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Sri Lanka's non bank lenders encouraged to borrow abroad
06 Dec, 2012 11:11:03
Dec 06, 2012 (LBO) - Sri Lanka's non-bank lenders should borrow abroad using newly relaxed rules to help boost resources available for investment, Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabral said.
"We would encourage you to access foreign funds, as well," Cabraal told a forum of top finance company executives in Colombo this week.

"Some of you have been accessing foreign funds in order to buttress your own capital - to buttress your Tier II capital. And we would like to encourage that situation in the future as well."

Investments

Sri Lanka's licensed finance and leasing companies which had asset of 564 billion rupees by end September 2012 and accounted for 6 percent of total financial sector assets plays in a sub-prime market just below commercial banks.

They fund investments through leasing, hire purchase, housing mortgages and gold-backed loans.

Cabraal said Sri Lanka needed greater savings and investment to keep economic growth high at around 8.0 percent.

"Domestic investment has also increased to about 30 percent," Cabraal said. "As you know Sri Lanka has a perennial difficulty about savings not been sufficient to promote the growth that we have.

"Now we have seen it increasing but still not to the levels we would want it to be."

In a budget for 2013, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said commercial banks could borrow up to 50 million US dollars without exchange control approval from the Central Bank and other firms could borrow up to 10 million US dollars without exchange control approval.

Foreign Window

Cabraal said finance companies could use the opportunity to borrow abroad.

"So these are opportunities that you have to make use of that we would encourage you to do so," Cabraal said.

"That would address the savings gap that Sri Lanka has as well."

People's Leasing and Finance Plc, Sri Lanka's largest non-bank lender has said it is exploring the possibility of borrowing 10 million US dollars as well as a 100 million US dollar syndicated loan.

Several leasing and finance companies had also tapped credit lines from development lenders abroad.

Cabraal said foreign savings could tapped as Tier I capital (equity) into banks and finance companies or Tier II (subordinated debt), as portfolio investment in the stock markets.

"And it can also come in to the government," Cabraal said. "So government has already taken the necessary loans, as well as the capital to support infrastructure.

"Now the ball is fairly and squarely on the private sector's court. So the private sector also must harness new deposits and take this country forward."

But analysts say Sri Lanka's lack of savings - especially compared to East Asian nations - is mostly due to excessive state spending, and private savings are understated.

Understated

Sri Lanka runs a current account deficit in the budget indicating that total revenues are not enough to fund recurrent spending.

In 2010 Sri Lanka recorded a domestic savings rate of 19.3 percent of GDP. Private domestic savings of 21.4 percent was dragged down by a negative 2.1 percent of GDP gap in the current account of the budget.

In 2010 foreign private transfers were 7.4 percent (which include Middle Eastern remittances) helping boost national savings to 25.4 percent of GDP. State enterprises ran large losses during the crisis, with energy utilities even taking loans to pay taxes to the central government, later information showed.

To muddle issues further state enterprises are classified as 'private sector' dragging down even the so-called private domestic savings number.

There are no published data readily available on the true private domestic savings rate in Sri Lanka, which critics may lead to even well-meaning officials as well as private analysts to flog a dead horse after comparing apples with oranges.

Nor is an aggregate figure for the surplus or deficit of non-financial public sector enterprises published now, though it had been available in some years.

In East Asian countries such as Malaysia, national savings rates are high because the central government and state enterprises run surpluses.

Bank Negara, Malaysia Central Bank said in 2010 private national savings were 22.2 percent of gross national product, and public sector savings, including profits of state enterprises were a positive 11.9 percent.

In 2011 public savings fell to 5.4 percent because surpluses of state enterprises reduced.

Update III

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