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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of people across the world but not everyone has been affected in the same way. In most contexts, women and girls are disproportionately impacted, and girls and women pay a higher social and economic toll. This is mainly because of their relatively disadvantaged situation, and distinct social obligations and responsibilities. The pandemic has already derailed progress made towards achieving gender equality (SDG5). The labour market, health, education, nutrition and food security, and safety are some of those areas facing setbacks due to the pandemic. The negative impacts can be expected to widen (i.e., more individuals are affected) and deepen (i.e. the conditions of some individuals worsen) the already unfavourable situation.
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.
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.