Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka
by Sanath Nanayakkare
While it is correct to say that the cost of living is rising particularly in terms of food prices, the Central Bank observes that inflation is well anchored broadly within the target range of 4-6 per cent, Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka told the Island Financial Review (IFR) yesterday.
IFR put this query to the Central Bank as many people are often heard complaining about rising food prices adding that there is no mechanism in place to stem it. A consumer in Delgoda told this reporter that a grocery retailer who offers best prices in the area sells Nipuna Samba at Rs.117.50 a kilo, white sugar at Rs.126 a kilo, brown sugar at Rs. 134 a kilo and canned fish Mackerel at Rs. 260 and edible B-onion at Rs. 250 a kilo though the gazetted (regulated) prices for these essential food items are much lower than that. He had bought turmeric curry powder at Rs. 300 per 100grams.
“As you have observed, cost of living is rising though non-food prices are rising slowly. Maintaining inflation in the target range does not mean that cost of living does not increase”. Dr. Amarasekara said.
Elaborating on what he termed as a nationally important subject, he said, “The Central Bank observes that inflation is well anchored broadly within the target range of 4-6 per cent. Year-on-year inflation based on the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI) was at 4.8 per cent at end 2019 and remained at 4.0 per cent by October 2020. Year-on-year inflation based on the National Consumer Price Index (NCPI), which was at 6.2 per cent at end 2019, remained higher at 6.4 per cent by September 2020”.
“The above figures show that there is indeed inflation, displaying that cost of living is rising at these rates on average. For example, compared to prices of the representative consumption basket last year, prices are 4.0 per cent higher in October 2020 if you consider the CCPI basket. If you compare the NCPI basket, average prices are 6.4 per cent higher. However, what the Central Bank is aiming to do is to maintain these increases on average between 4-6 per cent on a year-on-year basis. From what we know from the Sri Lankan experience as well as experiences of other countries is that excessive inflation as well as deflation is not good for an economy, and this is why the Central Bank aims to maintain inflation between 4-6 per cent”.
“When you compare CCPI and NCPI, you will also notice that inflation is higher at the national level than in Colombo. This is because the food category in the consumption basket is relatively small in Colombo – people spend more on other goods – compared to the national average. You see that food prices have remained at high levels, and this is what people mostly feel as high inflation. In fact, if you consider food inflation in the CCPI basket, it was 6.3 per cent at end 2019, but was at 10 per cent in October 2020. Food inflation in terms of NCPI, which was 8.6 per cent at end 2019 has risen to 12.7 per cent by September 2020. Throughout 2020, food inflation has remained at double digit levels,” he said.
“The government is monitoring food inflation closely and has taken several measures to regulate prices of food supplies. In addition, the ongoing drive to promote domestic food production will also result in considerable gains in the period ahead, thereby allowing food inflation to subside”, Dr. Amarasekara said.
Meanwhile, a resident at Mount Lavinia told the IFR that retail grocery shops in the area face a supply disruption due to the prevailing situation in the country which has obviously led to increases in food prices.
A resident in Kottawa said,” Grocery shops here don’t have samba rice. They have enough stocks of Keeri Samba sold at Rs. 120 a kilo”.
An all-party government can’t fix the problem quickly, Harsha tells foreign media
* 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.
PM’s rising debt ratio statement hits share market; CSE drops by over 1 per cent
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
The CSE dropped by over 1 per cent within the first hour of trading yesterday in the wake of selling pressure from local and foreign investors stemming from the country’s prevailing political and social uncertainties. The pall of gloom over the market was compounded by a statement in parliament by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that Sri Lanka’s debt has shot up to 140 per cent of its gross domestic product.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka is making progress towards a 4- year Extended Fund Facility with the International Monetary Fund. “With the IMF we hope to reduce it (debt) to 95 per cent of GDP by 2032, Wickremesinghe said.
Sri Lanka’s government debt which was Rs17,580 billion by end 2021 rose to Rs21,969 billion in March 2022, he added.
Stock analysts said that Sri Lanka’s economic uncertainties are bound to be compounded by a potential global economic recession that would likely affect the US and Europe.
Amid those developments both indices showed a downward trend. The All- Share Price Index went down by 120.9 points and S and P SL20 declined by 55.6 points. Turnover stood at Rs 916 million, without any crossings.
In the retail market, top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs 330 million (four million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 121 million (740,000 shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 54.7 million (142,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 47.3 million (6.8 million shares traded), HNB Rs 36.6 million (459,000 shares traded), Elpitiya Plantations Rs 26.2 million (334,000 shares traded) and LOLC Finance Rs 23.3 million (3.7 million shares traded). During the day 52.5 million share volumes changed hands in 15000 share transactions.
Yesterday the Central Bank announced the US dollar rate. Its buying rate was Rs 355.95 and the selling rate Rs 367.29.
A guidance peg announced by the Central Bank for interbank transactions was steady at Rs 359.79 against the US dollar unchanged from a day earlier. On July 04, the guidance peg rate dropped 24 cents to Rs 359.79 against the US dollar.
Sri Lanka commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at rates between Rs 366.79 and Rs 370.00 for small transactions yesterday, unchanged from the previous day.
SLT-MOBITEL debuts ‘Traverse’ – Sri Lanka’s first Virtual City
A vibrant marketplace for the digital economy
Recognising the strategic value of leveraging disruptive technologies and harnessing service offerings from a diverse supplier base, SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider debuted ‘Traverse’, Sri Lanka’s first Virtual City at the ‘Wyawasaya-2022’ Trade and Educational Exhibition held recently.
Fashioned as a city of the future, Traverse will function integrating physical and digital experiences, operating in the metaverse with matchless potential for global and borderless collaboration.
‘Traverse’ aims to provide remarkable opportunities for growth and a platform for innovation while helping Sri Lankan businesses to increase their relevance and value in the fast-expanding digital economy.
The rapid evolution of emerging and exciting technologies such as virtual reality, virtual marketplaces, digital assets and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs is providing an effective platform to deliver unique consumer experiences and drive local economic growth.
‘Traverse’ will include a shopping complex, Banks, Virtual exhibition Centre, Film Hall, Gaming zone, Government e-counters, Art gallery, etc. Business owners can purchase or rent business assets from the categories available in the virtual marketspace based on their requirements.
Adding greater value for the local business community, the Virtual City will help businesses unlock strategic partnerships and boost profitability through untapped revenue streams. Moreover, local businesses will be able to reach global audiences through cost-effective, scalable, and measurable techniques that require low investment and reduced maintenance costs. An added advantage of the Virtual City is creating a global marketplace for Sri Lankan products and services.
Recognised as a true differentiator steering digital transformation, SLT-MOBITEL is driving the country’s first experience of a virtual city by creating a crowded environment. Benefits include long-lasting exposure to an expansive market, facilitating real-time conversation using webinars and live chats, easy access on all platforms, flexibility to promote offerings together with access to trending analytics.
Unveiling the Virtual City, highlights SLT-MOBITEL’s role as an agile, innovative and digital-first provider of services, creating a dynamic roadmap with disruptive technologies driving the country’s first virtual marketplace forward.
SLT-MOBITEL invites stakeholders to collaborate and partner in this unique virtual space. For more details on ‘Traverse’ contact the hotline on 0112 389 389, WhatsApp 070 500 4000 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Web: https://traverse.lk
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