The Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Deshamanya Professor W.D. Lakshman today insisted that the banking system in Sri Lanka is still strong despite temporary setbacks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the Governor said that there has been speculation by various groups and individuals that Sri Lanka’s financial system and financial institutions are in a weak position and that the general public is at risk of losing their deposits made at those institutions.
“As the regulator of both banking and non-bank financial institutions that accept public deposits in the country, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka wishes to assure the general public that it will continue to take all possible measures to ensure the safety of public deposits,” he said.
The Governor said that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant slowdown in the domestic as well as the global economy have created a challenging environment for the operations, not only of the financial sector but also for all types of economic activities in the country.
“Even prior to the onset of the outbreak, going back to 2018 and 2019, there was a rise in non-performing loans in both banks and non-bank financial institutions, particularly due to the sluggish growth in private sector credit and overall economic activity. By the time of the pandemic impact, the Government and the Central Bank had taken decisive measures to revive the economy including the establishment of a more conducive tax regime and a more favourable monetary policy stance, supporting growth of the real economy. We are confident that, despite the temporary setback caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Sri Lankan economy and the financial sector continue to remain dynamic and resilient. Conditions would become stronger in the period ahead as the economy recovers,’ he said.
He said the banking sector remains strong with total capital adequacy ratio above 16 per cent, net stable funding ratio above 130 per cent, liquidity coverage ratio above 175 per cent and statutory liquid asset ratio above 32 per cent.
The non-performing loans ratio has shown some decline while the provision coverage ratio also picked up during the first quarter of 2020. Benefitting from the new tax regime, profits after tax of the banking sector for the first quarter of 2020 were considerably higher than in the same quarter last year.
“With these performance indicators, I do not think anyone needs an additional assurance on the current strength of the banking system, which accounts for 62 per cent of Sri Lanka’s financial sector,” he said.
The Governor also said that non-bank financial institutions, particularly the licensed financial companies play an important role in serving diverse quality credit needs of relatively low income segments of the economy.
He said that certain measures introduced recently to stabilise the macro-economy, particularly the curtailment of the importation of motor vehicles, had a disproportionate adverse impact on finance companies. As part of its financial sector stability objective, the Central Bank has availed required liquidity support for licensed finance companies, while standing ready to provide emergency support for the sector if needed.
“It is with the cancellation of the licence of The Finance Company PLC by the Central Bank recently that the speculation I highlighted at the outset has gathered pace. However, I must emphasise that the cancellation of the licence of The Finance Company PLC and regulatory action against a few other finance companies in the recent past were done to protect the depositors and to ensure financial system stability,” the Governor added.
He said the Central Bank will use all available tools at its disposal to maintain financial system stability and it remains committed to keep the deposits of the general public safe from economic and financial fallout of COVID-19 and similar future unforeseen events. (Colombo Gazette)