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.
Daraz donates Rs. 2 million to ITUKAMA COVID-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund
Daraz showcased their perseverance in combatting the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through their donation of Rs. 2 Million and the supply of PPE kits to the ITUKAMA COVID-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund.
The donation was handed over to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksha at the Temple Trees on 19th July 2021, in the presence of the Minister of Youth and Sports, and State Minister of Digital Technology and Enterprise Development, Namal Rajapakse and State Minister of Provincial Council and Local Government, Minister Roshan Ranasinghe. Representing Daraz Sri Lanka were Managing Director, Rakhil Fernando, Chief Operations Officer, Darshika Attanayake and the Head of Administration, and Procurement, Malith Ranadewa.
The ITUKAMA project is a fund raising initiative for the COVID-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund established by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to support the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19. Initially established with a donation of Rs 100 million from the President’s Fund, the fund aims at securing the safety of those in the health sector and other essential service providers while facilitating the aid of those made vulnerable by COVID-19. It simultaneously supports the improvement of Sri Lanka’s long term vigilance and preparation for future health emergencies.
Daraz has played an active role in supporting the community through a series of CSR initiatives spearheaded under Daraz Cares, since the onset of the pandemic and will continue to do so by aiding the government of Sri Lanka.
Ceylinco Life opens latest Green branch on company land in Piliyandala
(Above, from left) Ceylinco Life Chairman R. Renganathan, Managing Director Thushara Ranasinghe and directors Messrs Devaan Cooray, Palitha Jayawardena and Ranga Abeynayake at the opening of the company’s new Piliyandala branch.
Ceylinco Life has placed another Green pin on its branch map with the opening of its latest eco-friendly branch in Piliyandala in a purpose-designed building constructed to the environment-friendly specifications adopted for all new branches on company-owned land.
Intended to reduce the Company’s carbon footprint while improving the customer and employee experience, the latest branch is located at No. 192, Horana Road, Piliyandala, on three floors that provide 5,683 square feet of space.
An investment of Rs 54 million, the Piliyandala branch completed in 11 months is designed for optimal use of natural light, is powered entirely by a 20kW solar power system that results in zero consumption of electricity from the national grid, and has its own waste-water recycling system. It is also equipped with the latest energy-efficient artificial lighting and air conditioning systems, has a rainwater harvesting facility and uses minimum amounts of pipe-borne water.
While the construction was designed to require minimum quantities of timber, trees planted in the premises upon completion of the building, further contribute to the Company’s Green agenda.
The building will function as an office for the Ceylinco Life branches in the Piliyandala area. With ample dedicated parking bays for visitors, it is designed to enhance customer convenience. In the same vein, the branch features private discussion rooms to ensure customer privacy within the premises and to deliver specialised customer handling processes by a team of well-trained and experienced employees, the Company said.
A cash deposit machine is deployed at the branch to enable deposits of policy premiums even during non-office hours and on holidays.
Ceylinco Life has been protecting the lives of the residents of Piliyandala and its suburbs via a dedicated branch since 1992. The newest branch is the seventh in the Colombo district to operate in a Ceylinco Life owned building and is the 43rd building owned by the company.
Ceylinco Life is in the process of constructing another Green building for its branch in Ja-Ela. The Company currently owns the buildings housing its offices in Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Jaffna, Batticaloa, Kandy, Kalutara, Kurunegala, Gampaha, Galle, Matara, Tissamaharama, Negombo, Ratnapura, Kotahena, Mount Lavinia, and Wellawatte, many of which have already been converted to solar energy. New branch buildings purpose-built to the company’s sustainable energy model are those at Horana, Panadura, Wennappuwa, Bandarawela, Chilaw, Kadawatha, Jaffna, Malabe, Divulapitiya, Negombo, and now Piliyandala.
Ceylinco Life operates the largest network of 272 branches in Sri Lanka’s life insurance industry, giving it a physical presence in 142 cities, towns, and villages in every one of the island’s 25 districts.
Ranked the ‘Most Valuable Life Insurance Brand’ in Sri Lanka by Brand Finance and voted the ‘Peoples Life Insurance Service Provider of the Year’ for a record 15th consecutive year in 2021, Ceylinco Life has been Sri Lanka’s leading life insurer for more than half of the 33 years it has been in existence. In 2020, the Company was certified as a ‘Great Workplace’ in Sri Lanka by Great Place to Work®, was named the ‘Best Life Insurer in Sri Lanka’ for the seventh consecutive year by World Finance, and accorded an ‘Honourable Mention’ as one of the ‘Most Admired Companies in Sri Lanka’ by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka (ICCSL) in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), UK.
Ceylinco Life has close to a million lives covered by active policies and is acknowledged as a benchmark in the local insurance sector for innovation, product research and development, customer service, professional development, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility.
IRD and SLPA payments via Pan Asia internet banking
Aligned to its strategy to extend the highest convenience and superior customer experience, Pan Asia Bank is the first bank in Sri Lanka to integrate with the LankaPay Online Payment Platform Common Interface, through which its customers can make payments to the Inland Revenue Department and Sri Lanka Ports Authority via Pan Asia Internet Banking.
Customers wishing to pay taxes will no longer need to go through the hassle of depositing cheques for tax payments by visiting other bank branches. Instead, by simply logging into the Pan Asia Internet banking facility, they can now make their tax payments at a nominal and fixed transactional fee of Rs. 50/- irrespective of the value of the tax payment. The system supports tax payments up to Rs. 10 billion in value via a single transaction. This innovation offers a convenient, cost-effective and efficient option for taxpayers.
Facilitated via LankaPay Common Electronic Fund Transfer Switch (CEFTS), these payments will be credited real-time 24X7 x 365. The system provides its participants with the required payment confirmation details on a real-time basis.
LankaClear launched LankaPay Online Payment Platform in 2017 under the direction of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, with the objective of digitally empowering government agencies by enabling large value transactions to be accepted via digital means.
Pan Asia Bank has been on digital transformation journey and this digital enhancement further strengthens its position as The Truly Sri Lankan Bank that puts customer convenience at the heart of its operations.
(Pan Asia Bank)
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