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Sri Lanka at 70: Looking back and forward

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
A view from the Independence day parade.At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation.
A view from the 2018 Independence Day parade. At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation. Credit: World Bank

Like many Sri Lankans across the country, I joined Sri Lanka’s 70th Independence Day festivities earlier this month. This was undoubtedly a joyful moment, and proof of the country’s dynamism and stability. At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation.
 
The country’s social indicators, a measure of the well-being of individuals and communities, rank among the highest in South Asia and compare favorably with those in middle-income countries. In the last half-century, better healthcare for mothers and their children has reduced maternal and infant mortality to very low levels.
 
Sri Lanka’s achievements in education have also been impressive. Close to 95 percent of children now complete primary school with an equal proportion of girls and boys enrolled in primary education and a slightly higher number of girls than boys in secondary education.
 
The World Bank has been supporting Sri Lanka’s development for more than six decades. In 1954, our first project, Aberdeen-Laxapana Power Project, which financed the construction of a dam, a power station, and transmissions lines, was instrumental in helping the young nation meet its growing energy demands, boost its trade and develop light industries in Colombo, and provide much-needed power to tea factories and rubber plantations. In post-colonial Sri Lanka, this extensive electrical transmission and distribution project aimed to serve new and existing markets and improve a still fragile national economy.
 
Fast forward a few decades and Sri Lanka in 2018 is a far more prosperous and sophisticated country than it was in 1954 and, in many ways, has been a development success story. Yet, the island nation still faces some critical challenges as it strives to transition to another stage of its development and become a competitive upper middle-income country.
 
Notably, the current overreliance on the public-sector as the main engine for growth and investment, from infrastructure to healthcare, is reaching its limits.  With one of the world’s lowest tax to gross domestic product (GDP) ratios -- 12% in 2016, down from 24% in 1978 —Sri Lanka’s public sector is now facing serious budget constraints and the country needs to look for additional sources of finance to boost and sustain its growth.
 
As outlined in its Vision 2025, the current government has kickstarted an ambitious reform agenda to help the country move from a public investment to a more private investment growth model to enhance competitiveness and lift all Sri Lankans’ standards of living.
 
Now is the time to steer this vision into action. This is urgent as Sri Lanka is one of the world’s most protectionist countries and one of the hardest to start and run a business. As it happens, private foreign investment is much lower than in comparable economies and trade as a proportion of GDP has decreased from 88% in 2000 to 50% in 2016. Reversing this downward trend is critical for Sri Lanka to meet its development aspirations and overcome the risk of falling into a permanent “middle-income trap.”

Mapping Afghanistan’s future, one road at a time

Walker Bradley's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
Mapping Afghanistan’s future, one road at a time
OpenStreetMap is an open source geospatial data portal built and maintained by a community of mappers. Photo Credit: Taimani Films/ World Bank


In May 2017, the World Bank celebrated its 15 years of reengagement in Afghanistan. Since reengagement, we have helped the government deliver public services to its citizens and, in the process, accumulated a wealth of data on many sectors from health and education to infrastructure.

However, publicly available base data used across sectors – also called ‘foundation’ data-- is still lacking. As it happens, that information is important to design projects and inform policies.

Case in point: while we may have data on vaccines given or babies born, we don’t know much about the roads that lead to the clinic. Similarly, we may get data on school attendance and passing rates of students, but we don’t know how long it takes for students to reach their schools.

These examples highlight how foundation data can help better plan the expansion of healthcare facilities or enhance access to education. After all, each mapped kilometer of a road can help us understand how long Afghan children must walk to get to school or how long it takes sick Afghans to reach a hospital.

Without question, there is a clear need for better foundation data to inform decision making at all levels.

