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Sunday June 16th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s shares down on potential delays in DDR and DDO

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares closed lower on Monday as selling pressure increased following lack of improvement and obscure direction on domestic debt restructuring and optimization, an analyst said.

“The market is down on the lack of direction in domestic debt restructuring and debt optimization,” an analyst said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) was down 1.40 percent or 121.96 points at 8,575.11, while the most liquid index, S&P SL20, was down 2.09 percent or 51.84 points at 2,428.92.

“The market is seeing more selling pressures as investors are taking a stance until more clarity is given on domestic debt restructuring assurances and interest rates are high,” an analyst said.

Sri Lanka’s government is to disclose the stance on domestic debt restructuring towards the end of May, which is why investors have adopted a wait and see approach.

Analysts said the low volumes seen in the market are due to the debt restructuring concerns, and investors are waiting for the monetary policy review for the next month.

Sri Lanka’s banks said assurances have been received that the stability of the sector cannot be risked in a planned domestic debt overhaul, to make the defaulted debt sustainable under a program with the International Monetary Fund.

Sri Lanka’s banks have sought clarity on a proposed domestic debt restructure, questioning whether there is a non-voluntary element in the plan, and have also called for transparent discussions with all banks.

A news article circulating says, non-agreement on the percentage of haircut that the external creditors would take in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring has taken the Central Bank to the drawing board which has led to the delay in announcing the debt restructuring strategy. 

Further the government plans to lift import controls on 100 items that were banned during forex shortages in the past two years, which had been hurting small and medium-sized industries, State Minister for Finance Shehan Semasinghe said.

“Stocks went down due to selling pressures resulting from relaxed import restrictions, which are expected to reduce the monopolistic powers held by domestic retailers,” an analyst said.

The main reason for the market’s negative sentiment is the loss of monopoly as import restrictions ease, an analyst said.

The top losers during trading were Commercial Bank, Sampath Bank and Hatton National Bank. 

Sri Lanka’s central bank has terminated the cash margin requirement on import letters of credit that was imposed over the previous 12 months to limit imports, as liquidity injection triggered forex shortages and a currency collapse.

In an order issued under the monetary law, the central bank imposed a 100 percent cash deposit margin on 843 imports on May 19, 2022, and February 16, 2023, to discourage imports.

Sri Lanka had controlled imports of 3,000 items denoted by HS codes out of a total of 8,000 during the past two years.

The controls were then brought down to 1,000 as they were hurting small and medium-sized industries that depended on inputs.

“By the beginning of next month, we will be able to lift controls on another 100 items,” Minister Semasinghe told parliament.

The market generated revenue of 518 million rupees, while the daily average turnover was 1.2 billion rupees.

The market generated a foreign inflow of 31 million rupee and the net foreign outflow was 20 million rupees. (Colombo/May 29, 2023)

 

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Sri Lanka state airport agency swimming in cash after sovereign default

ECONOMYNEXT – State-run Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd is swimming in cash after a sovereign default halted debt repayments allowing it to post a profit of 29.7 billion rupees with 10.4 billion rupees in interest income, official data showed.

In April 2022 Sri Lanka declared a sovereign default after printing large volumes of money over more than two years to enforce rate cuts and blowing the biggest hole in the balance of payments in the history of the island’s money printing central bank.

Interest earnings of Airport and Aviation Services also shot up to 10.4 billion rupees in 2023 from 6.1 billion in 2022 and 3.3 billion rupees in 2021 before the sovereign default.

Under the terms of the default or ‘debt suspension’, state agencies like the Airport and Aviation Services, and Sri Lanka Port Authority were also not required to service loans, even if they had the cash to repay loans.

AASL’s finance income shot up in 2023 “mainly because the company has invested surplus cash saved by not servicing the foreign loans obtained by the company due to the temporary debt moratorium policy of the country,” the Finance Ministry said in a report.

Sri Lanka’s rupee and foreign currency interest rates also shot up in 2022 and 2023 as rate cuts enforced by money printing were lifted to clear anchor conflicts.

After inflationary rate cuts kill confidence in a currency triggering capital flight and parallel exchange rates, excessively high rates are needed to kill domestic credit and stabilize the currency.

Countries with such flawed operating frameworks in central banks tend to have chronic high nominal interest rates in any case.

