by Sanath Nanayakkare
A recap of remarks at a recent webinar hosted by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka made it evident that both fiscal and monetary authorities are in a mood for increased tax collection and reduced public spending in the medium term in order to reduce the burgeoning budget deficit in 2021.
Responding to a question from the audience whether the policymakers would take a path of revenue based consolidation in this backdrop, Mahinda Siriwardana, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank said,” You can see that as per the medium term policy framework presented by the Central Bank, revenue is expected to increase gradually and at the same time overall expenditure is expected to go down. It will be a kind of combination of revenue enhancing and expenditure reduction measures as has been announced by the government.”
“As a result, the expectation is to have improvements in both the Current Account and the Primary Account going forward. So these could be the main driving forces in the future in order to reduce the budget deficit, So I’d say the mechanism will be a combination of these two metrics.”
“There was an increase in the budget deficit in 2020. It reflected two things. There was a decline in revenue and at the same time there was an unexpected increase in the recurrent expenditure due to the ongoing pandemic. You know that the government introduced significant changes to the country’s tax policy in 2019 – the idea behind that was to encourage the economic activity. By maintaining a low tax regime in the country. However, the expectations were not entirely met given the subsequent developments, particularly due to Covid-19 and related developments. There was a 3.6% contraction in the economy. That had an impact on the expected revenue generation. At the same time there was an overrun in the recurrent expenditure as well. So the response to your question is in the Central Bank’s medium term framework,” the Deputy Governor said.
According to the Annual Report of the Central Bank, due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the fiscal outcome deviated from expectations as reflected in the decline of the government revenue and a rise in government recurrent expenditure, thereby widening the budget deficit and raising the outstanding central government debt. Heavy reliance on domestic sources in financing the budget deficit in 2020 reflected the impact of extremely challenging global market conditions that limited access to foreign financing, and the expressed preference of the government to reduce the reliance on foreign financing.
Despite the limited fiscal space in 2020, the government, under extremely challenging circumstances, continued to support the businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic. Going forward, near term risks to the fiscal sector could remain elevated due to low revenue mobilisation and the large foreign currency debt service requirements. Persistent deviations of the budget deficit and the elevated level of outstanding central government debt warrant a firm commitment towards fiscal consolidation as envisaged in the National Policy Framework of the government, the CBSL Annual Report states.
CSE planning new product lines to attract investors in greater numbers
By Lynn Ockersz
The CSE is planning to attract a greater number of investors to the stock market this year through the introduction of some new product lines. In order to increase the choice of instruments available to equity investors, the CSE intends to focus in the immediate term on instruments, such as, stock borrowing and lending and regulated short-selling, CSE CEO Rajeeva Bandaranaike said.
The latter instruments would help in generating more liquidity and trading among equity investors, not only in instances when the market is on its way up but also in a declining market as well, CEO Bandaranaike told The Island Financial Review in an exclusive interview recently.
The CEO also said that the CSE is aiming at leveraging the corporate debt market through the initiation of some new products. For example, Green Bonds, Perpetual Bonds and the facilitation of secondary trading of corporate bonds via repo trading.
Asked to indicate as to how these instruments would help the bourse going forward, Mr. Bandaranaike said that stock borrowing and lending, for instance, would facilitate and enable regulated short selling which will have the effect of increasing liquidity and trading among all categories of equity investors.
This will create opportunities for traders to make use of market volatility. Besides, investors holding long term portfolios could lend their stock and earn an interest with least effort on their part.
Asked to elaborate on the importance of Green Bonds, the CEO said that institutional investors in particular are currently focusing on ESG projects; that is, investors that are sensitive to environmental, social and governance concerns. Accordingly, the CSE would be catering to some important investor needs through the latter projects.
Meanwhile, in response to the question on how the digitization initiatives of the CSE have helped in ushering a more robust share market in Sri Lanka, CSE’s Chief Information Officer Chandrakanth Jayasinghe said it is the aim of the CSE to give progressive digital exposure to investors. There are two dimensions to be considered here the CIO said. First, more and more important features have been added to the CSE’s digital mobile App over the last two years.
