Sri Lanka is hosting the fifth Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit from 28-30 March 2022. Established in 1997, BIMSTEC is a seven-member regional organisation comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. BIMSTEC pays significant attention to agriculture and food security, with agriculture included as a stand-alone sector in 2005 in recognition of its importance. Sri Lanka, the lead country for the coordination of activities in the Science, Technology and Innovation Sector, is in the midst of a food crisis even as it plays host. Against this backdrop, this blog discusses food security challenges in the BIMSTEC region, Sri Lanka’s experiences in smart farming, and its expectations from the summit.
Despite the pandemic and related difficulties in remitting, inward remittances to Sri Lanka had picked up by December 2020 to record year-over-year growth of 5.8 %, contrary to all expectations. The reasons for such a quick rebound include catching up on postponed remittances, accumulated terminal employment benefits and savings-related remittances of migrant workers laid off due to the pandemic, receipt of counter-cyclical remittances from less frequent remitters and the shift from informal to formal channels. In the current context of the foreign exchange crisis in Sri Lanka, the latter is the most critical factor to focus on.
The lockdowns introduced in 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19 saw the narrative “nature is healing” gain prominence. However, the notion that nature, in the absence of people, was healing fizzled out fairly quickly with the emergence of fresh environmental challenges, most notably, the resurgence of single-use plastics. This blog examines the ecological fallout of the pandemic and suggests policy options for Sri Lanka to avert the looming environmental disaster.
The decision to gradually reopen Sri Lankan schools – which have been shut for close to 20 months since COVID-19 first struck – is a welcome move. As of September 2021, 93% of countries had reopened schools either completely or partially, making Sri Lanka one of the last to do so. The decision to devote the next six months to recovering learning losses, giving precedence to essential syllabus areas and decision-making flexibility to schools, is encouraging news. This blog provides some insights into the current education recovery practices being adopted globally and draws attention to some important areas that can be incorporated into the current strategies being devised in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s social protection and food insecurity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic came into focus at a webinar panel discussion held recently to mark the release of the ‘Sri Lanka: State of Economy 2021’ report, the annual flagship publication of the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS). The event featured presentations by Dr Ganga Tilakaratna and Dr Manoj Thibbotuwawa from IPS, along with insights from Prof Udith Jayasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, and Prof Dileni Gunewardena, Professor of Economics, University of Peradeniya. IPS’ Lakshila Wanigasinghe moderated the discussion.