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Single uniform tariff urged for all Sri Lankan imports

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‘Countries that have grown fast, especially in East Asia, have understood the importance of trade reform. The first step of such a reform agenda should be to simplify taxes at the border by removing the so-called “para tariffs” that Sri Lanka levies beyond the regular import duties and introduce a single uniform tariff for all imports, the Advocata Institute’s Academic Chair Dr. Sarath Rajapatirana said.

Sri Lanka’s trade as a % of GDP has been low when compared to neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, indicating that we have not truly exploited our opportunity to trade. Research shows, Sri Lanka, has high tariff rates compared to other developing countries, and while tariffs play a role in protecting domestic infant industries, if tariffs are too high, they can become anticompetitive. Recent import restrictions, such as banning a wide range of consumer goods since the beginning of April 2020, have further worsened Sri Lanka’s growth potential and put Sri Lanka at odds with WTO rules.

Dr. Dayaratna Silva ( International Trade Economist, Former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the World Trade Organization) elaborated on the severe consequences for Sri Lanka’s economy if such import restrictions continue. He explained that there is a possibility of tariff retaliation. “Prolonged import controls are not consistent with the WTO, and its high time such is readdressed”, he went on to say.

Such forms of retaliation could have a significant negative effect on our imports, thereby worsening our existing foreign exchange and balance of payment crisis. Another key long term concern for the economy. “My worry is the long term industrial development of the country because of these restrictions. Resources are inefficiently being allocated as a result”, further commented Dr. Dayartna De Silva.

Denis Chaibi ( Ambassador, Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives) commented on the importance of adhering to global rules on trade. He commented that “the European Union tries to have a rule based order. When a country does not follow those rules, the rule based structure is affected. Without trade, for a small country like Sri Lanka, the prospect is not good”. His comments brought into perspective the wider ramifications of import restrictions on Sri Lanka’s multilateral relations.

Professor Prema- Chandra Athukorala (Emeritus Professor of Economics, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics, ANU), who is an authority on global production networks, explained that “No country in the world now produces goods from the beginning to end within their geographic boundaries. Countries specialise in different components within the production value chain. Made in the country X label has become invalid, a Country has to identify comparative advantage within the production network. “. Thereby elaborating on how Sri Lanka cannot achieve economic growth without joining global production networks through trade. He concluded by commenting on recent developments of import controls by saying that “selective intervention, without disturbing the incentive structure of the country as a policy, is going to be a recipe for disaster”.

These views were expressed at the event “Deep Dive”, organised by the Advocata Institute that aims to bring focus on Sri Lanka’s biggest policy challenges. The event was moderated by Aneetha Warusavitarana, Research Manager, Advocata Institute. As a precursor to the event, Advocata released a primer on debt sustainability with the aim of helping Sri Lankans understand the topic. The recording of the discussion can be found at Advocata Institute’s YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M981XmlbAs / to get a comprehensive understanding of Trade and how it affects Sri Lanka’s economy and the livelihoods of all Sri Lankans. The event was organised in partnership with the European Union.

Advocata is an independent policy think tank based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. We conduct research, provide commentary and hold events to promote sound policy ideas compatible with a free society in Sri Lanka. Visit advocata.org for more information.



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Sri Lanka Insurance enters into a strategic tie up with Sri Lanka Medical Association

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Sri Lanka Insurance signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) to improve healthcare knowledge, enhance safety and ensure providing best insurance solution for healthcare professionals in Sri Lanka.

The agreement between the two organizations intends to facilitate the upcoming International Medical Congress which will be conducted virtually on the 21st of September 2021, with the participation of medical practitioners, medical students, and researchers in the field of medicine. Further the agreement will facilitate awareness building initiatives on road safety and introduce a special insurance scheme for the registered members of the Sri Lanka Medical Association.

 The MoU outlines the shared and individual commitment of Sri Lanka Insurance to provide a unique insurance scheme for every registered member of the Sri Lanka Medical Association. The insurance scheme will make provisions for a vast variety of benefits suitable for the risk management requirements of modern-day professionals, including comprehensive motor insurance solution.

As part of the MoU signed by the two bodies, the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) and Sri Lanka Insurance will collaborate to facilitate educational programs to raise awareness on road accident, conduct media seminars and social media programs in collaboration with Sri Lanka Insurance Motor Plus to create a safe and healthy environment for all Sri Lankans.

The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) is the national professional medical association in Sri Lanka, which brings together medical practitioners of all grades and all branches of medicine. The SLMA is the oldest professional medical association in Asia and Australasia with a proud history that dates back to 1887. Comprised with around 4000 members, SLMA serves as the leading body of the medical community to achieve the highest standards of medical professionalism and ethical conduct in Sri Lanka and the Association aims to provide a forum for its members to further their professional and academic development.

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Sampath Bank to expand its lending activities as economy rebounds

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Samath Bank’s adequate capital buffer may enable it to sail through the tough times and help in boosting the credit growth in the near term when the economic activity recovers to a greater extent, First Capital Research said yesterday.

