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Monday April 15th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s Wickremesinghe likely to go for presidential poll first – sources

  • Wickremesinghe is leading crisis-hit Sri Lanka’s painful economic reforms
  • His close allies say local govt, parliamentary polls could reverse reforms
  • “Election is not his priority right now”, says official at presidential secretariat

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is likely to hold presidential election before any other polls after November 16 2023, three sources close to him said, as he seeks a $2.9 billion IMF loan to consolidate the economy which is on a slow recovery path from a crisis.

Wickremesinghe was elected as the president in the 225-member parliament on July 19, days after former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country fearing for his life following tens of thousands of protesters stormed into the presidential palace, demanding his resignation after his failed economic policies. He quit after reaching Singapore.

Sri Lanka’s opposition parties and many protestors who led the ousting of Rajapaksa are now demanding both local government and parliamentary polls citing that the current government has no mandate to be in power as its failed economic policies have forced the people to oust them.

Presidency of Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, has been criticized by the opposition and protestors as he was not elected by the public.

Wickremesinghe became the president when he entered the parliament through a national list after his center-right United National Party (UNP) failed to win a single parliament seat in the 2020 parliamentary polls.

“The president is considering the presidential poll first and it will give him a legitimate mandate to push for reforms that are now formulated,” a source close to Wickremesinghe told EconomyNext.

“He can be the president for two more years. But the reforms need more time to see the country economically recovered and is on a strong foot.”

Another source close to Wickremesinghe said there could be division among the current parliament composition if he goes for any other elections other than presidential.

“We see a slight recovery though the worst is yet to come after the implementation of tax policies and IMF reforms. Doing party politics in the next one year will reverse all the reforms,” the second source said.

Focus is on crisis

The President’s office did not comment on a possible presidential poll before both local government and parliamentary elections. However, an official at the president’s office said Wickremesinghe has not been focusing on “any election” now.

“Election is not his priority right now. He has never said anything in any election so far. He is busy with the economic policies to get the country out of the current mess,” the source, a senior official at the presidential secretariat told EconomyNext.

“He has categorically told internal officials that the country’s private sector, civil society organizations, all political parties, and the people should get together to face the current crisis and if we don’t unite, there won’t be a country to do politics after one year.”

The island nation’s political parties are now gearing up for an election. The former ruling center-left nationalist Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), and Marxist opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peremuna have already started campaigns at village level.

The parliament election should be held after August 5, 2025, five years after it was held. But President Wickremesinghe can dissolve the parliament and call for an early election after February 2023,

The tenure of the current presidency ends in November 2024. However, the incumbent president can call for an early election if the leader wants. This means Wickremesinghe can call for early election after November 16, 2023.  (Colombo/Nov18/2022)

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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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Sri Lanka rupee closes weaker at 299.00/10 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 299.00/10 to the US dollar in the spot forex market on Monday, from 298.50/55 on Wednesday, dealers said, while bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed stable at 11.30/35 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed stable at 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2028 closed at 12.10/20 percent up from 12.10/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed stable at 12.20/40 percent. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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