The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) has expressed its strong displeasure on the recent assessment by Moody’s Investors Service (Moody’s) that led to the rating action, after being placed under review for downgrade three months ago in a similar fashion. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka said in a press release issued in response to the action by Moody’s.

The CBSL press release further said “Onceagain, Moody’s irrational rating action with regard to Sri Lanka comes a few days before a key event, namely the announcement of the Government Budget for 2022, and this apparent hastiness and the view expressed during discussions with Moody’s analysts that the nature of the Budget is irrelevant to the financing plans of the Government clearly demonstrates the lack of understanding of such analysts.

It also reflects serious governance weaknesses of such agencies, where they systematically overlook the positive developments and expectations in emerging market economies, but attribute much greater weight to downside risks.

Moody’s assessment has also failed to take into account the latest developments in strengthening the country’s external position through an array of measures, some of which have already yielded intended outcomes, as announced by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) on 26 October 2021.

The Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) has today downgraded the Government of Sri Lanka’s long-term foreign currency issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings to Caa2 from Caa1 under review for downgrade. The outlook is stable. This concludes the review for downgrade initiated on 19 July 2021.

The decision to downgrade the ratings is driven by Moody’s assessment that the absence of comprehensive financing to meet the government’s forthcoming significant maturities, in the context of very low foreign exchange reserves, raises default risks. In turn, this assessment reflects governance weaknesses in the ability of the country’s institutions to take measures that decisively mitigate significant and urgent risks to the balance of payments.

External liquidity risks remain heightened. A large financing envelope that Moody’s considers to be secure remains elusive and the sovereign continues to rely on piecemeal funding such as swap lines and bilateral loans, although prospects for non-debt generating inflows have improved somewhat since Moody’s placed SriLanka’s rating under review for downgrade. Persistently wide fiscal deficits due to the government’s very narrow revenue base compound this challenge by keeping gross borrowing needs high and removing fiscal flexibility.

The stable outlook reflects Moody’s view that the pressures that Sri Lanka’s government faces are consistent with a Caa2 rating level. Downside risks to foreign exchange reserves adequacy remain without comprehensive financing and narrow funding options. Should foreign exchange inflows disappoint, default risk would rise further. However, non-debt generating inflows particularly from tourism and foreign direct investment (FDI) may accelerate beyond Moody’s current expectations, which, coupled with the track record of the authorities to put together continued, albeit partial, financing, may support the government’s commitment and ability to repay its debt for some time.

Sri Lanka’s local and foreign currency country ceilings have been lowered to B2 and Caa2 from B1 and Caa1

Moody’s statement and the response of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, which are self-explanatory are annexed herewith.

Moody’s downgrades Sri Lanka’s rating to Caa2; outlook stable

Moody’s downgrades Sri Lanka’s rating to Caa2; outlook stable


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