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Real question is not whether SL should go to IMF or not: Verité Research

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‘ Sri Lanka makes the mistake of letting IMF write a plan for the country’

by Sanath Nanayakkare

The real question is not whether Sri Lanka should go to the IMF or not. What is important is going to the IMF with confidence after having analysed the fiscal situation, with a convincing plan, Executive Director of Verité Research Dr. Nishan de Mel said in Colombo recently.

He made this remark at a CEOs Forum hosted by CA Sri Lanka to provide clarity on the current debt situation, whilst also helping the business community gain a better understanding on the government’s strategy and way forward to navigate through the ongoing situation.

State Minister of Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal, was the guest speaker and the panel session brought together eminent speakers comprising of Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Professor W. D. Lakshman, Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Vish Govindasamy, [Executive Director of Verité Research (Pvt) Ltd Dr. Nishan de Mel], and Managing Director of Fitch Rating Agency Maninda Wickramasinghe.

Dr. Nishan de Mel further said: “For instance, when you go to a bank with a business idea to take out a loan, the bank says, ‘give me your plan’. But if you get the credit officer to write the plan for you it won’t be appropriate. The mistake Sri Lanka makes is letting the IMF write that plan for the country because the country doesn’t have one. The crux of the matter is; the credit officer shouldn’t write the plan. The country should present the plan and convince the credit officer that the plan has the potential to work out – a plan backed by an analysis that can win the confidence of the lender. That’s the structured way to obtain an IMF facility for Sri Lanka. I do hope that we can take that path.”

“The Central Bank may have a different approach to analyzsng the situation – I think publishing that analysis would be very valid because that is a test of some scrutiny and others would be able to look at it – that is a way to give confidence. I completely accept that there is no one way to analyse the situation and determine the approaches we can take, but it is important to make the chosen approach public.”

“The government and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) are on the right path with regard to reducing the ratio of foreign debt to domestic debt, but the greater reliance placed on domestic financing too quickly would be like running a marathon too fast as it could burn out the accelerated shift.”

“On the other hand, we might not have the option of being too slow on this aspect as rating agencies are downgrading and the markets are observing. Amid this we have to build confidence. These are very concerning which is why I say it is not too late for Sri Lanka to realign its strategy to get out of the problem and to keep its debt sustainable while making sure we won’t run into a liquidity crisis.”

“Verité’s own analysis shows that there are four steps that can make debt repayment more sustainable and a fifth step to avoid a reserve crisis which people are worried about.”

“Number 1; the interest rates on local debt can be no higher than inflation which I think we have probably achieved. The Central Bank has had a larger tolerance for inflation and it will end up in 6.5% range, and interest rates on local debt have been brought down which is an important part of the function. I t will take some time for all the government debt to reflect that lower rate, but that in reality is the right path. However, it’s a cost to society because inflation is costly in terms of real returns from your bank balances or investments.”

“Secondly, interest rates on foreign denominated loans can’t be higher than GDP growth There also Sri Lanka is well placed because even though we talk about having a large amount of commercial debt, the history of concessional debt is so high that our weighted average interest rate on foreign denominated debt is still only 3.9%, and going forward with a growth of about 4%, we can maintain that. Being able to maintain the interest on that percentage rate for foreign denominated loans is favourable for Sri Lanka.”

“Then there are two other conditions that Sri Lanka needs to do more about. One is the primary deficit- that is the deficit after paying interest- which should be less than 60% of GDP growth – that means if the GDP growth is 5%, primary deficit can’t be more than 3%. If we are expecting a lower GDP growth this time; say a growth of 3.3%, then the primary deficit can’t be more than 3%. So we really have to control that and bring it down. And it is very important to report those numbers correctly to give the markets that confidence. This still allows for a budget deficit in the high single digits because our total interest on debt is over 6% of GDP. This is not drastic, but it says that deficit has to be in the mid single digits. If we want to maintain the deficit, we need to be able to manage the upper single digits with a doable plan.”