The CIO added: ‘A revamped mobile App is now at hand to enable quicker and informed investment decisions. All the information required by the investor is now available via this App to enable him to enter the market. For example, we are linked to the Department of Registration of Persons. Digital on-boarding and digital signing etc have been enabled via the app. On a full digital basis investors can now interact with the CSE.
‘The investor is now connected to the CDS E-Connect via the CSE and the investor could access his/her stock portfolio, for instance, and access his/her monthly statements. They could also make changes to their profiles such their address changes via the mobile App. Research reports of brokers could be accessed by the same means, nominations could be effected through the same mechanism. It’s a total change: a 360-degree info hub has been created through the App.
‘Secondly, the CSE is a more agile digital organization. For instance, most of our back-end functions are fully robotized. AI is used in many operations. We use AI for compliance operations.
‘We are saddled with very much less paperwork. Over 90% of all account openings are effected through our mobile App. Most paper-based formalities have been done away with.’
SriLankan Airlines unveils new and improved mobile App
SriLankan Airlines has unveiled a new and improved mobile app that is designed for optimum user-friendliness. The enhanced app will afford customers greater ease and flexibility in managing their flight bookings, purchasing value-added services, enrolling for a FlySmiLes account and performing a variety of other tasks.
The new app provides greater autonomy for Customers through added features that are exclusive to the app. Customers will be able to choose their in-flight meal; reserve seats; change travel dates and sectors; buy value added services such as excess baggage, travel insurance and duty-free items; and check-in for flights well in advance.
The ability to manage flight bookings, even while on the move, remains entirely with passengers who will be empowered to exercise greater control in shaping their journey independently and dynamically. Customers’ in-app experience is inclined to be further enhanced with the new ‘My Trips’ feature. My Trips will organize and present important information that a customer requires for an upcoming flight in a timely fashion on the app’s homepage.
The homepage includes other up-to-minute information on the flight schedule and allows users to search and stay on top of the departure and arrival times of flights. Customers can also stay updated and not miss out on the latest deals and promotional fares.
Brandix Manusathkara Thilina 2022
Brandix Apparel Ltd., gave hope to 16,824 children of the Brandix family by gifting them school essentials including stationery and schoolbags necessary for the new school year, under its ‘Manusathkara Thilina’ 2022 initiative recently.
Understanding the current need to support our team members, especially during the current crisis of rising stationery costs, the children of 10,933 Brandix Associates were recipients of Brandix’s unstinting efforts to inspire and support education for all. The 2022 programme is being held for the 7th consecutive year where children from pre-school to Grade 13 received stationery packs.
Malika Samaraweera, Group Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Brandix Apparel noted, “The beginning of the new school year is eagerly anticipated and exciting for all students. However, we realise that our employees, who are the backbone of our enterprise, are facing a daunting challenge to provide their children these essential items. We firmly believe in taking care of our communities and this year’s Manusathkara Thilina programme ensures these children have the tools and opportunity to learn and grow.”
Begun in 2016, the Manusathkara School Essentials initiative seeks to drive home the importance of education among the children of Brandix employees. To-date, over 37,000 children have benefitted from the programme. The educational hampers gifted to the children comprise of stationery and other school necessities, enabling their success for the foreseeable future.
With the aim of driving social sustainability, the inspired team at Brandix continues their work towards Equal Opportunity and the Right to Education for All. Recognising that today’s challenges are wide-ranging and incredibly tough for many families, the school essential packs will enrich the lives of the beneficiary children and sustain their school education.
Supporting Sri Lanka’s aspiring youth towards continuity in their education, Brandix has also initiated an annual scholarship scheme under its ‘Manusathkara University Scholarship’ programme. Children who are high performers in the Advanced Level Examinations within the Brandix Model Villages are awarded scholarships to pursue their higher education and contribute towards Sri Lanka’s future workforce. The ‘Model Village’ concept was developed by Brandix to support the wellbeing of communities within a 10km radius of the company’s facilities.
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