WB: Lanka projected to grow by 3.3% amidst uncertainties
Sri Lanka’s economy is projected to grow by 3.3 percent in 2021, but the medium-term outlook is clouded by pre-existing macroeconomic weaknesses and the economic scarring from the COVID-19 pandemic, said the World Bank on Thursday (7).
A gradual recovery will likely lead to corresponding improvements in labour market conditions.
Most countries in South Asia are far from pre-pandemic trend levels, says the World Bank in its twice-yearly regional update.
The latest South Asia Economic Focus titled Shifting Gears: Digitization and Services-Led Development projects the region to grow by 7.1 percent in 2021 and 2022.
While the year-on-year growth remains strong in the region, albeit from a very low base in 2020, the recovery has been uneven across countries and sectors.
South Asia’s average annual growth is forecast to be 3.4 percent over 2020-23, which is 3 percentage points less than it was in the four years preceding the pandemic.
COVID-19 has left long-term scars on the region’s economy, the impacts of which can last well into the recovery. Many countries experienced lower investment flows, disruptions in supply chains, and setbacks to human capital accumulation, as well as substantial increases in debt levels.
The pandemic is estimated to have caused 48 to 59 million people to become or remain poor in 2021 in South Asia. Sri Lanka’s poverty at $3.20 per day poverty line is projected to fall to 10.9 percent in 2021, which is still significantly above the 2019 level of 9.2 percent.
“Sri Lanka has done well to vaccinate more than 50 percent of the total population so far and the Government is now focusing on targeted measures to prevent further COVID-19 waves, which could dampen the economic recovery,” said Faris Hadad-Zervos, Country Director of the World Bank for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
“The pandemic has brought unprecedented disruptions to education and the learning losses will be a drag on the country’s human capital gains. Targeted policies to reverse trends of long-term inequality and reduce gaps in equity are priority to realize growth prospects.”
In Sri Lanka, continued macroeconomic challenges, particularly the high debt burden, large refinancing needs, and weak external buffers will adversely affect growth and poverty reduction over the medium term.
Despite increased policy rates and price controls imposed by the government, inflationary pressure is expected to remain strong amid partial monetization of the fiscal deficit, currency depreciation, and rising global commodity prices. Food insecurity could worsen and poverty reduction slow if food prices remain elevated and shortages continue.
As countries build back, they have a chance to rethink their long-term development models. With the emergence of new digital technologies, South Asia has an opportunity to shift gears from a traditional manufacturing-led growth model and capitalize on the potential of its services sector.
In the medium to long term, digital technologies could become an important engine for job growth in Sri Lanka. However, despite widescale ownership of cellphones in Sri Lanka, the digital revolution will fall short of expectations without expansion of high-speed networks and accessible data on the whole island. Sri Lanka could provide new opportunities for economic mobility through policies that expand or universalize access to digital infrastructure, and investments in digital literacy are a prerequisite for widely shared benefits from these new opportunities.
“Countries in South Asia have a strong comparative advantage in exporting services, particularly business processes and tourism, whereas they have struggled to break into manufacturing export markets,” said Hans Timmer, World Bank Chief Economist for the South Asia Region. “To realize the potential of the services-led development, the region needs to rethink regulations and establish new institutions to support innovation and competitiveness.”
Hemas Hospitals makes national-level contribution through ‘Upakara’ initiative for deprived CKD patients
In a concerted effort to ensure healthcare equity for all Sri Lankans, the country’s foremost trusted private healthcare provider Hemas Hospitals introduced ‘Upakara’, an unmatched timely initiative which offers free monthly dialysis cycles to a selected number of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients from low-income backgrounds, through Hemas Hospitals.
Hemas Hospitals’ Upakara is a one-of-a-kind initiative, contributing to the health and wellbeing of individuals from underprivileged and less fortunate communities, who are suffering from CKD. While most individuals face difficulties with affording basic healthcare during the country’s perilous economic situation, this facility will be considered a life-saving, monumental effort from a private healthcare provider, contributing on a national level.
“Chronic Kidney Disease is one among the most prevalent non-communicable diseases in Sri Lanka. Statistically, 20-25 percent of diabetic patients and 18-20 percent of patients with hypertension are prone to CKD. Holistically, one in 10 Sri Lankans is estimated to have CKD, while the vast majority is unaware of the fact that they have it, resulting in most patients seeking healthcare support at its late-stages. This forces CKD patients to either opt for kidney transplants or regular dialysis treatments, both bearing an intense level of financial burden on patients and their loved ones. Given the volatile macro-economic environment in the country today, this financial burden is heavier than ever before,” stated Dr. Lakith Peiris, Managing Director Hemas Hospitals.
“A statistically higher number of CKD patients from the underprivileged communities who are affected by fewer resources prompted us to address this issue by extending our support to these communities with essential infrastructure and services through Hemas Hospitals’ Upakara initiative,” he added.
CKD is fast becoming a major public health concern, attracting increased global attention due to rapid spread of the disease, and its grave impact on patients and their quality of life. With a larger number of CKD patients reported from Sri Lanka each year, the national healthcare system often finds it difficult to cater to the full requirement of all patients requiring dialysis, affecting their health and wellbeing on a large scale.
