Sri Lanka’s IMF Saga – The Diplomat

The Pulse | Economic system | South Asia

As soon as once more, the nation is pressured to hunt a bailout from the IMF – with all the prices and advantages that entails.

The continued financial disaster in Sri Lanka is likely one of the worst that the world has seen in current instances. The island nation has an unprecedented inflation price reaching as excessive as 69.8 % in September 2022.

Sri Lanka has been dealing with a number of macroeconomic points, which finally snowballed right into a humanitarian catastrophe in early 2022. A number of mismanaged political strikes – such because the election-induced tax cuts in 2019 or the sudden swap to natural farming in 2021 – mixed with the repeated use of exterior credit score to mitigate Steadiness of Funds (BOP) crises and the COVID-induced downfall of the tourism sector mixed to end in in the present day’s huge disaster. The lengthy strains at gas stations throughout the nation, civil protests ousting first the sitting prime minister after which the president, and the unavailability of mandatory commodities like medicines and milk powder give a mere glimpse into the large financial mess the nation has run into.

In opposition to this background, whereas nations similar to India, Bangladesh, Japan and China have supplied monetary help and different assist to Sri Lanka in the previous couple of months, the island nation was capable of attain a preliminary settlement with the IMF for a 48-month Prolonged Fund Facility (EEF) of $2.9 billion. The IMF mortgage is meant to revive macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability, to unlock the expansion potential within the financial system. Whereas safeguarding Sri Lanka’s monetary stability and stepping up the structural reforms which are essential to deal with corruption points within the nation, the IMF facility additionally goals to assist the poor and weak, who’re disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the following financial disaster.

The IMF program has seven key parts:

  1. Main tax reforms to lift authorities income for fiscal consolidation.
  2. Price-recovery based mostly pricing for gas and electrical energy, as a way to decrease fiscal dangers arising from public sector enterprises.
  3. A rise in social spending and enchancment within the protection and focusing on of social security nets, aiding the poor and weak.
  4. Knowledge-driven financial coverage, fiscal consolidation, phasing out financial financing, and powerful central financial institution autonomy to revive value stability and permit for a versatile inflation focusing on regime.
  5. Restoring the market-determined and versatile alternate price to revive international alternate reserves.
  6. Guaranteeing a wholesome and adequately capitalized banking system, whereas upgrading the regulatory requirements and security nets within the monetary sector.
  7. Fiscal transparency, public monetary administration and legal guidelines/insurance policies to scale back corruption vulnerabilities.

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Sri Lanka has had a bittersweet relationship with the IMF prior to now. It has gone to the IMF for bailout 5 instances prior to now, not counting the present EFF program, for a grand whole of $4.9 billion in permitted funds (though not all the cash was disbursed in the long run).

Sri Lanka’s IMF Structural Adjustment Packages (2000 – 2020)

Program Length Authorized (in US$ million) Disbursed (in US$ million)
Stand-By Settlement (SBA) Apr 20, 2001 to    Sep 10, 2002    256.8 256.8
Prolonged Fund Facility (EFF) Apr 18, 2003 to    Apr 17, 2006    210.5 30.1
Poverty Discount and Development Facility (PRGF) Apr 18, 2003 to    Apr 17, 2006    392.1 56
SBA Jul 24, 2009 to    Aug 23, 2012    2572 2572
EFF Jun 3, 2016 to      Jun 2, 2020    1492 1326.8

Knowledge compiled from Jayalath (1990), CBSL (1998, 2001, 2002, 2009), and IMF.

There isn’t any denying that IMF bailouts are probably the most unfavorable possibility for any financial system. The IMF conditionalities are sometimes troublesome to maintain up with and will construct added pressures on the home financial system, as seen in Sri Lanka within the final decade. Given inside points which have ranged from the constitutional disaster in October 2018 to a number of monsoon failures that threatened agricultural productiveness within the final decade, the financial system couldn’t hold the IMF stipulated finances deficits at round 5 % of GDP, and likewise failed to attain no vital enchancment in exports or financial development. Between 2015 and 2019, Sri Lanka’s authorities income contracted from 14.1 % to 12.6 % of GDP, and the expansion price slumped from 5 % to 2.9 %.

Nonetheless, it was essential for the nation’s administration to fathom the depth of the present financial disaster and the results it might have. Sri Lanka’s lack of pragmatism with the IMF within the earlier levels of the disaster made issues worse and decreased its choices to avert this meltdown. In reality, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who was instrumental in negotiating the Indian aid bundle to Sri Lanka, was eliminated from his place days earlier than his scheduled journey to the USA for discussions on a doable bailout bundle with the IMF in April 2022.

The current IMF settlement requires debt restructuring with all exterior and personal collectors. Though the nation is eyeing a December 2022 deadline for the bailout, the debt aid measures throw this timeline into doubt. Japan has been endowed with the duty of holding talks with Sri Lanka’s main bilateral collectors similar to India and China. Nonetheless, the diplomatic coldness between India and China, together with China’s hidden loans and Belt and Street Initiative (BRI) ambitions in Sri Lanka, would possibly dampen the debt restructuring course of.

As Sri Lanka and the world had been on the point of get better from the pandemic’s macroeconomic impacts, the Russia-Ukraine struggle has added contemporary wounds to the island nation. Not solely has the battle deteriorated Sri Lanka’s vacationer revenues from Russians and Jap Europeans, who beforehand visited the nation yearly in massive numbers, however it has additionally resulted in critical vitality and meals safety issues from hovering gas costs and disrupted meals provide chains. Contemplating this, though the IMF program is shifting out of its earlier impasse, swifter actions on this appears to be crucial within the Sri Lankan financial system’s restoration course of.