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Bringing Sri Lanka's traders one step closer to the global market

Marcus Bartley Johns's picture
Making trade more efficient in Sri Lanka
The recently launched Sri Lanka Trade Information Portal is a one stop shop for traders. Photo Credit: Joe Qian/World Bank

Sri Lanka’s traditional lacework famously known as Beeralu is slowly moving into the spotlight of the global fashion industry. Udeni, who is a traditional Beeralu lace maker from Galle, learned the technique from her mother and developed it into a part-time business. 

At the moment, she sells to buyers from Colombo who then sell her product internationally. She would like to export directly one day, but for the time-being, she must rely on “middlemen” because of the complexity of the export process. A major barrier is the lack of information on what government procedures apply in Sri Lanka before her product can even reach a foreign buyer. 

Being unable to access information related to export and import procedures isn’t just a problem for entrepreneurs like Udeni, but a significant barrier for the entire Sri Lankan trading community. In a recent set of interviews conducted by the World Bank, every business interviewed said that personal experience was the leading source of information on import and export procedures. Only half said that they turn to government agencies for information, with concern expressed that the little information available online is often out of date, and spread across many websites. 

Why should we care about changing attitudes on gender roles in Pakistan?

Saman Amir's picture

Our recent research suggests that attitudes related to women’s roles at home and in the public space are in flux and moving towards greater gender equality, at least in aspirations.

In recent focus group discussions with women conducted by the Pakistan Gender Platform in Pakistan’s four provincial capitals, most women voiced a preference to work outside the home in mixed gender settings, regardless of age, occupation or income levels, and despite the many barriers involved: from lack of safe public transport to sexual harassment at work. Yet, their choices are still limited by patriarchal norms: as one young FGD participant who expressed her desire to work noted, “We may become economically independent but will always be socially dependent.”

This tension between the changing aspirations of young Pakistanis and the barriers they face in realizing them came alive in a recent online poll that we launched as part of the Country Office’s flagship [email protected] initiative. Despite some limitations stemming from its sample and mode of delivery, the poll provides an eye-opening glimpse into the urban youth’s shifting aspirations and attitudes on gender norms.

Six ways Sri Lanka can attract more foreign investments

Tatiana Nenova's picture
In 2017, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Sri Lanka grew to over $1,710 billion. But Sri Lanka still has ways to go to attract more FDI.
In 2017, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Sri Lanka grew to over $1,710 billion. But Sri Lanka still has ways to go to attract more FDI. Credit: Shutterstock 

To facilitate Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Sri Lanka launched last week an innovative online one-stop shop to help investors obtain all official approvals. To mark the occasion, this blog series explores different aspects of FDI in Sri Lanka. Part 1 put forth 5 Reasons Why Sri Lanka Needs FDI. Part 3 will relate how the World Bank is helping to improve Sri Lanka’s enabling environment for FDI.

Sri Lanka and foreign investments read a bit like a hit and miss story.

But it was not always the case.

Before 1983, companies like Motorola and Harris Corporation had plans to establish plants in Sri Lanka’s export processing zones. Others including Marubeni, Sony, Sanyo, Bank of Tokyo and Chase Manhattan Bank, had investments in Sri Lanka in the pipeline in the early 1980s.

All this changed when the war convulsed the country and derailed its growth. Companies left and took their foreign direct investments (FDI) with them.

Nearly a decade after the civil conflict ended in 2009, Sri Lanka is now in a very different place.

In 2017, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Sri Lanka grew to over $1,710 billion including foreign loans received by companies registered with the BOI, more than doubling from the $801 million achieved the previous year.

But Sri Lanka still has ways to go to attract more FDI.
As a percentage of GDP, FDI currently stands at a mere 2 percent and lags behind Malaysia at 3 – 4 percent and Vietnam at 5 – 6 percent.

More women need to shape Pakistan’s digital future

Uzma Quresh's picture
Annie Gul from Codematics tells the audience of what is required to have more women digital entrepreneurs in KP
Annie Gul from Codematics tells the audience of what is required to have more women digital entrepreneurs in KP

“I have always enjoyed studying computer and human physiology since childhood, that’s why I jumped at the opportunity of developing a scientific application with KPITB’s support. This app has even helped my younger brother understand different body organs and their functions in a fun way. The KPITB’s ‘early age programming’ program has supported many girls from public schools, who would otherwise have never received this chance of realizing their dream of developing apps.”

Such compelling words came from Hafsa, a 13-year-old female student of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) public school as she addressed about one thousand young men and women at this year’s Digital Youth Summit (DYS) in Peshawar.

Girls like Hafsa are becoming the face of DYS, an annual event that brings the spotlight on young talent and their digital innovations.

I heard similar passionate accounts during my two-day interaction with KP youth as they shared candidly how they had transformed challenges into opportunities through hard work and perseverance.