Elaborating on Sampath Bank’s capital buffer in a report titled, ‘Robust show despite nagging macro pressures’, First Capital said, ” Sampath Bank’s earnings increased by 83% YoY in the 2Q2021 to LKR 2.4bn while the surge was attributed to the rise in total operating income by 38.4% to LKR 14.7 bn despite the increase in impairment by 50.1%YoY to LKR 4.3 bn.”

“Total operating income was led by the improvement in NII, Net Fee and Commission and Net Other Operating Income. Considering the strong performance in 1Q and 2Q of 2021, we maintain the earnings forecast of Sampath for 2021 at LKR 13.7bn (+62%YoY) and 2022 at LKR 16.5bn (21%YoY). With the strong capital buffer, we expect Sampath’s lending portfolio to grow with the gradual resumption of economic activities while margins to enhance amidst the potential rise in interest rates.”

The report further said: “However, taking into consideration the higher risk-free rate applicable for valuations, with the potential rise in interest rates, we have downgraded Sampath’s fair value for 2021 to LKR 62.0 (from previous LKR 68.0) and 2022 to LKR 73.0 (from previous LKR 80.0).”

“Sampath’s’s net interest income for 2Q2021 was LKR 10.9bn reflecting an increase of 34.1%YoY, led by the decrease recorded in interest expenses as a result of timely re-pricing of liability products despite a decline in interest income by 0.5%YoY owing to low interest rate regime. Net fee and commission income comprises of income from various sources such as credit cards, trade, and electronic channels while the growth in this segment was driven mainly by higher engagements in card-related activities.”

“Net other operating income grew by 173.8%YoY backed by the increase in realized exchange income stemming from the 1.1% depreciation of the LKR against the USD reported during 2Q2021. We estimate NII and Net fee and commission income to grow by 12%YoY and 10%YoY to LKR 41.3bn and to LKR 9.9bn for 2021 respectively.”

“Impairment rose by 50.1%YoY for 2Q2021 as a result of prudent provisioning for risk categories. Credit granted for 1H2021 amounted to LKR 30.0bn with 4.1%YTD growth mainly driven by term loans, pawning & gold loans and overdrafts although loan book growth was relatively lesser compared to the private sector credit (which grew by nearly 6.7% during 1H2021) as a result of Sampath’s conservative nature in lending. Sampath provided LKR 4.3Bn in 2Q2021 as the impairment, up by 50%YoY, relative to 2Q2020 on the back of additional provisions taken despite signs of an economic recovery apparent in 1Q202.”

“Following a reassessment of the impairment assumptions, SAMP decided to apply a more prudent approach in 2Q2021, in light of the evolving impact of COVID 19 third wave and the extension of the moratorium framework. Accordingly, we have estimated an impairment of LKR 11.6bn (-12%YoY) for 2021 and LKR

10.0Bn (-14%YoY) for 2022.”

Well above capital ratios will boost lending portfolio when the economic activities improve

As at 30th Jun 2021, SAMP’s Tier I and Total Capital Adequacy Ratios stand at 12.5% and 15.7% respectively which are well above the minimum regulatory requirement of 8.0% and 12.0%,” First Capital said.

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Tea exports in first seven months of 2021 amounts to Rs.23 billion

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By Steve A. Morrell

The Tea Exporters Association ( TEA), indicated in their market report last week that tea exports to end July 2021 amounted to Rs. 23. 02 billion. However, the report further indicates that it showed a decrease of Rs. 1.03 billion compared with the corresponding period in 2020 which was Rs. 24.33 billion.

Forbes and Walker Tea Brokers, (FW) and John Keels Tea (JKH) report as well confirmed these findings and further said Iraq emerged the no 1 importer of Ceylon Tea.

Additionally, Turkey, Russia, and the UAE were recorded in the top category of countries importing Ceylon Tea. China, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Libya were listed in this list. Saudi Arabia and Chile were also in the major buyer list, but recorded statistics were that these latter countries reduced their buying. Reasons for this were not known at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, reduced exports to the US was reported due to the Covid pandemic still affecting the country.

Tea consumption is expected to be dominant in Asian Countries particularly India and China, consuming some 55 percent of global demand. Of importance was also the weak market outlook from European countries following economic downturn. In this instance however, the TEA report said tea consumption in these countries would not be affected. Sources also informed us that after water, tea was the most consumed beverage worldwide.

Expectations were that Sri Lankan tea production was likely to recover in 2021, however production recorded in 2010 and 2015 would not be achieved, ( Production at that time exceeded 300 million kilos)

In Consequence to the fertilizer debacle, reports from planting areas were that production is gravely affected. Clearly, yellowing of foliage resulted in reduced bulk crop . Repercussions were that before the year was out crop shortage would reach alarming levels. Such results were also applicable to the tea smallholder sector. Tea Factory Owners Association, was not available for comment in this regard.

The FW report further said tea exports also included tea bags, instant tea, green tea, tea packets and sundry value added teas. green tea, instant tea, and bulk tea exports were in the plus variance category. Tea bags showed decline in production.

However, the FW report further said offerings show that 6.2 million kilos would be auctioned next week.

Last week’s auctioned quantity was 6.3 million kilos.

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