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Foreign investors urged not to be dissuaded by Moody’s erroneous stance on Sri Lanka

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In response to recent Moody’s ratings, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka issued the following statement.

We observe, with disappointment, the rating downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service and the recent release of an erroneous analysis by an international investment bank expressing concern s about Sri Lanka’s economic and financial strength and external debt service capacity.

This downgrade and the report failed to do justice to the ground reality of the ongoing rapid economic recovery backed by vastly improved business confidence arising from the return of political and policy stability after a lapse of five years. Such announcement is also unwarranted especially at a time when the new Government is about to announce its Budget for 2021, spelling out the policy framework proposed in the medium term.

While Sri Lanka too like many of its peers in the emerging market group, experienced initial capital outflows, exchange rate depreciation, slowdown in activity, and pressure on government finances, in response to the effects of COVID-19 pandemic, unlike many of its peers, the country has been able to decisively deal with the domestic spread of the pandemic, for which Sri Lanka is hailed as one of the few countries to have been able to do so. The swiftness with which decisions were taken followed. by the landslide vi story of the Government, Sri Lanka is now moving along a recovery path towards growth and stability.

Merchandise exports have returned to pre-COVID monthly avers ges of US dollars 1 billion. With the curtailment of non- essential imports, the trade deficit has improved notably. Although inbound tourist movements are not yet allowed, other services exports, including IT services and shipping, remain robust. Workers’ remittances have recorded a sharp increase in spite of the initial expectation of a slowdown. Amidst the COVID response the Government also initiated reforms in State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and the Impact of such actions can be seen already with some SOE’s showing positive results.

Foreign Direct Investments, which slowed in the first half of the year, appear promising looking ahead, particularly with the expected inflows to the Port City project and for new manufacturing projects. The expected finalization of new legislation for the Port City within a month will result in the realization of investment by those who have already completed due diligence on such investment. Other expected investments include import alternative industries as well as investments by international financial institutions. With regard to portfolio flows, foreign inflows to the government securities market have already shown signs of resumption. The stock market indices have improved to pre-COVJD levels.

The tourism sector has been supported by the flourishing domestic tourism. With increased emphasis on domestic agriculture, agro-based industries and resource-based industries, domestic economic activity has seen a remarkable turnaround with more opportunities being created for entrepreneurs to flourish, and available economic indicators point towards a promis ing recovery in the second half of the year, following the setback in the first half.

Given these developments, the exchange rate has sharply appreciated since mid-April, and remains stable at appreciated levels allowing the Central Bank to accumulate reserves through market purchases of foreign exchange. In fact, official reserves of the Central Bank increased to US dollars 7.4 billion by end August 2020, and the Government has repeatedly expressed its ability and willingness to meet all its debt obligations falling due in the period ahead. The recently introduced measures to entice foreign investors to the government securities market and the real economy through an attractive foreign exchange swap arrangement are likely to help enhance foreign currency inflows, in addition to the support of friendly countries, such as the swap arrangement with the Reserve Bank of India in July 2020 and the expected disbursement of the 21 1<1 tr anche of the Foreign Currency Term Financing Facility proceeds from the China Development Bank in October 2020.

Sri Lanka’s policy environment remains facilitative of enabling high economic growth beyond the recovery phase while preserving macroeconomic stability. On the back of over 11 years of well anchored mid-single dig it levels of inflation, the Central Bank has pursued an increasingly accommodative monetary policy stance. Fiscal policy, while remaining focused on supporting the economy, will return to a path of consolidation as envisaged in the Government’s policy framework, “Vistas of Prosperity and Splend our”. Hence, both fiscal and monetary policies have prioritized supporting people, businesses and thereby the economy, without jeopardizing the ma croeconomic balance of the country.

Given these circumstances, the Government of Sri Lanka wishes to reaffirm to foreign investors that ha ve put faith in Sri Lanka continuously over the past several years that Sri Lanka remains willing and able to meet its debt obligations, as it has done impeccably in the past. In fact, Sri Lanka is one of the few countries to have recognized the external sector pressures and decisively curtailed all non- essential imports with a view to prioritize external debt service obligations.

Furthermore, the press release added that all payment transactions for the repayment of the International Sovereign Bond of US dollars 1 billion maturing on 04 October 2020 have already been lined up and funds will be credited to the paying agent’s account on 02 October 2020. It is puzzling that Moody’s has downgraded Sri Lanka on the eve of this repayment, which seems similar to the previous premature and reckless downgrades by rating agencies in the immediate aftermath of the en d of the internal conflict in 2009 and during the political impasse at end 2018.

Accordingly, foreign investors are invited not to be dissuaded by the recent unwarranted rating downgrade and the erroneous analysis published recklessly, but to be guided by improving economic conditions as outlined above. As in the past, any investor can approach the Ministry of Finance, the State Ministry of Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, and the highest level officials of these entities remain committed to facilitate any one-on-one or roadshow d is cussions with investors.

