Saturday, October 15, 2016

An Open Letter to the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka

October 15th 2016 (POYA)

Dear Eminent Sirs,


The reports in this morning’s press arising out of your long awaited meeting yesterday, frankly, did not amount to a “HILL OF BEANS”. I would have liked to have seen some leadership emanating from your goodselves, at this crucial moment.

Frankly you all appear to act like pre-school kids, taking a cue from the parliamentarians, who act like a motley collection of “ata pass” survivalists! Trying to decide on the future course of Sri Lanka for the next 50 years, when the next 12 months seems to be a stretch!

Firstly, may I remind you of your primary responsibilities; which are to guide the Policy of the Central Bank, in as much as it relates to Monetary Policy, namely, the exchange rate, interest rate and management of public debt. It is important that these actions give confidence to the international community, so that our Sovereign ratings are enhanced, which will result in lower interest payments on debts, and the ability to borrow at lower rates in future. It is timely to remind you that many countries’ Central Banks currently borrow at near ZERO INTEREST RATES.

Needless to say the actions of the treasury ALSO has an impact on the above, and they must in turn manage fiscal policy, budget deficit, and public spending in balancing the best interests of the Sri Lankan people within Govt. policy.

Frankly, it is NO secret that both arms have failed miserably with regards to this over a very long period, and scapegoating of those without is not the way to go. The crisis we are faced is NOW CRITICAL because of the profligacy of the previous administration, where the excess borrowings incurred has not been able to provide a public return on capital investment, and the use of long term funding to meet recurrent expenditure.

Having explained these basics, your primary role today is to know how to manage the extraordinarily large Public Debt in a manner that is least painful to the Sri Lankan people who will eventually have to repay this increasing liability over many generations to come.

Unfortunately you must have the courage to pull up the fossils in the Public Debt department who acting as neophytes are making an almighty mess of the job they have been given. It is for you to determine if this is willful, or incompetent.

In my opinion, I believe the whole department MUST be replaced by professionals from outside, and even foreign assistance in order to better manage this aspect, and even obtain the assistance of proven consultants, who are capable of designing a system that is simple to operate and manage the revolving debt. (the ability to refinance borrowings when they fall due, at the lowest possible rate of interest)

It is most important to have this fully operational when the massive refinancing activity is required in 2018 and 2019 when we have to meet capital repayment of large foreign loans.

“Given this background, let me come to the main point I am trying to make here”

It is a blind leading the blind mentality in the CBSL situation now. You have JUST ONE primary dealer, who has identified a weakness in the system, employed the best professionals in the Country, pay them more than your Governor, and who merely take advantage of your own incompetence.

I am very sorry to say that the other primary dealers do not have the same vision, particularly the arms of the clearing banks which have access to far greater funds are NOT bidding! This leads Perpetual Treasuries to take the risk, and reap the reward. Why? The head of PD at the Bank of Ceylon probably has a comfortable remuneration package, whether or not he makes any Bond Dealing profits. Why should he break a leg to work hard and take risks? In this case BOC a state owned enterprise, instead making additional billions in profits for the people of Sri Lanka, lend money instead to Perpetual Treasuries, with full collateral to make money.

Therefore instead of finding fault with the performers, it is time to find fault with those who have failed to perform! Wouldn’t that make a change in thinking? That is the mindset of the 21st Century, and it is time some YOUNG blood is infused into your ranks to be aware of, and retake the MISSED OPPORTUNITIES.

You, collectively have been faced with an untenable situation, where the Media, has grossly misinformed the public due to ignorance of how these systems work, who are then baying for blood. You MUST find fault squarely with the CBSL and its current practices that are outdated, and also the GOSL owned Banks’ current risk averse strategies that are a drag on this economy. You MUST force the clearing banks to reduce spread. That is the ONLY way to grow this economy. That is the single biggest reason for the lackluster performance of the Sri Lankan economy to date, and in NOT taking a loan to buy sophisticated machinery in a company I run is a small micro result of this bad policy.

