Editor - Smart Future Forum

Should Civil Service Reform and Public Finance Reform Go Together?

Sri Lanka has let public financial management slip dramatically over the last couple of decades, resulting in weak government finances and the lack of fiscal space to support the economy during times of economic downturns and distress. As the ongoing public protests have also shown, people have lost confidence in the ability of successive governments to effectively manage people's money collected via taxes. As an IMF programme agreement draws closer, tax increases and spending cuts have already been implemented, and ad hoc changes to public sector work (like cutting down the working week by 1 day, with no change in pay) are tried out, more sustained and urgent reforms to public finance remain unfinished. In this discussion, an international public financial management (PFM) expert - who has worked in Sri Lanka and in over 14 other countries around the world - shares some insights on the challenge of PFM reform, the imperatives in doing it, and the need to couple it with meaningful civil service reform.

Austerity and Vulnerability: Better Solutions to Support the Poor During Economic Crises

As Sri Lanka's economic crisis worsens and tax increases, utility price hikes and budget cuts begin, the need for a meaningful social safety net for the poor has become a key public policy focus. Yet, Sri Lanka has a bad track record of properly identifying, and providing support to, vulnerable population groups. Current approaches to welfare design risk replicating existing problems. In this in-depth interview, featuring key data points, Dr. Anila Dias Bandaranaike (a former senior Central Banker, and poverty data expert), speaks about the problems with our current approaches and ideas for better solutions. It is essentially viewing for anyone interested in this topic - whether you are a researcher, public policy professional, or civil society organization leader.

Tags:

Sri Lanka needs a ‘sensible’ fiscal adjustment plan – CSF Co-Founder

CSF Co-Founder Anushka Wijesinha was interviewed by Andrea Sanke of the leading Turkish global news channel TRT World, on their show 'Newsmakers' to talk about the ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka, along with history researcher Shamara Wettimuny, and activist Ruki Fernando. During the panel, he recalled one of the turning points for the economy - the irresponsible tax cuts that led to the ratings downgrades and locking out of international capital markets - and the cascading policy errors and the false bravado that followed. He argued that while the structural problems with the economy will take longer to resolve, the immediate macroeconomic stabilisation needs to take centre stage and the IMF programme will be the first baby steps towards that, and avoid a sovereign debt default.

Credit lines would provide temporary respite but sustainable solutions needed

CSF Co-Founder Anushka Wijesinha was interviewed by Gargi Rawat of NDTV (India) to explain to an Indian audience the current economic crisis in Sri Lanka and what prospects in the near-term. He emphasised that while the Indian credit line recently signed would provide some temporary respite to the ongoing shortage of fuel and may see queues ease up in the short-term, it is far from a sustainable solution.

Introducing Sri Lankan corporates to climate risk disclosure standards

In mid-January 2022, the Centre for a Smart Future - under its 'Natural Capital Forum' initiative - collaborated with the Climate Disclosure Standards Board in the UK and the Colombo Stock Exchange to bring new accounting and analytical tools to Sri Lankan corporates. With practice facilitation and outreach by CSF to the CDSB, Sri Lankan listed and unlisted companies were able to learn about new accounting, reporting and disclosure standards relating to climate risks, for the first time in the country. The Colombo Stock Exchange(CSE) organized the training programme, which saw participation of nearly 200 participants. The programme was supported by the UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative(SSE)

Attracting Good FDI Starts with Designing Good Incentives Regimes

Sri Lanka is on a renewed push to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) following a poor performance in the last decade, post-war. Fiscal incentives regimes have changed from time to time, laws and regulations have been introduced, investment promotions missions have been held in major capitals. Yet, attracting FDI remains a struggle, amidst heightened competition from regional competitor locations. In this interview, former Deloitte consultant Danindu Udalamaththa outlines some key areas for Sri Lanka to focus on and learn from. He draws from his experience advising global clients on the investor side, and argues that to attract good investment, Sri Lanka needs to design good incentives frameworks.

Solving SME Development Challenges:
Looking Beyond Easy Loan Schemes

Like many countries in the region, SME development remains prominently on the policy agenda of successive Sri Lankan governments, development projects, and private sector support programmes over the years. Yet, a thriving, dynamic, and internationally-competitive SME sector remains elusive. Various schemes to address SMEs’ access to finance issues is a popular, and often dominant, part of most SME development initiatives. In this interview with finance and investment specialist Sharini Kulasinghe we explore some new perspectives on solving SME development challenges, going beyond the common wisdom.

SMARTER SUSTAINABILITY:
Shift to Organic Agriculture Must be Staged and Strategic – Agri Expert

Sri Lanka's President announced a policy directive of moving to 100% organic farming this year, and an immediate ban on importing any chemical fertilisers and agro-chemicals. Since the announcement, there has been a fervent debate on the decision, ranging from fears around food security and impacts on exports, to a celebration of the potential to create a unique value for the country. In our first video interview in the 'Smarter Sustainability' series agriculture economist Chatura Rodrigo discusses how to manage the transition better, implications for farmers, and gaps in the policymaking process.

ECONOMICS x ENVIRONMENT:
Are Marine Conservation and Sri Lanka’s Maritime Hub Ambitions Compatible?

In this interview in the 'Economics x Environment' series of Smart Future Forum (SFF), Nishan Perera - Sri Lanka's leading marine ecologist, an avid diver and underwater photographer - shares some vital insights  on. Nishan is a marine ecologist with an interest in coral reef ecology and Marine Protected Area management. He is a co-founder of Blue Resources Trust, a Sri Lankan marine research organization, where he currently heads the coral reef programme.  His recent work has included research on impacts of climate change on coral reefs, small scale fisheries management and supporting Marine Protected Area management in Sri Lanka. He has previously worked with IUCN, Project Seahorse and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

SMARTER SUSTAINABILITY:
Sri Lanka Must Use GSP+ for
Smarter Positioning on Sustainability

When Sri Lanka regained the GSP+ trade concessions to the EU, exporters from a range of sectors got a renewed opportunity to compete in this lucrative market. Yet, prospects for future growth will rely on Sri Lanka boosting its sustainability and governance credentials, to position exports more strongly, for the longer term. In this interview in the Smarter Sustainability series, Anisha Rajapakse explores key issues for Sri Lanka in strengthening its positioning as a trusted and preferred sourcing location for EU buyers, using GSP+ and beyond.