The fourth is that depreciation of the currency can be no higher than inflation, and that brings us to the fifth step because currency depreciation today is not based on the fundamental mismatch in global crisis vs Sri Lankan crisis. From 2015 to 2019, one of the major important adjustments made was, to bring it to what you call the real exchange rate. Sri Lanka’s exchange rate until 2015 was significantly over valued. Even though depreciation hurt, the adjustment brought stability. That was an important alignment. That alignment is still sort of in place but today because of the uncertainty about the reserves, you see a speculative exchange rate- and that simply puts pressure on depreciation.”, he said.

 

 



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DFCC Bank’s Ranwarama pawning facility lends a helping hand to those with urgent cash requirements

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DFCC Bank has increased the advances of its “DFCC Ranwarama” Pawning Facility as a solution for families to meet their urgent cash requirements as many families are experiencing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has had a significant impact on the Sri Lankan economy.

Through this scheme, all Sri Lankan citizens over 18 years of age with the contractual capacity to declare themselves as owners of the articles can now pawn gold or gold jewellery. DFCC Bank accepts jewellery made of 18 Karat -24 Karat gold, with the articles being assayed using the latest available equipment. Items of 24 Karate will hold an advanced value of LKR 82,000/-, while 22 Karat pieces will hold an advanced value of LKR 68,000/- at an interest rate of 0.75% per month. Those who engage in these transactions are provided a maximum of 12 months to settle the pawning advances at their convenience.

DFCC Bank’s Ranwarama Pawning Facility offers many other special features including the highest advance amount at competitive rates of interest, confidentiality and guaranteed security for the articles, flexible payment plans with redemption options when required and redemption without prior notification. All of these facilities are available with no hidden charges, offering customers the best service available in the market.

You may visit a DFCC Bank branch closest to you to transact or visit the Bank’s website at www.dfcc.lk for further information. Customers can also contact DFCC Bank’s 24-hour contact center on +94(11)2350000 for further inquiries.

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HSBC Sri Lanka recognised as the Best Consumer Digital Bank by Global Finance

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HSBC has been recognised as the Best Consumer Digital Bank in Sri Lanka for 2021 by Global Finance at the World’s Best Consumer Digital Banks Awards in Asia-Pacific. While this is the bank’s fourth award win for this year, this also marks the 13th time that HSBC Sri Lanka has been named the Best Consumer Digital Bank, since 2006.

HSBC Sri Lanka is also the only market in Asia Pacific to win the prestigious award this year.

According to Global Finance, the global health crisis accelerated the need for digital and contact-free solutions by banks in helping create safe and efficient banking services for customers. HSBC Sri Lanka was quick to react in supporting customers in providing seamless digital bank offerings in an increasingly demanding environment, while ensuring customers have a secure banking service with a full spectrum of client-centric banking services.

Through its wealth of digital capabilities and offerings, HSBC allowed customers to adopt a mobile-first approach, and provide them with faster, easier and more secure banking services 24/7. The bank introduced a virtual on boarding capability for account opening, loans and credit cards supported by Adobe Live Sign, eKYC and virtual PINs to provide a seamless on boarding experience for customers. HSBC also offers credit card activation through SMS and an e2e virtual registration process for online banking, offering a virtual banking experience.

In Sri Lanka more than 90% of its personal customers now use digital channels including mobile banking, e-wallets, real-time cash deposit machines and other digital services.

Nadeesha Senaratne, Country Head of Wealth & Personal Banking said, “We are truly honoured to be named the Best Consumer Digital Bank in Sri Lanka for 2021 by Global Finance in recognition of our digital capabilities, and delivering important everyday services and features that customers need and expect. As a leading international bank, we are putting the power of our bank in every customer’s pocket, with easier and more secure digital banking. We want to take the hassle out of everyday banking, and enable customers to easily manage their money online, from opening a new account in a few clicks, to making real time payments and accessing credit.”

