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CB Governor sets the record straight on speculative theories of US dollar shortage



Central Bank Governor Prof. W.D Lakshman

Addressing speculations and concerns in various quarters including by the media about Sri Lanka’s international reserves, foreign currency liquidity in the domestic market and drains on such resources, Central Bank Governor Prof. W.D Lakshman yesterday provided a comprehensive account of the true situation and explained the measures taken by the authorities to ensure judicious management of foreign reserves, inflows, debt repayment, imports and the overall stability in the foreign exchange market.

Reproduced below is the full text
of the press statement issued
by the Governor.

Over the past few days, concerns have been raised by various individuals and media about an assumed shortage of foreign currency liquidity in the domestic market, preventing banks from facilitating imports. Reports published or circulated by some media channels indicate seriously negative viewpoints which can be very harmful to the country. I wish to make the following statement to explain the true position about this subject.

Due to heavy foreign currency borrowings in the past several years, there was adverse speculation, even by the time of the formation of the present Government in 2019/2020, about Sri Lanka’s ability to service its debt service obligations falling due in the near term. In spite of such speculation, and amidst added pressures owing to the COVID-19 pandemic on particularly our tourism cash flows, the Government of Sri Lanka reiterated its stance of ensuring that all its external debt service obligations would be met on time, thus maintaining Sri Lanka’s unblemished record of servicing all its maturing obligations.

To enable the country to perform this formidable task amidst reduced foreign currency inflows, Sri Lanka introduced measures to rationalise selected non-essential imports. Some of these restrictions have been gradually removed, although the Central Bank is of the view that there is further space to curtail non-essential and non-urgent imports, given the continued challenges emanating from multiple waves of COVID-19.

As a result of the measures taken by the Government and the Central Bank in the past 1 ½ years, the Government has been able to substantially reduce its foreign debt to GDP ratio to about 40 per cent and the face value of foreign debt from USD 34.1 billion at end 2019 to USD 32.2 billion by end March 2021, while successfully meeting its maturing debt service obligations. I believe that it is in Sri Lanka’s best interest to address the longstanding merchandise trade gap of USD 10 billion as it places Sri Lanka in a vulnerable position, through careful policy action. While doing this, we would continue to meet our debt service obligations and avoid further damage to the country’s reputation and to investor confidence on the Sri Lankan economy and the financial system.

We have also observed that some segments of the Sri Lankan community motivated by political reasons have continued to fuel adverse speculation about the future path of the exchange rate and the ability of the Government to service its obligations. Such self-serving speculations are unwarranted and are harmful to the general public as well as to the business community themselves. These speculative comments have naturally created some unnecessary short-term imbalance in the foreign exchange market between inflows and outflows. However, it must be noted that the Government and the Central Bank has ensured that trade is not unduly disrupted, and intermediate and capital goods imports are given priority in the process of imports. Total import values have remained considerably high at a monthly average of USD 1.7 billion during March, April and May 2021. High import values in these months show that importers, particularly of essential goods, have not been overly inconvenienced as the published media reports claim.

What the Central Bank is doing now with the participation of all commercial banks, is judicious management of imports and foreign reserves. As cash flows are poised to improve in the next few months, the Central Bank will be evaluating the national balance sheet and external macroeconomic conditions in deciding the future policy response.

As an interim solution in managing the mismatch in cash flows, the Central Bank has been working closely with the banking sector to ensure that stability in the foreign exchange market is maintained. Regular meetings with key officials of the banking community are held by the Central Bank, and the banking community has mutually agreed to manage their outflows within inflows, while giving priority to essential and urgent imports, and discouraging orders of speculative nature. It is such prudent action by banks that is being blown out of proportion by parties with vested interests.

Actions taken by the banking community have been supported by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka through measures taken in relation to mandatory conversions of export proceeds and regulatory measures to dampen speculative activity. The Central Bank has enabled commercial banks and corporates to borrow foreign funds so that the banking system could remain non-reliant on the Official Reserves to finance imports, thus supporting the national effort to continue the process of debt servicing without disturbance.

