One year into the pandemic, Sri Lanka’s already tight fiscal space has become further constricted, leaving some tough decisions to be made in the pandemic recovery period. A third wave of COVID-19 that the country is currently experiencing will further delay such recovery efforts. Although some fiscal tools have been included in Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 recovery plan, there is consensus that the size and scale of the country’s fiscal stimulus package have been inadequate against the scale of the crisis. Conversely, wealthier countries have been rolling out some of the historically largest fiscal stimulus packages. This blog discusses the global tilt towards fiscal policy reliance in the aftermath of the pandemic and deliberates on how far the developing world can adopt a similar strategy.
Many countries, including Sri Lanka, started practicing mobility restrictions from March 2020. As a result, in parallel to the slowdown of global merchandise production, trade volume also contracted from the second quarter of 2020. However, the World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates that the realised trade contraction in 2020 was just 5.3% contrary to the April 2020 forecast of a sharp contraction by between 13% and 32%. Meanwhile, countries used trade policy to ensure that essential food, drugs, and medical equipment are available domestically. In addition, countries like Sri Lanka used trade policy tools to contain imports to allay pressures on the domestic currency. This article discusses global and Sri Lankan trade during this pandemic, the impact of the pandemic and trade policy on Sri Lanka’s trade and food imports, and policy options for sustained growth in trade and domestic food security.
An effective vaccination strategy is a necessity for countries to move beyond COVID-19. However, it also requires careful policymaking to balance the financial cost of purchasing and delivering vaccines while stimulating economic growth. This article, based on a recent IPS analysis, provides an overview of the approximate costs associated with the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Sri Lanka and evaluates policy options to finance the initiative. The authors argue that the government is best off pursuing a medium-term self-financing option through targetted tax interventions and if required, through external financing.
Historically, the Sri Lankan government has resorted to import controls to counter a balance of payment crisis. The current import controls have the same underlying rationale. However, the trade deficit’s temporary shrinkage may not be sustainable if there is no increase in exports. To increase exports, Sri Lanka needs to remove hurdles on input supply, remove distortionary tariffs, exploit market opportunities under the rule-based free trade system, and in the long run, improve the country’s GVC participation.
High levels of inequality impede sustainable growth and development of a country. Sri Lanka made impressive strides to reach an upper middle-income country (UMIC) status in July 2019, only to slip back a year later. The COVID-19 crisis, amid growing inequities, is likely to make the task of regaining UMIC status even harder. This blog highlights the main sectors and social groups that are adversely affected, and explains the need for inclusive economic growth (IEG) post-COVID-19 for Sri Lanka to emerge as a peaceful and developed country.