Sri Lanka asks China, India to reduce its debts
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka has urged creditors India and China to agree a write-down of their loans as soon as possible in an effort to “help us to start repaying their obligations”.
Speaking to the international news medias on Wednesday night, the bank’s Governor P. Nandalal Weerasinghe said: “The sooner they give us finance assurances that would be better for both (sides), as a creditor, as a debtor. That will help us to start repaying their obligations.
“We don’t want to be in this kind of situation, not meeting the obligations, for too long. That is not good for the country and for us. That’s not good for investor confidence in Sri Lanka.”
Sri Lanka, which is currently amidst the worst-ever economic crisis since its independence in 1948, defaulted on its debt repayments and negotiated a $2.9 billion bailout.
But the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will not release the funds until India and China first agree to reduce Sri Lanka’s billions of dollars of debt.
China’s lending to Sri Lanka stands at around $7 billion while India is owed around $1 billion.
The Sri Lankan government had initially hoped to agree a new payment plan with China and India by the end of 2022.
Weerasinghe told that it was possible an agreement could come later this month but added “this all depends on the other parties — our creditors really have to make that decision”.
“Sri Lanka had now provided them with all the information on the country’s borrowings they needed,” he added.
But if India and China agree to write down their loans to Sri Lanka another potential problem looms in the form of private creditors, who account for 40 percent of the country’s external debt stock.
Asked about Sri Lanka’s private bondholders, the Governor told: “We engage with private creditors in good faith negotiations. And what we are seeing is that they are very positive and they are willing to engage with us.”
Weerasinghe said he expected that once agreement from bilateral creditors has been agreed the IMF funds could be distributed to Sri Lanka within “four to six weeks”.
Also speaking on Wednesday night, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, said the greater onus to move was on China, as the biggest bilateral lender.
“We hope that they do not delay because Sri Lanka does not have time to delay. They need these assurances immediately. For the sake of the Sri Lankan people, we certainly hope China is not a spoiler as they proceed to attain this IMF agreement,” she added.
The Governor’s remarks came just days after a large group of international economists on January 8 called for Sri Lanka’s bonds, to be “canceled”.
“All of Sri Lanka’s creditors must ensure debt cancellation sufficient to provide a way out of the current crisis,” they said.
‘BD can attract more investment if they assure less corruption than other markers’
If Bangladesh can assure US citizens and investors that corruption is less prevalent here than in other markets, it will likely attract more investment, said US Ambassador Peter Haas.
“Corruption is a parasite that feeds on the resources of a society and drains it of its strength. It can devastate every level of business and government,” the ambassador said during the “Call to Action Against Corruption Summit” held at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka on Tuesday (21 March).
He said the United States is committed to working with Bangladesh to eliminate corruption, to enable Bangladeshi citizens to enjoy lives of dignity and inviting more international trade and foreign investment.
“We support initiatives that help Bangladeshi businesses meet international standards and regulations, making them more competitive in the global market.”
By promoting ethical business practices, a more level playing field can be created for businesses of all sizes and encourage more foreign investment, said Peter Haas.
Bangladesh has many advantages that potential investors would find attractive, he said, adding, “But as American business leaders tell me: multi-national firms have options on where they invest.”
He said those will choose whichever country has the lowest levels of corruption, the fewest bureaucratic obstacles, the greatest respect for rule of law, and the best logistics infrastructure for their business.
So, if Bangladesh can attract more investment only by assuring citizens and investors that corruption is less prevalent here than in other markets, he said.
The US Agency for International Development, USAID, has partnered with Bangladesh’s Registrar of Joint Stock Companies to launch an online registration process for new businesses. This makes registering new businesses more transparent, faster, and more affordable.
The USAID has also worked with the Bangladesh National Board of Revenue to establish Authorized Economic Operators. This has empowered the private sector, instead of the government, to release shipments at ports.
As a result, the process has become more transparent and raised the level of trust between the private sector and the government.