At present, our focus is managing Sri Lanka’s debt service obligations. In this regard our Gross Official Reserves remain at USD 4 billion, without considering the standby SWAP agreement of approximately USD 1.5 billion with the People’s Bank of China. While there may be short term fluctuations in this level of foreign reserves in the period ahead due to debt servicing of the Government, adequate financing strategies have been lined up to maintain reserves at sufficient levels, through inflows to the country. These include non-debt inflows expected within a short period of time to the Government particularly through its new investment arm, and other inflows to the Government from multilateral and bilateral sources. Inflows expected to the Central Bank include the SWAP facility of USD 250 million from the Bangladesh Bank expected in July 2021, the SAARCFinance SWAP facility from the Reserve Bank of India of USD 400 million expected in August 2021, and the special SWAP facility of USD 1,000 million being negotiated with the Indian counterpart. These are in addition to the receipt of around US dollars 800 million under the IMF SDR allocation expected in August 2021, and the Central Bank purchases of export proceeds and worker remittances from the market, which would help the Central Bank to build Official Reserves through non-debt inflows of around USD 700 million annually in the period ahead. Measures are also being put in place to entice the resident holders of maturing Sri Lanka International Sovereign Bonds (ISB) to repatriate maturity proceeds. It may be noted that 30 per cent of upcoming ISB maturities are held by residents. Moreover, the banking sector and the corporate sector have also seen increased amounts of financial flows at concessionary rates to support real sector activity. Private sector entities are expected to raise funds from overseas counterparts making use of the recent easing of related foreign exchange regulations. Some of these inflows in the period ahead are expected to add to the Official Reserve as well. The recent enactment of the legislation on the Colombo Port City Commission will also enable increased non-debt foreign exchange inflows to the economy.

Overall, I wish to assure the media, the general public, the business community and the investor community that the conditions of foreign currency liquidity observed in the domestic market at present are temporary and are driven by excessive speculative activity. We request these operators in the market to remain calm and not fuel undue speculation, which is not in the national interest, as the careful management of the situation without undue disruption, will result in a beneficial outcome to the country as a whole.



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‘Seylan Bank celebrates milestone 35 years of outstanding customer service’



Seylan Bank’s top management at the anniversary celebrations.

Having opened its doors in 1988, Seylan Bank, celebrated a milestone 35 years recently, of proudly serving all stakeholders with an unwavering dedication to excellence, a Seylan Bank press release said.

The release adds: ‘The special occasion was commemorated with a religious ceremony at the Millennium Branch of the bank with the participation of the Board of Directors, corporate management, staff and well-wishers. Dr P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka graced the event and delivered the keynote address. Chairman of Seylan Bank, Ravi Dias and Kapila Ariyaratne, Director/CEO, also addressed the gathering.

‘Since the opening of its first branch, Seylan Bank has expanded into an island wide network of 171 branches, 216 ATMs, 70 cash deposit machines and 96 cheque deposit kiosks as well as many Digital Banking solutions, serving a growing client base of Small and Medium Enterprises, Retail and Corporate Customers.

‘Kapila Ariyaratne, Director/CEO Seylan Bank said, “Today we are proud of our history and excited about the future. Within the past decade Seylan Bank’s total assets, deposits and advances have grown by 300%, while our revenue has grown four times and our profit after tax has doubled. While entering the 35th year, we have recorded the highest bottom line in the history of the Bank for two consecutive years. We have polished the rich culture of innovation and customer service excellence that have been hallmarks of Seylan culture from the beginning, and are more customer focused, compliant and transparent today. Seylan Bank looks to the future with excitement, energy, strength and hope to build on our excellent foundation and achieve the vision of being amongst Sri Lanka’s leading financial service providers, helping all our stakeholders achieve their good aspirations while helping our country and our people to once again achieve economic prosperity in a sustainable manner.”

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Price decline seen in all shares across the board; fluctuating trend sets in



By Hiran H. Senewiratne

CSE trading set off on a negative note yesterday but later bounced back slightly. The reason for the fluctuating trend was attributable to stock market brokers reducing their debt component, market analysts said.

Further, shares edged- down in mid- day trade on thin volumes as the market experienced selling pressures and profit- taking, an analyst said. “The market is down as the selling trend continues, as there is a price decline in all shares across the board, combined with the month ending, followed by margin calls, market analysts added.

