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Sri Lanka needs ‘bridge financing’ to last next six months, says Indrajit Coomaraswamy



by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka needs to take steps on getting to a framework programme with the IMF, restructure its external debt and bring some bridge financing to last for next six months until negotiations with the IMF on external debt is completed,”former central bank governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy said recently, at a forum hosted by CT CLSA.

“IMF won’t be able to transact with Sri Lanka until we fix the unsustainable situation in the country,” he said.

Dr. Coomaraswamy highlighted the fact that IMF may include fiscal consolidation in a programme of debt restructuring for Sri Lanka.

CT CLSA, a leading capital market service provider that offers investment banking, stockbroking and wealth management services , conducted the forum on the timely topic ‘ The IMF and the Order of Priorities for Reforms.”

Elaborating on the topic, he said, “In fact, we have a solvency problem on our external debt. Trying to treat it as a cash flow problem and addresing it with short-term measures may create a bigger problem. However, we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel due to the policy measures taken by the government recently. Now having approached the IMF, and the government considering some external debt restructuring; we are shifting to the right path, but this is going to be tough.”

“Interest rates are about to rise. As per previous levels where inflation was high, 91-day treasury bill yield was 16%, SLFR was 12% and SDFR was 10.5%. According to former deputy governor of the central bank, Dr. W. A. Wijewardena, the interest rates are expected to double from the current levels.”

Responding to a question on the upward movement of the exchange rate, he said, “I think we could have taken measures to reduce the imbalance between demand and supply of foreign exchange before letting the exchange rate float.”

Referring to domestic debt, Dr. Coomaraswamy said,”We should not suggest or ever take into consideration to restructure our domestic debt. If we restructure the domestic debt, it will lead to serious undermining of the stability of the financial system. Such a situation may not help Sri Lanka in meeting its commitments with external creditors.”

“In fact, the crisis was two years in the making from the time the government cut taxes after the presidential election The country’s banking system is highly exposed to sovereign debt because in recent years, the banking system provided for bridging the budget deficit of the country. And therefore, if there is any restructuring of domestic debt, the impact of such a move could spill over to the balance sheets of the banks and would likely create a crisis in the financial sector. And some of the banks would be affected in the event of external debt restructuring. However, this effect could be managed through regulatory programmes of the central bank. The only way to solve this problem on a sustainable basis is to create a primary surplus in the budget,” he emphasised.

“All creditors of Sri Lanka would seek equality of treatment, and therefore, multilateral debt; namely, World Bank, ADB and the little bit of IMF debt should not be restructured. If it were to be restructured, those institutions could stop their operations in Sri Lanka, and even their financing in the pipeline may not be disbursed.”

“Bilateral debt, mainly OECD which is West + Japan are part of the Paris Club. As China and India are not part of the Paris Club, one of the possibilities for us is to see whether we are eligible for B20 framework earmarked for low-income countries. [B20 proposes to consider the issue of public debt management within the international financial architecture reform].

Dr. Dushni Weerakoon, the Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) was also a panelist at the CT CLSA forum.

When she was asked how Sri Lanka should put the reforms in a particular order to be implemented, she said,”We no longer can afford sequential reforms. What is most critical for Sri Lanka in terms of its economic outlook is to gain some sense of macro stability as a first priority.”

“We are currently witnessing a clear shift in policy. We have to work on several fronts simultaneously with well-coordinated action on three fronts; namely, monetary policy front, exchange rate front and fiscal front. We have entered a monetary policy tightening cycle. The moves of the central bank led to a market-driven exchange rate. But the fiscal side is missing. As long as this is neglected the progress made on monetary and exchange rate fronts will not bring stability. This will put pressure on other two fronts.”

“There is slowness on fiscal adjustment maybe because it’s difficult to do it. Fiscal adjustment will require to raise taxes on the revenue side, and the spending side will require to freeze expenditures. Clear communication of these reforms to the general public is important as these changes should not create more social unrest. The way to do this could be that greater sacrifices would have to be made by those who have greater ability to pay taxes. The richer segment of the Sri Lankan population may have to bear a larger burden of the tax adjustments”.

“On the expenditure side, government spending may have to be frozen and public sector wages and salaries may also have to undergo changes. In such a context, there will be the need to try as much as possible to provide social safety nets for needy segments. It could be provided by implementing a cash transfer programme to reduce the potential social unrest.”

“The other reforms include State Owned Enterprise (SOE) reforms, labor market reforms and banking sector reforms,” she said.

When asked about the possible scenario of debt restructuring with debt to equity swaps, she said,” The possible cost of that is; you will face a prolonged negotiating process with the threat of legal action on the country. Unlike in the past, now our creditor landscape is huge. Our creditors are mostly based in the U.S., and then we have bilateral debt providers such as China and India. we will have to bring all these stakeholders to a common ground and ensure equality of treatment.”

“Another risk is that we need to know that the bonds issued by Sri Lanka has clauses where the majority of the bond holders can buy the minority. If not, there could be a hold off problem where we may have to face legal consequences.”

