Sri Lanka IMF program to depend on budget: resident rep

Feb 11, 2010 (LBO) – The International Monetary Fund is looking at the direction of fiscal reforms to be set by a budget in April to continue its program in Sri Lanka, an official said ahead of a mission due in the island this month. Sri Lanka went for a program with the IMF in 2009 after its foreign reserves fell to around a billion US dollars. By the end of 2009, Sri Lanka’s central bank had collected 5.2 billion US dollars of reserves, though some of it was borrowed.

“Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves are comfortable,” says IMF’s resident representative Koshy Mathai. “That is not the issue. It is finally the fiscal side. The fiscal situation is challenging.”

The program had an original budget deficit target of 7.0 percent of gross domestic product expressed through a ceiling in domestic borrowings for 2009.

A limit on domestic state borrowings gives space for private citizens and firms to expand and generate growth.

But Sri Lanka has not released any fiscal data since September, when tax revenues had just recovered to the previous year’s level and expenditure seemed to be growing faster.

An IMF mission that is due in the country shortly will look at December data. Under the program agreed with the agency, Sri