DYS has brought together the next generation of digital entrepreneurs since 2014 to educate and inspire youth in a conflict-affected region where 50 percent of people are age 30 or under.

Such forums also provide a space for youth to voice their aspirations and claim for greater and more meaningful socio-economic inclusion.   

And while Hafsa’s impassionate story of progress resonated with everyone in the room, it stood as a stark reminder that Pakistan still has a long way to go to achieve an equal digital future for both men and women.

Indeed, statistics about women’s employment in KP and FATA are alarming as only 14% of women in KP and 8.6% of women in FATA work for pay.

Fittingly, DYS discussed different gender issues and offered solutions to boost female digital entrepreneurship.

Delivering rural justice through community-owned courts in Bihar, India

Jorge Luis Alva-Luperdi's picture

In June 2017, a long-running land dispute was settled in just six days in a community-owned court in Bihar.
Returning to his village after many years, Ramashish had received a rude shock. His cousins had deprived him of the 5.90 acres of land he’d inherited. Over the last 20 years, Ramashish had approached villagers, policemen, and civil court judges to resolve the dispute, but without much luck. Ultimately, Ramashish approached Pushpanjali Singh, the woman Sarpanch (head of the village) of the Wari Panchayat.
This was no easy case, but Pushpanjali summoned the 3 disputing parties — Ramashish and his cousins’ descendants — to the Gram Katchahri (Village Court - a judicial forum for resolving disputes locally). Pushpanjali helped the parties realize how much money they were wasting on their legal squabbles, and convinced them to withdraw their cases against each other. With the help of her husband, she measured the disputed property and allocated plots to each party. After 6 days, the parties agreed to her proposal. 
Though this case might be one of Pushpanjali’s more recognized achievements, she has settled more than 100 cases over the last two years. While ensuring speedy justice, Pushpanjali is known by the locals as a fair Sarpanch

Bringing together the next generation of digital innovators in Pakistan: Meet Zaki Mahomed

Priya Chopra's picture

The Digital Youth Summit (DYS) is a technology focused conference that takes place annually in Peshawar, Pakistan. In the lead up to the summit, we bring to you the first of our Speaker Spotlights featuring Zaki Mahomed. The upcoming DYS is on April 27-28, 2018. Register now here.  

Zaki Mahomed (ZM) is founder & CEO at Pursuit, a new startup based in San Francisco. Pursuit helps people build the lives of their dreams through easy access to skilled immigration programs. Having lived in Karachi, Singapore, Toronto and San Francisco before turning 30 has given him a global perspective on the art and science of building great companies.

Tell me a little about what you are working on now?  How did you get started?

ZM: I recently founded and am the CEO of Pursuit. We help highly skilled immigrants access global job opportunities with companies that will sponsor their work visas. We want to live in a world where borders are not barriers to opportunities and employers can seamlessly hire perfect candidates from anywhere in the world.

I started Pursuit because I’ve lived and worked in 5 cities over my career. One of the most satisfying experiences of my career has been hiring immigrants who took a risk on my ideas and companies and moved their entire lives to join us. While fraught with risk, I’ve rarely regretted giving an opportunity to an immigrant and always gotten a committed and loyal worker in return. We want to make it easy for other businesses to be able to provide such opportunities to the type of talent they desperately need!

Specifically, through Pursuit, qualified skilled workers can apply for their immigrant visas and upon approval, get matched with vetted employers looking for their skills. Currently we work with Software Engineers and Developers and we primarily operate in Canada, which is our first market.

What do you think is the future for youth in the tech industry?

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.”

More qualified procurement personnel will strengthen Afghanistan’s reform efforts

Anand Kumar Srivastava's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
With support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, the Afghan government is taking steps to professionalize procurement and improve capability in ministries and other government institutions.
With support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), the Afghan government is taking steps to professionalize procurement to improve the capability of ministries and other government institutions. Photo Credit: NPA/World Bank

Recruiting the right people for the right jobs is the drive behind the first mass recruitment carried out by the Government of Afghanistan to improve public services. The process is currently underway as part of the government’s civil service and procurement reforms to improve capacity in ministries. Almost 700 highly qualified women and men are expected to be recruited by the end of 2017.

The ongoing recruitment, led by the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC), is in tune with the government’s efforts to professionalize procurement and improve capability in ministries and other government institutions.
Candidates are undergoing a rigorous selection process, including a mass examination, which saw about 7,800 people take the exam. IARCSC is working closely on this initiative with the National Procurement Authority (NPA), which is providing technical support, and the Ministry of Higher Education, which is facilitating the examination process.

