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Sunday March 26th, 2023

Sri Lanka sees booming e-commerce amid constraints – report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has seen a remarkable growth in the online trading of goods and services which is popularly known as e-commerce, but lack of knowledge and mistrust over digital payment methods have been the key barriers, a report done in the island nation has found.

The report, based on a survey of a sample population of 4,670 between March and July 2022, showed provinces close to and further away from capital Colombo and the Western Province are not lagging behind in terms of e-commerce adoption.

“There is growing awareness of the wide range of goods and services available for online purchasing, along with interest in diversifying into new e-purchases,” the main findings of the report said.

The report is the result of a partnership between Daraz Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM) with an aim to bridge crucial data gaps in the e-commerce industry, while also pointing to essential policy needs.

The survey was conducted by NielsenIQ Sri Lanka.

“E-commerce use is positively linked to education and household income,” the survey finding said.

“Middle-income households educated to at least secondary school levels (with knowledge and some financial means) tend to purchase more  online than lower-income households with limited education.”

“Payment for online purchases is largely cash-on-delivery due to mistrust and a lack of education around e-commerce and digital payment methods. This outcome fits with the country’s early development stage of the e-commerce sector.”

The survey also found that many e-commerce users are discouraged from shopping online because of a lack of requisite knowledge and skills to do so, worries about the quality of online purchases and poor customer experiences after placing orders.”

The online selling of goods and services has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic and the  increase is linked to low start-up costs and the need to diversify livelihoods, it said.

“Over 89% of e-commerce users indicate that a coherent and predictable policy framework can support the growth of the country’s e-commerce industry.”

“Important actions include raising awareness of the benefits of e-commerce, training on how to buy and sell goods and services online, better cyber and online security and reforms for trade and tax regimes that take the e-commerce industry and its export potential into account.” (Colombo/Feb02/2023)

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Sri Lanka seeks to settle India ACU debt, credit lines over 5-years

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has requested India to settle payments due to the country under the Asian Clearing Union mechanism and credit lines given in 2022 over 5 years, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, an advisor the island’s government said.

Sri Lanka is negotiating with India to settle the money over a 5-year period, Coomaraswamy, a former central bank governor told an online forum hosted by the Central Bank.

“Our request from the Indians is to settle it over five years,” he said. “That I think is still in the early stages of negotiation. The same with the one billion line of credit.”

Sri Lanka’s central bank owed the ACU 2.0 billion US dollars to the Asian Clearing Union according to a year end debt statement, issued by the Finance Ministry.

Sri Lanka owned India, 1,621 million dollars according to ACU data by year end, excluding interest.

India has given a 1 billion US dollar credit line to Sri Lanka as well a credit line for petroleum.

Sri Lanka in March 2024 has paid 121 million US dollar out of a 331 million US dollar IMF tranche to settle an Indian credit line.

Indian credits were given after the country defaulted in April 2022 as budget support/import when most other bilateral lenders halted giving money. (Colombo/Mar26/2023)

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Sri Lanka coconut auction prices up 1.16-pct

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s coconut auction prices went up by 1.16 percent from a week ago at an auction on Thursday, data showed.

The average price for 1,000 nuts grew to 83,219.45 from 82,260.58 a week earlier at the weekly auction conducted by Sri Lanka’s Coconut Development Authority on March 23.

The highest price was 92,500 rupees for 1,000 nuts up from the previous week’s 90,600 rupees, while the lowest was 76,500 also up from 70,000 rupees.

The auction offered 900,010 coconuts and 583,291 nuts were sold. (Colombo/Mar 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka in talks for billion dollar equivalent Indian rupee swap

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in talks with India for a billion US dollar equivalent Indian rupee central bank swap, to facilitate trade, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, ad advisor to the government said.

“The amount is still uncertain it could be up to the equivalent of a billion US dollars,” Coomaraswamy told an online forum hosted by Sri Lanka’s central bank.

The money will be used to facilate India Sri Lanka trade, he said.

India has been trying to popularize the use of Indian rupees for external trade and also encouraged Sri Lanka banks to set up Indian rupee VOSTRO accounts.

However the first step in popularizing a currency for external trade is to get domestic agents, especially exporters, to accept their own currency for trade, like in the case of the US or EU, analysts say.

India’s billion US dollar credit to Sri Lanka given during the 2022 crisis is settled in Indian rupees (transaction need).

However the Indian government itself has chosen to denominate it in US currency for debt purposes (future value).

In most South Asian nations, receivers of remittances are willing to accept domestic currencies, leading to active VOSTRO account transactions.

Sri Lanka is expected to repay a 400 million US dollar swap with the Reserve Bank of India next year under an International Monetary Fund backed program for external stability and debt re-structuring.

Central bank swap proceeds sold to banks, which are then sterilized with inflationary open market operations, can trigger forex shortages and currency crises, analysts warn.

Sri Lanka went to the International Monetary Fund after two years of inflationary monetary operations by the central bank’s issue department (money printed to suppress interest rates) triggered the biggest currency crisis in its history and external sovereign default.

Sri Lanka had gone to the IMF 16 times with similar external troubles except for the April 2003 extended fund facility under Central Bank Governor A S Jayewardene which was a purely reform-oriented program with the World Bank (PRGF/PRSP) program at a time when he was collecting reserves with deflationary monetary policy and perhaps the lowest inflation since the Bretton Woods collapsed. (Colombo/Mar26/2023)

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