So please have the courage of your convictions to do what is right, and NOT be partial to here say. What we need in Sri Lanka is excellence, leadership and competence. In my opinion that is the problem with the CBSL, due to its hiring policies that need a drastic change. Sometimes brilliance only lasts 4 years in one’s life, and we have lifers in the CBSL keeping desks warm, worse costing the economy trillions due to their unwise action or inaction!

We as a country cannot afford baggage. We MUST have the best of the best seconded to the CBSL for a maximum of 4 years in the prime of their lives, to do the job and be paid for performance. You will see instant results.

By this show of incompetence, you have now raised the bar. If the CEO of Perpetual Treasuries gets a bonus of Rs500M due to your errors, then it will cost you more to get the best. Remember it is NOT Perpetual Treasuries fault for making profits, it’s the CBSL fault for making it so easy for them. If I had the same access to the funds, so could I do the same, and I am no relation or friend of Arjun Mahendran!

After having read what I have to say, if you believe you are not up to the task, and we understand that, please resign and handover your position to someone who is up to it. I know sufficient independent knowledgeable people who can take your place there, and are able to direct the operations of CBSL in the BEST INTERESTS OF SRI LANKA. This is NOT a sinecure, it is a real JOB.

The future of the Country is at stake and it is your call we are heeding.
Thank you

Ranjit Hulugalle

From the forests of Sri Lanka in basic accommodation with no electricity either.


Anonymous said...

You have a point, The pettiness, the insecurity and divisive nature of the people working in the CBSL and above all class division inside, prevent any united action taking place. They are the highest paid and most inefficient public servants in Sri Lanka today.

Better start again, by privatizing most of their functions for a more effective and accountable decision making capabilities.

Anonymous said...

No wonder Sri Lanka is a failed state. We investigate success NOT failure!

This is the first instance of tightly regulated taxable profit being investigated for it being too high in the history of Sri Lanka. Smacks of sour grapes to me.

Pure Madness

Turn your attention at the true cause of the failure on the part of the Central Bank. That is where you attention is most needed. Don't be lead my the "Heart of Envy" instead be lead by the "Head of Reason"

Anonymous said...

This is a classic diversionary tactic employed by the Central Bank to hide their failure. This incompetence is propounded by pointing the finger at the Star Performer, Perpetual Treasuries as the fall guy. If so who will want to succeed in Sri Lanka? with this attitude. Is the intention to kill Primary Dealer activities so the rogues within the CB will steal the loot like it was done before? Seems like it to me.

Objective intelligent thinking is the need of the hour. There is NO ONE in Govt. - politician or public servant with that skill. Its systemic, this culture of incompetence at the top.

You must get outside help to the job. Don't stint on cost. "you pay nothing, you get nothing"

Ratmale,Minneriya,Sri Lanka said...

Here is a quote from one horses mouth and I will tell you which horse it is one day!

"Its Brilliantly written Ranjit. Can't agree more with you. Us traders are just like Race Car Drivers. If you don't make a move when you don't see the gap, you are NOT racing anymore. They can't blame us for being smarter than them. Most of the Treasuries are still run by Heads who are over 50 years old. Sadly they are NOT ready for risk taking, like us innovative thinking youth. So they can't beat us in the field. Hence make various allegations and stories to cover their in-competencies."

Said @ 12.30pm 15th October from a person who has read this blog entry.

Members of the Monetary Board this quote is worth more than all the time you have spent pissing around lies and liars. This free advice is worth Rs 10M to you and I am giving it to you free. Don't waste it please!


Now I have earned my place in the Monetary Board, but no I don't want it. I am happy in the jungle seeing the birds of Sri Lanka, and eating just once a day! that gives me the inspiration to clean up this unholy mess.NO AC here let alone any Electricity.

That's your problem. Maybe if you turn off the AC in your office when you meet you may be inspired to find the truth because you are NOT comfortable.

Ranjit Hulugalle

Ratmale,Minneriya,Sri Lanka said...

To the members of the Monetary Board

Don't let the public debt department take advantage of your ignorance, to run rings round you.Employ the services of a professional to ask pointed questions from them. You can be sure of one thing "KATA UTHTHARA NAHA"

Then you know who is calling whose bluff.

