External liquidity pressures have eased somewhat in recent months
Planned IMF SDR allocation would also add US$780 million to reserves
Authorities have yet to specify foreign-currency debt-servicing plans for the medium term
Sri Lanka’s ‘CCC’ rating reflects a challenging foreign-currency sovereign external debt repayment burden over the medium term, low foreign-exchange reserves and high and rising government debt that give rise to sustainability risks, Fitch Ratings said on Monday.
External liquidity pressures have eased somewhat in recent months following bilateral loan disbursements, and our expectation of a forthcoming IMF special drawing rights (SDR) allocation. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka’s medium-term debt service challenges are substantial and pose risks to the sovereign’s debt repayment capacity, in Fitch’s view. A total of about USD 29 billion in foreign-currency debt obligations are due between now and 2026, against foreign-exchange reserves of USD4.5 billion as of end-April 2021, Fitch said.
The report further said: The authorities have recently secured project financing through various multilateral and bilateral channels, including the Asian Development Bank (AAA/Stable), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AAA/Stable), China Development Bank (A+/Stable) and The Export-Import Bank of Korea (AA-/Stable), as well as swap facilities under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) currency framework and the People’s Bank of China, equivalent to USD400 million and USD1.5 billion, respectively. The planned IMF SDR allocation would also add USD780 million to reserves. These resources should enable Sri Lanka to meet its remaining debt maturities through the rest of this year, including a USD1 billion International Sovereign Bond maturing in July. However, the authorities have yet to specify their plans for meeting the country’s foreign-currency debt-servicing needs for 2022 and the medium term. They have consistently indicated that they do not plan to seek programme financing from the IMF.
We project foreign-exchange reserves to remain at about USD 4.5 billion by end-2021 before declining to USD3.9 billion by end-2022. Under our baseline, the current account deficit is likely to widen to 2.8% in 2021 and narrow to 2.1% of GDP in 2022. Our forecasts assume remittances will remain resilient in 2021-2022 and tourism is likely to recover only from 2022.
Sri Lanka’s economy contracted by 3.6% in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We project growth of 3.8% in 2021, down from an earlier forecast of 4.9%, in light of a recent surge in virus cases. We expect the economy to grow by 3.9% in 2022. There remains a high degree of uncertainty associated with our forecasts in light of the evolution of new Covid-19 cases in the country. The authorities plan to inoculate 60% of the population by end-2021, but this target could be hampered by vaccine supply shortages.
Travel and tourism, an important driver of the economy, have been hit hard and the outlook for recovery remains uncertain, particularly given the recent surge in virus cases. The direct contribution of tourism to pre-pandemic GDP was about 4%, but the indirect contribution was much higher. Tourist arrivals in the first five months of 2021 were 97% lower than the same period last year.
The general government deficit widened to 11.1% of GDP in 2020, from 9.6% in 2019, as the economic contraction led to a sharp fall in fiscal revenue. We expect the deficit to remain elevated in 2021 and 2022 at 11.1% and 10.4%, respectively. Our deficit projections are wider than those presented by the government under its growth-oriented strategy of 9.4% and 7.5%, respectively. Under our forecasts, the revenue-to-GDP ratio in 2021 would rise to 10.9% in 2021 and 11.1% in 2022, compared with the authorities’ projections of 11.9% and 13.0%, respectively.
The government’s fiscal consolidation strategy is based on a planned acceleration in GDP growth, underpinned by tax cuts, as opposed to direct revenue-raising or expenditure measures, albeit supported by planned improvements in tax administration. The interest-to-revenue ratio remains high, at around 71% as of 2020, well above the ‘CCC’ median of 13%. The government expects to achieve primary surpluses from 2023, supported by annual GDP growth of 6%, which appear optimistic in our view as we anticipate growth that is closer to 4%, still above the pace in the immediate pre-pandemic period.
General government debt reached 101% of GDP by end-2020, broadly in line with our forecast at our last review in November. Our baseline forecasts suggest this ratio will rise further to 108% by 2022. Fitch does not think the government will meet its 2025 targets of reducing government debt to 70% of GDP and narrowing the fiscal deficit to 4% of GDP.
