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Law and Regulation

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/Bangladesh & Surendar Singh/ India). 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.

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.

Collecting primary data in Afghanistan: Daunting but doable

Tommaso Rooms's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو

Afghanistan is not exactly an easy place to undertake a rigorous study on the ease of doing business. And collecting primary data for a micro-based study in Kabul and several Afghan provinces can be a daunting task. Just how daunting is underscored by the fact that the country conducted its most recent census almost 40 years ago, in 1979. Vast tracts of the country remain unsafe and many of its provinces are inaccessible.
 
Despite the security challenges, our experience from the recently launched Subnational Doing Business in Afghanistan report shows that the barriers to collecting micro data are not insurmountable. The data and related findings can help guide business reforms toward the kind of smart regulations that are imperative for attracting private sector investment to the capital city and beyond. A regulatory environment that enables private enterprise, especially small and medium firms, to function and be creative boosts job creation and is, therefore, good for the economy.

The report, the first of its kind in Afghanistan, benchmarks Kabul and the provinces of Balkh, Herat, Kandahar and Nangarhar across four Doing Business indicators: Starting a Business, Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity and Registering Property.

The key takeways?
  • Kabul leads in two of the areas measured, Starting a Business and Getting Electricity. Kandahar ranks first in Dealing with Construction Permits and Registering Property, while Balkh comes in second in all four areas measured by the report.
     
  • Regulatory quality and efficiency vary considerably among the five locations. Rolling out reforms already implemented in Kabul across all of Afghanistan would improve the business environment for entrepreneurs in the provinces.
     
  • By adopting all the good practices, Afghanistan could move up 11 places in the global Doing Business ranking, to 172.

Afghanistan’s energy sector leads the way for gender equality

World Bank Afghanistan's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
 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.

Celebrating 15 Years of reengagement in Afghanistan

Raouf Zia's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو




Shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979, the World Bank suspended its operations in Afghanistan. Work resumed in May 2002 to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest people and assist the government in building strong and accountable institutions to deliver services to its citizens.

As we mark the reopening of the World Bank office in Kabul 15 years ago, here are 15 highlights of our engagement in the country:

Three key policies to boost performance of South Asia’s ports

Matias Herrera Dappe's picture



In a previous blog
we related how South Asia as a whole had improved the performance of its container ports since 2000 but had still struggled to catch up with other developed and developing regions. But within that picture, some ports did better than others. 

For example, Colombo in Sri Lanka, the fast-expanding Mundra and Jawaharlal Nehru Port in India and Port Qasim in Pakistan all improved the use of their facilities in the first decade of this century.  India’s Mumbai and Tuticorin were among those that fell behind. Colombo also improved its operational performance by almost halving the share of idle time at berth, while Chittagong (Bangladesh) and Kolkata (India) had the longest vessel turnaround times in the region.

Knowing how specific ports perform and the characteristics of ports that perform well and those of ports that perform poorly helps policymakers design interventions to support underperforming ports.

In the report “Competitiveness of South Asia’s Container Ports” we identified three interrelated policies to improve the performance of the container ports, a key element in one of the world’s fast-growing regions: increasing private participation in ports, strengthening governance of port authorities and fostering competition between and within ports: 

The Citizens’ Charter—a Commitment toward Service Delivery across Afghanistan

Ahmad Shaheer Shahriar's picture
Citizens charter launch in presidential palace
Inaguration of the Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project (CCAP) on 25th September, 2016 was attented by the President, the Chief Executive of Afghanistan, cabinet ministers, and over 400 representatives from the donor community, international organizations, and Community Development Councils (CDCs) from all 34 provinces of the country. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank


Will rural communities in Afghanistan be deprived of development services upon the completion of the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) in the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD)?
 
What will happen to the Community Development Councils (CDCs) established in rural communities to execute people’s development decisions and priorities?
 
Will our country continue to witness reconstruction of civic infrastructure?
 
These were some of the questions that troubled thousands of villagers as the NSP neared its formal closure date - NSP had delivered development services in every province of Afghanistan for 14 years.
 
To address these questions and allay their concerns, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan formally launched the Citizens’ Charter Program on September 25, 2016 to sustain the uninterrupted development and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Women can play a greater role in realizing South Asia’s potential

Annette Dixon's picture
Mumbai Train
The suburban train system in Mumbai is used by millions of women and men everyday, who rely on safe transport to access education and job opportunities. 

Last week, I took a journey on Mumbai’s suburban train system, which carries a staggering 8 million women and men, equivalent to the entire population of Switzerland, every day to where they live, work, and spend time with family and friends. Although stretched, the system has reduced mobility constraints and increased independence for millions of women who rely on safe transport to access education and job opportunities; contributing to the city’s dynamism and growth. There are similarly inspiring examples from all countries in South Asia.

As we mark International Women’s Day, we celebrate the progress made in improving women’s inclusion and empowerment, while seeking to better address continuing challenges, which are estimated to cost South Asian economies $888 billion, through devising and implementing solutions that will bridge remaining gaps.

Much to be proud of­a lot more remains to be done

South Asian countries have seen encouraging increases in greater access and gender parity in education. At the same time, the region has achieved substantial decreases in maternal and child mortality. Countries have made great strides in healthcare access through training more female healthcare workers while providing affordable care for mothers and children. The region also boasts many inspiring female leaders and role models, as well as the countless individuals positively contributing to their communities and societies against difficult odds. 

However, much more needs to be done in order to nurture all women and men to realize their potential. As South Asian countries become more prosperous, their growth trajectory will be less assured if hundreds of millions of women remain excluded from education and employment opportunities. South Asian countries will need to substantially expand their workforce in order to meet their economic growth goals and, at the same time, adequately support their increasingly large populations. Studies show that only around 1 out of 4 women in South Asia participate in the labor force, about half of what is typical in middle-income countries in other regions. Too many women face restrictions in decision-making, mobility, public safety; and far too many experience gender-based violence—the most egregious cases making headlines around the world. What can help bridge these gaps?

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