I can find them for you if you want, if that is also such a problem for the mighty CBSL!

Anonymous said...

The main issue really is why are the state banks with so much funds at their disposal not bidding? Some one must be fired. Get new blood to run dealing rooms.they must be on a profit bonus to get them to perform.this in addition to the internal changes you suggest within the Central Bank itself, which is rife with unproductive and frankly dangerously useless people.

It is time the news papers pick this up and explain the real issue to the so called intelligent cretins in civil society who are really barking upn the WRONG yahapalanaya tree!

Anonymous said...

There are some decisions people within can't take. So who must do it? Monetary Board don't have the balls. Who has the guts? Needed shakeup. Indrajit not up to it.

People awaiting an angel from heaven to save them from the devils at Central Bank who think they are above reproach. That is the difficulty.

How about a social media campaign to demand their resignation for the sake of the future of the country.
Fact check. None of them believe they have erred.prima Donna syndrome is too heavily entrenched in these traitors.

Anonymous said...

This is becoming increasingly obvious that the media have been flogging the wrong horse all along.CB knows Perpetual profits for Sept already as they have to disclose accounts as part of PD rules.So are you saying today's profits are also irregular? Get a life guys.

Find the real problem. Do your homework and don't lie to the gullible Sri Lankan people who sadly have not yet figured out that most of what you write are not true.

Time to go back to International journalistic ethics of double and triple checking the facts from those qualified to opine, not who you easily find so to do. Games up chums!

Anonymous said...

Just look at the names of the Monetary Board! No wonder. Half of them should not even get close to a bank. Let alone a Central Bank.

Time has come to replace boozers and lackies with excellence. A millennial is also needed. A young bond trader perhaps to explain the ABCs of 2016 Central Banking.

Anonymous said...

I disagree.they should have 5 appointed members, not three for this crucial job, as they technically govern the CBSL. Requires a lot of knowledge on current trends. Look at the Federal Reserve Board Model as a possibility.

Anonymous said...

Profiting from arbitrage opportunities where asset prices are not adequately reflecting reality is fair and a sign of a good trader. But to say Perpetual Treasuries (PT) made their extraordinary profits because they employed superior researchers is pure fantasy. PT did profit from a type of arbitrage - information arbitrage: they had insider information, others didn’t. This is illegal. In this article ( by Arjuna Mahendran himself, states that every year in March, the government needs a lot of money for budgetary expenses. If this was true, for some reason in late February 2015, CBSL did not seem anticipate this cash requirement. He states that “the private placement window had only been able to raise Rs. 3.5 b in the week ending Friday 27 February 2015. It was thus decided to accept the balance Rs. 10 b from the auction where bids of Rs. 20 b had been placed for the Rs 1 bn. of issuance advertised”. Between Feb 27 and March 1, CBSL had to scramble to raise funds and “serendipitously”, the auction had received way more bids than what the government said they needed. This is like a fruit seller saying he wants Rs. 5 for a mango, but you offer him Rs.100. The only way “superior research” could have figured this out – when CBSL themselves didn’t know till the last minute – is if the “research analyst” actually sat inside the Central Bank at the moment the directive came through. It is also grossly unfair to characterise CBSL as incompetent and not in tune with the times. Sure, there is a lot that can be improved on, but Sri Lanka’s Central Bank has had an exemplary record of managing the country’s debt payments even during the darkest of times. On the other hand, glossing over Perpetual Treasuries’ actions as “young blood” with superior trading strategies is wrong. My own view is that “young blood” did play a hand in it. I think the emergency funding requirement may have been inadvertently mentioned by the Governor during dinner table conversation, and PT’s young blooded, inexperienced CEO decided to play Gordon Gekko and ordered the trades without adequately taking in to account the political and financial risks of such an insider trade. This reckless action has now resulted in a Father-in-Law desperately justifying his actions to protect his family and has also strengthened the hands of those who long to return Sri Lanka to a kelptocratic dictatorship.