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Sunday May 19th, 2024

Sri Lanka paying highest ever price for oil in depreciated rupees: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is currently facing its highest ever crude oil price in the local currency because of a steep depreciation in the rupee, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila said, though global prices are below the level when the Fed’s housing bubble collapsed in 2008.

The global crude oil price was at 95 US dollars per barrel as of February 16 in the current bubble fired by Fed Chief Jerome Powell, much lower than the record price of 147 US dollars fetched in May 2008 amid the Bernanke-Greenspan bubble which collapsed shortly after.

However, Minister Gammanpila said Sri Lanka is already facing its historically highest price.

“When the global crude price was at 147 US dollar per barrel in 2008, our rupee was 108 per dollar. So we paid only 15,876 rupees per barrel of crude at that time,” he told a media briefing on Friday (18).”

“However, now the rupee is 203 to dollar and the crude price is 95 US dollar per barrel. As a result, now we have to pay 19,285 rupees. This is the highest ever price.”

Sri Lanka rupee has collapsed in a series of currency crises in 2012 (to 131), 2015/2016 (to 151), 2018 (182) as the central bank printed money to control short term interest rates and ‘stimulate’ the economy.

The rupee is facing downward pressure in the latest currency crisis, which is still ongoing. The rupee has is now around 202 to the US dollar and parallel exchange rates are around 248 rupees.

Countries with untamed central banks like Pakistan and Sri Lanka face ever depreciating currencies, ever rising fuel and electricity prices, as well as ever rising debt, when the ruling class tries to deceive the public by not market pricing energy to reflect global prices and central bank depreciation.

So-called ‘circular debt also expands between the petroleum utility and the power utility and between the power utility and independent power producers (IPPs) as the currency is depreciated from money printing and prices are controlled.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan central banks have also among the highest reported inflation in Asia.

In sharp contrast Singapore has now started to appreciate its currency to ward off inflation generated by the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank which was misled by modern monetary theory and Keynesian ‘stimulus’ dogma.

In 2008 June, when Brent crude hit 138 US dollars a barrel, it was worth 181 Singapore dollars and 14,261 Sri Lanka central bank rupees.

By January 2022, when a Brent crude barrel hit 83 dollars, it is measured in 135 Monetary Authority of Singapore dollars.

In Central Bank of Sri Lanka rupees the same Brent barrel has to be bought at 17,000.

Singapore resisted setting up a money printing central bank based on Anglo-US stimulus dogma.

Sri Lanka is now in serious economic trouble with looming sovereign default after printing money (expanding central bank credit) to create a ‘production economy’.

“The way to a better life was through hard work, first in schools, then in universities or polytechnics and then on the job in the work place,” Singapore’s first Finance Minister Goh Keng Swee has said.

“Diligence, education and skills will create wealth, not Central Bank credit.

“There was no effective way of exchange control in an open trading economy like ours to deal with the inevitable balance of payments troubles.

“Hence, we were not impressed by claims — excessive as they turned out to be — that government could bring about prosperity through spending. It did not surprise us that the Anglo-Saxon countries which adopted such policies got into trouble.

“We also noted that the Germans and Japanese did not believe they could “spend their way to prosperity”, as the phrase went. Like Singaporeans, they set store on diligence, education and skills.”

Keynesian dogma became fashionable especially after the Federal Reserve printed money and created the Great Depression.

Such teachings, a regurgitation of Mercantilist teachings of John Law among others, became the standard dogma in many UK and US universities going against 200 years of classical economic theory.

“When nearly two-thirds of our citizens’ expenditure is spent on imported goods, a strong Singapore Dollar helps to keep consumer prices down,” Goh said.

“…[W]e wanted to indicate to academics, both local and foreign; that what is fashionable in the West is not necessarily good for Singapore. A perceptive mind is needed to distinguish the peripheral form the fundamental, transient fads from permanent values.”

”…[I]n poor countries, punishment comes quickly in a cruel way — high rates of inflation, economic decline and political instability. These three factors reinforce each other in a way which makes escape from misery difficult.

