Tue. Oct 20th, 2020

By Madhusha Thavapalakumar

The little lady in Little Red Riding Hood did not listen to her mum when she told the little woman to go directly to her granny’s house and not wander off from the path. She differed the designated course to delight in remaining in the woods. We all understand what happened next. There was a huge bad wolf, and it consumed the poor girl after gobbling up her grandmother.

According to Harvard University Center for International Advancement Director of Growth Laboratory Prof. Ricardo Hausmann, Sri Lanka might be compared to the little girl and its large pile of financial obligation which is the big bad wolf.With a debt-to-GDP(gross domestic product)ratio of over 90%, unarguably Sri Lanka has long been a heavy borrower and will likely continue to be one in the years to come. The nation has actually been reliant on foreign loans over the years, generally for its infrastructure development tasks. In the past 15 years alone, Sri Lanka has borrowed over $34 billion from different global financial organisations and providing nations.Sri Lanka’s mounting financial obligation pile is susceptible to external shocks

, while in turn, the country’s economy as a whole is vulnerable to unfavorable shocks due to its big public debt and low external buffers, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A report compiled by an independent group of local economists in 2015 highlighted that Sri Lanka’s annual financial obligation payment is$5 billion, greater than the tourism profits of Sri Lanka in 2018. While specialists argue that the debt-to-GDP ratio could increase to 100%in three years and double in six years, the Ministry of Financing is of the view that the financial obligation to GDP ratio could be brought down to 72%by 2022, while also standing firmly versus several rankings from international rating agencies.In this context, one might ask: Has the country undervalued the unfavorable result of this debt stack to economics? Has the Sri Lankan Federal government not taken its huge pile of external financial obligation seriously? Prof. Hausmann, speaking from his experience of witnessing a number of external financial obligation crises of different nations, says that we should take external financial obligations seriously.This week, The Sunday Early Morning Organization is having a look at the takeaways from Prof. Hausmann’s conversation during a current webinar on the topic of “How can we improve Sri Lanka’s financial obligation sustainability?”, arranged by Advocata Institute, an independent think tank in Colombo.There is a’big bad wolf’According to Prof. Hausmann, Sri Lanka has been focusing merely on its debt-to-GDP ratio, neglecting or trivialising every other aspect of its debt. If the focus is just on debt-to-GDP ratio, then naturally it

is a ratio the country could be happy with, as it has a double-digit ratio, while Asia’s largest economies and even the world’s superpower has it in triple-digit-level ratios against the GDP.”It is easy to come and state that the debt-to-GDP ratio in Sri Lanka is 86 %, whereas it is 230% in Japan and 100 %in the United States,”Prof. Hausmann said.He stated that the idea of the debt-to-GDP ratio is arbitrary and therefore does not supply

any genuine meaning. Rather, he emphasised the value of concentrating on a nation’s rates of interest burden-to-tax profits ratio.Interest rate-to-GDP ratio should be

the focus In spite of Japan having a debt-to-GDP ratio of 230%, as discussed previously, the country’s interest rate-to-GDP ratio is absolutely no, which implies Japan has to raise zero portion of taxes to pay its external interest rates.Nevertheless,

when it comes to Sri Lanka, why Prof. Hausmann thinks we must not take pride in our debt-to-GDP ratio is because of the truth that Sri Lanka’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 86%, and about 6%of GDP(tax profits’s portion of GDP)has to be assigned for interest payments.”

Sri Lanka has one of the worst interest burden-to-tax profits steps worldwide,”he stated.The question is just how much of the tax earnings made by the federal government needs to be devoted for financial obligation servicing and interest payments prior to informing a kid or providing health care for an elderly person.

The answer is disconcerting and the debt is a severe problem.Prof. Hausmann’s suggestion for Sri Lanka is to look at the

rates of interest burden-to-tax revenue ratio and make it more significant. However, as soon as again, making it more significant too is a complex process, offered the truth that the country’s tax earnings contribution to its GDP is lower than that of the majority of its Asian counterparts.Going back to the case of Japan, it has absolutely no interest to pay, yet it raises 40 %of its GDP in taxes whereas Sri Lanka, with a 6%rates of interest, raises only 12%if it’s GDP through taxes. It is evident that out of this 12 %, 6 %– precisely half of the tax revenue– is being spent in the form of interest payment, or to put it exactly, servicing the big pile of debt.

“You most likely have among the largest debts determined by doing this worldwide– that means you have a truly major financial obligation problem. It is not theoretical. Once you begin thinking of the rates of interest as a burden-to-tax income ratio, you realise how things can go south,”Prof. Hausmann warned.If not, the wolf will bite When the federal government keeps paying half of its tax income in the form of interest rate while borrowing cash from external loan providers, the reliability of a nation gets deteriorated. When more loans are required to fund deficits, markets tend to judge that the borrowing country does not qualify for the money and, in reality, lending institutions may not be keen on nations that are going down on the economic scale.As an outcome, the federal government may be in a position to obtain at

higher interest rates which would be an added burden to the existing rates of interest payments. Consequently, the tax income will go down, economic activities would decrease, and the domestic banking system would become fragile.” This rates of interest burden-to-tax revenue ratio gets worse even faster. The factor is because you are accumulating that to spend for your deficit and since you are rolling over the maturing financial obligation at

