* IMF bailout is not coming any time soon
* Opposition is caught between a rock and a hard place
* We have to fix the twin deficits
* Unless there is agreement across political parties, we can’t get it done
By Sanath Nanayakkare
Opposition Member of Parliament Dr. Harsha de Silva discussed the crises facing Sri Lanka with Bloomberg Market Asia recently where he said an all-party government would have legitimacy unlike the current administration and would give hope to the people of this country, but there is no guarantee that it can fix the problem quickly.
The interview he had with Bloomberg went as follows.
Q. How close is Sri Lanka to an IMF bailout?
The issue is not about an IMF bailout. It is about restructuring Sri Lanka’s debt. We have to restructure our debt with multiple parties such as official creditors, the republic of China, private creditors, international sovereign bond holders etc. So, unless we have either a debt restructuring deal or significant progress towards a restructuring deal, the IMF will not be able to release any money under an Extended Fund Facility even if there is a staff- level agreement any time soon.
Q. You are suggesting that the IMF bailout is not coming any time soon. How will that play out in the economy?
We have hired Lazard’s and Clifford Chance to help us deal with debt restructuring. They have not really started negotiating, and already one creditor- Hamilton Reserve Bank Ltd has filed a suit in a New York federal court against the government of Sri Lanka asking for its full payment of USD 250 million due on 25th July because we have a debt standstill. ‘Significant progress’ [perhaps referring to a term in the IMF end-of-mission statement regarding the outcome of the talks in Sri Lanka] is a subjective term. The IMF is not able to lend to us. So I am thinking perhaps this is going to take at least 5-6 months before any money would start to flow in.
Q. The economic crisis is turning into a political one. What is the Opposition doing right now to perhaps take the reins of power and make things better? What would you do if you were in power and what you want to be doing because the Opposition is going to be blamed for all hardships that are going to ensue from here?
Yes, we are caught between a rock and a hard place here. What the Opposition is going to do is try and get all Opposition parties together, which I hope will happen this week. The President isn’t willing to budge despite protests across the country asking him to step down. If that happens, it’s quite possible that an all-party government can take over and start running the country. There is no guarantee that an all-party government can fix the problem quickly, but at least there will be hope that there’s a government with legitimacy both internally and externally because right now there seems to be no legitimacy for this government. That’s what we are trying to do right now.
Q. So you like to see a government of national unity but the thing is; you will not get that for the time being. So what do you think should be at the top of the economic agenda to get things going? For instance; inflation is running at almost hyper-inflation level while there’s no fuel. It sounds like a terrible situation.
Yes, this is totally unprecedented. You know until recently Sri Lanka was an upper middle income country and today we have suddenly crashed to the bottom. For us, this is unbelievable. But in a way it was expected because over a long period of time economic reforms were postponed and postponed and postponed, and we were living beyond our means. The real breakdown happened when the President cut taxes and now we are running a massive hole in our fiscal budget and also a big hole in our current account and our Balance of Payments (BOP). We have to fix this. Without fixing these two things there is no way out. So the parliament will have to agree on undertaking large fiscal consolidation measures such as increasing taxes, rationalising subsidies/expenses and so on. So unless there is agreement across political parties, we can’t get it done and there is going to be a very difficult time negotiating the debt. Unless our debt is negotiated, we are not able to get money from the IMF. We are waiting for friendly countries and neighbours to help us but it won’t take us far.
Q. How is the Opposition assessing the proposed constitutional changes? Is it willing to vote for these reforms in parliament?
We are extremely disappointed. The President said on May 11 that he would take the country back to 19th Amendment which meant that powers he grabbed from parliament in 2020 would be restored to parliament. That’s what the people wanted because he himself admitted in public that he has not been successful in managing the country. People wanted that power to be restored to parliament and to democratise the country, but the President is not going to do that in the proposed 22nd Amendment. So we are disappointed. We want the new amendment to go through, but not this way. It should be done in the way it was pledged.
Dialog impacted by further forex losses in Q2, accumulated NPAT in 1H negative Rs28.3Bn
Dialog Axiata PLC announced, Tuesday 09th August 2022, its consolidated financial results for the six months ended 30th June 2022. Financial results included those of Dialog Axiata PLC (the “Company”) and of the Dialog Axiata Group (the “Group”).
Sri Lanka continued to be battered by the socio-economic crisis in Q2 2022 which led to adverse movements in macro variables such as Sri Lankan Rupee (“LKR”) depreciating 23% against the United States Dollar (“USD”), Inflation rising to 54.6% (from 18.7% recorded by end Q1 2022), policy rates increasing by 8 percentage points and 12-month T-Bill rate increasing to 21% (from 12% recorded by end Q1 2022).
