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Belated economic reforms: Lankans to swallow more ‘painful medicine’

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Failure to implement required policy reforms at this critical juncture will be very costly, the Ministry of Finance says.

‘Accumulated issues in the past have now exploded

‘Time has come to put the house in order’

‘Dismal fiscal sector has caused imbalances in the macro-economy’

‘Engagement with IMF, a starting point in implementing critical reforms’

by Sanath Nanayakkare

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) said last week that Sri Lanka urgently needs to undertake difficult, but much needed and far-reaching reforms to address the accumulated and persistent issues in the country’s fiscal sector.

In a report titled ‘Fiscal Sector: Present Situation and Way Forward’, MOF pointed out that dismal fiscal sector performance has caused many imbalances in the macro-economy.

“Exceptionally low tax revenue, rigid recurrent expenditure, a large budget deficit, an accumulated and now unsustainable debt are the key concerns in the fiscal sector. Responsible and disciplined fiscal management has become more important than ever. In this process, the country and its citizens will have to go through a period of difficulty,” MOF warned.

The report further said:

“A strong social protection network is required for the vulnerable and needy segments as reforms will be painful.”

“The time has come to put the “house in order” and revamp the government’s fiscal operations to strengthen macroeconomic stability and facilitate economic growth in the medium to long term.”

“Deficit financing poses a critical challenge due to the shortfall of foreign financing following the loss of international capital market access. The resulting rise in monetary financing has caused severe macroeconomic imbalances.”

“The dismal performance of the fiscal sector over the years has contributed to macroeconomic instability and failed to support long-term growth. The excess aggregate demand generated by unsustainable fiscal deficits has resulted in elevated inflation, pressure on the balance of payments (BOP) and currency volatility.”

“Sri Lanka today is facing a severe BOP crisis with insufficient foreign exchange to buy essential imports such as food, energy,and pharmaceuticals, let alone meeting its debt service obligations. Sound macroeconomic fundamentals cannot be achieved without prudent and sustainable fiscal outcomes.”

“Accumulated issues in the past have now exploded and caused severe disruptions to the day-to-day lives of Sri Lankans, leading to widespread public displeasure and social unrest.”

“The fiscal sector performance in the recent past is characterised by exceptionally low government revenue, rigid recurrent expenditure, high budget deficits, and accumulated debt which is now unsustainable. The weak fiscal position has manifested in credit rating downgrades, loss of access to international capital markets and foreign financing. As a result, the government has increasingly relied on domestic financing of the budget, including monetary financing by the Central Bank, in turn leading to significant macroeconomic imbalances.”

“Government revenue declined particularly sharply in the last two years due to various reasons including the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, import restrictions imposed to ease the external sector pressure, but

most importantly, due to the ultra-low tax regime introduced in late 2019 and COVID-19 related easing measures in early 2020. Even before these tax cuts, Sri Lanka was a country with one of the lowest revenue-to-GDP ratios in the world, and the tax cuts drove Sri Lanka closer to the bottom of this list.”

“The government’s decision to seek the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be a starting point and a catalyst in implementing these critical reforms with the support of the citizens and other stakeholders.”

While acknowledging the fact that government fiscal operations have played an important role in improving economic and social conditions in Sri Lanka during its post-independence history, MOF went on to say that, “Failure to implement required policy reforms at this critical juncture will be very costly. However, it will lay a strong foundation to create a resilient economy for future generations.”

Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe said on Friday that the Central Bank has taken measures required to stabilize the economy by taking the right monetary policy measures in terms of price adjustments and by increasing policy rates.

“Now, the fiscal side also needs implementing critical measures such as increasing state revenue by way of raising taxes. There is complete understanding on improving macro-economic fundamentals and decisions will be made to address the BOP issue, debt sustainability and enhancing state revenue in order to turn around the economy to a more resilient one,” he said.

The Governor noted that sooner the social and political stability were restored, the better it would be for stabilizing the economy and shifting it to growth path.

In September 2020, responding to a downgrade in credit ratings from Moody’s, a global rating agency, from a B2 to a Caa1, Sri Lanka’s Finance Ministry hit back claiming that such a report was ‘unwarranted, premature and reckless’.

In November 2021, former governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal said that debt restructuring was underway without assistance from IMF and said, “We have to manage our debt without using the word ‘restructuring’ in a frivolous manner.”