a greater rate of interest. And you enter something we call ‘uncollectable bill dynamics ‘. Ultimately, the pain of servicing is too big and the nation would stop servicing the debt. So the country is in a debt crisis, “he added.Recalling the debt crisis that took place in Argentina and Ecuador, he alerted that when a nation participates in a financial obligation crisis, the healing is extremely difficult as the specific nation is omitted from access to finance, and even if the country managed to find a loaning source, the negotiations will take forever.The just alternative in such a scenario for Sri Lanka would be to depend on its domestic banking system, however as kept in mind above, amidst a debt crisis, the domestic banking system too would be weak as financial investments would have been already secured of the nation when it was following the harmful characteristic of obtaining more and more. Resultant is that the crisis would get extreme in the middle of the absence of both a regional or external financing source.”There is a big bad wolf. It does exist, it does happen, and it does bite. When it bites, it harms a lot. Do not let yourself be bitten

by the huge bad wolf,” Prof. Hausmann added.Borrowing more does not assist but cause problems If the country is to obtain more during a pandemic because tourist is deadlocked, exports are dealing with troubles, and public sector resources are at a premium level, the loan providers would wish to know whether the nation is received the cash they are lending.When lending institutions reject the demand of the loan due to the fact that of the poor-looking financial indicators and the nation too does not

want to obtain at greater rate of interest, the country turns towards IMF, the loan provider of the last resort. In April this year, Sri Lanka made a demand from the IMF for a Quick

Financing Instrument (RFI ). Nonetheless, last month, both State Minister of Cash, Capital Markets, and State Business Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle said the IMF’s support is not desperately needed by the country at the moment.However, Prof. Hausmann said that going to the IMF and working out a monetary arrangement itself signifies the market that the country is not qualified to provide or invest money. In addition, markets do not want to know that the borrowing country has no limitations to borrowing.Rating firms and their ability to anticipate In the case of Sri Lanka, there is pretty much no difference between the viewpoint of a ranking firm and market participants, according to Prof. Hausmann. If the ranking agencies are signalling that with these interest rates, Sri Lanka can not access the marketplace, it actually means the country can not rollover the debt voluntarily.

“As an outcome, the nation will have to keep maturing financial obligation without any market gain access to. Right now, you have reserves but you can see the path to decreasing of your reserves. However these reserves are used to paying for imports and not simply debt servicing,”he added.When reserves are dwindled and markets are not choosing the country to provide or invest money, the country heads towards a serious financial concern where even the rest of the reserves would be drained. If there is no external assistance, the time period that would be taken for the remainder of the reserve would be much faster than it used to be.Prof. Hausmann securely specified that difference by score companies is really about what the market considers Sri Lanka, and not about whether the Ministry of Finance and the market believe in the credit score firm or not.On 28 September, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the Sri Lankan Government’s long-term foreign currency provider and senior unsecured ratings to Caa1 from B2 and altered the outlook to” Steady”.

This concluded the review for downgrade started on 17 April 2020. The choice to downgrade Sri Lanka’s rating to Caa1 reflects Moody’s assessment that the coronavirus-induced shock, which Moody’s regard as a social risk, will substantially deteriorate Sri Lanka’s already vulnerable financing and external positions.”Heightened liquidity and external risks originate from Sri Lanka’s minimal protected financing sources to fulfill its product external debt service payments over the coming years, throughout which period market refinancing will stay vulnerable to shifts in financier sentiment.

At the same time, financial and external pressures will continue to restrict the scope for reforms to attend to longstanding credit vulnerabilities, signifying weakening institutions and governance, a crucial driver of today’s rating action, “Moody’s stated.Two days following the score, the Central Bank of Sri

Lanka(CBSL)issued a statement specifying that Moody’s rating downgrade stops working to identify and do justice to the ground truth of the continuous fast financial recovery backed by significantly enhanced service self-confidence emerging from the return of political and policy stability after a lapse of five years.”Sri Lanka, like a number of its peers in the emerging market group, experienced initial capital outflows, exchange rate depreciation, downturn in activity, and pressure on government finances in action to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the swiftness with which decisions were taken following the landslide victory of the Government allowed Sri Lanka to move along a recovery path towards development and stability, “the Central Bank noted.Policy choices readily available to Sri Lanka To promote the nation’s economy without widening the fiscal deficit further, Sri Lanka is in dire need of having a development technique that works with financial combination, according to Prof. Hausmann.”Exports and investments work for these situations. Increasing export increases supply response then money will distribute within Sri Lanka. What is very crucial is to have a technique to immunize its population. This would be a significant achievement if the nation can do that due to the fact that with the

immunized population, tourism can come back quickly ideally, “he added.In terms of investments and loans, if Sri Lanka is to bring in financiers and lenders, the economy of the country ought to be steady and must indicate a favorable picture of the country. “The Federal government must signal that deficits are on a path to come down– then you will get the lower expense of funding which will promote the economy,”he stated.Sri Lanka’s export basket, which has not gone through diversity for

years, requires to be diversified

frantically as part of its growth strategy. With exports being amongst the leading 3 foreign exchange earning sources of Sri Lanka, an undiversified basket is overshadowing the possible export alternatives of the nation.

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