د افغانستان راتلونکی نقشه کول، هرځل یو سړک

Walker Bradley's picture
Also available in: English | دری
Mapping Afghanistan’s future, one road at a time
اوپن سټريټ مپ د جغرافيايي معلوماتو يوه وړيا منبع ده چې د کارپوهو نقشه اخيستونکو يوې ډلې رامنځته کړې او فعاله يې ساتي.  انځور: ټایمني/نړیوال بانک

د ۲۰۱۷ کال په مې مياشت کې نړیوال بانک په افغانستان د خپلو فعاليتونو د بيا پيل ۱۵ مه کليزه ونمانځله. دا په داسې حال کې ده چې د دغو ۱۵ کلو په اوږدو کې نړیوال بانک افغان دولت ته اړينې مرستې برابرې کړي او دولت يې افغانانو ته د عامه خدمتونو رسولو جوګه کړی. په دې بهير کې مو له دولت سره په ګډه د روغتيا، پوهنې او زېربناوو په برخو کې ګڼې شمېرې او معلومات راټول کړي.

سره له دې چې په بېلابېلو سکتورونو کې معلومات په خوره وره او ګډه وډه بڼه په عام ډول د لاسرسي وړ دي، خو دا معلومات لا دومره نه دي چې له افغانانو او پراختيايي ملګرو سره د پروژو په طرحه او پاليسي جوړولو کې، چې کليدي ونډه لري، مرسته وکړي. د بېلګي په ډول: موږ په داسې حال کې چې د واکسينو د تطبيق او د نویو زېږېدلو کوچنیانو شمېرې لرو، د هغو سړکونو په اړه چې صحي مرکزونو ته ورغلي معلومات نه لرو. همدا راز، موږ ښايي په ښوونځيو کې د زده کوونکو د حاضرۍ او د هغو زده کوونکو چې په ازموينو کې کاميابېږي د شمېرو په اړه معلومات ولرو، خو په دې اړه چې زده کوونکي په څومره وخت کې ښوونځي ته رسېږي، کافي معلومات نلرو.

دا بېلګې روښانوي چې څنګه دقیق لومړني معلومات او شمېرې را سره د صحي مرکزونو او خدماتو په غځولو کې مرسته کوي او يا څنګه ښوونې ته لاسرسی پياوړی کولای شو. د هر کيلومتر سړک نقشه اخيستنه موږ ته راښوولای شي چې کوچنيان تر ښوونځي څومره پلي ځي‌، او يا يو ناروغ په څومره وخت کې تر روغتونه رسېږي. بې له شکه چې لومړنیو معلوماتو او شمېرو ته څرګنده اړتيا ليدل کېږي، چې په رڼا کې يې اړوند چارواکي په هر پاټکي کې له دې ګټه واخلي.

اهمیت نقشه برداری برای اینده افغانستان، اما یک سرک در یک وقت

Walker Bradley's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
Mapping Afghanistan’s future, one road at a time
اوپن ستريت مپ يک منبع رایگان معلومات جغرافيايی است که توسط یک گروهی از متخصصان  نقشه برداری بميان آمده و فعالیت می نماید. عکس: تایمنی فلم/ بانک جهانی

بانک جهانی در ماه می سال ۲۰۱۷، از پانزدهمین  سالگرد از سرگیری فعالیت هایش در افغانستان تجليل نمود.  این در حالیست که طی این ۱۵ سال گذشته بانک جهانی حمایت لازم را برای دولت افغانستان غرض فراهم آوری خدمات عامه به افغانها فراهم نموده است. در اين فرایند، مشترکاً با دولت افغانستان ما توانستیم معلومات و آمار بسیاری را در بخش های صحت، معارف و هم چنان زیربنا ها جمع آوری نمايیم.

با آنکه معلومات در عرصه های مختلف بصورت پراگنده و غیر هماهنگ در دسترس عام قرار دارد اما این معلومات هنوز هم کافی نیست تا افغانها و همکاران انکشافی را در طرح ریزی برنامه ها و تدوین پاليسی ها که نقش کلیدی دارند، کمک نماید. به طور مثال ما در حاليکه آمار تطبيق واکسين و اطفال نوزاد را داريم، اما در مورد سرک ها ییکه به مراکز صحی منتهی میشوند آگاهی نداریم. به همین ترتیب، ممکن است در رابطه به میزان حاضری شاگردان در مکاتب و شاگردانيکه در امتحانات کامياب ميشوند بدانیم، اما  در مورد اینکه آیا چه زمانی را در برمیگیرد، تا شاگردان به مکتب برسند، معلومات کافی در دست نداريم.

