斯里蘭卡 Sri lanka
Crisis cannot be tackled by fuel price increases alone: SJB prescribes IMF
Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) spokesperson Dr. Harsha de Silva, MP, yesterday (21) called for immediate remedial measures in the wake of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s shocking admission that the national economy was in such a bad shape it found it difficult to pay for oil imports.
Former UNP non-Cabinet minister de Silva said that there had not been a previous instance of a minister expressing fears of collapse of the banking system under their watch unless corrective measures were taken. The Colombo District MP recommended the government to seriously consider seeking IMF’s assistance before the situation further deteriorated .
Noting that both the Energy Minister and the Presidential Secretariat declared that state banks could be overwhelmed by staggering Rs 737 bn loans owed by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), MP de Silva emphasised that the monetary crisis could not be addressed by increasing fuel prices alone.
COPE member MP de Silva appreciated Attorney-at-law Gammanpila for being frank in his assessment. The SJB MP explained ways and means of addressing the issues at hand when The Island asked whether the Parliament as an institution should adopt a common stand on national economy and take tangible remedial measures?
The Island also sought the MP’s suggestions on stabilising the economy.
Economist de Silva said that Minister Gammanpila is on record as having said that the Central Bank in a letter dated May 31, 2021 warned the Finance Ministry of dire consequences unless remedial measures were taken.
MP de Silva said that State Minister of Finance, Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal in a recent interview with Irida Lankadeepa confirmed Minister Gammanpila’s statement. However, it would be a grave mistake on the part of the government to believe such an extremely serious situation could be tackled by increasing fuel prices.
The former Policy Planning Deputy Minister said the issue at hand is so serious, it could not be fixed by just increasing fuel prices. “A macro prudential analysis must be undertaken by the Central Bank without further delay. The systemic risks must be identified and assessed. The vulnerability of the banking system must be immediately addressed beyond the mere inability of the CPC to make good on their payments,” MP de Silva said.
MP de Silva underscored the desperate situation the state banks were experiencing. The MP said that state banks were entering into dollar swaps at massive discounts. For instance, buying dollars today at Rs 199.99 with settlement in a year at Rs 181.99. “Consider the risk these state banks are running. Can they get dollars at Rs 181.99 in a year’s time or will the dollar cost Rs 210 or even higher? Whose money is at risk? Another glaring example is the plan to borrow USD 1 billion from ‘unsolicited’ bidders. This is unbelievable. Are we going to integrate our banking system with money laundering operators to allow them to clean black money? What will happen to our credibility in the longer run? These are all serious matters that need immediate attention.”
Responding to another query, MP de Silva asserted that the best option available to the SLPP government was to restructure the country’s debt. “If we, do it now, we should be able to come out of the crisis with only a re-profiling exercise, meaning a delay in our payments to the bond holders instead of asking them to take a haircut, meaning to agree to a reduction in principle,” he said.
The SJB heavyweight asked would working with the IMF acceptable than seeking deals with those hoping to clean their dirty money. The current crisis should be tackled by working with the IMF whatever the political agenda the SLPP hoped to pursue, the government had no option but to seek IMF assistance or face a catastrophe. MP de Silva said that he suggested six months ago that Sri Lanka had no option but to undertake a restructuring process with the IMF. Although the government had ignored warnings and declared it would never go to the IMF, the crisis triggered by the fuel price hike exposed the government. “Unfortunately for the people of Sri Lanka the more these people continue this delay in restructuring the greater the pain will be when it finally is thrust upon us. We need a soft landing. Not a hard landing,” Dr. de Silva said.
The former minister said that this would be raised in parliament. Referring to a media briefing called by Minister Gammanpila early this month whereas announced plans for a new oil refinery at Sapugaskanda, MP de Silva said that the PHU leader said that cash-strapped debt-ridden government lacked the wherewithal to make an investment therefore needed external financing amounting to USD 3 bn. The former Minister said that Minister Bandula Gunawardena and State Minister Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, too, acknowledged the severe financial difficulties with the latter explaining how the raging Covid-19 pandemic worsened the situation.
Source from: Shamindra Ferdinando(2021). Crisis cannot be tackled by fuel price increases alone: SJB prescribes IMF. Retrieve from: The island Online(June 22, 201). https://island.lk/crisis-cannot-be-tackled-by-fuel-price-increases-alone-sjb-prescribes-imf/