Connect with us

Business

Currency Board: A solution to Sri Lanka’s economic crisis?

Published

on

Figure 1: Behaviour of USDT Market in P2P Binance Trading Platform

By Dr Asanka Wijesinghe

On 08 March, Sri Lanka devalued the rupee against the US dollar, entering into a floating exchange rate regime. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka had to abandon the pegged exchange rate as defending the rupee with dwindling reserves was impossible. The inter-bank exchange rate shot up once the banks were assured that the exchange rate was floated. The initial shoot-up was followed by further rallying of the US dollar reaching close to Rs. 300 per USD. With the gradually weakening rupee, inflation is also ascending to worrisome levels calling for radical changes, including adopting a currency board. This article discusses the effectiveness and suitability of a currency board for Sri Lanka in the current macroeconomic context.

Weakening Rupee, Rising inflation, and the

Currency Board Solution

A currency board is a system that issues domestic banknotes in exchange for specific foreign currency – anchor currency like the USD which is used for trade with partner countries – at a constant rate. A cornerstone of the currency board mechanism is the authority’s ability to meet all demand for foreign currency by the holders of the domestic currency.

In Sri Lanka, even after the rupee was floated, reports suggest that an active kerb market with a significant premium above the inter-bank rate exists. While such market behaviour indicates an acute dollar shortage in the market and the equilibrium rate is further away, no official data exists on the kerb market money exchange. However, cryptocurrency platforms provide some critical insights. The Tether coin (USDT), which is closely pegged to the US dollar on a one-to-one basis, is traded for rupees on peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms as USDT is used as a medium to purchase other cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin.

Data extracted from the P2P platform medium of Binance – a popular cryptocurrency exchange among Sri Lankans – show some supporting evidence for the continually widening gap between official and informal rates again. Significantly, the premium over the official rate plummeted once the rupee was floated, but it gradually recovered to the pre-floated period (A and B panels of Figure 1). The number of sellers and the USDT volume available for sale also went up but riveted back to the levels of the pre-floated period (C and D panels of Figure 1).

The inflationary pressure also does not show any unwinding signs, further eroding people’s purchasing power. These developments encourage the adoption of a currency board as a currency board is believed to be a solution for rising inflation. By the inner mechanics of the currency boards, the independence of discretionary monetary policy is taken away, substituting a disciplined monetary policy – a gold standard without gold – which eliminates the inflationary bias. Indeed, empirical evidence exists in favour of the anti-inflationary effect of currency boards. The inflation rate is lower under currency boards than in pegged or floating rate regimes. Moreover, economies under currency boards grew faster than the average of countries with pegged regimes. However, empirically disentangling multiple influences to pinpoint the low inflation on the currency board is an excruciating task.

Another selling point of the currency board is the fiscal discipline, as currency board regulations prohibit direct monetary financing of government expenditures. A high budget deficit in Sri Lanka and excessive government borrowings from the Central Bank make the fiscal-discipline effect of currency boards much more appealing. Empirical evidence points to low fiscal deficits or larger surpluses under currency board regimes.

Source: Author’s illustration using Binance data

Challenges in Adopting a Currency Board

A significant drawback of a currency board is the need to surrender the monetary policy independence required for managing asymmetric shocks. Such loss is costly when the anchor currency country responds to cyclical conditions, which are different from the prevailing conditions in the country operating the currency board. For example, Hong Kong’s currency board imported low-interest rates from the US in the early 1990s. Such monetary easing was appropriate for the US, but Hong Kong faced an asset price boom that called for monetary tightening. A counterargument against the negative impact of losing monetary policy is the availability of fiscal policy at the operating country’s disposal. However, the maneuverability of fiscal policy is determined by the fiscal and debt positions. In Sri Lanka’s context, the high debt to GDP ratio and fiscal deficits might restrict the use of fiscal policy for pump-priming-stimulating the economy in a recessionary period- due to the fear of losing investor confidence in debt sustainability. Thus, international evidence shows that countries with hard pegged exchange rate regimes generally tighten their fiscal policy in a recession. The Argentinian attempts to bring down the deficit in a recession in 2000 proved to be disastrous.