RelatedSri Lanka struggles as Singapore further appreciates currency to counter inflation

Related

Sri Lanka’s UNP pays the price for currency depreciation, REER targeting: Bellwether

During the last Yahapalana administration the rupee was deliberately busted to target a real effective exchange rate (REER) based on Mercantilist dogma to supposed to get trade advantages at the expense of society, while Singapore targets a nominal effective exchange rate (NEER) to keep inflation down.
(Colombo/Feb20/2022)

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Sri Lanka may have to depend on India or nuclear to reach low carbon target: researcher

DOUBLE WHAMMY: In Sri Lanka’s driest period, wind potential also goes down, a researcher and policy advocate says

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will need to either connect to India or set up a nuclear power plant if the country is to reach its renewable energy targets due the country’s weather patterns, a researcher and policy advocate has said.

Sri Lanka has set ambitious goals for renewable electricity generation by 2030, apparently without much prior study or any costs being revealed when the target was set by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Rohan Pethiyagoda, a taxonomist and researcher who had also been senior state officials involved in policy at one time said overall Sri Lanka used a large volume of biomass (firewood) for cooking.

“We need to recognize, of course, that about 60 percent of Sri Lankan households still use firewood as their primary fuel,” Pethiyagoda told a climate forum organized by Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

“Bless them, because they reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for cooking. Even the tea industry, one of our largest exports, uses biomass as its primary fuel for about 90 percent of its production.”

In the electricity sector, where the renewable lobby and other activists oppose coal on the basis of carbon emissions based on international trends, as well as dust, base load still has to be generated if thermal generators are replaced.

Solar power is available only for a few hours in daytime and it can also vary depending on cloud cover.

Hydro power (run of the river plants) is more stable but is dependent on rain. Large hydros with storage can be used for peaks, industry analysts say.

Wind is available throughout the day but can also be unstable. The problem of variability (non-firm energy) can be solved to some extent through ramping and battery storage at additional cost, analysts say.

A renewable plant in Poonakary with battery storage was priced at around 48 to 49 rupees (about 15 US cents) based on public statements.

Meanwhile Pethiyagoda said Sri Lanka’s weather patterns created an additional problem.

“We have this unusual thing for our renewable energy in Sri Lanka, that at the tail end of the northeast monsoon, from about December to April, we have a dry period in this country, which means that our hydro potential during those months goes down,” Pethiyagoda said.

“Now, as luck would have it, our wind potential goes down at the same time.”

As a result, Sri Lanka needs a reliable alternative to the current coal baseload.

“So for that reason especially, we need to look at either connecting to India’s grid in the long term or having a nuclear facility in Sri Lanka if we want to be low carbon. And of course, we need to replace our vehicle fleet.”

“And our base load can probably come from nuclear,” Pethiyagoda said.

“But whichever way we do it, the cheaper way would be for us to connect to India’s grid.

“Whichever way we do it, we’re looking at an investment of about 40 billion dollars. And then we have the problem of looking at how wind and solar will behave.”

It was not clear what the 40 billion dollar investments would be made up of.

Sri Lanka’s external debt as at December 2024, including unpaid principal after default was 37.3 billion US dollars.

In 2021 when the 70 percent target was unveiled in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election manifesto power engineers said a 53 percent energy share planned for 2030 in a general plan at the time was was equal to that of Germany.

Pushing up the share to 70 percent would require billions of dollars of extra investments, they said.

Related

Sri Lanka generation plan renewable power share for 2030 equal to Germany: CEB engineers

After the central bank cut rates and triggered an external default however, Sri Lanka growth, and power demand in the next few years is expected to be lower than before extreme macro-economic policy.

Related Sri Lanka to invest US$11bn by 2030 to meet renewable target

In 2023, the CEB said about 11 billion US dollars would be needed to meet the 70 percent target. (Colombo/June19/2024)

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Sri Lanka President discusses Starlink with Elon Musk

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has discussed connecting the island to the Starlink satellite system with its founder Elon Musk, his office said in a statement.

President Wickremesinghe has met Musk at a World Water Forum High-Level Meeting in Indonesia.

President Wickremesinghe discussed “the implementation of Starlink in Sri Lanka & committed to fast-tracking the application process to connect SL with the global Starlink network,” the statement said.

Starlink is a low earth orbit satellite network, connected to Musk’s SpaceX group. (Colombo/Jun19/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s CEB March 2024 profits Rs84bn with capital gain, fx strength

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Electricity Board group has reported profits of 86 billion rupees with the help of 25.9 billion rupees of capital gains from a transfer of shares, interim accounts show.

The rupee also appreciated in the quarter which keeps imported fuel prices low.

As a standalone entity, the Ceylon Electricity Board, made profits of 84.6 billion rupees in the March quarter.