این مثال ها نشان دهنده این است که چگونه  معلومات و آمار اساسی و دقیق ميتواند در گسترش پلانگذاری تسهيلات و خدمات صحی کمک نماید  و يا هم چگونه میتوانیم با دسترسی به این آمار دسترسی معارف را تقويت بخشیم. در نهایت امر، نقشه برداری هرکيلومتر سرک به ما کمک مينماید، تا بدانیم که اطفال بعد از طی چه مصافتی به مکتب میرسند، یا چه زمانی نیاز است، تا یک بیمار به شفاخانه برسد. بدون شک، دسترسی به آمار اساسی و دقیق یک نياز شمرده می شود، تا در روشنی آن مسوولین ذیربط در تمام سطوح از آن استفاده نمایند. 

From potato eaters to world leaders in agriculture

Priti Kumar's picture
 Raj Ganguly
Matching sheer ingenuity with technological prowess, the Netherlands (pop: 17 millions; about the size of Haryana state in India) today is one of the world’s most agriculturally productive countries, feeding people across the globe from its meager land area. Photo credit: Raj Ganguly

Van Gogh’s famous painting of Potato Eaters depicts a family of poor peasants seated around a dinner table eating their staple fare. The artist confessed that this work is deeply reflective of the hard work that Dutch peasants have to do to earn a bare meal. Van Gogh frequently painted the harvest and often compared the season to his own art, and how he would someday reap all that he had put into it. 

Since those difficult times in the late 1800s, the tiny country of the Netherlands (pop: 17 mill; about the size of Haryana state in India) has come a long way. Matching sheer ingenuity with technological prowess, the Netherlands today is one of the world’s most agriculturally productive countries, feeding people across the globe from its meager land area. Indeed, this small nation is now the world’s second-largest exporter of agri-food products including vegetables, fruits, potatoes, meat, milk and eggs; some 6% of world trade in fruits and 16% in vegetables comes from the Netherlands.

But how exactly did they do this? In October 2017, we went to find out. Our team - of World Bank and Indian government officials working on agribusiness, rural transformation and watershed development projects – sought to learn from Dutch experience and identify opportunities for future collaboration. We met farmer cooperatives, private companies, growers’ associations, academia, social enterprises, and government agencies, and gained fascinating insights.

Primarily, we found that a convenient location, a conducive climate, investments in high-quality infrastructure, high-caliber human capital, an enabling business environment and professionally-run private companies have provided the Netherlands with that unmistakable competitive edge:

Maximizing agricultural output with minimum land and labor

Located conveniently as a gateway to Europe, the Netherlands acts as a transit hub for agricultural produce, importing Euro 4.6 billion worth of produce from 107 countries, adding value to these products through collection, re(packaging) and processing, and exporting almost double that value - Euro 7.9 billion - to more than 150 nations. In 2014, Dutch growers had a turn-over of euro 2.9 billion in fruit and vegetables, produced with a minimum of land and labor - only 55,000 hectares and just 40,000 people - indicating a heavy reliance on automation.

The Legacy of Saman Kelegama

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
Saman Kelegama, a Sri Lankan economist and the Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS Sri Lanka) died prematurely in June 2017. He was a champion of deeper South Asian cooperation.
Saman Kelegama, a Sri Lankan economist and the Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS Sri Lanka) died prematurely in June 2017. He was a champion of deeper South Asian cooperation. Credit:  Institute of Policy Studies

I first met Saman in the early 1990s in Delhi.  Over the years, our paths diverged.  When I re-engaged on South Asia, I ran into Saman again. We re-connected instantly, despite the long intervening period.  This was easy to do with Saman—soft-spoken, affable, a gentleman to the core.  He bore his considerable knowledge lightly.  

Despite his premature passing away in June 2017, he left a rich and varied legacy behind him. I will confine myself to discussing his insights on regional cooperation in South Asia, based on his public writings and my interactions with him.

Saman was a champion of deeper economic linkages within South Asia. He was also pragmatic. 

