Foreign reserves at $1.5B low – Semasinghe
By Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake
Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves and assets have dropped to USD 1.5 billion (USD 1,587 million) as at November this year, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe informed Parliament yesterday (9).
In response to a question raised by Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake in a previous sitting, Semasinghe said Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves stood at USD 1,009.5 million, the International Monetary Fund’s reserves at USD 67 million and special purchases account funds were at USD 127.2 million. The gold reserves were worth USD 382 million while other reserves were at USD 1.1 million, he added.
While stating that the Government is taking steps to increase foreign reserves and assets, the State Minister explained, “We have obtained USD 1 billion swap facility with the Central Bank of Qatar, USD 400 million swap facility with the Reserve Bank of India (SAARC), USD 300 million loan from the Consolidated Loan Facility. Also, we have made the necessary arrangements to obtain USD 500 million through currency swaps with the partnership of various global commercial banks.”
Apart from that, Sri Lanka is expecting export earnings of USD 13 billion by the end of this year. Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa managed to get into agreements with India for the purchase of essential goods and fuel. The Government also hopes to securitise USD500 million foreign remittances too, he added.
Lining up as to how the country’s foreign reserves have dropped in recent years, Semasinghe said that Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves stood at USD 8.6 billion by end 2014.
“This amount was dropped to USD 7.6 billion by the end of 2019. As a result, our foreign debt services were increased. Sri Lanka’s foreign debts were 42.4 per cent of total debt services in 2014. By the end of 2019, it had increased to 46.4 per cent. As the Government what we want is to limit total foreign debt service to 40 per cent of the total debt services.”
Speaking further, the State Minister pointed out that the Government utilised foreign reserves for vaccinating the public against COVID-19.
“When many other low income countries have not vaccinated more than six per cent of their population, we have managed to provide both jabs to 76.2 per cent of the population. We have spent Rs 221 billion for pandemic related expenses. Our vaccination drive is commended by the international community,” he said.