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Sunday February 25th, 2024

US grants fertilizer to currency crisis hit Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT – The United State Agency for International Development has granted 9,300 metric tonnes of fertilizer to Sri Lanka as the currency crisis hit Indian Ocean Island struggles to import agricultural inputs.

“I know that fertilizer alone will not meet all of Sri Lanka’s needs, but this assistance is just one aspect of the United States’ much greater investment in and support for the people and government of Sri Lanka at this challenging time,” U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung said in a statement.

“In total, we’ve announced over $240 million in new assistance and additional loans for small businesses over the last year – and we’ll keep at it. Assistance like today’s fertilizer demonstrates America’s goodwill and true commitment to the people of Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka is going through the worst currency crisis in the history of its 72 year old soft-pegged (flexible exchange rate) central bank and has been unable to import fertilizer without outside help as printed money triggered forex shortages.

The fertilizer was procured through Food and Agricultural Organization, the statement said.

When artificially low interest rates maintained through open market operations or other means of a soft-pegged central bank triggers a currency crisis, excessively high interest rates have to be imposed to stabilize the external sector.

In the process sectors like construction collapse leaving persons unemployed. When they return to their hometowns and villages it is vital for fertilizer to be available for them to cultivate family land.

Farmers are some of the first set of persons hit by a soft-peg crisis that see incomes return to some normalcy as inflation drives up food prices.

The US aid the 9,300 metric tonnes of urea fertilizer would be distributed to more than 193,000 smallholder paddy farmers in Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and Monaragala districts. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

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Sri Lanka could get US$500mn from ADB in 2024

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka could receive 500 million US dollars in support from the Asian Development Bank in 2024 based on the progress of policy reforms, Country Director of the Manila-based lender, Takafumi Kadono said.

The ADB expect to go to its Board around March or April with a 100 million US dollar power sector loan subject to the cabinet of ministers of approving a revised electricity reform bill.

A 100 million dollar loan to support SMEs could also be approved in the early part of the year. Sri Lanka is setting up a credit guarantee agency to support credit for small firms.

A 200 million dollar credit for financial sector was also slated for the year. The ADB gave the first tranche of the financial sector policy loan late last year.

A $100mn for the water sector could also be approved later in the year.

Sri Lanka could get around 200 to 300 million US dollars a year at the lowest rate, or concessional ordinary capital resources (COL) rate of 2 percent.

The balance of would come at the ordinary capital resource rate linked to SOFR.

The ADB has also started work on a ‘Country Partnership Strategy’ for Sri Lanka covering the 2024-2028 period, Kadodo said. (Colombo/Feb25/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy based on friendship: Min

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none, its Minister of Foreign Affairs has said.

“Non-alignment means not becoming a bystander. Non-alignment means you are not forced or coerced into a camp to take sovereign decisions… you make your own choices. Whether it is commercial, security, regional or otherwise,” M U M Ali Sabry said on X (twitter).

“I have repeatedly stressed that sovereignty is the right to have your own opinion on what’s right and wrong, and to stand by your principles. Our multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none,” Sabry was quoting from his speech at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) Foreign Policy Forum, on the theme ‘Reassessing Non-Alignment in a Polarised World’.

Sri Lanka is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The strategically located island has been increasingly walking a fine line between opposing global factions as it seeks to come out of a financial crisis. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank Dec net down on tax provisions

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank of Ceylon reported profits of 6.9 billion rupees from the December 2023 quarter down 21 percent, despite an improvement in net interest income and lower provisions, amid a change in tax provisions.

Pre-tax profits were 8.89 billion rupees up from 2.4 billion rupees. There was a 6.4 billion tax reversal last year compared to a 1.7 billion rupee tax charge this year.

Commercial Bank reported earnings of 5.26 rupees for the quarter. For the year to December 2023 earnings were 16.07 rupees per share on total profits of 21.1 billion rupees, down 11.3 percent.

Net fee and commission income was down 1.2 percent to 6.1 billion rupees.

Net interest income went up 16.8 percent to 25.5 billion rupees, with interest income rising marginally by 1.3 percent to 73.0 billion rupees and interest expense falling 5.45 percent to 47.5 billion rupees.

Loans and advances to customers grew 4.06 percent to 1.17 billion rupees in the year to December. Debt and other financial instruments fell 10.5 percent to 649 billion rupees.

Financial assets measured and fair value through other comprehensive income was at 287 billion rupees, up from 117 billion rupees.

Impairment charges were 13.1 billion rupees, down from 19.6 billion rupees last year.

Gross assets were up 6.45 percent to 2.36 billion rupees. Net assets were up 5.51 percent to 214 billion rupees. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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