Economic power is being shifted from West to Asia. Is Sri Lanka ready?

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Sri Lankan economy is underperforming: The balance of economic power is shifting from West to Asia, with China, Japan, South Korea, India, and many other east/south Asian economies leading the global economic recovery. The World Bank forecasts global economic growth of 3 percent in 2018 and the growth in so called advanced economies is expected to be around only 2 percent in 2018. The economic growth in emerging markets is projected to strengthen around 4.5 percent in 2018, China, Vietnam, South Korea and India will perform much better.

It is a pity that according to the latest reports of the World Bank, the projected growth rates even for South Asia countries (India, Bangladesh and Pakistan etc) during the next two-three years are around 6.8 – 7.2% whereas, Sri Lankan growth figures are much lower than the above and it is around 4%.

Sri Lanka continues to be relied on Western markets for our export earnings. The bulk of the Sri Lankan exports (60%) have been to the US and EU. As seen above the Asian economies attain a strong growth. Asian growth champions, China and India are predicted to grow at an impressive 6.4 and 7.3 percent respectively.

Overcoming implementation snags:

It is interesting to find out answers as to why our government ministries and institutions fail in implementation? The answer narrows downs to one single entity which is non-other the government machinery itself. Answers are simple and well known yet no light at the tunnel of effective delivery. The present implementation snags in Sri Lankan government policy making process are mainly due to the following issues:

(1) Lack of a ‘shared value system’ and work ethic culture.
(2) policy inconsistencies, incongruities and lack of clarity on the specific policy.
(3) Policies drawn without due consideration of geo-political realities and environmental factors.
(4) communication gaps in forwarding the relevant policy docs.
(5) the specific policy change may not be acceptable to influencing stakeholders.
(6) process of policy change has been perceived by majority stakeholders as not transparent.
(7) Undue private sector lobbies creating confusion in decision making.
(8) trade union views are not sought at the beginning itself.
(9) influencing stakeholders, anyway want to scuttle the process and the government’s inability to cope up with the social unrest.
(10) Others not specified.

Sri Lanka to plug in to Eastern growth centres:

Sri Lanka is yet to effectively ‘plug in’ to the dynamic growth centres that are emerging in Asia. According to former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa this is one of the priority areas for further studies for policy shaping, if we are to truly, fast track development initiatives to improve the economic welfare of the people of this country. It is in this context only the policy shaping and future strategic directions for Sri Lankan economy should be viewed.

The writer is of the view that in the past the leaders of the political parties who aspire to become the policy makers in the next government that they are going to form, used to engage in drafting ‘party manifestos’ in a hurry without due consideration of ‘evidence- based policy shaping’ and -come out with some practical & implementable strategies- focussing on achieving long term sustainable development goals as a whole.in this connection, it is very important to analyse and find out what are the industries and businesses in Sri Lanka having ‘competitive advantage’ to penetrate in to these emerging markets. We also need to find out whether there are any skill gaps in the ‘human resource’ needs to further improve the competitiveness of the industries.

Conclusion:

In the recent past, the socio- economic analysis & research unit- through our ‘RTD Forum’ and ‘Viyathmaga organisation’ – has engaged in critically reviewing the national policies, their formulation & implementation covering areas such as Agriculture, SME sector, economic development, transportation and infrastructure etc. Whilst there is a need for a continuous review of national policies & programs, our view is that these winning strategies have to be crafted based on evidence and studying past experiences, without any fixed ideologies linked to petty party politics and affiliations.

-Jayampathy Molligoda.

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The Professionals for a Better Future (VIYATHMAGA) is a network of Academics, Professionals, and Entrepreneurs who love the country and wish to contribute actively towards the development of a prosperous Sri Lanka where all citizens can live in peace and harmony. VIYATHMAGA is not a political organisation. It is a civil society movement, wishing to contribute towards the betterment of the country.

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