May 05, 2016 (LBO) – Credit growth to Sri Lanka’s private sector by commercial banks is a key variable followed in determining monetary policy.
This number has been running high in recent months, rising to 26.5 percent in February, compared with 25.7 percent in January on a year-on-year basis, although the figure is down from 27 percent in November.
Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Arjuna Mahendran, told Lanka Business Online it was difficult to identify a trend yet.
“It’s a volatile number, let me put it that way. We need to try and extract a trend from the noise. So I think we’ll have to wait another couple of months before we can really determine what the situation is,” Mahendran said.
“The market is getting a bit carried away by the year-on-year numbers. If you look at the month-on-month and absolute value of lending it’s now plateaued,” he said. The year-on-year numbers were also coming off a low base, he said.
In absolute terms, credit granted to the private sector grew by 53.7 billion rupees during the month of February, compared with 43.6 billion rupees in January.
The expansion in credit to the private sector was 691 million rupees in 2015, compared with 224 million rupees in 2014.
“The sharp increase in credit to the private sector was fuelled by persistently low market lending rates and aggressive marketing campaigns by lending institutions,” the Central Bank said in its Annual Report.
The contraction in pawning advances was limited to 38.2 billion rupees, compared with a significant 140 percent decline in 2014.
“Indicating high import demand for motor vehicles, credit in terms of leasing and hire purchase agreements increased considerably by 65.6 billion rupees in 2015 compared to the increase of 16.4 billion rupees in the previous year,” the report said.
Sri Lanka recently reached a staff level agreement with the IMF for a 36-month Extended Fund Facility for 1.5 billion dollars which is expected to catalyze an additional 650 million dollars in multilateral and bilateral loans.
The IMF may approve the facility in June.
After the last monetary policy review, in which interest rates were held unchanged, Mahendran said interest rate policy was still fairly accommodative as an interest rate hike had matched an interest rate cut earlier last year.