Health and Human Development

Sri Lanka’s Economic Policy Choices: From Stabilisation to Growth

Sri Lanka has faced a turbulent economic journey in recent years, with 2022 witnessing an unprecedented crisis marked by a staggering 8.7% GDP contraction. The economy slowly but steadily pulled back from the abyss over the course of 2023. These positive developments are a result of the implementation of economic stabilisation measures and groundwork for institutional and regulatory reforms to support future growth. But there are concerns about the impact on the most vulnerable groups. As a country that faces years of weak growth, IPS’ ‘Sri Lanka: State of the Economy 2023’ report, explores the complex policy choices Sri Lanka faces as it navigates the path to economic recovery.

Sri Lanka’s Battle Against NCDs: Is the Sugar-Beverage Tax Doing Enough?

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) lead to around 120,000 deaths in Sri Lanka each year, constituting  83% of the overall recorded deaths. The revised National Policy and Strategic Framework for the Prevention and Control of NCDs is a positive initiative by the government to address this. Such policies can play a crucial role in promoting healthier lifestyles, preventing NCDs, and improving overall public health. However, the question that lingers is, how effective are the existing measures, and where can we make improvements?
In the battle against NCDs, the government implemented a crucial policy in 2017 – the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) tax. This tax aimed to curb the consumption of SSBs closely linked to health problems like obesity, diabetes, and dental issues. While this measure holds great promise, evaluating its effectiveness is difficult owing to data gaps. However, an IPS analysis of how SSB taxes are helping to reduce their consumption in Sri Lanka provides some initial insights.

Sri Lanka’s Palm Oil Industry: Balancing Economic Benefits and Environmental Sustainability

The palm oil industry in Sri Lanka has been a vital policy initiative aimed at reducing palm oil imports and boosting the economy. Oil palm cultivation was allowed initially to reduce reliance on imported palm oil, but concerns over environmental and health impacts led to a decision to phase out cultivation within ten years. In this Q&A Explainer with Author, Dr Erandathie Pathiraja, Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS), provides valuable insights into the recently published IPS study, ‘Palm Oil Industry in Sri Lanka: An Economic Analysis’. Dr Pathiraja shares her perspectives on the reasons behind the ban on oil palm cultivation, the potential impact on the economy and environment, the industry’s economic contributions, environmental concerns and their mitigation, health issues related to edible oil consumption, and alternative solutions to meet the local edible oil demand. The study authored by Dr. Erandathie Pathiraja, Ruwan Samaraweera, Hiruni Fernando, and Jaan Bogodage, offers a comprehensive analysis of the economic and environmental impacts of the palm oil industry in Sri Lanka.

Battling Disease and Debt: Financing Non-Communicable Diseases Amidst Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis

Over the last few decades, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have become a critical health challenge in Sri Lanka, accounting for over 80% of total deaths and 38% of health expenditure in 2019. The economic impact is particularly challenging for households affected by chronic NCDs as they bear higher costs of medicines, pharmaceutical products, medical laboratory tests, and other ancillary services. With the current economic downturn, preventing and financing NCDs has become even more challenging for Sri Lanka. An ongoing IPS study delves into the implications of the economic crisis on the country’s health system, with a specific focus on NCD prevention and financing. The study conducted an extensive analysis by gathering perspectives from various stakeholders. This blog is based on the information collected from these stakeholders.

Traffic Light Labels: Do They Promote Healthier Food Choices in Sri Lanka?

In line with globally recommended practices to reduce the dietary risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Sri Lankan government implemented a traffic-light labelling (TLL) system for sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) in August 2016. The purpose of the regulations was to educate the public on the sugar content in SSBs to promote healthy diets in Sri Lanka and reduce NCDs associated with a high sugar intake. Six years on, it is time to assess the effectiveness of TLL in encouraging healthier food choices. Based on an ongoing IPS study – ‘Strengthening Fiscal Policies and Regulations to Promote Healthy Diets in Sri Lanka’ and written ahead of World Health Day 2022, this blog – discusses consumers’ knowledge of TLL and how it impacts their SSB choices.

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