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
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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.


French state-owned bank drops plan to aid trade with Iran

Updated 24 September 2018
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French state-owned bank drops plan to aid trade with Iran

PARIS: French state-owned bank Bpifrance has abandoned its plan to set up a mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran, in the face of US sanctions against Tehran.
Earlier this year, the bank had said it was working on a project to finance French companies that wished to export goods to Iran despite US sanctions.
“It’s put on hold,” said Nicolas Dufourcq, Bpifrance’s chief executive. “Conditions are not met (...) Sanctions are punitive for companies.”
Bpifrance was working on establishing euro-denominated export guarantees to Iranian buyers of French goods and services. By structuring the financing through vehicles without any US link, Bpifrance thought it was possible to avoid the extraterritorial reach of US legislation.
Dufourcq’s latest comments show how the scope of the sanctions is making trade with Iran increasingly difficult for European companies.
The United States is renewing sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from a nuclear deal forged in 2015 between Tehran and world powers. Washington reimposed some of the financial sanctions from Aug. 6, while those affecting Iran’s petroleum sector will come into force from Nov. 4.
Even though several European countries have said they are seeking to protect their companies from the sanctions, several major companies including oil company Total, Air France-KLM and British Airways have announced they would suspend activities in Iran.
German officials have in recent weeks advocated for the creation of an independent system for cross-border payments to make trade with Iran possible even with the US sanctions.
European Union diplomats have said US President Donald Trump’s positions on trade and on Iran were fueling a rethink about the EU’s dependency on the US financial system.
However, European countries appear to be struggling to find or agree on effective options to tackle the issue.