Monetary Policy Review: No. 08 – November 2021
The Monetary Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, at its meeting held on 24 November 2021, decided to maintain the Standing Deposit Facility Rate (SDFR) and the Standing Lending Facility Rate (SLFR) of the Central Bank at their current levels of 5.00 per cent and 6.00 per cent, respectively. The Board arrived at this decision after carefully considering the macroeconomic conditions and expected developments on the domestic and global fronts. The Board noted the recent acceleration of inflation, driven mainly by supply disruptions and the surge in global commodity prices, and reiterated its commitment to maintaining inflation at the targeted levels over the medium term with appropriate measures, while supporting the economy to reach its potential in the period ahead.
The Sri Lankan economy is gradually recovering The Sri Lankan economy witnessed a strong recovery during the first half of 2021, supported by fiscal and monetary stimulus measures. The re-emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant disturbances to production activities appear to have affected the ongoing recovery somewhat during the third quarter of 2021. However, the available high frequency indicators suggest that economic activity is fast returning to normalcy. The removal of COVID-19 related lockdown measures in October 2021 and the successful nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout would help activity in the period ahead. While real GDP growth is projected at around 5 per cent in 2021, the ongoing rise in COVID-19 infections both globally and domestically could impact this expectation to some extent.
The external sector remains resilient against strong headwinds Earnings from merchandise exports remained robust, recording over US dollars 1 billion for the fourth consecutive month in September 2021. Preliminary data show that merchandise exports have recorded an all time high in October 2021. Expenditure on imports also increased, widening the trade deficit during the nine months ending September 2021 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
The tourism sector has displayed strong signs of revival with the easing of restrictions. Despite subdued inflows on account of workers’ remittances in recent months, a rebound is expected in the period ahead with the continuous rise in worker migration and efforts taken to facilitate remittance flows through formal channels.
The depreciation of the Sri Lanka rupee against the US dollar is recorded at 7.2 per cent thus far in 2021. The exchange rate has remained stable at around Rs.200-203 levels against the US dollar during the past three months. Meanwhile, gross official reserves were estimated at US dollars 2.3 billion by end October 2021. This, however, does not include the bilateral currency swap facility with the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) of CNY 10 billion (equivalent to approximately US dollars 1.5 billion). Moreover, measures taken by the Government and the Central Bank to attract fresh forex inflows, as well as the anticipated inflows to the private sector, including the financial sector, are expected to augment gross official reserves, thereby strengthening the external sector in the period ahead. Specifically, a greater conversion of export proceeds is observed, while negotiations with the foreign counterparts of the Government and the Central Bank are progressing, broadly in line with the path envisaged in the Six-Month Road Map.
Market interest rates have increased, reflecting the passthrough of tight monetary conditions In response to the tight monetary and liquidity conditions, most market lending rates have adjusted upwards. Yields on government securities, which increased notably, have stabilised with enhanced subscriptions at primary auctions, reflecting improved market sentiments. Meanwhile, credit extended to the private sector, which expanded notably underpinned by eased monetary conditions, has slowed somewhat in September 2021.
However, data for the nine months ending September 2021 indicate that credit flows, particularly to the industry and services sectors of the economy, have improved significantly, thereby supporting the revival of the economy. In the meantime, credit obtained by the public sector from the banking system, particularly net credit to the Government, continued to expand. Overall, the growth of broad money (M2b) decelerated in September 2021, commensurate with the moderation of credit to the private sector and the decline in the net foreign assets of the banking system.
Inflation accelerated recently mainly due to supply side disturbances and the surge in commodity prices internationally Supply side disruptions, removal of domestic price controls and upward adjustments to several administratively determined prices to reflect the rising global energy and other commodity prices along with the gradual firming of aggregate demand conditions, have pushed inflation above the targeted levels recently. A further acceleration of headline inflation is possible in the immediate future, although such movements are expected to be transitory. The monetary policy measures already taken by the Central Bank will help curbing excessive demand pressures and preventing the buildup of adverse inflation expectations.
Policy rates are maintained
at current levels
In consideration of the current and expected macroeconomic developments as highlighted above, the Monetary Board was of the view that the current policy interest rates are appropriate. Nevertheless, the Central Bank will remain vigilant and continue monitoring domestic and global macroeconomic and financial market developments and will take appropriate measures, as and when necessary, with the aim of ensuring stability in the external sector, maintaining inflation in the desired range, and supporting sustained economic recovery.