“The recent debt restructuring of Ecuador and Argentina only had restructuring of interest rate adjustments and maturity extensions and did not receive a haircut,” she pointed out.

Sri Lanka for the first time in 63 years achieved a Rs. 21.9 billion surplus in the primary balance of the fiscal account during the first 10 months of 2017. The country recorded a primary surplus of 0.6 percent of GDP in 2018, the second year running. Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy was the governor of the central bank at that time.

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ADB partners academia to leverage Environmental Finance for Sri Lanka



‘Bio-diversity prospecting is a very risky area, and therefore, it has to be done right’

‘Many good consultations needed before Sri Lanka can go for climate bonds’

Forum aims at combining profitability with ecosystem conservation and regeneration

by Sanath Nanayakkare

Bringing together a collection of global good practices in investing in natural capital, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) recently held its Serendipity Knowledge Program (SKOP) at the University of Peradeniya on a hybrid platform.

Several high-profile officials and academics from around the world and panelists and participants at the physical forum with specialized knowledge in Bio-Diversity and the Natural Capital Asset Class shared their insights on the topic in a no-holds-barred full-day session on May 31, at the picturesque garden university.

The forum held a lot of relevance to the local audience as Sri Lanka is facing a significant challenge in managing its natural assets not only because of the growing demand for natural resources and the environment’s ability to restore these resources, but also the country’s limited public funds to invest in its natural capital for a sustainable future.

Andreas Thermann, Environmental Finance and Partnerships Specialist at ADB addressing the forum said,” We decided to contribute our expertise and experience by designing natural capital investment strategies for institutional investors, aiming at combining profitability and ecosystem conservation and regeneration. There is increasing interest for blue bonds from investors and potential issuers. However, the lack of universal standards creates risks and slows blue economy growth. In this context, a Global Blue Bond Guidance is to be published in June 2023. This new collaboration is building on: ICMA Green, Social, and Sustainability-Linked Bond Principles, UNEP FI Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles and Guidance, ADB Green and Blue Bond Framework, UN Global Compact Sustainable Ocean Principles/Practical Guidance, Blue Bond Reference Papers and International Finance Corporation (IFC) Guidelines for Blue Finance.”

Andreas made a presentation of ADB Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economy covering pollution control, sustainable coastal and marine development, ecosystem and natural resource management and ocean and climate finance.

He explained ADB’s frameworks for supporting governments to issue blue bonds and supporting the corporate sector to do same, providing them with training, outreach events, technical services and financial services.

Sanath Ranawana, Water Resources Specialist, South Asia Department ADB said,” There are opportunities for investment in Sri Lanka’s environmental resources. These investments may come from the public sector as well as the private sector. In order for these investments to really take place, there is a need for more in-depth assessments. There needs to be monitoring of our basic benchmarks; what Natural Capital do we have at the moment, what is their current status etc. Along with advocacy we need additional monitoring and assessments. As we are all aware, it is very relevant to this topic how the private sector can invest in Natural Capital. There is a general belief that bio-diversity prospecting for commercial purpose is a very risky area, and therefore, it has to be done right. There is a responsibility for the government side in this respect because together we have to undertake bio-prospecting in an organized, controlled and a regulated way. There is a lack of perception about the role the private sector can play in bio-prospecting. So, it is important to make sure that bio-prospecting is done right- that means that it is sustainable, ethical, and results in benefits for the country and the local people. It emerged during our discussion that in terms of environmental financing, there would have to be certain legal provisions that allow the government to make eco-system services payable or not. Such valid concerns may present policy barriers that require policy action. So, engaging relevant stakeholders, in-depth assessments, establishing bond frameworks, arranging independent external reviews etc., will lead to the final desirable objective of climate investment action.”

In addition to ADB, the following global institutes pledged support to provide global guidance to Sri Lanka’s journey in assessing and monitoring its natural capital with the objective of raising long-term environmental financing: The Research Centre for Eco- Environmental Sciences – Chinese Academy of Sciences, People’s Republic of China, Stanford University USA, Sovereign Debt Department Office of the Ministry of Economy and Finance Uruguay and the Government of Belize.

ADB established this new knowledge program in 2021 in line with its vision as a knowledge solutions bank.

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Unlocking New Possibilities: The impact of deep fake technology on brand storytelling



Kavi Rajapaksha

By Kavi Rajapaksha

By now, marketers know that they need to work hand in hand with artificial intelligence (AI) to be successful in this era driven by technological advancements. According to the most recent data, more than 650 million unique branded content pieces are posted every day but 87% of them fail in achieving any significant engagement. So brands continually search for innovative ways to engage audiences and captivate their attention.

One such technological marvel that has emerged in recent years is deep fake technology. This cutting-edge AI-driven technique, with its ability to manipulate and recreate images and videos, is revolutionizing brand storytelling. As we explore the potential of deep fake technology, we uncover a new dimension of creativity and narrative possibilities for brands to produce more emotionally captivating and relevant content.