Senaratne added: “We’re also blending the power of technology with the expertise of our people and empowering our frontline teams with the latest data and insights tools, to be better-equipped to check customer satisfaction in the moment, to understand, and respond to their evolving needs and give customers excellent service.”

Winners were selected by a world-class panel of judges and entries were judged based on the strength of strategy for attracting and servicing digital customers, success in getting clients to use digital offerings, growth of digital customers, breadth of product offerings and evidence of tangible benefits gained from digital initiatives.

Earlier this year, HSBC Sri Lanka was also named International Bank of the Year by Asiamoney and Finance Asia respectively, and International Retail Bank of the Year by Asian Banking & Finance.

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BoardPAC appointed Strategic Partner of Commonwealth’s Business Network – CWEIC

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BoardPAC, the Sri Lanka-based multinational Board meeting automation solutions company, has been appointed a Strategic Partner of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), the organisation officially mandated by the Commonwealth Heads of Government to promote trade and investment between the 54 Commonwealth member countries.

This prestigious appointment will see CWEIC relying on BoardPAC’s award-winning solutions to conduct board and committee meetings with members and maintain relationships across the Commonwealth network at a time when the global pandemic’s complete disruption of business activity has resulted in a surge in the demand for efficient board meeting automation.

The Company said the partnership will also effectively promote the BoardPAC platform to new users and facilitate its expansion into new territories and focus markets. BoardPAC already has a global user base in excess of 50,000 and a presence in more than 40 countries.

Noting that BoardPAC’s latest partnership serves as yet another testament to the quality of its solutions, BoardPAC Co-Founder/CEO, Lakmini Wijesundera stated: “Our growth plan includes expanding our worldwide network, and our strategic alliance with CWEIC will strongly help us extend our presence into Commonwealth territories. The strategic cooperation between CWEIC and BoardPAC is especially relevant in light of the worldwide pandemic, and the emerging need for secure remote working and filling the void in virtual board meetings.”

CWEIC Chairman, Rt. Hon. Lord Jonathan Marland said: “We are looking forward to work closely with BoardPAC. The alliance will not only help CWEIC to conduct virtual board meetings securely and safely, but also align ourselves with all governance, risk and compliance as well as environmental, social, and governance frameworks.” Echoing this sentiment, CWEIC Deputy Chair, Sir Hugo Swire stated: “We are excited to partner with BoardPAC and extend modern digital governance and compliance solutions to organisations operating in the Commonwealth.”

Disclosing that BoardPAC’s excellent track record inspired confidence within the CWEIC to implement its solution on a global scale, CWEIC Chief Executive, Samantha Cohen CVO added: “We’re delighted that BoardPAC, one of the most renowned virtual board meeting automation providers in the world, joined our network of Strategic Partners. BoardPAC will add significant value to our board and committee meetings, allowing the CWEIC to conduct meetings with its members throughout the Commonwealth more effectively. The partnership also demonstrates the opportunities within the Commonwealth, and the confidence businesses have towards the Commonwealth and CWEIC.”

A commercial, not-for-profit membership organisation, the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council’s network includes around 100 business and government Strategic Partners (members) including Standard Chartered, Zenith Bank, Trade & Investment Queensland and the Government of the Maldives from 30 countries and territories. Every two years, CWEIC hosts the Commonwealth Business Forum in association with the host country of The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

BoardPAC is an award winning, multinational, paperless board meeting automation solutions provider, recognised for driving simple, secure, sustainable and experiential communications for Board and Executive members. Leading corporates such as Petronas, Deloitte, EY, Mercedes Benz, Prudential, Hong Leong Group, Stock Exchange of Malaysia, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Bombay Stock Exchange, Bank Negara, Maybank, Power Grid Corporation of India, Colombo Stock Exchange, and Sri Lankan Airlines are just some of BoardPAC’s success stories, and the Company said the partnership with the CWEIC will pave the way to several more high-profile additions to this list.

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