Amid those developments both indices moved downward. The All- Share Price Index declined by 51 points and S and P SL20 went down by 11.87 points. Turnover stood at Rs 861 million with one crossing. The crossing was reported in NDB, which crossed 470,000 shares to the tune of Rs 20.2 million, its shares traded at Rs 43.

In the retail market some companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs. 103.8 million (640,000 shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 86 million (660,000 shares traded), ACL Cables Rs 83.4 million (one million shares traded), Sampath Bank Rs 76.4 million (1.3 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 38.8 million (6.2 million shares traded) and JKH Rs 32.9 million (235,000 shares traded). During the day 43.98 million share volumes changed hands in 12746 transactions.

It is said that high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in NDB and Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings. Mixed interest was observed in Sri Lanka Telecom, Lanka IOC and Tokyo Cement Company nonvoting, while retail interest was noted in Browns Investments, LOLC Finance and Renuka Agri Foods.

The Food, Beverage & Tobacco sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to Browns Investments), while the sector index lost 0.49 per cent. The share price of Browns Investments recorded a loss of 10 cents, coming down to Rs. 6.40.

The Capital Goods sector was the second highest contributor to market turnover, while the sector index decreased by 1.77 per cent. Sri Lanka Telecom, Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings, NDB and Lanka IOC were also included among the top turnover contributors.

Meanwhile, in the Treasury bond market, yields were up at open on yesterday, dealers said.

A 01.07.2025 bond was quoted at 31.00/30 per cent yesterday, up from 30.75/31.00 per cent on Monday. A 15.09.2027 bond was quoted at 28.25/29.00 per cent, up from 28.10/60 per cent from Monday. The Sri Lanka rupee opened at 322/327 against the US dollar, steady from 322/325 a day earlier, Central Bank sources said.

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SLT-MOBITEL shines at Effie Awards 2022



Reiterating its commitment in demonstrating innovative campaigns that have not only set a benchmark in the industry, but also contributed to making a difference for consumers at large, SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider was bestowed with two Bronze and a Merit award at the Effie Awards 2022 held recently. SLT-MOBITEL was the sole Telco provider to win awards under the Internet/Telecom category.

Organized by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM), the Effie Awards Sri Lanka edition is part of the world-renowned international awards programme, recognising all forms of effective local marketing communications that contribute to a brand’s success. The coveted event is highly anticipated and celebrated by the marketing fraternity, both locally and globally, as the most distinguished honour in the industry. The Effie Awards Sri Lanka 2022 marked its 13th edition and focused on the creative work and effectiveness of campaigns during turbulent times.

SLT-MOBITEL campaigns that won Bronze awards were the ‘Triple Buddy and ‘Non-Stop Lokka’. For the SLT-MOBITEL Mobile Triple Buddy campaign’ the company introduced a competitively priced bundle for most famous social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube, thus targeting teens and young adults. Adding to the resounding success of the campaign was the company’s brand ambassador, Falan Andrea. Her immense social media following was utilized to spread the message along with SLT-MOBITEL’s integrated media rollout which targeted every person from across Sri Lanka.

In addition, the Nostop Lokka, campaign for SLT-MOBITEL Mobile addressed competitor pressure on data access and apps. ‘Non-Stop Lokka’, offered nine (09) apps, enabling customers from all categories to connect with the most famous social media applications in a hassle-free manner. The campaign was immensely successful, with outstanding results and continued during the year positioning SLT-MOBITEL as an innovative leader.

SLT-MOBITEL Fixed received the Merit Award for its campaign SLT-MOBITEL Fibre under the theme ‘Revolutionizing the Internet with SLT-MOBITEL Fibre’. SLT-MOBITEL, recently enhanced its Fibre facility, which is Sri Lanka’s first, fastest and widest premium connectivity bandwidth to 200Mbps download speed and 100Mbps upload speed. It made the customer experience uninterrupted, with instant downloading and uploading, even with multiple devices. Also, streaming videos or watch other livestreams in Ultra HD, enjoying lowest latency for gaming and providing crystal clear UHD picture quality for PeoTV were the value additions to SLT-MOBITEL Fibre users.

Conceptualizing and partnering SLT-MOBITEL for the campaigns were Phoenix Ogilvy and Ogilvy Media.

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