SLT-MOBITEL powers ANANKE IoT Services to shine at Globee® Awards
SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT, Telecommunications and Mobile Services Provider, is proud to announce its partner ANANKE IoT Services (Pvt) Ltd has been conferred a Gold award under the ‘Start-up of the Year – IT Category’ at the 16th Annual 2021 IT World Awards. Organizers of the world’s premier business awards programs and business ranking lists, The Globee® Awards; recognised ANANKE IoT’s Smart Bins Project, powered by NB-IoT technology from SLT-MOBITEL, the undisputed leader of IoT services and related digital transformation in Sri Lanka.
SLT-MOBITEL’s NB-IoT network enables the entire device connectivity chain of the Smart Bins Project and is Sri Lanka’s only such network to-date. NB-IoT is the GSMA standard for Low-Power-Wide-Area Internet of Things connectivity, which is particularly suited to ensure the battery life of a sensor extends to up to 10 years. As the only telco to offer this advanced technology in Sri Lanka, SLT-MOBITEL was perfectly positioned to support ANANKE IoT Services for quick deployment of its Smart Bins solution. This is the first large-scale NB-IoT enabled hardware project in Sri Lanka and utilizes, ANANKE IoT’s in-house built proprietary platform. (SLT)
Dialog Television extends access to Nenasa and Guru TV education channels free of charge
Furthering its efforts to ensure that no child is left behind in continuing their education, Dialog Axiata Group, Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, extended free access to its education bouquet Nenasa Sinhala, Nenasa Tamil and Guru TV channels through Dialog Television and ViU App.
Despite the learning loss that ensued the pandemic, Dialog remains committed in its resolve to ensuring that children across the country have equitable access to education. Both Dialog Television prepaid and postpaid customers can access these channels for free. Nenasa Sinhala (Ch. 24) and Nenasa Tamil (Ch. 25) cover grade 3 to 13 Government syllabi, while Guru TV (Ch. 22) covers grade 5 to 13 Government syllabi, all conducted by qualified teachers with immersive, engaging and innovative teaching techniques. Furthermore, this education channel bouquet and over 160 supplementary lessons and educational content can also be accessed via ViU App on any smartphone, ViU Hub and ViU Mini for free, without any data charges on the Dialog network.
Commenting, Chirantha De Zoysa, Head of Business – Dialog Television said, “Extending Nenasa Sinhala, Nenasa Tamil and Guru TV education channels for free is part of our overarching efforts in providing schoolchildren across the country with equitable access to education to achieve their aspirations. While the pandemic has magnified the disparities in education and underscored the importance of inclusive education, Dialog remains resolute in continuing to bridge this gap.”
This is yet another initiative by Dialog in its continued efforts of supporting students across the country with their educational endeavours. In addition to this initiative, Dialog powers a range of educational platforms under the Nenasa initiative; Nenasa TV, Nenasa Smart School, Nenasa App and the toll-free Nenasa 1916 distance learning helpline. Dialog also endeavoured to provide 100,000 schoolchildren in need with Data Scholarships under the ‘NanaDiri Data Scholarship’ programme to facilitate their online learning from home. Furthermore, the company extended free access without any data charges to e-Thaksalawa, the National Learning Content Management System (LCMS)/Learning Management System (LMS) and to all official e-Learning platforms of State Universities under the purview of the University Grants Commission.
Allianz Insurance and HSBC Sri Lanka partner to offerworld-class insurance products to HSBC Premier customers
Allianz Insurance Limited (Allianz Lanka) has entered into an agreement with HSBC Sri Lanka to offer the bank’s affluent customers two world-class insurance products with flexible 0% installment plans, namely Global Health Medical Insurance that provides high quality healthcare services worldwide, and Student Companion to provide insurance solutions for students travelling overseas for education. These new offerings are part of a 10-year exclusive bancassurance distribution agreement signed between the Allianz Group and HSBC covering key markets in Asia such as Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Sri Lanka.
In recent times, increases in the cost of living and unexpected medical expenses due to the pandemic, have put pressure on many customers and their families. Due to these uncertainties, customers are looking for the assurance of a safety net, which protects their loved ones, both locally and overseas. Value added services such as international family care support with access to advice from overseas doctors/international care specialists have proven to be even more valuable today for customers.
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