In addition, the Government will commence regular roadshows to strengthen investor relations following the announcement of the National Budget in November 2020, which will provide further clarity on the Government’s medium term fiscal and financing plans.

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realme dares to leap into Sri Lankan youth market with cutting edge devices

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realme, the world’s fastest-growing smartphone brand, launched its products in Sri Lanka on the November 23. The virtual launch event took place with the participation of Chanux bro and realme Sri Lanka team where benchmark, trendsetting realme products were introduced to the Sri Lankan market.

The launch expands the reach of the fastest smartphone brand to reach 50 million product sales worldwide, to a brand new market with young users looking for the very best in technology and smart devices. Ranked among the Top 5 brands in over 13 markets globally in just two years of operation, realme is ranked seventh globally. Proclaiming it will ‘dare to leap’, realme identifies with young people who are willing to take a risk, and has launched four cutting edge products to the Sri Lanka market, set to exceed expectations.

realme 7 – sharper captures and cooler gaming with faster charges

realme 7 grabs the imagination of the youth with a 64MP Quad Camera with Sony IMX682 sensor for sharper captures, the World’s First MediaTek Helio G95 Gaming Processor for cool gaming and a 30W Dart Charge, taking just 26 mins to get 5000mAh battery 50% Charged. The sleek smartphone comes with a 6.5-inch 90Hz Ultra Smooth Display with a 16MP In-display Selfie Camera and Starry Mode.

The first smartphone to have passed TÜV Rheinland Smartphone Reliability, realme 7 is the first in segment smartphone with the Sony 64MP Quad Camera.

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President to inaugurate CCC Sri Lanka Economic Summit

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Sri Lanka’s foremost economic summit will be inaugurated by Chief Guest Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on December 1. The summit is themed “Roadmap for Take-off: Driving a People Centric Economic Revival”. The President will also deliver the inaugural address.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, will launch the second phase of the summit on December 2 and participate in the VVIP session focused on “Empowering Take-off: Efficient Government and Progressive State Enterprises.”

The Inaugural session on December 1, commencing at 8.30am will feature addresses by keynote speaker Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs of the Republic of India and Guest of Honour Ajith Nivard Cabraal, State Minister of Money and Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms. Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya – chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce will deliver the welcome address.

The flagship summit will be held on a virtual format in compliance with health guidelines and will bring together key policymakers, business leaders as well as the input of top international thought leaders will come together to identify the steps in developing the pathway towards the accelerated and people centric revival of the country’s economy.

Participants may register for the entire two-day virtual summit, or pick the sessions of their choice, an opportunity offered for the first time. Registrations for the event are now open. For further information, please contact Niroshini on niroshini@chamber.lk or 0115588852; or Alikie on alikie@chamber.lk or 0115588805. (CCC)

 

 

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Central Bank’s policy rates decision to be driven by two options

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

The Central Bank will be reviewing its monetary policy stance on November 26. In this context, First Capital Research has put forward strong arguments both for and against an interest rate cut, in its Pre-Policy Analysis.

Making their argument against further relaxation in monetary policy First Capital said, “As a response to the measures taken by the government, private sector credit has improved to Rs. 87.4Bn in September while market liquidity reached Rs. 140 bn by 13th Nov indicating that there is surplus liquidity in the system. Moreover, the unemployment rate, which was at 5.7% in the 1Q2020 has declined to 5.4% in the second quarter. These indicators suggest that economic activity has remained steady without much deterioration in the 2Q. Except the GDP growth numbers, where the 2Q2020 figures are yet to be seen, other indicators are signifying a recovery, inquiring the need of further policy easing at the upcoming review”.

“In response to previous monetary easing measures implemented by CBSL, to bring down costs of borrowing of businesses and households, both market deposit and lending rates adjusted notably so far during the year. AWPR declined to historic lows in recent weeks, while banks’ lending rates also witnessed a downward adjustment in line with CBSL’s expectations. We believe that considering the recovery in the private credit and historic low levels in AWPR, there is no vital requirement for CBSL to provide a rate cut and to further bring down the market lending rates drastically”.

Their arguments for further relaxation in monetary policy was: “A thrust for development is the need of the current government. We estimate that Sri Lanka’s GDP would see its steepest contraction in history of -5.8% in 2020 following the unexpected contraction in 1Q GDP growth of -1.6% while 2Q GDP figures are yet to be seen. However, the government’s key drive is the development oriented economic growth which was spelt out through the budget 2021 as well. Accordingly, the government plans to reach 6% and above GDP growth during the next 5 years commencing from 2021. As we believe, a development-oriented budget coupled with further low interest rate environment can support the government’s medium-term goals. Therefore, the need to accelerate the GDP growth can be considered as a major factor favouring further policy easing at the upcoming review.”

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