, such as Sri Lanka and India, Thailand and Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but no collective regional agreement to enable intra-regional leverage.

During the visit, Secretary General Pandey held discussions with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and paid courtesy calls on the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Secretary General Pandey participated at an event on “Regional Cooperation through BIMSTEC” organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI) on 9 April. (Colombo/April15/2024)

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