Sri Lanka suffers sharpest monthly drop in worker remittances

Remittances drive local household expenditure in Sri Lanka, and Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy said recently the decline in money sent by the country’s overseas workers was disturbing. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2017
0

Sri Lanka suffers sharpest monthly drop in worker remittances

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan workers in the Middle East sent back fewer dollars in August, the sharpest monthly drop yet owing to adverse economic and geopolitical conditions in the region, its central bank said Wednesday.
Remittances declined by a record 10 percent to $556.6 million (SR2.08 billion), compared with $618.3 million in August last year, the bank said in a report.
About two million Sri Lankans or 10 percent of the population work overseas, mostly in the Middle East and in construction and hospitality or as household maids.
Money they send back to families is the main source of the country’s foreign exchange and is used to finance nearly 80 percent of its trade deficit.
Remittances in the first eight months of the year also fell by 6.3 percent to $4.5 billion, the bank said, the biggest drop ever seen and significantly more than 2015’s dip of 0.53 percent.
Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy said recently the decline in remittances was disturbing, while pinning his hopes on growth in the country’s small export sector.
Sri Lanka has been an exporter of skilled and unskilled labor for decades.
The fall in remittances is a double blow for the country, which is simultaneously having to shell out more for foreign workers.
That demand comes from a labor shortage at home in sectors such as construction and manufacturing, which have picked up since the decades-long Tamil separatist war ended in May 2009.


Japan, Philippines meet to advance infrastructure plans

Updated 4 min 51 sec ago
0

Japan, Philippines meet to advance infrastructure plans

  • Japanese loans so far dwarf those of China, whose pledges for projects are still largely ideas
  • Duterte has made a $180 billion infrastructure overhaul the centerpiece of his economic policy agenda, but people are looking for progress

MANILA: Philippine government ministers met with a top adviser of Japan’s prime minister on Wednesday, in a effort to move forward major infrastructure projects, just hours after a visit by the Chinese president pledging to do the same.
Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte has made a $180 billion infrastructure overhaul the centerpiece of his economic policy agenda, but already into the third year of his presidency, he is under some pressure to show signs that his ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program is making much progress.
While attention has been focused largely on fanfare of Duterte’s “pivot” to China and his frequent praise for Beijing’s economic support, agreed Japanese loans so far dwarf those of China, which has pledged billions of dollars of financing and investment for projects that are still largely ideas.
Japan will finance 156.4 billion yen ($1.39 billion) for the construction of a subway in the capital Manila, rehabilitation of one of its troubled elevated rail lines, a new Manila bypass road and a new airport on Bohol, a tourist island.
The loans are part of an 1 trillion yen aid and investment package offered in 2017 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose special adviser, Hiroto Izumi, is in Manila to discuss revamping a railroad across the capital, a flood control system, and jointly operating an industrial zone, Finance assistant secretary Antonio Lambino told Reuters.
Edmund Tayao, a Manila-based political analyst, said the strong performance of the Philippine economy meant it had outgrown its infrastructure, and there was public pressure to modernize it.
“This is a long-delayed requisite,” he said. “When we speak of trains, mass transit systems, disappointment is an understatement. It is frustrating to compare it with neighbors.”
Expectations have been high since Duterte left China two years ago with $24 billion of investment and loans pledges, and there were hopes that this week’s visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first in 13 years, would have seen firm commitments for those to advance.
However, of Tuesday’s 29 agreements, the only loan agreed was $232.5 million financing for a dam. Others counted as deals included two feasibility studies, memorandums of understanding for arrangements that already existed, or a handing over of certificates.
Michael Ricafort, an economist at RCBC bank in Manila, said that with the spotlight on foreign interest in the infrastructure program, the government was keen to show progress was being made.
“The government is now put on the spot. People are looking for the promises to be fulfilled.”