Macro

Sri Lanka’s Debt Restructuring Roadmap: Following the Evidence

Sri Lanka’s recently gazetted domestic debt restructuring (DDR) exercise has drawn expressions of both support and criticism. Overall, negotiations have to be framed within certain desired outcomes to minimise costs to the economy. To this end, Sri Lanka’s negotiating stance dovetails neatly with crucial research evidence.

Driving Policy Action in Sri Lanka from Economic Crisis to Recovery

The Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) held a seminar on 25 October 2022 to coincide with the release of the Institute’s annual flagship report, Sri Lanka: State of the Economy 2022, on the theme Driving Policy Action from Crisis to Recovery. Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka and Mr K M Mahinda Siriwardana, Secretary to the Treasury/Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies, delivered the keynote addresses. Dr Dushni Weerakoon, Executive Director, IPS, made a presentation to mark the release of the Sri Lanka: State of the Economy 2022 report. Mr R H W A Kumarasiri, Director-General, Department of National Planning and Mr E A Rathnaseela, Addl. Director-General, Department of National Planning chaired/moderated a session on ‘Policy Action for Shared Sustainable Growth: A National Policy Framework’. Under this theme, senior IPS researchers Dr Nisha Arunatilake, Director of Research, Dr Ganga Tilakaratna, Research Fellow and Dr Manoj Thibbotuwawa, Research Fellow, made presentations.

A Fiscal Council for Sri Lanka: Pathway to Regaining Fiscal Credibility

Sri Lanka was once considered a development success story. But within the last few decades, this legacy was lost to governance failures and economic mismanagement. In recent years, the country has been characterised by a glaring lack of fiscal discipline reflected in the inability to raise sufficient revenue even to cover current spending. In this context, institutions have a major role to play in ensuring that governments do not fail. Effective institutions can (1) assure the provision of quality services which is essential for eradicating poverty and promote shared prosperity; (2) guarantee high-quality public spending and minimise corruption; and (3) ensure that all citizens benefit from economic growth and that development is not lop-sided. With this understanding, this blog discusses how a Fiscal Council (FC) can help Sri Lanka regain fiscal credibility and improve its overall economic performance.

Sri Lanka’s Runaway Inflation and the Limits of Monetary Policy

Having kept monetary policy too loose for too long, Sri Lanka started its tightening cycle in August 2021. It signalled firm intentions to regain the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s (CBSL) focus on price stability by engineering a reduction in demand through high interest rates and withdrawing liquidity from the economy. Effectively, in the current dire growth outlook for Sri Lanka, the policy intention means forcing a recession to tame inflation. In choosing between the options of an aggressive hike that will lead to a recession or tolerating a prolonged inflationary spiral bordering on hyperinflation, the former is preferable. Once inflation takes hold, the damage can be corrosive, especially its deeply regressive impacts on lower income households. But a contractionary strategy to suppress demand will not achieve the desired outcomes if (a) inflation expectations are not well anchored and people expect rapid price increases to continue, and (b) supply side factors remain unaddressed.

Currency Board: A Solution to Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis?

On 08 March, Sri Lanka devalued the rupee against the US dollar, entering into a floating exchange rate regime. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka had to abandon the pegged exchange rate as defending the rupee with dwindling reserves was impossible. The inter-bank exchange rate shot up once the banks were assured that the exchange rate was floated. The initial shoot-up was followed by further rallying of the US dollar reaching close to Rs. 300 per USD. With the gradually weakening rupee, inflation is also ascending to worrisome levels calling for radical changes, including adopting a currency board. This article discusses the effectiveness and suitability of a currency board for Sri Lanka in the current macroeconomic context. It argues that a currency board will be helpful to stabilise inflation in the short run but in the long run, Sri Lanka will be better off with a more flexible exchange rate regime.

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