استخدام کارمندان مجرب و متخصص باعث تقویت تلاش ها و گسترش روند اصلاحات در عرصه تدارکات میگردد

Anand Kumar Srivastava's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
With support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, the Afghan government is taking steps to professionalize procurement and improve capability in ministries and other government institutions.
با حمایت صندوق بازسازی افغانستان، دولت افغانستان اقدامات لازم را بخاطر ارتقای ظرفیت کارمندان تدارکاتی ادارات و وزارتخانه ها رویدست گرفته است. عکس: اداره تداکارت ملی/ بانک جهانی

پروسۀ استخدام اشخاص واجد شرایط به اساس مهارت های مسلکی (تحصیل، تجربه و سایر مشخصات کاری) در عرصه های مختلف محیط کاری به مثابۀ یک اصل عمده در راستای عملی ساختن برنامۀ استخدام کتلوی دولت به منظور ارائۀ خدمات ملکی محسوب میشود. تطبیق این پروسه در حال حاضر به مثابۀ یک بخشی از برنامۀ اصلاحات خدمات ملکی و تدارکات دولتی به منظور تقویت ظرفیت سازی در وزارتخانه ها و ادارات دولتی جریان دارد. توقوع میرود که در نخستین مرحلۀ تطبیق این برنامه، حدود ۷۰۰ تن زنان و مردان واجد شرایط الی ختم سال ۲۰۱۷ میلادی استخدام شوند.

پروسۀ کنونی استخدام، که توسط کمیسیون مستقل اصلاحات اداری و خدمات ملکی، پیش برده میشود، در مطابقت و هماهنگی کامل با تلاش های دولت در راستای استخدام حرفوی و بهبود ارتقای ظرفیت وزارتخانه ها و دیگر ادارات دولتی میباشد.

انتخاب کاندیدان واجد شرایط بخش تدارکات از طریق یک پروسۀ دقیق و شفاف پس از سپری نمودن امتحان جمعی انجام میشود، که در این پروسه ۷۸۰۰ کاندید اشتراک نموده بودند. کمیسیون مستقل اصلاحات اداری و خدمات ملکی به طور همه جانبه خدمات تخنیکی را به منظور تطبیق پروسه استخدام با اداره ملی تدارکات انجام میدهد و همچنان وزارت تحصیلات عالی این اداره را در راستای تسهیل پروسه اخذ امتحان کمک مینماید.

د وړ او متخصصو کارکوونکو استخدام د تدارکاتو په برخه کې د اصلاحاتو د رامنځته کولو او د هڅو د پیاوړتیا لامل ګرځي

Anand Kumar Srivastava's picture
Also available in: English | دری
With support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, the Afghan government is taking steps to professionalize procurement and improve capability in ministries and other government institutions.
د افغانستان د بیا رغونې صندوق په ملاتړ، د افغانستان دولت په پام کې لري، څو په وزارتونو او اړوندو ادارو کې د تدارکاتو په برخه کې د  کارکوونکو د ظرفیت د پياوړي کولو لپاره د اړتیا وړ کړنې ترسره کړي.  انځور: د تدارکاتو ملي اداره/ نړیوال بانک

په بیلابیلو کاري بستونو کې د مسلکي مهارتونو ( زدکړه، تجربه او نور کاري ځانګړتیاوې) پر بنسټ، پر شرایطو برابر کسانو د ګمارنې بهیر د ملکي خدمتونو د وړاندې کولو په موخه د دولت د ډله ییزو ګمارنې پروګرام د پلي کولو لپاره یو مهم اصل ګڼل کیږي. اوسمهال دا بهیر د ملکي خدمتونو او دولتي تدارکاتو د سمون د پروګرام د یوې برخې په توګه، په وزارتونو او دولتي ادارو کې د ظرفیت جوړونې د پیاوړتیا په موخه جریان لري. تمه ده، چې د دې پروګرام د پلي کولو په لومړي پړاو کې، د ۲۰۱۷ کال تر پایه شاوخوا ۷۰۰ ښځې او نارینه، چې پر شرایطو برابر وي، په دندو وګمارل شي.

د ګمارنې اوسنۍ بهیر، چې د اداري اصلاحاتو او ملکي خدمتونو د خپلواک کمیسیون لخوا پر مخ وړل کیږي، په بشپړ ډول د دولت د هغه هڅو، چې د مسلکي ګمارنې په برخه کې یې کړي او د وزارتونو او نورو دولتي ادارو د ظرفیت لوړونې په برخه کې روانې دي؛ همغږي دي او د هغه پر بنسټ په مخ وړل کیږي. د تدارکاتو د برخې لپاره ګمارنه، پر شرایطو برابر کسان د یوې کره او رڼې پروسې له لارې د ډله ییزې ازموینې وروسته ترسره کیږي، چې په دې بهیر کې ۷۸۰۰ تنه کسانو ګډون کړی وو.

 د اداري اصلاحاتو او ملکي خدمتونو خپلواک کمیسیون د ګمارنې د پروسې د پلي کولو په موخه
د تدارکاتو له ملي ادارې سره په هر اړخیز ډول تخنیکي خدمتونه وړاندې کوي او همدارنګه د لوړو زده کړو وزارت له دې ادارې سره د آزموینې د اخیستلو په برخه کې مرسته کوي.