24 May, 2022


Eurozone Crisis Could Hit Our Economy Harder

By Namini Wijedasa –

Namini Wijedasa

Sri Lanka’s shaky economy will get another pummelling as the euro-zone sovereign debt crisis worsens, analysts and industrialists warned last week, while urging policy makers to start steeling the country for it.
But Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal said he did not anticipate a major negative impact. “We don’t need to take any measures right now,” he asserted. “We are watching the situation very closely. We are conducting a review every two weeks or so and if anything is needed we will be ready to step up policy action.”
A combination of actors expressed fears about the euro-zone crisis and its repercussions for Sri Lanka. Fitch Ratings said that, among emerging economies, Sri Lanka’s sovereign rating was at most risk from the fallout.
“Sri Lanka is most at risk due to its high external-funding needs and weak balance sheet,” Bloomberg newswire quoted Andrew Colquhoun, head of Asia-Pacific sovereign ratings at Fitch, as saying. “The same issues also make India and Indonesia vulnerable compared to similarly graded peers.”

Be ready for it
The Institute of Policy Studies, a semi-government think-tank, separately pointed out that Sri Lanka’s manufacturing and tourism sectors are “quite dependent on Europe and as a result could face a severe downturn.” For instance, the apparel industry exports 50 per cent of its products to the EU and over 42 per cent of tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka are from Europe.
“Given that apparels and tourism are two of Sri Lanka’s largest income earners (textiles and garments alone amounts to 39.7 per cent of total exports) it is crucial that stakeholders in the Sri Lankan economy take a very close look at the effects of a possible euro-zone break up and ensure that robust plans are in place to mitigate the ripple effects of such an outcome,” said IPS, which also has the Central Bank governor on its board. “Clearly, other countries have begun to think ahead – Sri Lanka must do the same.”
The euro-zone sovereign debt crisis, classified by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as the world’s worst in 2011, is set to deteriorate this year. The situation was building up since 2009 when it was first realized that Greece could default on its sovereign debt. Since then, there are fears that Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain could also default on their public debt.
Led by Germany and France, the European Union has tried to support these countries with bailouts from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These measures haven’t been enough. The very existence of the euro is now under threat. If more countries are unable to meet their commitments, the world could be hit with a worse crisis than in 2008.
One of the main challenges Sri Lanka will face is in the area of external debt – how much the government can borrow on the open market and at what rates. When the global financial crisis broke out in 2008 resulting in a liquidity squeeze, sovereign bonds were hard to float and they had to be sold at much higher interest rates until the credit crunch eased. Sri Lanka, which borrows significantly from the open market and needs to roll over some of its sovereign debt this year, might have to go for higher interest rates that we cannot afford.

Expensive loans
According to Fitch projections, as quoted by Bloomberg, Sri Lanka’s gross external financing requirements this year equate to 95 per cnet of the country’s reserves. In contrast, Indonesia and India both need outside funds totalling at least 30 per cent of their sovereign reserves.
In a comment left on the IPS Talking Economics blog, an informed observer points to the increased integration of Sri Lanka’s financial market with the global financial system – both through the Government of Sri Lanka borrowing from international capital markets and, increasingly, commercial banks borrowing from abroad. He notes that a lot of this borrowing is tied to LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) or the average interest rate that leading banks in London charge when lending to other banks.
“When Lehmann crashed in 2008, there was a big increase in the LIBOR,” he said. “And even last year, when the euro situation looked bad, the LIBOR almost doubled and has remained at that level. If there is a major credit event in Europe and it causes a sustained increase in risk perception for inter-bank borrowing causing the LIBOR to spike, it could affect repayments on international borrowings that have been made when the LIBOR was at very low levels.”
“A dry up on inter-bank borrowings,” he adds, “could also hurt trade finance, which tends to have a short and sharp impact on global trade.”
Indrajith Coomaraswamy, former director of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Economic Affairs Division, said there were several channels through which Sri Lanka could get affected. This includes trade and tourism. “The overall impact on risk appetite in capital markets will also have to be considered because these will have implications for decisions made by lenders, international banks that lend money, portfolio investments and foreign direct investment,” he explained.
“There is already now a risk premium attached as a result of the crisis which all countries, including Sri Lanka, will have to pay,” Coomaraswamy continued. “Our capacity to repay may be affected if the euro-zone goes belly up. This is no commentary on the quality of our policies but on the fact that there is much more risk in the global economy which, in turn, means there is a premium attached to money that is being lent.”
So, if the risk appetite of international capital markets comes down because of the euro-zone crisis, it would impact negatively on the global economy which then has implications on the cost of funds for everybody.
But Cabraal said there was no cause for alarm. “The type of money we are raising means we have a clientele spread right across Asia, Europe and the US,” he explained. “Our view is that, even if there is any kind of reduction of investment appetite, it would be fairly well compensated by the appetite that has been enhanced both in Asia and the US. We don’t expect that also to be a problem.”
Asked about the possibility of having to pay higher rates of interest, Cabraal said Sri Lanka’s bonds are trading at “very competitive rates compared with many other countries.” “There, again, we don’t expect it to be a major challenge,” he insisted.

