In February 2015 the Central Bank of Sri Lanka called an auction for one billion rupees on a 30 year bond. It then accepted 10 fold – 10 billion rupees – after the bids were in. This Insight identifies three errors in the published calculation of the monetary loss, and recalculates it at 0.9 billion rupees. It also highlights two other issues: conflict of interest, and confidence in institutions, which add to the negative consequences of the Central Bank decision.
Sri Lanka’s history with bi-lateral trade agreements demonstrates the need for more careful negotiation. This Insight explains how the tariff benefits of the India Sri Lanka FreeTrade Agreement (ISFTA) have been outweighed by the existance of non-tariff barriers (NTBs).
The European Commission recently banned the import of Sri Lankan fisher-ies products for violating guidelines on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing. This Insight suggests that the ban was triggered by the behaviour of a small number of very large Chinese vessels run by a BOI registered company in Sri Lanka.
The government first raised international debt through bonds in October 2007. Since then several international bonds have been issued to feed the government’s twin demands: financing its spending and propping up foreign reserves. While this trend of foreign borrowing is on the rise, what is happening to the cost of borrowing? And what is the prognosis for the future?
The government estimates that by 2015 per capita GDP will quadruple from what it was in 2004. But this is a mirage: real incomes will not even double in that period. The mirage is created by counting in US dollars and effectively presenting nominal growth in GDP (increased prices) as real GDP growth (increased incomes).
Variations in the tobacco excise tax affects Rs. 10s of billions in government revenue. Taxation and pricing has been inconsistent. The lack of a consistent method allows wide discretion to officials in determining the tax. Parliament should adopt a formula to keep taxation in line with national policy, treat stakeholders fairly, and prevent discretion from being abused.
Sri Lanka hopes to increase export revenue to USD 20 bn by 2020. This target is perceived as ambitious; but, compared to the country’s growth targets and the performance of regional peers, it is mediocre. This Insight explains that to be confident of setting and achieving ambitious export targets, Sri Lanka must go beyond symptomatic remedies and address the root causes of underlying problems with its export strategy.