Despite the challenging environment witnessed in Q2 2022, the Group sustained its consistent performance to record strong Revenue growth across all business segments, namely, Mobile, Fixed Line, Digital Pay Television, International and Tele-infrastructure, relative to prior periods, namely, Year-to-Date (“YTD”) and Quarter-on-Quarter (“QoQ”). Accordingly, the Group recorded consolidated Revenue of Rs.81.6Bn for 1H 2022 and Rs43.3Bn for Q2 2022. However, driven by higher network spend and escalation in the cost base, Group Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation (“EBITDA”) declined to Rs27.5Bn for 1H 2022 down by a moderate 1% YTD. On a QoQ basis EBITDA declined 14% to record Rs12.7Bn for Q2 2022.
The Group Net Profit After Tax (“NPAT”) was impacted by the forex losses amid continued depreciation of the Sri Lankan Rupee (“LKR”) against the United States Dollar (“USD”). The resulting forex losses reached Rs.14.2Bn for Q2 2022 and Rs.34.3Bn for 1H 2022. The forex losses were predominantly contributed by market-to-market translational losses from USD denominated borrowings.
Group NPAT recorded a loss of Rs28.3Bn for 1H 2022 and a loss of Rs12.5Bn for Q2 2022 amid forex losses. Normalised for the said forex losses, NPAT continued to decline albeit recording profits of Rs6.0Bn for 1H 2022 and Rs1.6Bn for Q2 2022.
Dialog Group continued to be a significant contributor to state revenues, remitting a total of Rs16.9Bn to the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) during the first six months of 2022. Total remittances included Direct Taxes and Levies amounting to Rs9.2Bn and Rs7.7Bn in Consumption Taxes collected on behalf of the GoSL. The total taxes paid increased 46% YTD and 56% QoQ. The Direct Taxes included Rs3.8Bn paid during the quarter in lieu of one-off Surcharge Tax of 25% applicable on PAT of FY2020.
The Group continued to support critical investments in 1H 2022 to provide seamless and consistent connectivity whilst meeting the surge in data demand. Accordingly, the Capital expenditure reached Rs22.4Bn for 1H 2022. Capital expenditure was directed towards investments in High-Speed Broadband infrastructure to further expand Dialog’s leadership in Sri Lanka’s Broadband sector. In line with the above Capex, the Group Operating Free Cash Flow (“OFCF”) declined to Rs2.8Bn for 1H 2022.
During the quarter the Dialog Group entered into loan agreement of up to USD150Mn with the International Finance Corporation (“IFC”) that is expected to help expand and improve the network capacity through the upgrading of existing sites and the deployment of new 4G sites. IFC will also ensure that Dialog adopts an enhanced environmental and social management system (ESMS) according to IFC Performance Standards for their mobile network deployment, in line with Dialog’s endeavors of pursuing green connectivity, supporting global climate action goals and achieving net-zero CO2 emission by 2050.
Emirates invests over US$ 2 billion to take its on-board customer experience to new heights
Priding itself on a brand promise of ‘Fly Better’, Emirates is investing over US$ 2 billion to enhance its inflight customer experience, including a massive programme to retrofit over 120 aircraft with the latest interiors, plus an array of other service improvements across all cabins starting in 2022.
Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline said: “While others respond to industry pressures with cost cuts, Emirates is flying against the grain and investing to deliver ever better experiences to our customers. Through the pandemic we’ve continued to launch new services and initiatives to ensure our customers travel with the assurance and ease, including digital initiatives to improve customer experiences on the ground. Now we’re rolling out a series of intensive programmes to take Emirates’ signature inflight experiences to the next level.”
Some of Emirates’ latest initiatives include: elevated meal choices, a brand new vegan menu, a ‘cinema in the sky’ experience, cabin interior upgrades, sustainable choices and a generous approach to the little touches that make travel memorable.
Starting from August, Emirates’ passengers can look forward to:
New Inspirations, New Menus: An award-winning team of chefs, a world-class catering team and a wide variety of suppliers have been assembled to design and deliver the best fine dining experience in the sky. New menus will be served on select Emirates routes in First Class, featuring dishes such as pan-fried salmon trout with moqueca sauce and creole rice, roasted duck breast with orange thyme jus, steamed broccolini and fondant potatoes. New menus will also be introduced to Business and Economy on the 1st of September.