Conclusion of phase 1 of private placement of Ordinary Shares of JKH to ADB
Following is the text of a letter addressed by JKH Deputy Chairman/Group Finance Director Gihan Cooray to the CSE’s Chief Regulatory Officer Renuke Wijayawardhana.
Further to the announcements to the Colombo Stock Exchange on 22 November 2021 and 22 December 2021 regarding the Private Placement of up to a maximum cumulative amount of the Sri Lankan Rupee (“LKR”) equivalent of USD 80 million to Asian Development Bank (“ADB”), through the issuance of up to a maximum of 122,500,000 new ordinary shares of the Company in two phases (Phase 1 & Phase 2), we wish to inform that Phase 1 of the Private Placement of ordinary shares of the Company to ADB was concluded on 19 January 2022.
Accordingly, 65,042,006 ordinary shares (“Initial Placement Shares”) of the Company were allotted to ADB at a price of LKR 154.50 per share on 19 January 2022 for a consideration of the LKR equivalent of USD 50 million. The Initial Placement Shares results in a post-issue dilution of 4.70 per cent in Phase 1 of the transaction.
Additionally, in terms of Phase 2, the Company has issued 39,025,204 non-tradable/non-transferable options (“Options”), which will entitle ADB to subscribe for additional new ordinary shares of the Company (“Option Shares”), for an investment amount of up to a maximum of the LKR equivalent of USD 30 million.
Therefore, the maximum number of ordinary shares that would potentially be issued under the entire transaction, assuming all Option Shares are subscribed for, will be 104,067,210, thereby capping the post-issue dilution on the conclusion of both phases to a maximum of 7.31 per cent.
The salient details of the Options are as morefully detailed in the Shareholder Circular dated 29 November 2021. Based on the subscription date of the Initial Placement Shares, the Option Exercise Period will be from 19 October 2022 to 18 January 2023.
Bangladesh – Sri Lanka Preferential Trade Agreement: Gains and policy challenges
By Asanka Wijesinghe and Chathurrdhika Yogarajah
0espite enhanced trade partnerships in South Asia, intra-regional trade is far from reaching its theoretical potential. Similar production patterns and competitive sectors can be the causes. However, bilateral discussions to further lower trade costs continue. The ongoing Bangladesh-Sri Lanka discussions on a preferential trade agreement (PTA) will benefit from knowing the potential gains from reducing bilateral trade costs. In addition, knowledge of products with higher potential for export gains will help optimise the economic benefits from a trade deal.
Bangladesh – Sri Lanka Trade:
The Current Status
In 2018, when discussions on a PTA began to firm up, Sri Lanka’s exports to Bangladesh were USD 133 million, while imports from Bangladesh were USD 37 million. Despite the low trade volume, Sri Lanka’s exports to Bangladesh have grown (Figure 1). In addition, Sri Lanka records a bilateral trade surplus with Bangladesh, which is encouraging given the country’s trade deficit concerns. However, weak growth of exports from Bangladesh to Sri Lanka can be seen from 2001 to 2016 (Figure 1).
The current trade deals between the two countries are still partially restrictive. Both countries keep a sensitive list of products that are not eligible for tariff cuts. Sri Lanka maintains a list of 925 products sanctioned by SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) while Bangladesh keeps 993 products. Sri Lanka’s sensitive list covers USD 6.2 million or 23.8% of imports from Bangladesh. The sensitive list of Bangladesh covers USD 77.6 million or 62% of imports from Sri Lanka. Thus, the elimination of sensitive lists may benefit Sri Lanka more.
Figure 1: Trade Intensity between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka
Source: Authors’ Illustration using Trademap Data.
Theoretically, bilateral alliances deepen trade by removing weaknesses in existing multilateral trade arrangements. A trade deal between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka can simplify trade regulations further. In addition, Bangladesh needs alternative preferential access as graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status will take away preferential access to its key markets. For Sri Lanka, increasing bilateral participation in production value chains, especially in the textiles sector, might be an economic motivation. Financial support extended by Bangladesh to manage Sri Lanka’s foreign currency pressures might be a political motivation for a trade deal.
Eliminating sensitive lists can lead to trade creation, although it may not happen due to political and economic reasons. When it comes to tariff cuts, both countries will act defensively as certain products in the sensitive lists are vital for employment and revenue generation. Thus, the success of a trade deal depends on how many products with high export potential are under its purview. In this direction, a group of products with specific characteristics can be identified as an offensive list. For example, Sri Lanka’s offensive list includes products that Bangladesh imports from anywhere in the world, produced by Sri Lanka with a capacity for expansion. Sri Lanka has a comparative advantage in exporting that good, and Bangladesh already has a tariff on the product.
