IMF completes second review - approves funding for SL saying all quantitative targets for end-December 2023 met

Thursday, 13 June 2024 - 5:54

IMF+completes+second+review+-+approves+funding+for+SL+saying+all+quantitative+targets+for+end-December+2023+met
Colombo, June 12, 2024 - The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved Sri Lanka’s second review under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) programme. This approval paves the way for the country to receive the third tranche of approximately USD 330 million, according to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabry.

Minister Sabry announced the development on ‘X’ (formerly Twitter), stating, “IMF’s approval of the 2nd review of Sri Lanka’s program is a testament to our dedication to driving forward economic reforms and securing a prosperous future for all Sri Lankans.”

The Article IV Consultation and the second review under the EFF for Sri Lanka were on the agenda for the IMF Executive Board meeting today, as confirmed by Julie Kozack, Director of the IMF Communications Department. This approval is a significant step in Sri Lanka's ongoing efforts to stabilize its economy and implement necessary reforms.

Following the Executive Board’s discussion, Mr. Kenji Okamura, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, issued the following statement:

“Sri Lanka’s performance under its Fund-supported program remains strong. All quantitative targets were met, except for the marginal shortfall of indicative target on social spending. Most structural benchmarks were either met or implemented with delay. Reforms and policy adjustment are bearing fruit. The economy is starting to recover, inflation remains low, revenue collection is improving, and reserves continue to accumulate. Despite these positive developments, the economy is still vulnerable and the path to debt sustainability remains knife-edged. Important vulnerabilities associated with the ongoing debt restructuring, revenue mobilization, reserve accumulation, and banks’ ability to support the recovery continue to cloud the outlook. Strong reform efforts, adequate safeguards, and contingency planning help mitigate these risks.

“To restore fiscal sustainability, sustained revenue mobilization efforts, promptly finalizing the debt restructuring in line with program targets, and protecting social and capital spending remain critical. Advancing public financial management will help enhance fiscal discipline, and strengthening the debt management framework is also needed.

“Monetary policy should continue prioritizing price stability, supported by a sustained commitment to refrain from monetary financing and safeguard central bank independence. Continued exchange rate flexibility and gradually phasing out the balance of payments measures remain critical to rebuild external buffers and facilitate external rebalancing.

“Restoring bank capital adequacy and strengthening governance and oversight of state-owned banks are top priorities to revive credit growth and support economic recovery.

“The authorities need to press ahead with their efforts to address structural challenges to unlock long-term potential. Key priorities include steadfast implementation of the governance reforms; further trade liberalization to promote exports and foreign direct investment; labor reforms to upgrade skills and increase female labor force participation; and state-owned enterprise reforms to improve efficiency and fiscal transparency, contain fiscal risks, and promote a level playing field for the private sector.

FULL Press release by IMF
IMF Executive Board Concludes 2024 Article IV Consultation with Sri Lanka and Completes the Second Review Under the Extended Fund Facility: June 12, 2024

The IMF Executive Board completed the 2024 Article IV Consultation and Second Review under the 48-month Extended Fund Facility with Sri Lanka, providing the country with immediate access to SDR 254 million (about US $336 million) to support its economic policies and reforms.
Performance under the program has been strong. All quantitative targets for end-December 2023 were met, except the indicative target on social spending. Most structural benchmarks due by end-April 2024 were either met or implemented with delay. Nevertheless, the economy is still vulnerable and the path to debt sustainability remains knife-edged. Sustaining the reform momentum and efforts to restructure debt are critical to put the economy on a path towards lasting recovery and debt sustainability.
The Article IV Consultation focused on wide-ranging reforms to restore macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability, maintain price stability, safeguard financial stability, rebuild external buffers, and implement growth-oriented structural reforms, including by strengthening governance.

Washington, DC: The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the second review under the 48-month Extended Fund Facility (EFF) Arrangement, allowing the authorities to draw SDR 254 million (about US$336 million). This brings the total IMF financial support disbursed so far to SDR 762 million (about US$1 billion). The Executive Board also concluded the 2024 Article IV Consultation with Sri Lanka. 

The EFF arrangement for Sri Lanka was approved by the Executive Board on March 20, 2023 (see Press Release No. 23/79) in an amount of SDR 2.286 billion (395 percent of quota or about US$3 billion. The first review of the EFF was completed by the Executive Board on December 12, 2023 with disbursements of SDR 254 million (about US$337 million; see Press Release No. 23/439).

The EFF-supported program aims to restore Sri Lanka’s macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability, mitigate the economic impact on the poor and vulnerable, rebuild external buffers, safeguard financial sector stability, and strengthen governance and growth potential.

Signs of economic recovery are emerging. Real GDP expanded by 3 percent (y-o-y) in the second half of 2023. May 2024 inflation was 0.9 percent and gross international reserves increased to US$5.5 billion by end-April 2024. The primary balance improved to a surplus with tax revenue increasing to 9.8 percent of GDP in 2023. Despite improvements in non‑performing loans, pockets of vulnerabilities remain in the banking sector.

