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Reforms Sri Lanka needs to boost its economy

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
 Joe Qian/World Bank
The Colombo Stock Exchange. Credit: Joe Qian/World Bank

Many Sri Lankans understand the potential benefits of lowering trade costs and making their country more competitive in the global economy. The majority, however, fear increased competition, the unfair advantage of the private sector from abroad and limited skills and innovation to compete.

Yet, Sri Lanka’s aspirations cannot be realized in the current status quo.  

While changes in trade policies and regulations will undeniably improve the lives of most citizens, I’m mindful that some are likely to lose. However, many potential gainers of the reforms who are currently opposed to them are unaware of their benefits.

Implementing smart reforms means that government funds will be used more effectively for the people, improve access to better healthcare, education, basic infrastructure and provide Sri Lankans with opportunities to get more and better jobs. Let me focus on a few reforms that I believe are critical for the country.  First, Sri Lanka needs to seek growth opportunities and foreign investment beyond its borders.    

First, Sri Lanka needs to seek growth opportunities and foreign investment beyond its borders.

Experience shows that no country in the world today has been able to create opportunities for its population entirely within its own geographic boundaries. To succeed in this open environment, Sri Lanka will need to improve its skills base, better understand supply and demand chains as well as produce higher quality goods and services

Experience shows that no country in the world today has been able to create opportunities for its population entirely within its own geographic boundaries. To succeed in this open environment, Sri Lanka will need to improve its skills base, better understand supply and demand chains as well as produce higher quality goods and services.

Fresh thinking on economic cooperation in South Asia

Nikita Singla's picture
 Aamir Khan/ Pakistan, Sreerupa Sengupta/ India, Sanjay Kathuria/ World Bank, Mahfuz Kabir & Surendar Singh/ Bangladesh) Photo By: Marcio De La Cruz/ World Bank
Young Economists sharing the stage with Sanjay Kathuria, Lead Economist and Coordinator, Regional Integration (Left to Right: Aamir Khan/ Pakistan, Sreerupa Sengupta/ India, Sanjay Kathuria/ World Bank, Mahfuz Kabir & Surendar Singh/ Bangladesh) Photo By: Marcio De La Cruz/ World Bank


That regional cooperation in South Asia is lower than optimal levels is well accepted. It is usually ascribed to – the asymmetry in size between India and the rest, conflicts and historical political tensions, a trust deficit, limited transport connectivity, and onerous logistics, among many other factors.

Deepening regional integration requires sufficient policy-relevant analytical work on the costs and benefits of both intra-regional trade and investment. An effective cross-border network of young professionals can contribute to fresh thinking on emerging economic cooperation issues in South Asia.

Against this background, the World Bank Group sponsored a competitive request for proposals.  Awardees from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, after being actively mentored by seasoned World Bank staff over a period of two years, convened in Washington DC to present their new and exciting research. Research areas included regional value chains, production sharing and the impact assessment of alternative preferential trade agreements in the region.

Young Economists offer fresh thoughts on economic cooperation in South Asia

Mahfuz Kabir, Acting Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies and Surendar Singh, Policy Analyst, Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS International) presented their research: Of Streams and Tides, India-Bangladesh Value Chains in Textiles and Clothing (T&C). They focus on how to tackle three main trade barriers for T&C: a) high tariffs for selected, but important goods for the industries of both countries; b) inefficient customs procedures and c) divergent criteria for rules of origin classification.

Sreerupa Sengupta, Ph.D. Scholar at Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi discussed Trade Cooperation and Production Sharing in South Asia – An Indian Perspective. Reviewing the pattern of Indian exports and imports in the last twenty years, her research focuses on comparing the Global Value Chain (GVC) participation rate of India with East Asian and ASEAN economies. Barriers to higher participation include a) lack of openness in the FDI sector; b) lack of adequate port infrastructure, and long port dwell times; and c) lack of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs).