Sri Lanka’s high indebtedness will also challenge installing a currency board. Once a threat of a possible default looms, the interest rates soar, and refinancing debt will be increasingly difficult. In addition, the operating country needs reserves to back the monetary base in a currency board. In a currency board, the board must continually convert domestic currency for the anchor currency at a constant rate. It should be noted that the reserve level of Sri Lanka has dwindled over time in the recent past. Another drawback of currency boards is the requirement of real sector changes to compensate for the exchange rate deviations. For example, if the anchor currency appreciates against Sri Lanka’s main trading partners, wages should fall to compensate for the increase in foreign consumer prices, restoring competitiveness. Such an exercise needs greater flexibility in the labour markets. Thus, the flexibility of labour markets is a key to the sustainability of currency boards. The political feasibility of the institutional attempts to ease labour market regulations is highly doubtful.

Against this backdrop, the decision to install a currency board should be taken after a careful cost-benefit analysis. A currency board will be helpful to stabilise inflation in the short run but in the long run, Sri Lanka will be better off with a more flexible exchange rate regime. In addition, the benefits of a currency board are not exclusive. For example, fiscal discipline should be stronger in flexible exchange rate regimes as fiscal policy effects are reflected immediately and more transparently. Thus, if Sri Lanka enters into a currency board to stabilise inflation and domestic currency, it needs to contemplate an exit strategy. Generally, it is advisable to leave a currency board when the economy recovers. The requirement to surrender monetary independence and the inability to finance government expenditure under a currency board might reduce the political preference for such a system.



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business

Dialog Smart Home Enables Seamless Home Automation via Range of Intuitive Solutions 

Published

on

Dialog Axiata PLC, Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, introduced a range of convenient and integrated solutions via ‘Dialog Smart Home’ to enable intelligent automation and intuitive control of homes.

The newly introduced range of future-fit smart home solutions by Dialog Smart Home ranges from Home Automation, Home Security & Surveillance and Home Connectivity, and are designed to enable any home to work as one harmonious system where all elements work in tandem together to create a truly intelligent home.

The Home Automation solutions offer homeowners seamless and convenient control of their electronic appliances through their smartphones anytime, anywhere. With the Smart Touch Wall Switches, Smart Power Strips and Smart Fan Controllers, homeowners can take control of existing light bulbs, table fans, rice cookers, chargers, ceiling fans and more appliances. Additionally, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered TeDi Alexa Solution enables users to control connected smart devices including TVs, air conditioners, home security systems and more through voice commands.

Home Security & Surveillance solutions transform basic cameras into high-powered CCTV solutions. Baby and house monitoring smart cameras can be placed inside homes to keep a 360-degree eye on children and pets. The Indoor Security Camera has the ability to sound a siren and notify users if a stranger enters their home. Dialog Smart Home has also partnered with Singer to offer customers world-renowned Dahua CCTV solutions.

The Home Connectivity solutions offers consumers Wi-Fi extenders to facilitate uninterrupted internet connectivity across the house to fit the homeowner’s lifestyle and requirements.

Continue Reading

Business

CBSL implements extraordinary measures to support banking sector

Published

on

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka, considering the prevailing macroeconomic conditions and its impact on the banking sector, has decided to implement the following regulatory measures to support the banking sector to facilitate effective financial intermediation and the flow of credit to the economy, whilst ensuring the soundness of the banking sector.

• Sri Lankan banking sector maintains a Capital Conservation Buffer (CCB) of 2.5% to ensure that banks have an additional layer of usable capital that can be drawn down during stress times. An industry wide flexibility is granted for banks to drawdown the CCB (up to 2.5%), if needed, subject to restrictions on distribution to shareholders/ repatriation of profits and submission of a capital augmentation plan to rebuild CCB during a period up to three years.