With the aim of ensuring good governance and community participation, Upakara will be overseen and operated by a governance committee inclusive of key opinion leaders within the hospital and communities.
With a vision of ‘Making Healthful Living Happen’, Hemas Hospitals intends to support CKD patients in a manner that eases the great financial burden that falls on them every month and enhances their access to life-saving dialysis treatment. At a time in the country when macro-economic volatility has destabilized personal economies, Upakara will lend greatly to easing the financial pressure of healthcare on these chronic patients and enable them to re-establish a sense of wellbeing.
“Therefore, in such a dire context, we believe Upakara is an important step forward in assuring health and healthcare equity in Sri Lanka, and consider it our duty as a responsible healthcare provider to ensure that all Sri Lankans have access to the life-saving treatment they require regardless of their financial background. Upakara was therefore borne with this vision, and we consider ourselves privileged to launch this vital CSR programme as we continue to work to eliminate disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases in Sri Lanka,” stated Dr. Peiris.
Cargills Bank reports profitability turnaround with robust income growth and operating cost management
Cargills Bank reported a profit before tax of LKR 206Mn for the financial year 2022, recovering from a loss before tax of LKR 369Mn in the previous year, driven by robust growth in operating income that offset erosions due to increased provisioning and operating costs.
Total operating income rose 74% year-on-year to LKR 4.28Bn on account of growth in both Interest and Fee-based income in similar proportion. The Bank prudently managed its lending portfolio with the intention of preserving liquidity and maintaining asset quality, leading to a slight decline in the portfolio. However, the Bank was able to expand its net interest margins over the previous year, resulting in significant growth in interest income. Meanwhile robust performance in card operations, trade finance and remittances resulted in 75% year-on-year growth in fee-based income.
Mindful of the challenging environment and its impact on customers, the Bank proactively increased its provision cover ratio, resulting in a 114% year-on-year growth in impairment to LKR 1.46Bn. The Bank’s Stage 3 Loans (Net of Stage 3 Impairment) to Total Loans ratio consequently improved from 6.43% in 2021 to 4.85% in 2022.
The Bank prudently managed its operating costs to limit the increase to 16% year-on-year, resulting in the Bank’s Cost to Income ratio improving from 82.8% in 2021 to 55.4% in 2022. Consequently, the Bank reported an operating profit before taxes on financial services of LKR 448Mn.
The Bank maintained healthy capital and liquid asset ratios during the year, reporting a Total Capital Ratio of 22.85% and Liquid Asset Ratio – Domestic Banking Unit of 26.70% as at 31st December 2022.
Senarath Bandara, Managing Director/CEO of Cargills Bank commenting on the performance of the Bank stated, “Cargills Bank navigated the uncertain economic climate of 2022 with resilience and pragmatism.
The Bank adopted an agile approach in response to the challenges to seek growth and stability in spite of external pressure. Our approach has borne fruit with the Bank achieving profitability within the year under review, while also pursuing our long-term growth aspirations to create sustainable value for all stakeholders.”
The Bank continued to expand its network, opening two new branches in Negombo and Anuradhapura, and complemented branch expansion by opening eight new MINI service locations in Cargills Food City outlets. Furthermore, in line with its objectives to promote financial inclusion and financial deepening, the Bank launched a mobile branch vehicle to serve underbanked customers in the Central, North Central and Northern provinces.
Market ends down as investors await financial results
By Hiran H. Senewiratne
Trading at the CSE started off with a positive note yesterday and in the middle of the session, the market dipped due to profit takings. Subsequently, at the later part of the day it showed slightly recovery. However, the market performed in a negative manner in mid-day trade on shares which were down on the financial year coming to an end, an analyst said.
“The market is down as financial years come to an end and investors await reports to be produced,” another analyst said. It is said that profit taking had been witnessed in Sri Lanka Telecom as the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval in principle for the divestment of the stakes held by the Treasury Secretary.
It is said that buying interest for Lanka IOC as global oil prices have come down, pushing the interest for the index up. While selling pressures have decreased on banks and stability is coming back as the share price has gone down, which has pitched in buying interest for the index, they said.
Amid those developments both indices moved downward. All Share Price Index down by 43.9 points and S and P SL20 down by 2.95 points. Turnover stood at Rs 912 million without reporting a single crossing. In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover Lanka IOC Rs 124.3 million (716,000 shares traded), Sampath Bank Rs 71.8 million (1.3 million shares traded), NTB Rs 62.1 million (one million shares traded), SLT Rs 57.2 million (596,000 shares traded), Dialog Rs 51.1 million (4.9 million shares traded), NTB Rs 43 million (998,000 shares traded), and Melstacorp Rs 40.9 million (438,000 shares traded). During the day 45.7 million share volume changed hands in 12000 transactions.
In the meantime treasury bond yields were steady and the rupee opened stronger in the spot market on Thursday, dealers said. A 01.07.2025 bond was quoted at 31.25/75 percent on Thursday, steady from 31.25/30 percent on Wednesday.
A 15.09.2027 bond was quoted at 28.30/29.00 percent, steady from 28.25/29.00 percent on Wednesday. Sri Lanka rupee opened at 327/328.50 rupees against the US dollar strengthened, from 328.50/329.50 rupees from a day earlier.
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