Exports to take a hit?

Garments are our main export to Europe but other products also make their way there. This includes rubber goods and processed fish. It is feared that the capacity of affected countries to buy from Sri Lanka would be less.
“There is no question that there will be an impact on exports as long as the euro-zone crisis exists,” said Dawn Austin, chairperson of the Exporters Association of Sri Lanka. But she felt that it will encourage some exporters to innovate and diversify. “Having lost the GSP Plus, certain industries saw themselves hone their products to reach a higher end,” she recalled. “And I’m talking here of the apparel industry.”
“I think exporters will start looking for other destinations and obviously for other buyers,” she reiterated. “That could compensate in the long run.” The problem, though, is that other export-oriented countries will be doing the same so Sri Lanka “needs to sort itself out and bring down our cost of production.”
Demand has already fallen. “It’s beginning to reflect in the May figures,” Austin said. “But we are talking of exports to the euro-zone. Don’t confuse it with exports in general.” Asked how they would encourage the government to tackle the situation, she said her association and the chambers are getting their budget proposals together. “Those usually form the basis for what the government will be requested to address but nobody had come out with anything specific yet,” she said.
Here, again, Cabraal was optimistic. “We have done several scenario analyses considering different countries in the euro-zone that have dealings with Sri Lanka,” he outlined. “We do not do business with the entirety of the euro-zone. We are actually doing serious work – exports, imports, investments-mostly with the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland. We find that we have very little to do with some of the affected countries. Our main exports go to Germany, UK, somewhat to Denmark and a few others. None of those countries are badly affected.”
The Central Bank’s assessment, therefore, is that if those countries, “do not get into any kind of serious situation, it is unlikely the euro-zone crisis will have a serious impact on the Sri Lankan economy”.
Meanwhile, Coomaraswamy said the euro-zone problem could also reach Sri Lanka through tourism. A large percentage of visitors to Sri Lanka come from Western Europe. If their countries are hit, it is likely that they will not take long haul holidays. Finally, remittances from people in countries such as Italy might reduce.
He expected the next year to be tough. “What could happen is that there will be an economic slowdown, interest are rates high, there is a credit ceiling for banks, investment will be less, so growth will be less,” he assessed. “If that is so, then tax collection will also be less since economic activity will be less. Government revenue will consequently reduce, as will its scope to provide assistance to people.”
This might mean that more sectors will appeal to the government for assistance.

Lakbima News


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0

    Until recently Coomaraswarmy was blowing his trumpet and saying that all was well and Sri Lanka would be an economic miracle and “hit a six on the off side”! The guy likes to show that he’s a great sportsman! Now like the IMF in the crisis rid Euro-zone he’s trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted.
    While working at the World Bank in Lanka after retiring from the Commonwealth Institute he was cosy-ing up to Basil and Nivard Cabraal@ the CB and saying Sri Lanka would hit a six over the boundary line and be a winner with China and India. At the a five star hotel business seminar where Basil was present he even said that corruption is OK as long as the job is done and that was his policy from dealing with African economies! What a pompous, self-seeking joker this Inderjith is!
    He loves the IMF and WB should be shut down! The IMF and World Bank had the primary mandate to ensure that the global economy worked and have been paid enormous amounts of money to do so but have failed miserably. Time has come to deal with the core issues the rot in knowledge production coming out of the Breton Woods twins that have made the rich richer and the poor poorer systematically. The Breton Woods twins have provided the “knowledge base” and legitimacy for the transfer for public wealth into private hands for decades. The medicine they offer is worse that the disease: they bail out corrupt Bankers and banks for billions of dollars while people starve in the streets. They talk about “good governance” but practice it in the breach. Right now the WB is funding Gota the white van goon and Defense which eats up 20 percent of GDP via the UDA on a huge “urban development project” that has no mention of providing a decent public transport system in the city of Colombo which the public recons is the most pressing urban development priority.
    Enough is enough. First close down these two white elephants and then lets get a truthful analayis of what can be done to ensure social justice for the poor and ordinary people.

