Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy says SL economic recovery requires painful treatment
Highly respected eminent economist and former Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy has said the economic recovery will require painful treatment whilst expressing hopes that President Ranil Wickremesinghe would take all the tough decisions to avoid the disastrous situation.
“President Wickremesinghe is economically very literate. He knows what has to be done. At times, it has been difficult for him or any other politician to get it done, given the political dynamics and that toxic populist politics and entitlement culture that has driven the economy to where it is today.
But, if President Wickremesinghe understands this reality , he can get it done and tackle the economic crisis ,” Dr. Coomaraswamy said in an interview with The Wire on Saturday.
He said the President seems that he was ready to bite the bullet, noting that if he does not, Sri Lanka will go down the abyss and it will be a disaster.
“First, we need to get an IMF agreement because, at the moment, we neither have foreign exchange nor rupees. The Government does not have fiscal revenue and thus it puts enormous pressure on the Central Bank to print money.
“This has to be resolved immediately and the only way is via an IMF program, which gives us a certificate of good housekeeping and will also leverage other funding from the international donor agencies like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank and hopefully from others.
It will also allow flows of private investment into the economy. We also need to restructure our external debt by talking to creditors, he pointed out.
“Secondly, President Wickremesinghe has to find a way of getting essential supplies urgently, such as fuel, food, medicine, and so on, till the debt restructuring and the IMF program are finalised.
However, to get the IMF finalised to a disbursement level, will take around five to six months and during this period, the President has to get bridge finance to meet the essential imports, he said.
“Thirdly, the President needs to have a very clear plan on the structural reforms that he is going to undertake to accelerate growth in the economy,” Dr. Coomaraswamy outlined the three key factors the Government should focus on in the immediate future.
He suggested that the Government needs to and is beginning to do is, to strengthen the safety net by enhancing the cash transfers going to the poor and vulnerable.
“I think communication is going to be critical. Almost all Sri Lankans now recognize that sacrifice is necessary and inevitable. With that, the message needs to be reinforced and driven through. Simultaneously, we have to find a way of distributing the sacrifice and pain according to the capacity of the population to bear that pain,” he added.
He also revealed that around 750,000 have slipped into poverty and the data seems to suggest that by the end of the year, half the population could fall below the poverty line which had been elevated because of inflation.
In terms of employment, he said that he had not seen any numbers as to how many jobs have been destroyed, but confirmed that all parties certainly have intense hardships.
Considering all data available, he said Sri Lanka will see an economic downturn of around 8%-10% by the end of next year compared to 2019. “This, I believe it will take another three years or so to make up for that economic downturn of 8-10% and in terms of getting the level of the GDP back to where it was in 2019, I would say about five years,” he added.