New Debt Office

The Central Bank, which has been managing the countrys debt issues for years, will hand over the function to a new agency next year.
The new government public debt management office is to combine local and foreign debt raising and government cash flow management. rn

rnAt present external debt is raised by a division in the finance ministry while domestic debt raising is a function of the Central Bank. rn

rnldblquote The development of a sound, overall risk management framework for public debt management, using efficient risk management techniques is receiving our immediate attention,
dblquote said Central Bank Governor A S Jayawardene at a conference last week.rn

rnldblquote Good progress has been made in this regard. There will also be reforms to the legal and the institutional structure of the public debt management to bring both external and domestic public debt raising, including the management of govt cash flow under one umbrella.
dblquote rn

rnMr. Jayawardene was speaking at the National conference on Fixed Income Securities organized by the Primary Dealers Association. Analysts say officials have been looking at ways of improving government cash management for some time.rn

rnThe treasury has discovered that various government departments are guilty of accumulating large unspent cash reserves.rn

rnWhile these funds lay idle the treasury is forced to raise new cash to cover up expenses.rn

rnThe new public debt management office will look at better ways of managing cash.rn

rnA team from the US treasury was in the country earlier in the year to assess the local system and recommend improvements to treasury management.rn

rnldblquote Other improvements that are being considered are: the reduction of the number of Treasury Bond series in order to reduce fragmentation; securities buy backs, reopening issues and exchange offers. rn

rnldblquote Interest rate risk, particularly re-pricing risk is being reduced to the management of redemption profile, the fixed floating ratio and the duration band. At present the yield curve extents up to 6 years. Long term treasury bonds with10 or 12 year maturity is the pipeline,
dblquote he said.rn

rnOfficials say direct holdings of government securities by individuals are higher in Sri Lanka than in other countries. Over 17% of government debt was in individual hands and this number keeps increasing. The private sector holds around 27% of government bills and bonds.rn

rnVery few countries have been able to attract individual investors to this extent.rn

rnldblquote Compared to other countries Sri Lanka has a very high ratio of individual and small-time investors, around 17%, which is a high ratio,
dblquote Mr. Jayawardene said.rn

rnldblquote However there is potential of broad-basing the debt ownership and this would help deepen the market which is at present confined to urban based large individual and institutional investors.
dblquotern