AASL’s rupee revenues went up to 48.8 billion rupees in 2023 from 32.2 billion rupees in 2022 as passenger movements increased to 7.5 million from 5.5 million with a recovery in tourism and local traffic.

Sri Lanka’s currency crisis hit in 2022 just as the island was recovering from Coronavirus pandemic triggering fuel shortages and power cuts as money printing triggered forex shortages.

From 2022 March the rupee collapsed from 200 to 370 levels an attempt to float the rupee was failed by a surrender rule (a type of buy-side pegging which pushes the exchange rate down).

In 2023, after hiking rates to kill credit, the surrender rule was removed, leading to a currency appreciation.

The airport agency also made an exchange gain of 6.1 billion rupees in 2023 against an exchange loss of 10.5 billion rupees in 2022 the rupee appreciated. (Colombo/June16/2024)

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Sri Lanka car import relaxing roadmap given to IMF: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has submitted a roadmap on relaxing vehicle imports to the International Monetary Fund, State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siymabalapitiya said as the country recovers from the worst currency crises in the history of its central bank.

The import relaxation will allow vehicles for public transport, goods transport, then motor cycles and cars use by private individuals and after that, luxury cars, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

Luxury cars however attract the highest taxes for each dollar spent on imports.

Economic analysts have characterized vehicle import controls as a ‘cascading policy error’ that follows inflationary rate cuts, which then deprive taxes to the state and triggers more money printing and more forex shortages, requiring even higher corrective interest rates and a contraction of economic activities to save the rupee.

According to the latest IMF report car import controls may have led to revenue losses of 0.7 to 0.9 percent of GDP.

Sri Lanka started controlling imports few years after a central bank was set up in 1950 and also tightened exchange controls progressively, so that macroeconomists using post-1920 spurious monetary doctrines taught at Anglophone universities could print money through various mechanisms to suppress rates.

Sri Lanka is working with the IMF as a guide on many issues and the roadmap was submitted to the agency on June 14, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

The IMF in an economic report released last week the plan was expected to be submitted by June 15.

Whatever the IMF’s faults, which some wags have called ‘progressive Saltwaterism’, the agency does not advocate import controls as solution to balance of payments problems, despite a Mercantilist fixation with the current account deficit in countries with reserve collecting central banks, analysts say.

Import controls have the same effect as import substation on the balance of payments, which is none, classical economists have pointed out and is now mainly a problem associated with macro economists and economic bureaucrats of so-called basket case countries.

Any pressure on the currency or missed reserves targets in the IMF program has come in the past only if the central bank printed money to suppress rates as credit growth picked up from car imports.

Sri Lanka had 3,000 items under import controls when rates were suppressed with printed money from 2020 to 2022 but eventually ended up with the worst currency crisis triggered by macro economists in the history of the country and eventual external default.

A committee made up of the Department of Trade and Fiscal Policy of the Finance Ministry, the Department of Registration of Motor Vehicles, the Central Bank and two associations representing vehicle imports were appointed to come up with the roadmap, he said. (Colombo/June15/2024)

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Chitrasiri Committee presents draft constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket

ECONOMYNEXT – A draft constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket, the governing body for cricket in the island, prepared by a committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge K T Chitrasiri, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe today (15).

The Sri Lanka team were ignominiously knocked out of the Men’s T20 World Cup tournament this week, sparking renewed criticism of the team and the governing body.

Last November, a cabinet sub-committee was appointed to address challenges faced by Sri Lanka Cricket and provide recommendations after consecutive losses became a hot topic in parliament.

After parliament decided to remove the administrators of the sport, the International Cricket Council (ICC) Board suspended Sri Lanka Cricket’s membership.

Based on the sub-committee’s recommendations in its report, the Cabinet then appointed an expert committee to draft a new constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket.

The committee headed by judge K T Chitrasiri includes President’s Counsel Harsha Amarasekara, Attorney-at-Law Dr Aritha Wickramanayake and Chairman of the Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce Duminda Hulangamuwa.

Deputy Solicitor General Manohara Jayasinghe, and Shamila Krishanthi, Assistant Draftsman representing the Legal Draftsman’s Department, and Loshini Peiris, Additional Secretary to the President were also on the committee. (Colombo/Jun14/2024)

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