Sharpshooters front-up for Sri Lanka in Crucial Negotiations with IMF

Nandasiri Jasentuliyana,** in Sunday Observer, 24 April 2021,whose preferred title is Steller team of advisors to help seek IMF bailout”

To rescue the country from its march towards a certain disaster, Sri Lanka has appointed a stellar team of world-renowned fiscal and monetary experts to assist in the critical negotiations with the International Monitory Fund (IMF) on the outcome of which may hang the immediate fate of Sri Lanka.

It would be hard to find a more experienced team of experts who are immersed in the operations of international financial institutions than the team of advisors appointed for the IMF negotiations. Yet, the task before them is a daunting one. With the state coffers empty, the production sector at a standstill, and recent sources of foreign exchange — remittances, and tourism dried up, it is indeed a harrowing task.

With the instability of the Government and rampant protests and civil strikes, which might lead to sporadic violence, the IMF will be compelled to seek an assurance of stability before reaching an agreement.

Such a conclusion would be hard to come by on an immediate basis and even an emergency package might be held up by the prevailing instability within the executive, legislature and civil society. One can only hope the stellar team of experienced advisers would be able to shepherd the official team towards a productive end.

Mantel from father

The leader of the advisory team, Dr. Indrajith Coomaraswamy has taken over the mantel from his father, Rajendra Coomaraswamy, fondly known as Roving Raju with the begging bowl, an endearing term he earned because he was periodically dispatched to the World Bank in Sri Lanka’s post-independence years. That was when he distinguished himself as Secretary to the Treasury from the days of Dudley Senanayake, Sir John Kotelawala, to the days of Sirimavo Bandaranaike. His days were more manageable with stability in the country with the tea, coconut, and rubber plantations churning out foreign exchange.

Yet, Indrajith may be up to the task because of his education, experience and perhaps, even the genes. He is the Former Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. He was educated at Royal College, Colombo, and Harrow School.

After leaving school, he joined Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he received B.A. (Hons) and M.A. degrees. He played first-class cricket for Cambridge University. He then proceeded to the University of Sussex, from where he obtained a DPhil degree. Coomaraswamy joined the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in 1973.

He was seconded to the Ministry of Finance and Planning between 1981 and 1989 to provide advice on macroeconomic issues and structural reforms. He worked at the Commonwealth Secretariat from 1990 to 2008, holding various posts and ending up as Deputy Director of the Secretary-General’s Office. He was an advisor to the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Project Minister of Economic Affairs, and later a senior advisor to the Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade.

Famous families

That is a resume that cannot be bettered. Santha Devarajan joins Indrajith. Two of them trace their ancestry to famous families of Jaffna. Their fathers were pathbreaking national and international civil servants. As Fate would have it; both Raju Coomaraswamy and B.R. Devarajan, who were members of the Ceylon Civil Service, ended up at the United Nations in New York and happened to be neighbours at a U.N. enclave where the United Nations International School (Primary Section) was located.

Living in the same locale as a young U.N. official, I was privileged to see the young Indrajith and Santha grow up while the fathers scaled the dizzy heights of the United Nations. Raju ended up as the Deputy Administrator of the UNDP and Deva as a Senior Director. The sons were not second to the fathers and ended up ascending dizzier heights of International organisations.

Santha Devarajan began his education at the United Nations International School in New York and went to the prestigious Ivy League Princeton University, where he earned his B.A. He completed his education at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received an M.A. and a Ph.D.

Shanta was the Acting Chief Economist of the World Bank Group succeeding the Nobel Laureate Paul Romer. He co-directed the World Development Report. He was also a faculty member at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and is the author or co-author of over 100 publications. He is presently a professor of economics at George University.

Incredible contributions

The duo of Sri Lankan legends on the international monetary and fiscal world is joined by equally formidable Sharmini Cooray. She was at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and served as Director of the Institute for Capacity Development (I.C.D.). Sharmini is one of the great leaders in the fund, and she has made incredible contributions throughout a stellar Fund career,” said IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva in a press release on the occasion of her retirement from the IMF after three decades. Cooray’s leadership was key in providing strategic directions for the governance, management, and funding of the IMF’s capacity-building activities, making it an even more potent instrument in the service.

She holds a Ph.D. and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Harvard University. She has published papers on inflation and economic growth in transition and developing countries and edited a book on managing the oil wealth of the C.E.M.A.C. region.

A pain-free IMF package is the objective of the Sri Lankan negotiating team. The official delegation will be composed of Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, a career central banker Ph.D. in Economics from the Australian National University, who served as the Deputy Governor before his retirement in 2021, and new Minister of Finance, Ali Sabry, an experienced lawyer.

The entire country hopes and waits for them to use all their skills and bring back expeditiously a relief package that will alleviate the misery of a large section of the people of the Island, already enduring prolonged turmoil before the country reaches the point of no return.

** The writer is a former Deputy Director-General, United Nations  …. and, as it happens, played a stellar role in the Richmond cricket team in the mid-1950s when I was playing for St. Aloysius. 



Indrajit Summarizes the Reasons for Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis

Indrajit Coomaraswamy: The Boy From Cambridge Who Rose To The Pinnacle Of The Central Bank



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3 responses to “Sharpshooters front-up for Sri Lanka in Crucial Negotiations with IMF

  1. Chandra Maliyadde

    I have no quarrel on the credentials of the Sri Lankan Team. But they are not the fitting team for the job.
    1.They do not understand or appreciate the sentiments and the needs of the local community.
    2. They will be prepared to satisfy IMF and agree to implement austerity measures makiong the life much harder for the marginal groups
    3. They have experience and exposure to lending agencies but not borrowing countries
    4. On the eve of IMF negotiations the CBSL Governor declared that we default our obligations making harder for IMF to represnt and defend a country which has unilaterally decided to breach the agreement with lenders/creditors
    5. The Team was prepared for discussion with IMF with their eloquent accents but did not have a plan for recovery and sustainability during the post negotiation period.

  2. Niranjala

    All but Not Sabri. Don’t Trust him. He was appointed because he’s the President’s lawyer who got him acquitted of all his wrong doings..

  3. Edward T. Upali

    I was very happy to read the bios of the stellar team of Sri Lankans talking with the IMF

    Both Weerasinghe and Coomarswamy being current and former Central Bankers would be well acquainted with the current and future needs of SL. Both Shanta Cooray and Devarajan, are top economists, who no doubt are very familiar with the workings of the IMF. Ali Sabry, a Lawyer and the Minister of Finance completes the team.

    Just a few years ago a similar team would have been filled by civil servants, who had nothing but a basic education and some experience in approving gun licenses.

    Sri Lanka is only asking for bridge financing of US$5 billion. The request for finance was made about two weeks ago. No decision yet from IMF, the last resort lender affiliated with the World Bank. .

    Last week, Elon Musk raised about US$ 46 Billion in private financing and bought Twitter. In the mean time Zelensky of Ukraine has asked the IMF for a forgivable loan of US$7B per month. It only shows how poor we are.

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