The Central Bank has warned that economic recovery and current efforts to restore Sri Lanka’s economic stability rests on “reassuring social coherence and restoring political stability and an enduring political will, to take this reform agenda forward”.
In its annual report for 2021 released last week, it said ongoing efforts to resolve the economic issues, including the suspension of external debt servicing by the Government for an interim period pending orderly and consensual restructuring of debt obligations.
CB noted that in seeking an economic adjustment programme from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a commitment is needed to rationalising government expenditure and enhancing government revenue, and continuing non-aligned political and economic diplomacy, among others.
These factors are essential for to restore macroeconomic stability in the period ahead, the Central Bank’s annual report highlighted.
The Sri Lankan economy recovered in 2021 from the pandemic induced contraction in 2020, albeit with several deeply entrenched structural problems and vulnerabilities inherited over several decades coming to the forefront, thereby resulting in unprecedented socio-political tensions in early 2022.
“However, given particular vulnerabilities in the economy, the Central Bank had to be heavily involved in shielding the economy through extraordinary responses, in the form of monetary policy easing, ample liquidity provision to the markets and the Government.
It will be adopting several external sector and financial sector policies, in the absence of adequate policy space in the fiscal sector or an adequately prompt response from the fiscal sector,” the report said.
The outcome of the exchange rate flexibility that was thereafter allowed also in early March 2022, fell short of expectations due to the large overshooting by market forces, reflecting the significant liquidity pressures that prevailed in the domestic foreign exchange market as well as the delay in market correction.
“Price stability, which was the strongest pillar for macroeconomic stability over the last decade or so, was challenged since the second half of 2021 due to the combined impact of global and local supply driven causes as well as the build-up of excessive demand pressures on prices, primarily caused by the lagged impact of extraordinary monetary accommodation, including unprecedented monetary financing that became required due to the lack of fiscal space,” it said.
The external sector remained on the brink of a precarious state since late 2021 due to the mounting Balance of Payments (BOP) pressures reflected in the meagre level of official reserves amidst significant debt servicing obligations along with the dire need to finance essential imports at a time when the domestic foreign exchange market remained largely illiquid.