Foreign loans, overseas remittances, keep Sri Lanka floating

May 15 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s balance of payments (BOP) has recorded a 150 million dollar surplus for the three months to March, the Central Bank said Monday as it maintained key interest rates for the fifth straight month. The balance of payments is a record of the island’s total payments to foreign countries, including the cost of imports and the outflow of capital, along with the total receipts from abroad, including the export earnings and the inflow of capital.

Higher inflows of tsunami related aid and private remittances from countrymen residing overseas helped swell Sri Lanka’s BOP to record a 501 million dollar surplus in 2005.

During the first quarter of this year, Sri Lanka also received 263 million dollars by way of loans and grants.

Gross official reserves of the Central Bank have risen to 2.9 billion dollars (3.7 months of imports) by end March 2006, while the country’s total reserves have topped 4.4 billion dollars (5.8 months of imports) as at end March 2006, the bank said.

The bank did not give the absolute numbers for trade in the first three months of the year, but said the import bill exceeded export revenues due to a hefty petroleum bill.

“Imports of fabrics in the first thre