The US Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) works with the Private Public Partnership Authority Bangladesh to conduct workshops to improve the legal and business environment of Bangladesh.
The CLDP also works with Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) to improve municipal governance by improving fiscal transparency. Under this program, the CLDP brought a DNCC delegation, including the mayor, to Miami in January.
The US Department of Justice trains investigators and attorneys in the Anti-Corruption Commission on such topics as how to investigate and prosecute money laundering, how to use electronic evidence, and how to investigate financial crimes.
It has also fostered a relationship between Bangladesh’s Financial Intelligence Unit and the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre.
The United States is committed to holding corrupt officials accountable for their actions. This can take various forms, said US Ambassador Peter Haas.
South Asian Index drops on the outgoing week
South Asian Stock Markets dropped last week. Among them, the biggest fall was in the stock markets of India and Pakistan.
A review of South Asian markets shows that India’s Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) index BSE Sensex has dropped 1,146 points during the week. At the end of the week, the index stood at 57,989 points. On the other hand, the Nifty-50 index of the country’s National Stock Exchange dropped by 312 points last week. At the end of the week, the index stood at 17,412 points.
Pakistan Stock Exchange Index ‘KSE 100’ lost 464 points last week. After a week of losing, the index settled at 41,329 points.
On the hand The Sri Lankan stock market hiked, the Colombo Stock Exchange index ‘ASPI’ gained 64 points in a week. After a week the index settled at 9,670 points.
Bhutan’s stock market index ‘BSI’ hiked by 21 point and the index stood at 1,104 points throughout the whole week. Nepal’s ‘NEPSE’ lost 69 points last week, as the index stands at 1,933 points.
BIDA, LABCCI signed MoU to boost trade and investment
LABCCi: The Latin America-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) to boost trade and investment between Bangladesh and Latin America.
Bida Executive Chairman (Senior Secretary) Lokman Hossain Miah attended as the chief guest at the MoU signing ceremony held at the Bida office in the capital on Wednesday (15 March).
LABCCI President Md Anwar Shawkat Afser and Bida Marketing and Communication Executive Member (Additional Secretary) Md Matiur Rahman signed the MoU on behalf of their respective sides.
At the ceremony, the Brazilian Embassy in Dhaka Commercial Specialist Nahid Ferdousi assured that Brazil is very much interested in tying up with Bangladesh in all aspects.
Md Anwar Shawkat Afser said that a new era has been started by the MoU signing ceremony.
“LABCCI now got the affiliation from the Prime Minister’s Office of Bangladesh, Bida. Now business societies from Latin American countries may get more confidence to invest and trade in Bangladesh through the collaboration of LABCCI,” he said.
The LABCCI president highlighted the upcoming event “Bangladesh Investment B2B (Business to Business) Event in Latin America 2023” which will be jointly organised by Bida, DBCCI and LABCCI in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Argentina and Brazil on 6-17 March 2023.
Representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs and commerce, Bida, Beza, Hi-Tech Park Authority and high-profile Bangladeshi and European businessmen will participate in the mega event.
Salman Fazlur Rahman, private industry and investment advisor to the prime minister, will lead the delegation in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Argentina and Brazil.
Bida Executive Chairman Lokman Hossain Miah assured full support for this delegation, saying that the present government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina created a friendly environment for businessmen as EPZs will provide a safe zone for foreign investors in Bangladesh.
In the last 15 years, Bangladesh’s economy has changed dramatically. People’s incomes have increased and their lives have improved. By 2027, another 3.5 million people will enter the middle class, he added.
“Bangladesh is not only a huge domestic market of 17 crore people, but with proper investment, the consumer market of about 300 crores in South Asia including India and China can be accessed from here,” said the Bida executive chairman, adding that Bangladesh is one of the top safe investment destinations in the world.
He appreciated the LABCCI board of directors for their initiative to attract FDI from the Latin America region as well as from Europe.
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