Explained: the Economic Crisis in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is currently in an economic and political crisis of mass proportions, recently culminating in a default on its debt payments. The country is also nearly at empty on their foreign currency reserves, decreasing the ability to purchase imports and driving up domestic prices for goods.
There are several reasons for this crisis and the economic turmoil has sparked mass protests and violence across the country. This visual breaks down some of the elements that led to Sri Lanka’s current situation.
A Timeline of Events
The ongoing problems in Sri Lanka have bubbled up after years of economic mismanagement. Here’s a brief timeline looking at just some of the recent factors.
In 2009, a decades-long civil war in the country ended and the government’s focus turned inward towards domestic production. However, a stress on local production and sales, instead of exports, increased the reliance on foreign goods.
Unprompted cuts were introduced on income tax in 2019, leading to significant losses in government revenue, draining an already cash-strapped country.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world causing border closures globally and stifling one of Sri Lanka’s most lucrative industries. Prior to the pandemic, in 2018, tourism contributed nearly 5% of the country’s GDP and generated over 388,000 jobs. In 2020, tourism’s share of GDP had dropped to 0.8%, with over 40,000 jobs lost to that point.
Recently, the Sri Lankan government introduced a ban on foreign-made chemical fertilizers. The ban was meant to counter the depletion of the country’s foreign currency reserves.
However, with only local, organic fertilizers available to farmers, a massive crop failure occurred and Sri Lankans were subsequently forced to rely even more heavily on imports, further depleting reserves.
In early April this year, massive protests calling for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation, sparked in Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo.
In May, pro-government supporters brutally attacked protesters. Subsequently, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, brother of President Rajapaksa, stepped down and was replaced with former PM, Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Recently, the government approved a four-day work week to allow citizens an extra day to grow food, as prices continue to shoot up. Food inflation increased over 57% in May.
Additionally, the increasing prices on grain caused by the war in Ukraine and rising fuel prices globally have played into an already dire situation in Sri Lanka.
The Key Information
“Our economy has completely collapsed.”
Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to Parliament last week.
One of the main causes of the economic crisis in Sri Lanka is the reliance on imports and the amount spent on them. Let’s take a look at the numbers:
- 2021 total imports = $20.6 billion USD
- 2022 total imports (to March) = $5.7 billion USD
In contrast, the most recent reported foreign currency reserve levels in the country were at an abysmal $50 million, having plummeted an astounding 99%, from $7.6 billion in 2019.
Some of the top imports in 2021, according to the country’s central bank were:
- Refined petroleum = $2.8 billion
- Textiles = $3.1 billion
- Chemical products = $1.1 billion
- Food & beverage = $1.7 billion
Of course, without the cash to purchase these goods from abroad, Sri Lankans face an increasingly drastic situation.
Additionally, the debt Sri Lanka has incurred is huge, further hampering their ability to boost their reserves. Recently, they defaulted on a $78 million loan from international creditors, and in total, they’ve borrowed $50.7 billion.
The largest source of their debt is by far due to market borrowings, followed closely by loans taken from the Asian Development Bank, China, and Japan, among others.
What it Means
Sri Lanka is home to more than 22 million people who are rapidly losing the ability to purchase everyday goods. Consumer inflation reached 39% at the end of May.
Due to power outages meant to save energy and fuel, schools are currently shuttered and children have nowhere to go during the day. Protesters calling for the president’s resignation have been camped in the capital for months, facing tear gas from police and backlash from president Rajapaksa’s supporters, but many have also responded violently to pushback.
India and China have agreed to send help to the country and the the International Monetary Fund recently arrived in the country to discuss a bailout. Additionally, the government has sent ministers to Russia to discuss a deal for discounted oil imports.
A Foreshadowing for Low Income Countries
Governments need foreign currency in order to purchase goods from abroad. Without the ability to purchase or borrow foreign currency, the Sri Lankan government cannot buy desperately needed imports, including food staples and fuel, causing domestic prices to rise.
Furthermore, defaults on loan payments discourage foreign direct investment and devalue the national currency, making future borrowing more difficult.
