Monday, 22 March 2021 23:46

Standard Chartered Bank upgrades Sri Lanka economic growth Featured

Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) has upgraded Sri Lanka’s 2021 economic growth forecast to 4.5% from 3.5% earlier whilst noting recent initiatives have eased near-term external financing concerns though medium-term debt sustainability remains challenging.

In its latest economic alert on Sri Lanka, SCB Global Research said the upward revision in GDP growth forecast was due to the better-than-expected high-frequency data.

It said faster rollout of vaccines and improved global growth (especially in the US and EU) are likely to support growth in 2021. “Stronger-than-expected activity in Q4 2020 likely continued in Q1 2021. Q4 2020 GOP growth was better than our estimate of 1.3%,” SCB Global Research said.

It expects the growth momentum to continue in 2021, even as it maintains its medium-term growth forecast given the impact of COVID-19 on the services sector, especially tourism (which accounted for almost 5% of Sri Lanka’s GOP in 2019).

SCB Global Research also said confirmation of $ 1.5 billion swap line with China alleviates near-term external financing concerns and the new Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocation could further add to foreign exchange reserves in the near-term.

However, it said Sri Lanka’s medium-term debt sustainability concerns remain on low foreign exchange reserves and high external debt servicing.

It revised Sri Lanka’s end-2021 FX reserves forecast based on the new announcement and sees FX reserves in the range of $ 3.4-4.7 billion by end-2021 versus the earlier forecast of $ 3-4 billion, depending on the extent of capital flows in the rest of the year.

It said gross FX reserves of Sri Lanka stood at $ 4.55 billion in February (around three months of import cover). “That said, beyond 2021, Sri Lanka has $ 4-5 billion of Government external debt service obligations annually until 2025, leading to continued external financing pressure,” SCB Global Research added.

It said financing these obligations would depend on the resumption of tourism revenues and higher FDI flows. It was also noted that the increased trade deficit from higher oil prices for Sri Lanka is offset by higher remittances.


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