Forex not enough for a week’s imports – CB Governor | Sunday Observer

Forex not enough for a week’s imports – CB Governor

15 May, 2022

Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe said he would have to step down from the post if there was no political stability in the country within the next week or two.

Speaking to journalists at a hurriedly called media briefing last week he said if the stalemate continues the economy would be in a worse scenario, aggravating the pain on masses.

Restoring political stability urgently is crucial to get the country and the economy back to normalcy, the Governor stressed adding that he would decide to call it a day if no political solution is brought about soon. On the reserve position he said the country hasn’t foreign reserves even to service imports of a week.

However, he said there is no reason to panic about the liquidity issue for local currency has the regulator would take care of it. Dr. Weerasinghe at the last media briefing  also said there is no local currency liquidity risk in the banking sector which is under the close supervision of the regulator.

He said the banking sector currently faces a forex liquidity issue which would be solved with the passage of time.

There is no issue with asset liability management and the capital adequacy ratio in the banking sector, Dr. Weerasinghe  said responding to queries on the banking sector stability.

Elaborating on measures to strengthen the forex position the Governor said the Finance Ministry will be publishing a gazette shortly to ban open account imports that spurs demand  for unofficial channels such as Hawala and Undial systems and promote transactions through the formal banking sector under the Import Export Control Act.

The regulator hopes that once the ban is in effect the demand for informal channels will wane and transactions  would be done through the formal channels.

The country lost a large amount foreign exchange due to the black market transactions that flourished for over a year.

 It is estimates that around 25 percent of the close to two billion dollars of the country  are on open account while around 12 percent are on documents against payment/documents against acceptance (DA/DP).

On the IMF program the Governor expressed optimism of a staff level agreement that would be reached between Sri Lanka and the IMF  and a program to be in place to support the country’s balance of payment within the next three months.

‘I  am confident we could reach an agreement with the IMF  get on with the supported program within a round three months which thereafter would infuse some stability to the economy,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.

According to the CB chief the first round of discussions with the global lender on the sidelines of the IMF spring meetings in Washington last week had been satisfactory.

We are pleased with the outcome of the first discussion wit the IMF senior staff in Washington where the IMF assured its support to help Sri Lanka, the Central Bank governor said.

However, the international lender said recently that  Sri Lanka faces “solvency” issues because of risks stemming from unsustainable debt levels that jeopardize the nation’s economy.

A summary of the report released earlier in the month said Sri Lanka faced unsustainable debt levels and needed a “credible and coherent” strategy to restore stability. 

It stressed that an approval of an IMF-supported program for Sri Lanka would need adequate assurances that debt sustainability will be restored. 

“Based on staff analysis, the fiscal consolidation necessary to bring debt down to safe levels would require excessive adjustment over the coming years, pointing to a clear solvency problem,” the IMF said in its Article IV consultation report, released last month in Washington.

Sri Lanka will arrive at an agreement for an Extended Fund Facility program as it did in 2009 to support the country get over the balance of payment crisis.

On the discussion with creditors the governor said the IMF will commence its program following the progress with the discussion with creditors. The  IMF team welcomed the authorities’ plan to engage in a collaborative dialogue with their creditors at its meeting in Washington recently.