    • 0

      Like his [Edited out]loves money, power, influence and the lime light and will do anything to get it!

  • 0

    Thanks Namini! We need good investigative journalists on the subject of economic governance, financial crime and accountability. Too much attention is paid to the no doubt important Tamil national question at the expense of good analysis and exposure of economic crimes of the regime at this time. And in a sense they are related in the form of Gotabaya’s and the general economic model of military business.
    We need analysis of both of the Rajapakse regime and the rotten to the core global financial system operated by the IMF and WB which likes to talk about good governance but observe it in the breach.
    Finally, Namini please do a story of Nivard Cabraal’s role in the Hambantota Commonwealth Games bid scam on which billions of public funds were spent. If the bid had been won Lanka would have been bankrupted building a mssive commonelath games village in Hambantota for 500,000 people. India built its games village in Delhi which has 17, million people and it can be used rather than become a white elephant as it would have been in Hambantota!

    • 0

      Indeed, the IMF and WB are like the emperor who has no cloths! There advice and cure is worse than the disease – they make the poor pay for the crimes of the rich – bail out corrupt banks etc.
      Seems that they (Breton Woods twins) are “too big to fail” and must be propped up to give rancid advice to corrupt despots like Rajapakse.

      By the way the IMF is against high taxes on imported BMWs and super luxury cars because they are capital and corporate friendly. Hence the GoSL is now offering duty free permits to public servants to by more cars and spend more foreign currency so that the rupee depreciates further!

  • 0

    Maybe PresiDunce Rajapaksa and Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal think that China and the Exim Bank will bailout Sri Lanka if a crisis occurs? ;)

  • 0

    good EU PLAN B:

    I)Let South be obrero / migrant workers for Euro’s again.
    This is how Eu once started.

    II) Form the EU of willing high moral of the North.
    North is 80% anyway.

    Stop the debt AND flow free labour laws and south can pay.
    A good economy needs dual labour laws. US/mexican. Chineese rual workers ect. People just forgot how social economies / labor laws really works

  • 0

    Madam Naminai Wijedasa

  • 0

    Madam Namini Wijeadsa,your short writing of essay is give me lot of food for my thought our mind to think of EU economy and its decline process.
    1 Europen dominiation the world from the Renaissance until terrible Europen civi wars of 20th century because the Europenans expolred the world,learned from what they founded,created modern science and techonology or orginized thier own social system in way never before known, with unprecedented order of administarion management and power,and provieded a high quality of life for thier majority of population that maintain the ALLEGIANCE of their socieities.
    2 They did not simply out-produce everyone else in industrail manafacture and agriculture;they revolutionzed Fedul-mediveal methods of material producation and fedual farming.
    3 They also produced the IDEAS, that dominated the ERA-SCIENTIFIC IDEAS ,ideologies of progress and GOVERNANCE,theories of HUMAN SOCIETY and of future.
    4 The world still lives on the INTELLECTUAL LEGACY OF RENAISSANCE and Enlightenment Eurpoen and as well as as upon the political and Philosophy leagecy of Greace Roman and Christian religion.
    5 West incuding USA later combined developed and extented the political economy power and influnace of Europen with its innovative DEMOCRATIC SOCIAL SYSTEM OF CAPITALISM and FEDRAL INSTITUATIONS thoufgt the Globe.
    5 Since 1945 promulgation of its own ideas and ambitions to the world at large,as well as its ceration of GLOBALIZATION INDUSTRIAL MARKET,globalized communication and much more.
    6 On going Endless QE OF money PRINTING many more years of world big four CERTRAL BANKS now look at add to $6 trillion dollars already
    created since 2008.
    As RICH economy sink deeper into slought of debt after yet another WAVE of Euro finicial and banking crisis.

  • 0

    Dear Nilmini,
    Good evaluation and bring some thoughts on impact.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.