Aamir Khan, Assistant Professor, Department of Management Sciences, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad presented his work on Economy Wide Impact of Regional Integration in South Asia - Options for Pakistan. His research analyzes the reasons for Pakistan not being able to take full advantage of its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China, and finds that the granting of ASEAN-type concessions to Pakistan in its FTA with China would be more beneficial than the current FTA arrangement. The work also draws lessons for FTAs that are currently being negotiated by South Asian countries.

Education is the way forward for Afghanistan

Mohammad Homayoon Rahmani's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
The Education Quality Improvement Program provides block grant support to the construction of school buildings and other facilities such as laboratories, libraries and computer labs. This improved studying environment has encouraged almost all families to send their children to schools in many districts of Balkh province. Photo Credit: Fardin Waezi/ World Bank


Someone wise once said that education is the foundation of a country’s progress. As every Afghan knows and feels, after four decades of conflict and violence, progress is exactly what this country needs to get back on its feet.
 
I have always had a deep interest in making my social context better and this is the reason why I joined the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP), which aims to improve access and quality of education for Afghans. I joined the EQUIP team in the program’s second phase, which started in January 2008.
 
Through EQUIP, we have been working with communities to change their views and perceptions on education, especially in villages. I remember when I joined the team in 2010, many people would come and tell us they did not want to send their girls to school. But slowly EQUIP won them over.
 
Now, we can proudly say that we have the full support of communities everywhere in Balkh Province. For example, we have never had to buy land to construct a school in any district in Balkh. Every single time, it has been the people who bought or donated land and invited us to construct the building, even in the poorest regions.

Sri Lankan Winners and exciting news: #StoriesfromLKA photo contest!

Tashaya Anuki Premachandra's picture

The three winning pictures of the online campaign #StoriesfromLKA

World Bank Sri Lanka launched an online campaign titled #StoriesfromLKA during the month of June celebrating World Environment day “Connecting People to Nature”. The campaign included online interactions to learn about World Bank operations related to the environment and a photo competition to appreciate the natural beauty of Sri Lanka that needs to be preserved while Sri Lanka pursues a development drive.
This competition began on the 21st of June and aimed at showcasing the many talented photographers from Sri Lanka as well as celebrating the rich flora and fauna of the country. After the contest ended on June 30th, 167 entries were shortlisted. We asked you which photos were your favorites and you voted on your selections through social media. Your votes helped us narrow down the top three winners, here they are:

Can small grants, training, and mentorship for micro-entrepreneurs create jobs in Afghanistan?

Pratap Sinha's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
The NATEJA project supports entrepreneurs like Nooria to start new business. "With support from NATEJA, we were able to purchase the required equipment and
raw material to weave the carpets ourselves," said Nooria. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank


As the world marks International Youth Day on August 12, many in Afghanistan, especially the youth, strive to find better ways to make a prosperous future for themselves. According to the United Nations Population Fund, about 63 percent of Afghans are under 25 years of age, reflecting a steep pyramid age structure whereby a large cohort of young people is slowly emerging. Yet, young people in Afghanistan face significant challenges in health, education, employment, and gender inequality.

To tackle these challenges, the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled is targeting youth with low education in rural and semi-urban areas through a pilot micro-grants scheme to support aspiring entrepreneurs in the face of low growth and dim job creation prospects in the private sector. The scheme is implemented under the Non-Formal Approach to Training, Education, and Jobs in Afghanistan (NATEJA) project financed by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF).

When I saw Fariha, 23, during her selection interview for the micro-grant scheme, she was sceptical of receiving any government support, but confident about her beauty salon idea. It was a dream come true when she got the news of the micro-grant of $500. Fariha had learnt her skills first as a trainee at a beauty salon. After four years working there, she used the grant money to invest in the business and is now a partner and manager in the salon. “I did not earn enough as a trainee, but now I am a partner. It is a good job and it is getting better,” she says.

As a NATEJA grantee, Fariha attended a business training course to learn basic accounting, marketing, and key tips to start a business as a woman. She was also very happy to receive a pictorial, practical, and illustrative business start-up booklet at the training, given her low level of education.

Twitter chat: Economic benefits of environment management in Sri Lanka

Ralph van Doorn's picture

Join us for #SLDU2017: Economic Benefits of Environment Management. This Twitter chat will be hosted by World Bank South Asia

What’s happening?