What’s happening in Sri Lanka may be an ominous preview of what’s to come in other low and middle-income countries, as the risk of debt distress continues to rise globally.
The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) was implemented by G20 countries, suspending nearly $13 billion in debt from the start of the pandemic until late 2021.
Some DSSI and LIC countries facing a high risk of debt distress include Zambia, Ethiopia, and Tajikistan, to name a few.
Going forward, Sri Lanka’s next steps in managing this situation will either serve as a useful example for other countries at risk or a warning worth heeding.
Since this article was published the situation has changed significantly in Sri Lanka. Protesters have received their original demand calling for president Rajapaksa to step down — both he and prime minister Wickremesinghe have agreed to resign. This comes after protesters stormed the president’s palace causing him to flee the country.
Note: The debt breakdown in the main visualization represents total outstanding external debt owed to foreign creditors rather total debt.
Thematic Investing: 3 Key Trends in Cybersecurity
Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated. Here’s what investors need to know about the future of cybersecurity.
Thematic Investing: 3 Key Trends in Cybersecurity
In 2020, the global cost of cybercrime was estimated to be around $945 billion, according to McAfee.
It’s likely even higher today, as multiple sources have recorded an increase in the frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks during the pandemic.
In this infographic from Global X ETFs, we highlight three major trends that are shaping the future of the cybersecurity industry that investors need to know.
Trend 1: Increasing Costs
Research from IBM determined that the average data breach cost businesses $4.2 million in 2021, up from $3.6 million in 2017. The following table breaks this figure into four components:
|Cost Component||Value ($)|
|Cost of lost business||$1.6M|
|Detection and escalation||$1.2M|
|Post breach response||$1.1M|
The greatest cost of a data breach is lost business, which results from system downtimes, reputational losses, and lost customers. Second is detection and escalation, including investigative activities, audit services, and communications to stakeholders.
Post breach response includes costs such as legal expenditures, issuing new accounts or credit cards (in the case of financial institutions), and other monitoring services. Lastly, notification refers to the cost of notifying regulators, stakeholders, and other third parties.
To stay ahead of these rising costs, businesses are placing more emphasis on cybersecurity. For example, Microsoft announced in September 2021 that it would quadruple its cybersecurity investments to $20 billion over the next five years.
Trend 2: Remote Work Opens New Vulnerabilities
According to IBM, companies that rely more on remote work experience greater losses from data breaches. For companies where 81 to 100% of employees were remote, the average cost of a data breach was $5.5 million (2021). This dropped to $3.7 million for companies that had under 10% of employees working from home.
A major reason for this gap is that work-from-home setups are typically less secure. Phishing attacks surged in 2021, taking advantage of the fact that many employees access corporate systems through their personal devices.
|Type of Attack||Number of attacks in 2020||Number of attacks in 2021||Growth (%)|
As detected by Trend Micro’s Cloud App Security.
Spam phishing refers to “fake” emails that trick users by impersonating company management. They can include malicious links that download ransomware onto the users device. Credential phishing is similar in concept, though the goal is to steal a person’s account credentials.
A tactic you may have seen before is the Amazon scam, where senders impersonate Amazon and convince users to update their payment methods. This strategy could also be used to gain access to a company’s internal systems.
Trend 3: AI Can Reduce the Cost of a Data Breach
AI-based cybersecurity can detect and respond to cyberattacks without any human intervention. When fully deployed, IBM measured a 20% reduction in the time it takes to identify and contain a breach. It also resulted in cost savings upwards of 60%.
A prominent user of AI-based cybersecurity is Google, which uses machine learning to detect phishing attacks within Gmail.
Machine learning helps Gmail block spam and phishing messages from showing up in your inbox with over 99.9% accuracy. This is huge, given that 50-70% of messages that Gmail receives are spam.
– Andy Wen, Google
As cybercrime escalates, Acumen Research and Consulting believes the market for AI-based security solutions will reach $134 billion by 2030, up from $15 billion in 2021.