Export Gains from Tariff Elimination
If tariffs on the sensitive lists are eliminated, there will be modest export gains for Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in absolute terms. Sri Lanka will gain USD 24.7 to 49.7 million of exports to Bangladesh, while Bangladesh will gain USD 2.1 to 4.5 million of exports to Sri Lanka. Potential export gains are given in a range due to assumptions on elasticity values used in the partial equilibrium model. Elimination of sensitive lists will generate a higher tariff revenue loss to Bangladesh, ranging between USD 13.5 million to USD 19.1 million. By contrast, Sri Lanka’s revenue loss will be slight at USD 1.4 million to USD 1.9 million.
Whatever the arrangement, it is crucial to include the products with high export potential in the offensive lists (See Table 1 for the major products). Out of 39 products in Bangladesh’s offensive list, 21 are intermediate goods, while 18 are consumption goods. Similarly, 75 out of 115 products in Sri Lanka’s offensive list are intermediate goods. Tariff cuts on intermediate products may induce fragmented production between two countries, which would harness country-specific comparative advantages. Major intermediate goods in the offensive lists are dyed cotton fabrics, cartons, boxes, and cases, plain woven fabrics of cotton, denim, natural rubber, and smoked sheets of natural rubber (Table 1).
The ex-ante estimates predict modest gains for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in absolute terms, even after completely removing the sensitive list. But complete removal is politically challenging for both countries. Moreover, Bangladesh as an LDC may expect special and differential (S&D) treatment. Thus, the outcome can be a limited PTA in line with weaknesses in existing trade agreements governing South Asian trade. The impact on trade of regional trade agreements in force is negative primarily due to stringent general regulatory measures, including rules of origin (ROO), sensitive lists, and prolonged phasing-in. Given that the estimated modest economic gains of a Bangladesh-Sri Lanka PTA do not justify a trade deal that requires substantial resources for negotiations,the PTA should have fewer regulatory measures and tariff concessions for the products on the offensive lists to maximise the economic benefits of a PTA between the two countries.
Link to the full Talking Economics blog: https://www.ips.lk/talkingeconomics/2022/01/20/bangladesh-sri-lanka-preferential-trade-agreement-gains-and-policy-challenges/
Asanka Wijesinghe is a Research Economist at IPS with research interests in macroeconomic policy, international trade, labour and health economics. He holds a BSc in Agricultural Technology and Management from the University of Peradeniya, an MS in Agribusiness and Applied Economics from North Dakota State University, and an MS and PhD in Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics from The Ohio State University. (Talk with Asanka – firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chathurrdhika Yogarajah is a Research Assistant at IPS with research interests in macroeconomics and trade policy. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Technology and Management, specialised in Applied Economics and Business Management from the University of Peradeniya with First Class Honours. She is currently reading for her Master’s in Agricultural Economics at the Postgraduate Institute of Agriculture, Peradeniya. (Talk with Chathurrdhika: email@example.com)
Expolanka boosts bourse by adding 21.7 points to ASPI
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
CSE trading started in negative territory yesterday due to heavy profit- takings but after 1 pm the market began to recover, triggered by index heavy counter Expolanka, which gained by adding 21.7 points to the All-Share Price Index. The stock market yesterday produced a creditable recovery to finish on a positive note after early losses amid a relatively low but healthy turnover level. The Expolanka share price appreciated by 2.5 per cent or Rs 9.50. Its shares started trading at Rs 386 and at the end of the day they shot up by Rs 9.50.
Amid those developments both indices moved upwards. The All -Share Price Index went up by 42.8 points and S and P SL20 rose by 7 points. Turnover stood at Rs 4.9 billion with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Expolanka, which crossed 100,000 shares to the tune of Rs 39.5 million and its shares traded at Rs 395.
In the retail market, top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Expolanka Rs 715 million (1.8 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 336 million (19.9 million shares traded), ACL Cables Rs 261 million (2.1 million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 231 million (8.1 million shares traded), JKH Rs 193 million (1.2 million shares traded), Expack Corrugated Cartons Rs 162 million (seven million shares traded) and Softlogic Capital Rs 161 million (11.3 million shares traded). During the day 154 million share volumes changed hands in 37000 transactions.
Yesterday, the US dollar was quoted at Rs 202.91, which was the controlled price of the Central Bank. The actual price would be more than Rs 250, market sources said.
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