Coronavirus Outbreak

Sri Lanka’s Labour Market Amidst COVID-19: The Need for Targetted Interventions

Lockdowns and restricted mobility have devastated labour markets across the world. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the equivalent of 225 million jobs was wiped out globally due to employment and working hour losses in 2020 compared to 2019 (Q4). These working hour losses are four times higher than those experienced during the global financial crisis in 2009. The COVID-19-instigated recession has affected the quantity and the quality of jobs, with increasing levels of informal types of work with lower remuneration. Restoration of labour markets is important to minimise damage to human development and increase aggregate demand, thereby boosting economic recovery. This blog looks at why it is important to have targetted policy interventions to revive the labour market by illustrating that the impact of COVID-19 is different across occupations and industries.

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.

COVID-19, Fiscal Policy and Public Debt in Emerging Economies

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.

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.

How Should Sri Lanka Finance the COVID-19 Vaccination Rollout?

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.