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Notable hike in workers’ remittances

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External sector performance – September 2020

Sri Lanka’s external sector recovered further in September 2020, supported by the continued improvement in the trade deficit, a notable increase in workers’ remittances and the resultant stability in the domestic foreign exchange market.

The trade deficit improved in September 2020, compared to a year earlier, with a more than expected rebound in merchandise exports and a reduction in merchandise imports during the month. In September 2020, workers’ remittances, recorded the highest year-on-year growth since end 2011. In the financial account, the government securities market recorded a marginal foreign investment inflow during the month, while the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) recorded outflows. Net inflows to the domestic foreign exchange market eased the pressure on the exchange rate and enabled the Central Bank to absorb foreign exchange, on a net basis, to build up gross official reserves. Reflecting these developments, the Sri Lankan rupee appreciated during the month of September 2020.

Trade Balance

A deficit of US dollars 525 million was recorded in the trade account in September 2020, which was significantly lower than the deficit of US dollars 757 million recorded in September 2019. The improvement in the trade deficit during the month was due to lower level of imports and higher level of exports in September 2020, compared to September 2019.

The cumulative deficit in the trade account from January to September 2020 narrowed to US dollars 4,337 million from the deficit of US dollars 5,612 million recorded in the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, terms of trade, i.e., the ratio of the price of exports to the price of imports, deteriorated by 1.1 per cent in September 2020, compared to September 2019, due to export prices declining at a higher pace than the decline in import prices.

Exhibiting the resilience of the export sector in the midst of the current global market conditions and its V-shaped recovery since the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, earnings from merchandise exports in September 2020 increased, both on a year-on-year basis as well as on a month-on-month basis. Merchandise exports of US dollars 1,000 million in September 2020 were higher by 4.8 per cent than the exports of US dollars 954 million in September 2019. This was also 5.6 per cent higher than the exports of US dollars 947 million recorded in August 2020. The increase in exports of most agricultural goods and some industrial product categories, which surpassed the decline in other industrial exports and mineral exports, contributed to the overall increase in exports.

Export earnings from agricultural goods increased by 10.4 per cent in September 2020 on a year-on-year basis, led by coconut exports (both kernel and non-kernel), spices (mainly cinnamon), tea, minor agricultural products (mainly betel leaves) and seafood. Increased earnings from tea exports (3.3 per cent) were supported by higher prices (6.3 per cent), as export volumes declined (2.8 per cent).

 

 


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Unlimited music streaming platform in Sri Lanka

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SLT-Mobitel, the nation’s ICT and Telecommunications Service Provider recently partnered with Spotify, to mark their launch in Sri Lanka. Spotify is a paid premium music streaming app which allows subscribers to listen to music to their hearts content. Both, SLT-Mobitel Post-Paid and Pre-Paid customers will now be able to enjoy Spotify by activating a monthly recurring subscription or one-time subscription plan and access unlimited music streaming and downloading facilities.

The subscription charges will get added to the user’s customary billing, where payment will be deducted in real time. Starting from the payment date, the user will be able to access Spotify and download their favourite songs, for the next 30 days. Users who sign up for their first monthly subscription will receive an additional one month, courtesy of Spotify. The one-month subscription plan is not applicable with one-time subscription plans. SLT-Mobitel data rates, depending on the user’s respective broadband charges, will apply.

Spotify also has some exciting features that will provide SLT-Mobitel customers with the opportunity to listen to ad-free music, access millions of uninterrupted music under one platform, play any song they like, anywhere they go, and also be able to enjoy their music offline.

SLT-Mobitel customers can select their preferred premium package under four categories; Individual, Duo, Family, Student. Each category has recurring and non-recurring plans. After one month of free streaming, the package will activate once the offer period terminates. While both, the Individual and Student premiums are limited to one account user, the Duo package offers two accounts and the Family premium is accessible through six accounts. To view Spotify plans, users can log on to https://spoti.fi/3aLWvce

 

 

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Sri Lanka using ‘sovereign power’ over economy: CB Governor

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Anyone conversant with the elements of a political economy would know that Sri Lanka is using its ‘sovereign power’ to manage the different dynamics of the economy in a sustainable manner, Professor W. D Lakshman Governor of the Central Bank said on Wednesday.

“Some critics are saying that we adopt a so-called modern monetary theory. That’s not the case. In fact, Sri Lanka is using its sovereign power in a number of economic aspects to honour its external debt repayment commitments as well as to reduce its debt burden in the medium term as well as achieve resilient growth in the medium to long term, he said.

