World Economy and Trade

COVID-19 and Sri Lanka’s External Sector: Challenges and Policy Choices

Unprecedented declines in merchandise trade, foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, tourism and cross-border migration have all been hallmarks of the economic fallout of COVID-19. As a result, growth expectations for countries worldwide dimmed. Nonetheless, thanks in part to substantial expansionary monetary and fiscal policies being rolled out to achieve pre-COVID economic recovery levels and the development of vaccines, the contraction in global trade and economic output are less than what was anticipated. The Sri Lankan economy too has been impacted by these external developments, witnessing fluctuating fortunes in its external sector performance. This blog discusses the impacts of global economic developments on Sri Lanka’s external sector and suggests ways to cushion them.

Trade in the Pandemic Era: A One-year Assessment

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.

Bridging the Gap: Unlocking Untapped Potential in Sri Lanka’s Agricultural Exports

The government is giving renewed emphasis to increasing agriculture exports to manage the trade deficit and foreign debt burden. Most recently, a draft national agricultural policy has been prepared, with comments being sought from relevant stakeholders. This blog highlights gaps in the international market which the agriculture sector can target, identifies factors impeding export-sector growth in agriculture, and suggests solutions for unlocking the untapped potential in this vital sector.

RCEP: Sri Lanka’s Latest Asia-centric Conundrum

The formation of the world’s largest regional trade bloc – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in November 2020 – on Sri Lanka’s doorstep raises fresh questions about how the country will navigate its most recent Asia-centric re-positioning.

‘A Brewing Storm’: Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Sri Lanka

Over a quarter of the world’s population is currently under movement restrictions. For the first time in recent human history, coronavirus has shattered the myth that the economy must come first. While public health concerns, undoubtedly, should take precedence over all other considerations when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be unwise to ignore the economic costs of the current situation. Small economies such as Sri Lanka, in particular, whose economic backbone is made up of micro, small, and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs), dependent on export revenue for foreign currency generation, and is simultaneously managing a critical debt and fiscal crisis, are going to be particularly vulnerable.

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