Purposefully Vegan Choices: Emirates’ new vegan menu is carefully curated to cater to the growing numbers of customers pursuing this thoughtful lifestyle. Vegans, or anyone interested in a delicious and healthy plant-based meal, will enjoy handcrafted gourmet dishes such as pan-roasted king oyster mushrooms, flavoursome jackfruit biryani and sliced kohlrabi garnished with burnt orange. Desserts are a decadent affair with choices of chocolate truffle cake with hazelnut, pistachio and gold leaf, or green grape tart adorned with candied rose petals, vanilla custard, and berry compote glistening with yuzu pearls. Vegan dishes are available to pre-order in all cabin classes.
The Champagne and Caviar Experience: Emirates’ First Class experience, always a benchmark for service excellence, has been upped a notch in 2022. Customers can now savour unlimited portions of Persian caviar as part of the ‘dine on demand’ service, with an exquisite pairing of the world-renowned Dom Perignon vintage champagne. Emirates is the only airline with an exclusive agreement to offer the luxury brand on-board.
Cinema in the Sky: First Class customers can create a memorable movie moment on-board by ordering cinema snacks as they enjoy the 5,000 channels on Emirates’ ice inflight entertainment system. The cinema snack menu includes moreish classics such as lobster rolls, juicy sliders, edamame, and salted popcorn, and can be ordered on demand. All passengers can also curate their own ice experience before their flight, simply by browsing and pre-selecting movies or TV shows on the Emirates app, which can then be synced to ice the moment they board, maximising the seamless travel experience.
Farm to Fork – Sustainable Supply Chain: Emirates’ customers departing on flights from Dubai can begin crunching on fresh greens harvested from Bustanica, the world’s largest vertical farm and newly-opened US$40 million joint venture investment through Emirates Flight Catering. Emirates is continuing to invest in sustainable operations and supply chains, seeking local food suppliers and farms wherever possible to serve the freshest produce on board.
Specialised Hospitality Training for Cabin Crew: Emirates has partnered with Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, one of the world’s top hospitality management schools, to craft the Emirates Hospitality strategy and encourage inspiring customer experiences. Emirates Cabin Crew have already begun engaging in intensive training programmes focused on delivering the four service pillars: Excellence, Attentiveness, Innovation and Passion.
Upgraded Cabin Interiors in all Classes: The most significant investment is an extensive and record-breaking refurbishment of the aircraft fleet interiors, where cabins will be retrofitted with new or reupholstered seats, new panelling, flooring and other cabin features. Benefitting all Emirates passengers, every cabin class will be refreshed and new Premium Economy cabins installed. After the retrofit, Emirates will have a total of 120 aircraft offering Premium Economy seats – the only airline in the region to offer this cabin class, and enhanced interiors and features across all other cabins. With its first aircraft scheduled to roll into the Emirates Engineering Centre for retrofitting in November, planning work and trials have begun in earnest.
Janashakthi Life strengthens board with two new appointments
Janashakthi Insurance PLC, one of the key players in Sri Lanka’s insurance industry, announced the appointments of Sivakrishnarajah Renganathan and Dr. Nishan de Mel as Independent Non-Executive Directors of the organization with effect from 27th July 2022.
“We are pleased to welcome S. Renganathan and Dr. Nishan de Mel to the Board of Janashakthi Insurance PLC, as we continue to accelerate the execution of our strategic priorities to expand our presence in the Life Insurance segment,” said Prakash Schaffter, Executive Deputy Chairman of Janashakthi Insurance PLC.
“Renganathan joins us with a rich tenure of 41 years in the banking sector and extensive financial and managerial experience which will provide valuable insights as we continue to pursue our growth journey. Dr. de Mel is an economist with extensive knowledge and experience in strategic planning, that will enable our growth strategy to drive transformation through effective strategic planning. We are confident that they will provide valuable perspectives and will create a new dynamic within the Board as we continue to transform the insurance industry to better serve our customers and communities”, he concluded.
Sivakrishnarajah Renganathan is the former Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC, Commercial Development Co., PLC and Deputy Chairman of Commercial Bank of Maldives. He had held several key positions in the Bank. He has led Commercial Bank’s acquisition of the banking operations of Credit Agricole Indosuez in Bangladesh. In addition, he has served among others, as a Member of the General Council of the Institute of Bankers of Bangladesh, Founder / President of the Sri Lanka Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Executive Member of the Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bangladesh.
Renganathan, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, UK (FCMA), Fellow of the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), Fellow of the London Institute of Banking & Finance, UK (FLIBF) and a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers Sri Lanka (FIB), had received extensive Leadership, Management and Banking training, both locally and overseas.
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