Articles

Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis is Hurting Education and Students’ Future Prospects

Sri Lanka is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in post-independence history. While some reform areas have gained more traction than others (for instance, the debt restructuring), the critical state that the education sector is in has received relatively less attention; and this risks Sri Lanka’s future growth prospects. The government must strive to formulate a comprehensive action plan that is student-centric, in order to revive Sri Lanka’s education system and help students and teachers manage the current crisis. If the government does not address the concerns of its students, and provide immediate solutions to their needs, the country will not only see an entire generation of young people affected by lower educational attainment in crucial development years, but also experience a severe brain drain in the years ahead. While the country tackles macroeconomic stabilisation measures, it is vital to tackle the education crisis as well.

Sri Lanka’s political turmoil risks derailing the economy further

Sri Lanka is facing unprecedented political turmoil, and with the economy in a tailspin it is in its weakest state in decades. The country is staring down the barrel of a sovereign debt default and is exposed to external shocks. As the country embarks on IMF bailout discussions, the main emerging risk facing Sri Lanka is the fallout of the current political instability on macroeconomic stabilisation efforts. Facing the prospect of a disorderly default, Sri Lankan officials have a decision to make — will they kow-tow to narrow political compulsions, or come together to agree on a common programme that steers the economy out of the current crisis and towards macroeconomic stability? Perhaps the current turmoil in parliament and the public’s growing recognition of the cause of the crisis will be what catalyses a political consensus for reform that has eluded Sri Lanka for so long.

Making Sri Lanka’s Technology Transition More Inclusive

For Sri Lankan youth entering the workforce over the next decade, there lies a critical window of opportunity to get equipped for jobs in the digital economy. Rapidly advancing the technical and soft skills training for the technology sector across the country is vital to avoid reinforcing and reproducing existing regional and gender disparities into the emerging digital economy. Sri Lanka needs to focus on enhancing technology access, usage, and literacy across the board, to help workers be better prepared for jobs in the technology sector.

Budget Makers for the Country Must Listen to the Budget Makers of the Home

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, most conversations we have had with working class poor communities in Colombo have been dominated by one topic – budgets and listening to families talk about how they prioritise their expenditure based on their needs and their income. How do we take the everyday struggles of people to get by or get the job done, only to be faced with a state institution also struggling for resources and turn it into an experience where people’s needs can be met with well-funded and equipped institutions?

SIGNALS OF CHANGE:
Three Emerging Post-Covid Trends for Sri Lanka’s Apparel Sector

Sri Lanka’s apparel industry – a significant export revenue earner and employer – was substantially hit by the pandemic. Aside from the short-term supply and demand shocks, the pandemic accelerated trends that were in motion prior to the crisis, and these provide signals of change and point to the direction in which the Sri Lankan apparel industry needs to head in. Moving from recovery to resilience and a new wave of growth will be shaped by three emerging trends - attracting new investment that drives innovation (in business models and products) and plugs into new supply chains and on focussing on meeting more stringent sustainability and other compliance requirements of buyers and preferences of consumers.

Fiscal Constraints Amidst COVID-19:
Sri Lanka on Red Notice for Tax Reform

Sri Lanka's tax ratio hit an all time low in 2020, with revenue losses caused by the pandemic and steep tax cuts in 2019. The budget deficit reached double digits due to high pandemic related expenditure and fall in revenue. Attempting to revive growth through public investment will be constrained by low tax revenue, and progressive tax reforms are a must to avoid further macroeconomic stress.

Refreshing Growth in Sri Lanka’s Provinces:
Changing the Narrative

For too long provinces outside Sri Lanka’s Western Province have been characterized as ‘lagging regions’, due to their slower growth trajectory, smaller share of national output, and more pronounced weaknesses in development indicators. It's time to change the narrative and see them as 'Secondary Growth Hubs', to transform how all stakeholders engage in partnerships to boost prosperity there - not in terms of how they need to be helped to get out of being ‘lagging’ but rather how they need to be partnered in creating more inclusive economic growth.

Looking Beyond Tariffs to Win in
Export markets: A New Focus for SMEs

Tariffs often take centre stage in discussions around market access for exporters – especially SME exporters. But this view is increasingly out of date. Standards are a new differentiator, even to markets where preferential tariff advantages are not available. Standards compliance should not be seen as a barrier, but as a way for firms to find new sources of competitiveness and branding

SIGNALS OF CHANGE:
Can Blockchain Solve Trade Finance Bottlenecks?

Trade finance is currently full of inefficiencies, and access to trade finance has proved to be a continual challenge for SME exporters. The industry is ripe for disruption, and blockchain is proving to be a key source of disruptive innovation. Several pilots have shown the way for blockchain to improve trade finance - both in reducing time and costs.