Despite enhanced trade partnerships in South Asia, intra-regional trade is far from reaching its theoretical potential. Similar production patterns and competitive sectors can be the causes. However, bilateral discussions to further lower trade costs continue. The ongoing Bangladesh-Sri Lanka discussions on a preferential trade agreement (PTA) will benefit from knowing the potential gains from reducing bilateral trade costs. In addition, knowledge of products with a higher potential for export gains will help optimise the economic benefits from a trade deal. The 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 between the two countries.
The landscape of sovereign borrowing has evolved from a small group made up of multilateral organisations, a few commercial banks, and the ‘Paris Club’ of rich countries to something much more complicated. In recent decades, emerging markets and developing economies have borrowed proportionately more from international bond markets with their dispersed private investors, and tapped new non-Paris Club lenders like China. From the sovereign’s perspective, this makes a potential debt restructuring operation particularly complicated.
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.