Hefty oil bill widens Sri Lanka’s trade gap for Sept.

Sri Lanka’s trade deficit for the first nine months expanded further, as a hefty oil import bill continued to take its toll on the country’s meager earnings, the Central Bank said Wednesday. Sri Lanka’s trade deficit for the first nine months expanded further, as a hefty oil import bill continued to take its toll on the country’s meager earnings, the Central Bank said Wednesday. The tropical island’s US$ 20 billion economy is presently creaking under the strain of high international oil prices and double-digit inflation.

Deficit for the nine months to Sept., rose US$ 306 million to US$ 1,876 million, the banks said in its November monetary policy statement.

The island’s import bill overtook export earnings (up 11.3 percent) to grow by 13.5 percent during the period under review.

Sri Lanka’s overall balance of payments showed a US$ 292 million surplus for the nine months to Sept. 2005, swelled by a 21 percent increase in private remittances and tsunami aid inflows.

Higher inflows also gave the island’s international reserves a boost, with the kitty now standing at US$ 2.4 billion – just enough to cover 3.3 months of imports.

The bank did not give comparable 2004 dat