The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Parliament probe called on S&P report on banking risks, CB denial


A former top business leader has called for a parliamentary probe on ‘banking risks in Sri Lanka’ highlighted by a top rating agency and the rejection of its contents by the Central Bank. The proposed presenting a petition to parliament on the banking sector for discussion and issues and concerns raised. Chandra Jayaratne, a former Chamber of Commerce Chairman, has written to all political parties, bringing to their attention the need to present this petition to the Special Parliamentary Committee for consideration of Public Petitions.

Drawing attention to the recent “Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment” report  by Standard & Poor and, titled “Sri Lanka Banking System Assigned Group ’8′, he says many express deep concern from the ‘amber signals’ of emerging risks highlighted in the aforesaid report. Mr Jayaratne, who has recently issued many statements on issues of public concern and called for action, also referred to the Central Bank’s denial of the report, saying it is factually incorrect, illogically analysed, and is highly contradictory.

He called for the members of parliament to agree to present a petition to the above-named forum “to take immediate steps to examine the veracity or other wise of the aforesaid Standard & Poor Report and the contradictory Report of the Central Bank, and advise me and my fellow citizens of the actual risks attaching to the regulated banks and financial services entities operating in Sri Lanka.”

S&P clarifies ‘banking issues’ statement-CB says
Sri Lanka’s Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) on Tuesday welcomed the clarification made by Standard and Poor’s (S&P) that there was “no information of any specific incidences occurring” of “a potential conflict of interest” due to the Central Bank (CB)’s oversight of the EPF which is “a large investor in Sri Lankan banking stocks”.

“In the clarification, S&P has also stated that they ‘expect the central bank to have mechanisms to limit this risk’,” the CB, under whose purview comes the EPF, said in a statement”. The EPF re-affirmed that the CB has the required mechanisms to limit any risk referred to, particularly because the EPF functions independently of the Bank Supervision Department, Public Debt Department, and other departments of the Central Bank, with the required firewalls having been established for such purpose. These firewalls are particularly effective, since in terms of Section 45(1) of the Monetary Law Act, No. 58 of 1949, every officer and servant of the Central Bank is legally bound to preserve and aid in preserving secrecy with regard to all matters in performing their duties.

“Consequently, in its investment decision making process, the EPF does not enjoy any advantage with privileged information from the Bank Supervision Department or any other Department, and only accesses publicly available information and research, which other investors too access. Hence, no conflict of interest or unfair practice arises in the EPF’s investment process,” the statement added.

Further, it said, the Monetary Board is empowered to invest the money of the Fund in such securities as it considers fit, and sell such securities as well. Hence, the EPF has clear authority to invest in the share market, including the banking and finance sector. In this regard, the EPF also wishes to state that it would be highly prejudicial to the EPF members, if the EPF, as the country’s biggest Fund, were to refrain from investing in the best performing sector in the Colombo Stock Exchange, namely, the banking and finance sector, it said.

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