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Tuesday November 29th, 2022

Sri Lanka’s Laugfs says unable to import cooking gas due to dollar shortage

ECONOMYNEXT – Laugfs Gas, Sri Lanka’s privately owned cooking gas company is unable to import liquid petroleum (LP) gas due to a lack of dollars in the market making it difficult for the company to open letters of credit (LCs) with its banks, the company’s chairman said on Monday (03).

“We are talking to all the banks, even Samurdhi banks, to see if they can give us dollars,” Laugfs Chairman W K Wegapitya told EconomyNext.

“Sri Lanka’s commercial banks and state-owned banks must organise dollars. It’s not just for us; it’s the same for importers of cement, milk powder and many others.”

“In the simplest terms any country should have foreign reserves to import products. Sri Lanka doesn’t print dollars; we print only rupees.”

Wegapitya told reporters earlier Monday morning that his company has the infrastructure to supply cooking gas to Sri Lanka within two weeks if the LCs could be be duly opened.

He said that the company was supplying around 40,000 to 50,000 gas cylinders per day but now it’s only able to distribute around 10,000 to 15,000 cylinders after the Consumers Affairs Authority (CAA) and Sri Lanka’s Standards Institution (SLSI) increased the requirement of quality checks for gas distributors after a spate of domestic gas cylinder explosions.

Laughs Gas controls around 20 percent of the LP gas market in Sri Lanka while the state owned Litro Gas Lanka Ltd supplies 80 percent.

Litro said yesterday that the company will take at least three weeks to supply gas to reach normal market levels due to tightened safety regulations for gas distributors.

The distribution delay has already led to a black market for LP gas. A 12.5 kg cylinder, which is officially priced at 2,750 rupees, is being sold around 4,500 rupees in some places, local media reported. (Colombo/Jan03/2022)

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A new Sri Lanka monetary law may have prevented 2019 tax cuts?

ECONOMYNEXT – A new monetary law planned in 2019, if it had been enacted may have prevented the steep tax cuts made in that year which was followed by unprecedented money printing, ex-Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy said.

The bill for the central bank law was ready in 2019 but the then administration ran out of parliamentary time to enact it, he said.

Economists backing the new administration slashed taxes in December 2019 and placed price controls on Treasuries auctions bought new and maturing securities, claiming that there was a ‘persistent output gap’.

Coomaraswamy said he keeps wondering whether “someone sitting in the Treasury would have implemented those tax cuts” if the law had been enacted.

“We would never know,” he told an investor forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, a Colombo-based brokerage.

The new law however will sill allow open market operations under a highly discretionary ‘flexible’ inflation targeting regime.

A reserve collecting central bank which injects money to push down interest rates as domestic credit recovers triggers forex shortages.

The currency is then depreciated to cover the policy error through what is known as a ‘flexible exchange rate’ which is neither a clean float nor a hard peg.

From 2015 to 2019 two currency crises were triggered mainly through open market operations amid public opposition to direct purchases of Treasury bills, analysts have shown.

Sri Lanka’s central bank generally triggers currency crises in the second or third year of the credit cycle by purchasing maturing bills from existing holders (monetizing the gross financing requirement) as private loan demand pick up and not necessarily to monetize current year deficits, critics have pointed out.

Past deficits can be monetized as long as open market operations are permitted through outright purchases of bill in the hands of banks and other holders.

In Latin America central banks trigger currency crises mainly by their failure to roll-over sterilization securities. (Colombo/Nov29/2022)

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Sri Lanka cabinet clears CEB re-structure proposal: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet has cleared proposals by a committee to re-structure state-run Ceylon Electricity Board, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijeskera said.

“Cabinet approval was granted today to the recommendations proposed by the committee on Restructuring CEB,” he said in a message.

“The Electricity Reforms Bill will be drafted within a month to begin the unbundling process of CEB & work on a rapid timeline to get the approval of the Parliament needed.”

Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Electricity Board finances had been hit by failure to operate cost reflective tariffs and there are capacity shortfalls due to failure to implement planned generators in time. (Colombo/Nov28/2022)

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Sri Lanka new CB law to cabinet soon as IMF prior action

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s new central bank law will be submitted to the cabinet as a prior action of International Monetary Fund with clauses to improve governance and legalize ‘flexible’ inflation targeting, Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

Under the new law members of the monetary board will be appointed by the country’s Constitutional Council replacing the current system of the Finance Minister making appointments.

“It will be a bipartisan approach,” Governor Weerasinghe told an investor forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, Colombo-based brokerage.

“The central bank’s ability to finance the budget deficit will be taken out. Thirdly the flexible inflation targeting regime will be recognized in the law as the framework.”

The law will also make macro-prudential surveillance formally under the bank.

There will be two governing boards, one for the management of the agency and one to conduct monetary policy.

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