The recovery remains gradual, and the medium-term growth potential hinges on appropriate policy settings. Growth is projected to recover moderately in 2024-25 given constrained bank credit and fiscal consolidation, while facing uncertainties around the debt restructuring and policy direction following the elections. Inflation is expected to temporarily increase due to one-off factors. The current account is expected to remain positive in 2024, driven by improved tourist arrivals and remittances. Domestic risks could arise from waning reform momentum, especially on revenue mobilization. External risks are associated with intensified regional conflicts, commodity price volatility, and a global slowdown. Slow progress in debt restructuring could widen financing gaps.

Following the Executive Board’s discussion, Mr. Kenji Okamura, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, issued the following statement:

“Sri Lanka’s performance under its Fund-supported program remains strong. All quantitative targets were met, except for the marginal shortfall of indicative target on social spending. Most structural benchmarks were either met or implemented with delay. Reforms and policy adjustment are bearing fruit. The economy is starting to recover, inflation remains low, revenue collection is improving, and reserves continue to accumulate. Despite these positive developments, the economy is still vulnerable and the path to debt sustainability remains knife-edged. Important vulnerabilities associated with the ongoing debt restructuring, revenue mobilization, reserve accumulation, and banks’ ability to support the recovery continue to cloud the outlook. Strong reform efforts, adequate safeguards, and contingency planning help mitigate these risks.

“To restore fiscal sustainability, sustained revenue mobilization efforts, promptly finalizing the debt restructuring in line with program targets, and protecting social and capital spending remain critical. Advancing public financial management will help enhance fiscal discipline, and strengthening the debt management framework is also needed.

“Monetary policy should continue prioritizing price stability, supported by a sustained commitment to refrain from monetary financing and safeguard central bank independence. Continued exchange rate flexibility and gradually phasing out the balance of payments measures remain critical to rebuild external buffers and facilitate external rebalancing.

“Restoring bank capital adequacy and strengthening governance and oversight of state-owned banks are top priorities to revive credit growth and support economic recovery.

“The authorities need to press ahead with their efforts to address structural challenges to unlock long-term potential. Key priorities include steadfast implementation of the governance reforms; further trade liberalization to promote exports and foreign direct investment; labor reforms to upgrade skills and increase female labor force participation; and state-owned enterprise reforms to improve efficiency and fiscal transparency, contain fiscal risks, and promote a level playing field for the private sector.

Executive Board Assessment[3]

Executive Directors commended the authorities’ strong performance under the Fund‑supported program, noting that reforms are bearing fruit. The economy has started to recover, inflation remains low, revenue collection is improving, and reserves continue to accumulate. Directors underscored, however, that important vulnerabilities and uncertainties remain, including with respect to the ongoing debt restructuring and the upcoming elections. Against this backdrop, they called on the authorities to continue strengthening macroeconomic policies to restore economic stability and debt sustainability and to sustain the reform momentum to promote long‑term inclusive growth.

Directors underscored that restoring fiscal sustainability requires additional revenue measures underpinning the 2025 Budget, further tax administration reforms, as well as limiting tax exemptions and making them more transparent. They called for protecting growth‑enhancing and social spending, and for improving the social safety net. Directors welcomed the submission of the new Public Financial Management bill to Parliament, which would strengthen fiscal discipline and establish a solid fiscal framework. They noted that further efforts to strengthen the debt management framework are also needed. Directors welcomed the progress on achieving cost‑recovery in energy pricing, noting its criticality for containing risks from state‑owned enterprises (SOEs).

Directors welcomed the progress made to advance debt restructuring to restore Sri Lanka’s debt sustainability. They called for a swift finalization of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Official Creditor Committee and final agreements with the Export‑Import Bank of China. Directors stressed the importance of seeking comparable, transparent, and timely completion of restructurings with external private creditors consistent with program targets.

Directors emphasized that maintaining price stability remains the top priority for monetary policy, which requires anchoring inflation expectations, continuing to refrain from monetary financing, and the gradual unwinding of government security holdings as markets allow. They also stressed the importance of strengthening central bank independence. Directors underscored the need to continue building external buffers, while maintaining exchange rate flexibility to facilitate external rebalancing and preserve the credibility of the inflation targeting regime. They called for gradually phasing out the balance of payments measures.

Directors underscored the need to strengthen financial sector resilience to support the recovery. They called for swift completion of the restructuring of remaining domestic law, foreign currency loans and for adequate recapitalization of commercial and state‑owned banks. Directors welcomed the enactment of the Banking Act amendments and emphasized the importance of their effective implementation to enhance supervision and the governance of state‑owned banks. They also called for further efforts to strengthen the anti‑money laundering and counter‑terrorism financing framework.

Directors stressed that pressing ahead with governance and structural reforms, supported by development partners and IMF capacity development, is crucial to unlock growth potential. They welcomed the publication of the authorities’ action plan on the key governance reforms recommended in the Governance Diagnostic Report and called for its steadfast implementation. Directors also recommended prioritizing reforms to further liberalize trade, improve the investment climate and SOE efficiency, reduce gender gaps in the labor market, and mitigate climate vulnerabilities.



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