“One of the positive developments of late is that subsequent to the government adjusting the gold duties, gold imports have eased off and the tax hike has had the desired impact. With the recent increase in vehicle taxes, going forward, hopefully the pressure on the trade account should be reduced because two of the three pressure points, i.e. gold and motor vehicle imports would be contained,” Dr. Coomaraswamy said noting that the third factor is oil imports whose prices are however beyond the control of the domestic authorities.
According to recent trade statistics, Sri Lanka’s cumulative deficit in the trade account during the first five months of 2018 expanded by US$ 716 million from US$ 4,198 million to about US$ 4,914 million while the trade deficit in the month of May 2018 widened by US$ 49 million to US$ 933 million. Out of the cumulative trade deficit of US$ 716 million, around US$ 350 million is attributed to the increase in vehicle imports, said Central Bank officials.For the month of May 2018, while Sri Lanka’s expenditure on import of vehicles increased by 120% to US$ 149.3 million, imports of gold reduced drastically by nearly 100% from US$ 35.8 million in May 2017 to a mere US$ 0.1 million.
Meanwhile, when asked whether the Central Bank expects an immediate easing in the pressure of the currency with the latest vehicle tax hikes, the governor replied negatively noting that time has to be provided for the already opened Letters of Credit to go through.“The pressure on the currency has come down a lot over the last couple of weeks and hopefully that will continue. But, with the new measures the desired effect may take a couple of months,” the governor said