CEB’s revenues rose 38.5 percent to 167 billion rupees in the March 2024 quarter, while cost of sales fell 26.1 percent to 105.0 billion rupees giving gross profits of 62.7 billion rupees.

The CEB also reported 30.6 billion rupees of other incomes and gains in the March quarter, up from 3.1 billion rupees last year.

Other Income and Gains

The utility said it made a 25.9 billion rupee capital gain from transferring LTL Holdings shares to West Coast Power an IPP in which other entities have a majority holding.

In the quarter the rupee also appreciated.

A rupee appreciation will help reduce the carrying cost of dollar loans and also reduce the cost of imported thermal fuels and maintenance costs of spares.

The central bank allowed Sri Lanka’s exchange rate to appreciate from 324.40 rupees in December 2023 to 300.17 on March 2024 amid deflationary policy and weak private credit allowing imported fuel costs also to fall.

Especially after 1978, after rate cuts drove the country into balance of payments crises, the central bank had collected reserves with free market interest rates, but has not usually allowed the exchange rate to re-appreciate despite generating a BOP surplus with deflationary policy.

Un-anchored Bad Money

Before 1978, when an apparently doctrinally foxed International Monetary Fund abandoned both external and specie anchors simultaneously after the Fed closed its gold window triggering the Great Inflation period, Sri Lanka also did not depreciate its currency, analysts have pointed out.

Related Why the IMF is hated now and is backing bad money in Sri Lanka and Latin America

Since it was set up in 1951, the central bank has printed money under various dual anchor conflicting Saltwater-Cambridge ideologies (re-financing rural credit, sterilizing outflows, potential output targeting, yield curve targeting) to create forex shortages and currency crises and started to go the IMF from the mid-1960s.

From 1978, after the IMF’s second amendment to its Articles denied the central bank a credible external and domestic anchor simultaneously, the currency stated to depreciate steeply.

The government was therefore unable to balance its budget and state enterprises were also unable to balance their budgets running large losses whenever the rupee fell and energy prices went up.

After abandoning its external and specie anchor the central bank followed a anchor conflicting regime involving money supply targeting without a floating exchange rate in the 1980s.

The ideology was rejected in toto by Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand and China.

Since the end of a civil war macro-economists have followed inflation targeting without a floating exchange combined with extreme macro-economic policy to target potential output, eventually driving the country into external default.

Budgets went haywire in the early 1980s as the rupee fell, despite then President JR Jayawardene cutting subsidies and ending price controls (administered prices) two years earlier, in reforms that Singapore’s economic architect and one-time Finance Minister Goh Keng Swee said were “economic reforms which most people had considered politically impossible.”

Goh who set up a currency board in Singapore rejecting Cambridge-Saltwater ideology, warned JR not to destroy the rupee.

“Exchange rate policies involve many complicated technical issues which I do want to discuss here,” he said.

“On balance, the disadvantage of a depreciating rupee will, I believe, outweigh the advantages. Most of the products whose prices are administered are ether wholly imported or contain a high import content. About a quarter of rice consumption is imported.

“All wheat from which four and bread are produced is imported. The same holds true of kerosene and milk powder.

“Bus fares ware largely determined by the rupee price of imported oil and spare parts. Fertilizers are also mostly imported.”

At the time Sri Lanka had hydro-electricity.

Capital Injections

Some of the CEB’s dollar loans were been taken over by the central government after the steepest currency collapse in the history of the central bank in 2022 and external default.

The CEB’s contributed capital as at end March 2024 was 991.4 billion rupees up from 865.1 billion rupees.

With the March quarter profits with some financial engineering involving the asset sale and the government equity injection, the CEB’s group accumulated losses reduced to 456 billion rupees from 575 billion rupees.

The CEB ran large losses as the regulator failed to raise tariffs as macro-economists printed money to target potential output over the past decade.

From 2011 to 2022 the rupee fell from 113 to 370 to the US dollars as the central bank ran un-anchored monetary policy the regulator only raised prices in 2022.

Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said the last price cut was also made possible due to rupee appreciation.

With no potential output targeting (no inflationary open market operations), the country has started to recover from the stability that has been provided up to now amid weak private investment credit.

Sri Lanka’s private credit is now starting to recover.

Based on past trends of using statistics instead of classical economic principles (cutting current current interest rates with inflationary open market operations of a money monopoly based on historical inflation rates under ‘data driven monetary policy’ without regard to domestic credit) analysts have warned of a return to monetary instability under potential output targeting. (Colombo/May19/2024)

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