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Borrowed surplus looming, warns Harsha

  • Given first half performance, believes several 2012 Roadmap targets will be missed
UNP MP and its chief spokesman on the economy Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday claimed that most of the Central Bank’s 2012 Roadmap targets were likely to be missed, based on below par performance on the external trade front during the first half.

He said that the revised 2012 Roadmap envisaged full-year export proceeds of $ 11.7 billion but in the first half the figure was only $ 4.96 billion and when averaged out, the full year performance is likely to be $ 9.9 billion. “This means a 15% drop from the envisaged target,” Dr. de Silva told the Daily FT.

When the 2012 Roadmap was originally presented, the CB targeted $ 12.5 billion worth of export proceeds, but given the external developments and Government’s fiscal and monetary policy changes, it was revised downwards to $ 11.7 billion.

Though exporters maintain the second half most often sees a rebound, Dr. de Silva thinks otherwise, as indications from some of the sectors aren’t very encouraging. For example, he said the apparel sector has suffered its sixth consecutive monthly drop in exports. The dip in June was 6% whilst first half performance of $ 1.98 billion reflects a 1.6% dip.
As per external trade data released last week, exports in the first half of $ 4.9 billion were down 2.2% in comparison to the first half of last year. In 2011, exports in the first half grew by a healthy 35% to $ 5.05 billion over 2010’s corresponding period.
With regard to worker remittances, Dr. de Silva said the 2012 Roadmap forecasts a figure of $ 6.5 billion, and based on $ 2.9 billion inflow in the first half, the full-year estimate could be $ 5.8 billion, reflecting a 10.7% or $ 700 million shortfall.
However, first half remittances figure reflected a healthy 17.4% growth over the corresponding period of last year. A year earlier remittances saw a 26% growth to $ 2.5 billion over first half of 2010. The Central Bank has maintained remittances are seasonally higher towards latter part of the year.

The UNP MP also said that in the Roadmap as well as in the June external trade data release, the Central Bank remains upbeat of drawing $ 2 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) though by the first half only $ 451.7 million has been achieved.

“If the second half remains the same, the country will end 2012 with a FDI inflow of only around $ 1 billion, which makes the $ 2 billion target way off,” Dr. de Silva opined. The Central Bank said FDI inflows in the first half of 2012 were near 15% growth over the corresponding period of last year.

He also expressed doubt over the realisation of the targeted $ 500 million net inflow to Colombo Stock Exchange, given that by end June the amount was $ 187 million.

Dr. de Silva also hinted that earnings from tourism too would be lower than the 2012 Roadmap target of $ 1.2 billion. In the first half, earnings from tourism grew by 24% to $ 460 million. Though the tourism industry’s best period is in the second half with the winter season, the UNP MP envisages end 2012 performance will reflect a drop from the original target.

The only target under the 2012 Roadmap that has been overshot even before the year’s end is inflows to the Government. The Roadmap envisaged $ 2.1 billion, whereas by end of the first half, the figure was $ 2.27 billion, reflecting a 51% increase. Of this figure, net foreign investment in Government securities was $ 842 million in the first seven months. Furthermore, long-term borrowings by commercial banks during January-June 2012 amounted to $ 927.5 million, as against $ 1 billion target for whole of 2012. Early this year Central Bank did express confidence that the annual target will be surpassed comfortably. It also said it was likely to reach over $ 1.4 billion in 2012.

Nevertheless, Dr. De Silva argued: “These high inflows are all borrowing and the surplus that Central Bank is projecting for 2012 will be on borrowed funds judging by what has happened so far as opposed to higher export income, FDI and remittances.”

The Central Bank in its June external data release said net current transfers had continued to help buttress the current account of the balance of payments.

In comments to Reuters last week, Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said strong inflows would help avert a balance of payments crisis this year. “Definitely there will be a balance-of-payments surplus this year,” he said.
The booming inflows and policy measures taken had also strengthened the CB’s conviction that the rupee would stabilise to around Rs. 125 to the dollar.



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