Along with a few other regional champions, Saman, as the head of the Institute of Policy Studies in Colombo, helped to kick-start the “South Asian Economic Summit”, or SAES, in Colombo in 2008, to provide a high-profile forum for dialogue on topical issues, especially South Asian regional integration. It is remarkable that the SAES has endured, without any gap. The fact that the policy and academic fraternity meet with unfailing regularity, despite on-and-off political tensions in the region, is testimony to its value.

Saman repeatedly stressed that Sri Lanka has been able to reap benefits from the India-Sri Lanka FTA (ISFTA), contrary to the general belief. His arguments were powerful: the import-export ratio for Sri Lanka improved from 10.3 in 2000 (the start of the ISFTA) to 6.6 in 2015; about 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s exports to India get duty-free access under the FTA, but less than 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s imports from India come under the FTA (since India provided “special and differential treatment” to Sri Lanka).

Measuring South Asia’s economy from outer space

Martin Rama's picture
New technologies offer an opportunity to strengthen economic measurement. Evening luminosity observed from satellites has been shown to be a good proxy for economic activity.
New technologies offer an opportunity to strengthen economic measurement. Evening luminosity observed from satellites has been shown to be a good proxy for economic activity.
Economic growth is a key concern for economists, political leaders, and the broader population.

But how confident are we that the available data on economic activity paints an accurate picture of a country’s performance?

Measuring Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the most standard measure of economic activity, is especially challenging in developing countries, where the informal sector is large and institutional constraints can be severe.

In addition, many countries only provide GDP measures annually and at the national level. Not surprisingly, GDP growth estimates are often met with skepticism.
 
New technologies offer an opportunity to strengthen economic measurement. Evening luminosity observed from satellites has been shown to be a good proxy for economic activity.

As shown in Figure 1, there is a strong correlation between nightlight intensity and GDP levels in South Asia: the higher the nightlight intensity on the horizontal axis, the stronger the economic activity on the vertical axis.
Figure 1 Nightlight intensity increases with economic activity
Figure 1 Nightlight intensity increases with economic activity

However, measuring nightlight is challenging and comes with a few caveats. Clouds, moonlight, and radiance from the sun can affect measurement accuracy, which then requires filtering and standardizing.

On the other hand, nighlight data has a lot advantages like being available in high-frequency and with a very high spatial resolution. In the latest edition of South Asia Economic Focus, we use variations in nightlight intensity to analyze economic trends and illustrate how this data can help predict GDP over time and across space.

Bicycles can boost Bangladesh's exports

Nadeem Rizwan's picture
Bangladesh is the 2nd largest non-EU exporter of bicycles to the EU and the 8th largest exporter overall
Bicycles are the largest export of Bangladesh’s engineering sector, contributing about 12 percent of engineering exports. Credit: World Bank
This blog is part of a series exploring new sources of competitiveness in Bangladesh

Did you know that Bangladesh is the 2nd largest non-EU exporter of bicycles to the EU and the 8th largest exporter overall?

Bicycles are the largest export of Bangladesh’s engineering sector, contributing about 12 percent of engineering exports.
 
This performance is in large part due to the high anti-dumping duty imposed by the EU against China.
 
Recently, the EU Parliament and the Council agreed on EU Commission’s proposal on a new methodology for calculating anti-dumping on imports from countries with significant market distortions or pervasive state influence on the economy.
 
This decision could mean that the 48.5 percent anti-dumping duty for Chinese bicycles may not end in 2018 as originally intended. China is disputing the EU’s dumping rules at the World Trade Organization.
 
As the global bicycle market is expected to grow to $34.9 billion by 2022, Bangladesh has an opportunity to diversify its exports beyond readymade garments. Presently, Bangladesh is the 2nd largest non-EU exporter of bicycles to the EU and the 8th largest exporter overall.
Bangladesh is the 2nd largest non-EU exporter of bicycles to the EU and the 8th largest exporter overall
EU27 bicycle imports in 2016 (Million $). Bangladesh is the 2nd largest non-EU exporter of bicycles to the EU and the 8th largest exporter overall. Source: UNComtrade through WITS

However, if the EU anti-dumping duty against China is reduced or lifted after 2018, Bangladesh’s price edge might be eroded.
 