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Mahindra Ideal Finance One of Sri Lanka’s Great Places to Work

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MIFL team at the Great Place to work® Awards ceremony for Best 10 companies in the Banking, Financial Services and Insurance industry held at the Hilton Hotel, Colombo.

Mahindra Ideal Finance is not only one of Sri Lanka’s leading finance companies, but also one of Sri Lanka’s top employers of choice, attested to by the Company being certified as a Great Place to Work for 3 consecutive years, most recently in 2021.The Company has also been recognized amongst the Best 10 companies in the banking, financial services and insurance sector in 2021 by the Great Place to Work® Sri Lanka. As a result, Mahindra Ideal Finance has attracted a diverse group of individuals at the top of their game to be a part of the Company’s various teams. Having embarked on a landmark islandwide network expansion strategy, Mahindra Ideal Finance is also creating new opportunities for aspiring Sri Lankan professionals looking to build solid careers in financial services.

Duminda Weerasekara – Chief Executive Officer said, “As we are growing our presence around the country through the expansion of our branch network, we are looking for driven and passionate people to reinforce our teams. As we have been a dedicated, caring and trustworthy employer since our inception, Mahindra Ideal Finance is the ideal platform for dynamic young professionals looking to launch or grow their careers.”Great Place to Work®, headquartered in the USA, is the global authority on high-trust, high performance workplace cultures. Great Place to Work provides the benchmarks, framework, and expertise needed to create, sustain, and recognize outstanding workplace cultures.

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Daraz Cares introduces ‘Buy one Give One’ initiative – To support families in vulnerable communities

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The unfolding economic crisis in the country has presented Sri Lankans with unprecedented challenges, including scarcity of essentials, escalating living expenses and deteriorating living standards. The impacts of the crisis are graver and more ominous for those in vulnerable communities, where families struggle to make ends meet amidst mounting financial difficulties.As part of its commitment to give back to the community, Daraz Cares has come forward with a social initiative that pledges support for families in vulnerable communities. The initiative themed ‘Buy One, Give One’ will support Sri Lankan families faced with financial challenges with a pack of selected daily essentials. The selected items for the ‘Buy One, Give One’ initiative are, a 1kg pack of CIC Sudu Suduru Rice,a 500g of Orient Mysoore Dhal, a 300g pack of Maggi Coconut Milk Powder, 500g of Orient White Sugar, and 500 g packs of Sunlight Lemon and Rose Detergent Powder, which are all available for purchase via Daraz Mart.

The initiative will be implemented in a manner that, each time an individual purchase any desired quantity of one of the nominated items on the Daraz app, Daraz will donate an equal quantity of the same product to a family in vulnerable communities.Daraz invites everyone to purchase a preferred quantity of the selected items via www.daraz.lk/dmart/ and become a part of the ‘Buy One, Give One’ social initiative.

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DIMO partners with Allianz to provide innovative insurance scheme to its TATA customers

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DIMO together with Allianz recently introduced a state-of-the-art motor insurance & claim settlement scheme designed exclusively for DIMO’s TATA customers.The partnership is focused on assisting the customers to reduce costs incurred during conducting accident repairs through exemption of the owner’s payable portion for TATA vehicles within 5 years of date of manufacture. This innovative facility also offers all TATA customers of DIMO special insurance premium rates at the time of renewal of insurance. DIMO’s TATA customers will enjoy the utmost convenience and zero hassle as both DIMO and Allianz will coordinate all tasks from towing the vehicle to the nearest DIMO-TATA workshop, quick and efficient estimation & approval process, repairing of the vehicle according to exact manufacturer’s specifications, settlement of repair bills to handing over of the vehicle to the customer in original condition.

Ranjith Pandithage, Chairman & Managing Director of DIMO, said, “This partnership will further assist us in offering an enhanced service for our valued customers. As a company, DIMO has always stood for fuelling the dreams and aspirations of the communities we serve in, and it is a pleasure to be able to offer an innovative insurance scheme at a time like this, in collaboration with Allianz.

Gany Subramaniam, CEO of Allianz Insurance Lanka Ltd, said “We are extremely pleased to be partnering with DIMO to offer a customer-centric product, ensuring a vehicle is repaired and restored with minimum hassle.”

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