Join us for #SLDU2017: Economic Benefits of Environment Management. This Twitter chat will be hosted by World Bank South Asia (@WorldBankSAsia) in collaboration with the Institute for Policy Studies IPS (@TalkEconomicsSL).
 
When is it?
August 21, 2017 from 5.30 – 7.30 pm
 
Unpacking #SLDU2017
The chat will explore the findings of the Sri Lanka Development Update (SLDU), published this June.
 
I look forward to engaging with you together with a panel from different areas of expertise.
 
We’ll be discussing priority reforms with a focus on how Sri Lanka can better manage both its business and natural environment to bolster economic growth and sustain development.
 
In recent years, natural disasters have left parts of this island nation devastated, exacting a significant economic, fiscal and social toll. The SLDU identifies other challenges as well, pressing the case for fiscal consolidation, a new growth model, improved governance and programs to buffer against risk.
 
The latest update cautions against adopting piecemeal solutions, noting that the challenges facing the island nation are inter-linked and require a comprehensive and coordinated reform approach.
 
In the end, we also hope this Twitter chat will allow us to learn from you as we begin our preparations for the next SLDU.
 
How can you participate?
Never taken part in a Twitter chat before? It’s simple. Just think of this as an online Q&A. @WorldBankSAsia will moderate the discussion, posing questions to panellists. You are encouraged to join in too! Follow along, retweet and engage. If you have a question, simply tweet it out using the hashtag #SLDU2017. We’ll see it and try to get you some answers.

Afghanistan’s energy sector leads the way for gender equality

World Bank Afghanistan's picture
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 Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank
Afghanistan's power utility (DABS) has recently taken steps necessary to ensure that women are involved in all business operations within the organization. Photo: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank


In Afghanistan, decades of violence, common discriminatory practices, and cultural barriers, including restrictions on mobility, have denied women job opportunities and left them severely underrepresented in all sectors of society.
 
Despite considerable achievements in the last decade, such as the national Constitution guaranteeing equal rights as well as increased enrollment in public schools and universities, achieving gender equality will require widespread social changes.
 
Yet, change is happening and Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), Afghanistan’s national power utility, is showing the way.
 
With a workforce of about 7,000, the company employs only 218 women, most of whom at a junior support level. However, under the leadership of its new CEO, DABS management has committed to promoting gender equality.
 
The Planning and Capacity Support Project of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), managed by the World Bank, is helping DABS deliver on that commitment. The project organized awareness sessions for DABS staff on gender-related issues and provided specialized training to female employees. DABS has committed to providing internships to female university graduates to ensure women can find job opportunities and fully participate in the energy sector.
 
Realizing that the majority of its female staff lacked the confidence to compete with men, DABS is facilitating access to new job opportunities for women employees and has taken steps to ensure that women are involved in all business operations within the organization.

How does Sri Lanka score in growth?

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
Also available in: සිංහල | தமிழ்


While some may think the Sri Lanka’s cricket team did well in the recent Champion's Trophy, myself included, vigorous debates have been going on, on TV and social media and even here in our office which clearly suggests that not everyone agrees on their performance. Despite these differences in perspective, I witnessed the excitement of many of my colleagues and friends from different parts of the world as they cheered, supported opposing teams, analyzed the games, and mulled the behind the scenes politics that affect the game, and also passed judgements on winners and losers.  The key point here is that for Sri Lanka to be in the top 8 internationally they had to play other countries. This analogy fits well with how economies grow and are recognized; so hold on to this thought. 

Reading through the many articles in the news, be they paper, internet or just exchanges between citizens on social media, one thing is clear, there is no one unified view on how Sri Lanka is growing. While developed countries would salivate at a growth rate of 4.4 percent, in Sri Lanka it is considered below potential. Some even question if it’s growing! The result is a confusing landscape on an important issue that touches everyone in some way.   