Bangladeshi bicycle exporters estimate that without anti-dumping duties, Chinese bicycles could cost at least 10-20 percent less than Bangladeshi bicycles on European markets. And Chinese exporters can ship bicycles to the EU market with 35-50 percent shorter lead times.
 
So, how can Bangladeshi bicycles survive and grow?

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ආනයන සහ අපනයන යෙදෙන්නන්ගේ තොරතුරු දැනගැනීමේ අයිතිය තහවුරු කිරීම

Dinesha Nilakshi Samaranayake's picture

පසුගිය සැප්තැම්බර් මස 28 වෙනිදා ජාත්‍යන්තර තොරතුරු දැනගැනීමේ දිනය වශයෙන් රජය විසින් ප්‍රකාශයට පත් කරනු ලැබුවා. විශ්වයේම තොරතුරු ඇසුරු සැණකින් අතේ තිබෙන ජංගම දුරකථනය හරහා ලබාගත හැකි යුගයක තොරතුරු දැනගැනීමේ අයිතිය තහවුරු කරන්න වෙනම දිනයක් අවශ්‍ය දැයි ඔබට සිතෙන්නටත් පුළුවන්. නමුත් දිනපතා සිය භාණ්ඩ රේගුවෙන් නිදහස් කරගැනීමට පොර බදන කුඩා හෝ මධ්‍ය පරිමාණ වෙළඳ  මහතකුගෙන් මේ ගැන විමසුවොත්, සමහර විට ඔබේ එම අදහස වෙනස් වේවි .



කොළඹ, ගාලු පාරේ, සිය කාර්යාලයේ සිට ආනයන-අපනයන වෙළඳාම පවත්වාගෙන යන චමිල් පෙරේරාට තමන්ගේ ආනයන භාණ්ඩ රේගුවෙන් නිදහස් කරගැනීමේ ක්‍රියාවලිය ප්‍ර‍තිවාදියෙකු සමඟ පොර බැදීමකට දෙවැනි නැහැ. චමිල් වගේ බොහෝ පිරිස් තමන්ගේ වෙළඳාම් කටයුතු හරහා රටට ආදායමක් උපදවා දෙන අතරම නව රැකියා අවස්ථා උත්පාදනයටත් දායකත්වය ලබා දෙනවා. නමුත් ඉහත කී ක්‍රියාවලියේ දී රේගු කටයුතු ගැන හරි තොරතුරු ලබා ගැනීමට තිබෙන නොහැකියාව වගේම ක්‍රියාවලියේ ඇති සංකීර්ණ බව නිසා විශාල ලෙස කාලය හා මුදල් නාස්ති වීමකට ඔවුන් මුහුණ දෙනවා.

Trade facilitation reform in Sri Lanka can drive a change in culture

Marcus Bartley Johns's picture

Two years ago, we started counting how many Sri Lankan agencies were involved in trade facilitation processes such as issuing permits and managing the movement of goods in and out of the country.  We counted at least 22 agencies in this assessment, and today, the Department of Commerce estimates that number at least 34 agencies are involved in issuing permits or publishing regulations that affect trade.
 
We know trade is critical to Sri Lanka’s future and that there are strong links between trade, economic growth and poverty reduction.

However, the trading community reports a lack of transparency, confusion around rules and regulations, poor coordination between various ministries and a dearth of critical infrastructure—you can see why trade has suffered in Sri Lanka.

 

When the World Bank evaluates a country’s performance in critical rankings like Doing Business, the ease of trading across borders is one of the benchmarks we consider. In this, and in other lists like the Logistics Performance Index, Sri Lanka is underperforming compared with its potential. Here, the average trade transaction involves over 30 different parties with different objectives, incentives, competence and constituencies they answer to, and up to 200 data elements, many of which are repeated multiple times. This environment constrains the growth of Sri Lanka’s private sector, especially SMEs.  
 
But now for the good news. By ratifying the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement, Sri Lanka has signalled its determination to intensify reform efforts.

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