“We make policy decisions to boost our gross foreign reserves, meet our external debt servicing, to facilitate monetary expansion, to boost our GDP growth, to strengthen our current account balance and manage our domestic and external economic variables in a sustainable manner. This is not a modern monetary theory. This is an age-old tool used by central banks around the world when the circumstances demand it, he said.

“Certain trade-offs will be necessary when dealing with an economy which has a big fiscal gap to bridge. There are efforts to push Sri Lanka towards the IMF again which would in turn have influence on our policymaking. We have taken policy measures to stabilize the economy and we have adequate reserve levels to meet our debt repayments. Meanwhile, we are in negotiations with overseas central banks and multilateral agencies to further boost our reserve level and it would materialise within a matter of weeks,” he noted.

“One of the tools the Central Bank has introduced is in respect of repatriation of export proceeds into Sri Lanka and conversion of such proceeds into Sri Lankan rupees in order to strengthen the foreign exchange situation of the country,” he said.

The Governor made these remarks while delivering the keynote speech at a webinar organised by the Veemansa Initiative led by its Managing Director Luxman Siriwardene – the former Executive Director of Pathfinder Foundation.

The webinar revolved round the topic ‘External debt situation in Sri Lanka: Are we heading for a resolution or crisis?’

Professor Sirimal Abeyratne, Prof. Sumanasiri Liyanage, Dr. Nishan de Mel and Dr. Ravi Liyanage were the other speakers on the panel.

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CSE on the rebound; indices close positive

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne 

CSE produced signs of a rebound yesterday with both indices closing positive, though turnover remained low. Central Bank Governor W.D Lakshman’s recent statement on managing foreign reserves gave some boost to the market yesterday, stock market analysts said.

 The index experienced a zigzag movement within the early hours of trading; thereafter, it recorded a slight up-trend as it reached its intraday high of 7,439. Later, the market witnessed a down-trend at mid-day, followed by a sideways movement and closed at 7,372, gaining 43 points during the month of February, market sources said. 

It is said the banking sector dominated turnover with a contribution of considerable  parcel trades in Sampath Bank, Commercial Bank  and HNB.

Further, the Commercial Bank’s impressive quarterly results during the recent turbulent period also built investor  confidence. Commercial Bank was able to register a18 percent net interest income when other banks were reporting a decline. Its share price increased by Rs. 3 or 3.5 percent. On the previous day, its shares started trading at Rs. 85 and at the end of the day they moved up to Rs. 88. Due to the positive growth results, the bank announced a Rs. 4.40 dividend per share, plus a Rs. 2 script divergent for every share.

Further,  Sampath Bank shares also appreciated in both crossing and retail. In crossings its shares appreciated by Rs. 1.At the end of the day they moved up to Rs. 154.50. In the retail market, its shares moved up by Rs. 2 or 1.3 percent. Previously, its shares fetched Rs. 154 and at the end of yesterday they moved up to Rs. 156.  

Amid those developments, both indices moved upwards. The All Share Price Index went up by 104.48 points and S and P SL20 rose by 67.78 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 3 billion with four crossings. Those crossings were reported in Sampath Bank, where 3.9 million shares crossed for Rs. 602.2 million, its share price being Rs. 154.50, HNB 375,000 shares crossed for Rs. 39.4 million, its shares traded at Rs. 105, Pan Asia Power 9.5 million shares crossed for Rs. 33.2 million, its shares traded at Rs. 3.50 and Access Engineering 1.2 million shares crossed for Rs. 28.2 million; its shares traded at Rs. 24.

In the retail market top five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Expolanka Rs. 450 million (10 million shares traded), JKH Rs. 205 million (1.3 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs. 199 million (34.9 million shares traded), Sampath Bank Rs. 191 million (1.2 million shares traded) and Dipped Products Rs. 137.7 million (2.8 million shares traded). During the day 101 million share volumes changed hands in 18046 transactions. 

During the day, Expolanka, the biggest contributor to the turnover, saw its share price appreciating by Rs. 6.20 or 15 percent. Its share price quoted on the previous day was Rs. 41 and at the end of trading yesterday it moved up to Rs. 47.

Sri Lanka’s rupee quoted wider at 193.50/195.50 levels to the US dollar in the spot next market on Thursday while bond yields remained unchanged, dealers said. The rupee last closed in the spot market at 194.50/195.00 to the dollar on Wednesday.

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