Introducing the Global X Cybersecurity ETF
The Global X Cybersecurity ETF (Ticker: BUG) seeks to provide investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the Indxx Cybersecurity Index. See below for industry and country-level breakdowns, as of June 2022.
|Sector (By security type)||Weight|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||0.9%|
Totals may not equal 100% due to rounding.
Investors can use this passively managed solution to gain exposure to the rising adoption of cybersecurity technologies.
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Visualizing Major Layoffs At U.S. Corporations
This infographic highlights the accelerating pace of layoffs so far in 2022, as businesses cut costs ahead of a potential recession.
Visualizing Major Layoffs at U.S. Corporations
Hiring freezes and layoffs are becoming more common in 2022, as U.S. businesses look to slash costs ahead of a possible recession.
Understandably, this has a lot of people worried. In June 2022, Insight Global found that 78% of American workers fear they will lose their job in the next recession. Additionally, 56% said they aren’t financially prepared, and 54% said they would take a pay cut to avoid being laid off.
In this infographic, we’ve visualized major layoffs announced in 2022 by publicly-traded U.S. corporations.
Note: Due to gaps in reporting, as well as the very large number of U.S. corporations, this list may not be comprehensive.
An Emerging Trend
Layoffs have surged considerably since April of this year. See the table below for high-profile instances of mass layoffs.
|JP Morgan Chase & Co.||Financial Services||~500||June|
Here’s a brief rundown of these layoffs, sorted by industry.
Ford has announced the biggest round of layoffs this year, totalling roughly 8,000 salaried employees. Many of these jobs are in Ford’s legacy combustion engine business. According to CEO Jim Farley, these cuts are necessary to fund the company’s transition to EVs.
We absolutely have too many people in some places, no doubt about it.
– Jim Farley, CEO, Ford
Speaking of EVs, Rivian laid off 840 employees in July, amounting to 6% of its total workforce. The EV startup pointed to inflation, rising interest rates, and increasing commodity prices as factors. The firm’s more established competitor, Tesla, cut 200 jobs from its autopilot division in the month prior.
Last but not least is online used car retailer, Carvana, which cut 2,500 jobs in May. The company experienced rapid growth during the pandemic, but has since fallen out of grace. Year-to-date, the company’s shares are down more than 80%.
Fearing an impending recession, Coinbase has shed 1,100 employees, or 18% of its total workforce. Interestingly, Coinbase does not have a physical headquarters, meaning the entire company operates remotely.
A recession could lead to another crypto winter, and could last for an extended period. In past crypto winters, trading revenue declined significantly.
Brian Armstrong, CEO, Coinbase
Around the same time, JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced it would fire hundreds of home-lending employees. While an exact number isn’t available, we’ve estimated this to be around 500 jobs, based on the original Bloomberg article. Wells Fargo, another major U.S. bank, has also cut 197 jobs from its home mortgage division.
The primary reason for these cuts is rising mortgage rates, which are negatively impacting the demand for homes.
Within tech, Meta and Twitter are two of the most high profile companies to begin making layoffs. In Meta’s case, 350 custodial staff have been let go due to reduced usage of the company’s offices.
Many more cuts are expected, however, as Facebook recently reported its first revenue decline in 10 years. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear he expects the company to do more with fewer resources, and managers have been encouraged to report “low performers” for “failing the company”.
Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.
– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Meta
Also in July, Twitter laid off 30% of its talent acquisition team. An exact number was not available, but the team was estimated to have less than 100 employees. The company has also enacted a hiring freeze as it stumbles through a botched acquisition by Elon Musk.
More Layoffs to Come…
Layoffs are expected to continue throughout the rest of this year, as metrics like consumer sentiment enter a decline. Rising interest rates, which make it more expensive for businesses to borrow money, are also having a negative impact on growth.
In fact just a few days ago, trading platform Robinhood announced it was letting go 23% of its staff. After accounting for its previous layoffs in April (9% of the workforce), it’s fair to estimate that this latest round will impact nearly 800 people.