• The current deadline for licensed banks to meet the enhanced minimum capital requirement (31.12.2022) is extended up to 31.12.2023. Licensed banks which are unable to meet the minimum capital requirement by 31.12.2022, need to submit their capital augmentation plan, including plans to consolidate or merge with suitable financial institutions, by 31.12.2022 and these licensed banks too shall refrain from distribution of dividends/ repatriation of profits until the minimum capital requirement is met.

• Licensed banks are encouraged to move to approaches such as The Standardised Approach (TSA) or alternative TSA for computation of risk weighted assets for operational risk for the purposes of computing the Capital Adequacy Ratio, subject to supervisory review.

• Licensed banks are given the flexibility to stagger the unrealised mark to market loss on Government Securities denominated in LKR on account of the recent interest rate hike for Capital Adequacy purposes until Q2 of 2024, subject to conditions.

• Licensed banks are granted flexibility on the treatment for Other Comprehensive Income (OCI) for Capital Adequacy purpose in line with the International Standards.

• The deadline for licensed banks to submit the document on Internal Capital Adequacy Assessment Process (ICAAP) for 2022, to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka is extended by one month, until 30.06.2022.

• As a short-term measure to support licensed banks to adjust their liquidity profiles, licensed banks are provided with the flexibility to operate maintaining the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) and Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) not lower than 90% up to 30.09.2022. Furthermore, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, on 06 May 2022 decided to restrict certain discretionary payments of licensed banks, such as declaring cash dividends and repatriation of profits, until the financial statements for the year 2022 are audited by its External Auditor, engaging in share buy backs, increasing management allowances and payments to the Board of Directors until 31 December 2022 with a view to strengthening the liquidity and capital positions of licensed banks under these exceptional circumstances.

The above measures were introduced with the aim of providing the licensed banks with more flexibility and opportunities to operate in these challenging conditions and support economic recovery, while taking measures to improve their safety and soundness. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka will periodically review the implementation of these policy measures and expects licensed banks to avail these measures in the best interest of the customers and the economy at large, while supporting the banking sector to remain resilient.

Continue Reading

Business

CEAT official tyre supplier for locally assembled Tata Ace HT 

Published

on

CEAT Kelani Holdings has been appointed as the official tyre supplier for Tata Ace HT series compact trucks which are assembled in Sri Lanka by DIMO in collaboration with India’s largest automobile manufacturer TATA Motors.

 CEAT RHINO PLUS TL tyres in the size of 155R12 8PR, manufactured at the CEAT Kelani plant in Kelaniya are used for the TATA Ace HT series vehicles, popularly known in Sri Lanka as “DIMO Batta” under this project. The locally manufactured CEAT RHINO PLUS TL tyre features a zig zag pattern on its circumference and ribs with lateral notches that contribute towards uniformity and better wear and tear on local roads.

 Commenting on this latest OEM agreement of the company, CEAT Kelani Holdings Managing Director Mr. Ravi Dadlani said: “As a brand that has been at the forefront of local value addition in Sri Lanka, CEAT is excited to contribute further to the process through its association with this assembly operation. This is particularly relevant in the prevailing situation in the domestic market. We are able to provide high-quality tyres engineered for local conditions at competitive prices and ensure uninterrupted supply, while at the same time helping to conserve foreign exchange.”

In January this year, CEAT was appointed as an OEM for a range of heavy-duty trucks, tippers and light commercial vehicles assembled in Sri Lanka by Lanka Ashok Leyland PLC (LAL), a joint venture company of Ashok Leyland India. In November 2021 the brand was chosen as the OEM for Bolero City Pik-up vehicles assembled in Sri Lanka by Mahindra & Mahindra India in collaboration with Ideal Motors.

Continue Reading

Trending