Twice a year the World Bank adds data and analyses to the many out there. We try to answer questions such as: what is Sri Lanka’s actual growth? Which parts of the economy have grown and which have not? If the country is to accelerate growth, what needs to be done? What can its people do to help? We know from cricket that the players can be excellent but if no-one cheers for them, they lose interest and cannot be successful. Eventually the game loses its luster and the competitive edge of the country’s ranking also slips. Both sides need to understand what needs to be achieved, how, by whom and when the team doesn’t quite deliver in a match, what part of the game should they change. This is what has made Sri Lanka a cricket powerhouse.

Our commitment to the people of Afghanistan stays strong

Annette Dixon's picture
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Despite government efforts with support from the international community, Afghanistan's development needs remain massive. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

I am still shaken and saddened by the many lives lost to the attacks in Kabul two weeks ago and since then there has been more violence. As we grieve these tragedies, now is the time to stand strong with the people of Afghanistan and renew our commitment to build a peaceful and prosperous country.

To that end, we announced this week a new financing package of more than half-a-billion dollars to help Afghanistan through its struggle to end poverty, increase opportunity to help stabilize the country, and ensure all its citizens can access basic services during a time of economic uncertainty.

Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001 and achieved much progress under extremely challenging circumstances. Life expectancy has increased from 44 to 60 years, maternal mortality has decreased by more than three quarters and the country now boasts 18 million mobile phone subscribers, up from almost none in 2001.

Yet, the development needs in Afghanistan remain massive. Nearly 40 percent of Afghans live in poverty and almost 70 percent of the population are illiterate. The country needs to create new jobs for about 400,000 people entering the labor market each year. The situation is made more challenging by the return of around 5.8 million refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced people.

Our new support is in line with our belief that Afghanistan’s economic and social progress can also help it address security challenges.  Our financing package meets the pressing needs of returning refugees, expands private-sector opportunities for the poor, boosts the development of five cities, expands electrification, improves food security, and builds rural roads.

Six innovations from the Digital Youth Summit that inspired me

Joe Qian's picture
What do speakers say about the Digital Youth Summit?
What foreign speakers say about DYS17!

Foreign delegates to Digital Youth Summit 2017 reflect on their experiences, and the bright minds of youth in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Many thanks to all the foreign delegates for visiting Peshawar from May 5-7, 2017! #DYS17 #KPITB #KPGoesTech #KPWentTech Imran Khan (official)Shahram Khan Tarakai Official Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board - KPITB World Bank South Asia Jazz USAID Pakistan UNDP Pakistan Gloria Jean's Coffees Pakistan Anna O'Donnell Sam Bretzfield Iliana Montauk Justin Wong Alexander Ferguson Max Krueger Nicola Magri

Posted by Digital Youth Summit on Thursday, May 18, 2017

Entrepreneurs and technologists from Pakistan and around the world converged last week at the Digital Youth Summit (DYS) in Peshawar to share their knowledge, inspire local talent, and bring digital investments.

Over four days, 4,000 attendees, some as young as age 10, interacted with industry leaders, engaged in technology demonstrations, and benefitted from hands-on training. Everyone learnt a lot about digital entrepreneurship and was inspired by many cutting-edge innovations.

Here are six of them that struck a high note with me:
Most sessions at #DYS17 were livestreamed by Jazz xlr8 and OurKPK. Photo Credit: Joe Qian/World Bank
  1. Sessions on Facebook Live. Did you miss the summit, want to learn more about digital entrepreneurship, or simply want to relive highlights of DYS? Jazz xlr8 and OurKPK livestreamed many sessions at DYS. Inspired to start or grow your own business after watching the sessions? There are also resources to support you at the National Incubation Center and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Youth Employment Program!
     
    Travel Across Pakistan
     
  2. Travel Startups that made me want to travel across Pakistan. Let’s face it, I have a serious case of wanderlust and few things make me happier than going to new places, connecting with people, and gaining insights and perspectives I was unaware of before. For people outside of Pakistan may know of it as a country full of beauty and tourism potential. However, two of the winners of DYS’s Startup Cup in which budding companies presented their products and services to prospective investors changed my perspectives. Watch these two videos made by travel platform Find My Adventure and home-sharing company Qayyam and tell me if they also inspire you to travel across Pakistan!

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