Sri Lanka to sell treasuries at post offices, central bank offices

August 01, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s central bank which runs the public debt office for the finance ministry opened a new network of offices to sell treasury bills to retail customers with the help of a state-owned savings bank. . Treasuries Drive

Sri Lanka to use post offices, central bank offices to retail treasury bills

August 1, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s central bank which runs the public debt office for the finance ministry opened a new network of offices to sell treasury bills to retail customers with the help of a state-owned savings bank.

Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said central bank regional offices in Matale, Anuradhapura as well as regional offices of the cheque clearing house will be used to sell treasury bills to the public.

“Treasury bills are free of credit risk and give a high return,” he said soon after opening a sales counter at the Central Bank’s training centre in Rajagiriya, a suburb of Colombo.

“We want to widen the access to the bills so that rural savers can also buy them.”

Officials say out of about 30,000 regular buyers of treasury bills, about 70 percent are resident in the Western Province and 65 percent in the capital Colombo.

The sales counters would be run by the state-owned National Savings Bank (NSB)’s primary dealer arm. At one time almost all of NSB’s funds were invested in treasuries, but the ratio has now come down to 60 percent.

NSB General Manger S H Piyasiri said a counter was also opened in Jaffna and the bank was talking with post offices to sell treasury bills.

He said a training course has been started to train the staff of 32 main post-offices to process T-bill sales.

NSB already runs a savings pass book scheme through post offices. However no Treasury bill counters would be opened in NSB’s own branch networks though customers could potentially ask for treasury bills if they wanted to.

Banks usually do not sell treasury bills to customers because they compete with their own deposit raising efforts but will sell government securities if customers specifically ask for them.

Three month Treasury bills now pay around 17.4 percent, but with severe financial repression and high inflation T-bills as well as bank deposits have been paying less than inflation in the past three years.

In the year to July inflation was 17.6 percent.

Sri Lanka’s primary dealer system as well as secondary market trading in government securities has been systematically undermined over the last three years as authorities tried to suppress rates in the face of a rising budget deficit.