Breaking the boundaries of imagination

Deep fake technology has the power to blur the lines between fiction and reality, allowing brands to push the boundaries of imagination. By seamlessly blending the real and the surreal, brands can transport audiences into immersive storytelling experiences that captivate and leave a lasting impact. Whether it’s bringing historical figures back to life, resurrecting beloved characters, or merging multiple personalities, deep fake technology unlocks a world of limitless possibilities.

With the introduction of ChatGPT, Canva and various other AI platforms that has transformed how the creative industry does things, many have started to question if AI can indeed replace marketers and creatives. AI can automate basic and repetitive tasks and work efficiently to find the best, published information available. However, whether or not Ai can be programmed to emulate human emotions and think like a human is an answer only the future holds. But, the one thing that holds true is that all brands must adapt right now to stay ahead of the curve.

Also, deep fake technology disrupts conventional notions of authenticity and challenges the way we perceive truth in storytelling. With the power to recreate personalities, brands are now faced with the responsibility of navigating the ethical landscape surrounding this technology. Transparency and clear communication are crucial to ensure audiences understand the creative intent and the boundaries between reality and fiction. As brands venture into this realm, it becomes essential to strike a delicate balance between the captivating allure of deep fake technology and the need for honesty and integrity in brand storytelling.

Empowering creativity and collaboration

The most common jokes in the industry are revolved around how small the client budgets are versus the very inspiring briefs that are received. Often, marketers and creative teams come up with great ideas that require a lot in terms of the budgets which prevents them from executing them. In a way, its fair to say that the strength of the ideas is parallel and even better than some of those in the world right now, but not many organizations can afford to spend the required amount to make those a reality. But now with AI, many of those boundaries can be easily crossed and a lot of video and static content can be created within seconds.

Now is the time to leave hygiene content to AI and focus on really breaking the clutter with unimaginable things that collaborations between human intelligence and creativity can achieve in partnership with AI.

In conclusion

Deep fake technology is transforming brand storytelling by unlocking new realms of creativity and narrative possibilities. It empowers brands to establish emotional connections, challenge the status quo, and collaborate with technology experts to create captivating campaigns. However, as brands explore this innovative technology, they must prioritize transparency, ethics, and authenticity to maintain the trust of their audiences. Ai is unlocking the possibility of pursuing larger than life campaigns that previously was not a possibility due to budgetary restrictions and now more than ever, marketers need to really adapt and work hand in hand with Ai and all forms of technology to stay relevant.

(The writer is the Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer at Softlogic Life Insurance PLC)

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IronOne Technologies appoints former Sri Lankan ambassador Manori Unambuwe as vice president to drive global expansion



Left to right: Manori Unambuwe - Vice President of Strategy and International Markets at IronOne Technologies, Lakmini Wijesundera - Founder and Executive Director at IronOne Technologies and BoardPAC, Buddhika Abeygooneratne - Head of Operations at BoardPAC.

IronOne Technologies is pleased to announce the appointment of Manori as Vice President of Strategy and International Markets. In this role, Manori will lead IronOne’s global strategy, overseeing the company’s expansion into new markets and driving growth in existing ones. She will also be responsible for IronOne’s business development efforts, identifying new opportunities to bring innovative IT solutions to clients worldwide.

Manori brings to IronOne over 20 years of experience in Information Technology, having held senior leadership positions in three global technology giants. Prior to her appointment as Ambassador, she served as the Sri Lankan Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Federal Republic of Germany with concurrent accreditation to Switzerland, Croatia, North Macedonia, and Montenegro. She has also served on the Boards of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT).

“We are delighted to welcome Manori to the IronOne team,” said Lakmini Wijesundera, Co-founder and Executive Director of IronOne Technologies. “Her extensive experience in information technology and her track record of success in business development and market expansion will be invaluable as we continue to grow and expand our global reach.”

The appointment plays a crucial role in IronOne’s strategic vision to position the company as the foremost IT solution provider in the field of artificial intelligence across Asia and expand its global business presence.

Manori said, “I am excited to join IronOne Technologies and to work with the talented team to drive the company’s growth and success. I look forward to contributing to the company’s vision of bringing innovative IT solutions to clients worldwide.”

IronOne Technologies is an IT solutions provider to many clients worldwide, including some listed in the Fortune 500. Its AI labs division, consisting of a highly skilled team of AI engineers with experience in Data Science and Machine Learning, can deliver state-of-the-art solutions to various industries. Atrad, a multi-disciplinary financial trading platform with over 80% of the market share in Sri Lanka, and the Mobile web solutions, with unique apps provided to renowned global brands, are the other business solutions the company provides.

Manori currently serves as an Ambassador for AsiaBerlin Forum, an initiative by the Berlin Senate to support Asian tech startups to access the German market. Her experience and knowledge will be instrumental in guiding IronOne Technologies’ strategic decisions and expanding its global footprint.

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