Although Sri Lanka elected the world’s first female Prime Minister in 1960, over six decades later, the country’s political arena continues to be male-dominated. Sri Lanka currently ranks at 179 out of 189 countries for the percentage of women in national parliaments. This is far below the country’s South Asian counterparts. Women represent over 52% of the country’s population, yet men continue to play a dominant role in the national legislature. Insufficient female representation is a prominent weakness in Sri Lanka’s political landscape. The 2019 Presidential Election recorded the highest number of contestants in a Sri Lankan presidential election. Of the 35 presidential candidates, only one was female. With an overwhelming majority of the current administration being male, the current share of female members of parliament stands as low as 5.33%. This blog explores the gender disparities in Sri Lankan policymaking and outlines actionable steps to increase the share of women in politics.
The ongoing Bangladesh-Sri Lanka discussions on a preferential trade agreement (PTA) will benefit from knowing the potential gains from reducing bilateral trade costs. Ex-ante estimates predict modest gains for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in absolute terms, even after completely removing the sensitive list. Given that the estimated modest economic gains of a Bangladesh-Sri Lanka PTA do not justify a trade deal that requires substantial resources for negotiations, the PTA should have fewer regulatory measures and tariff concessions for the products on the offensive lists to maximise the economic benefits of a PTA.
Sri Lanka’s preferential access to the vital European Union (EU) market faces fresh challenges after the European Parliament’s special resolution adopted in June 2021. The GSP+ is a non-reciprocal trading arrangement whereby Sri Lanka does not have to lower tariffs in return but is required to implement certain non-trade related conventions to benefit from preferential access. The GSP+ arrangement slashes import duties to zero for vulnerable low and lower-middle-income countries that implement 27 international conventions related to human rights, labour rights, environment protection, and good governance. This article assesses the impact of a hypothetical withdrawal of GSP+ on Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU: the largest single trading bloc, with the United Kingdom (UK), accounting for 30% of Sri Lanka’s exports.
Efforts to attract FDI should be coupled with building effective policy strategies that instill and maintain credibility. Indeed, this is all the more important as Sri Lanka appears to be firmly against an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. An IMF programme is mostly useful in firming up sovereign credit ratings and reviving the sentiments of investors. But investor sentiments can also improve if governments put forward and implement credible policy strategies. By contrast, the CBSL’s policy rate adjustment to anchor expectations, for instance, will not stick if direct financing of fiscal spending is to continue under yield control measures. Instead, market convictions on the credibility of the policy mix will drive economic fundamentals. As Sri Lanka readies to transition out of pandemic-related emergency support, some notion of fiscal and debt sustainability to anchor confidence should be the priority in Budget 2022 preparations.
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.