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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.

Based on our findings, Sri Lanka has been growing but the pace could be faster. Not everyone has benefitted from growth. While adverse weather has curbed growth, many opportunities to grow remain. To be internationally renowned, you need to play on an international platform. Sri Lanka will need to become competitive beyond its borders and improve its trade potential. It needs to invest in skills development. Imagine if cricket teams didn’t practice and simply turned up on game day; or the teams couldn’t innovate and played the same game every time. I doubt success would be the result. Sri Lanka has demonstrated it can do all these needed reforms and be world players. Tea and tourism come to mind, and GSP+ will no doubt add more opportunities for exporters. Once the doors open, many Sri Lankans will benefit.

Our Sri Lanka Development Update will be launched in the next few days. I hope it will be insightful but more importantly will, using data and analyses add to the conclusion that Sri Lanka is growing – but it can grow a whole lot more. 

By the way, I still believe that for a country the size of Sri Lanka to remain this highly visible on the international stage for cricket, it is in itself an achievement. And the occasional weak play should serve only to make the team more determined!

Tell us what you think. 


Submitted by Priyan on

Thanks for the article.

It would be fair to say that Sri Lanka's growth has been muted, for a post-war country that has started from a low base. Any growth achieved has not been distributed equitably among the population.
For growth and growth figures to have an impact on the ordinary citizens' lives, While some infrastructure development has occurred, those has not contributed to sustained growth due to unfavourable debt conditions under which such projects have been funded. it is critical that employment opportunities and wages growth takes hold in the country, while inflation is contained. This, unfortunately has been a pipe dream for manny Sri Lankans, who are either under-employed or un-employed, and struggle make a meaningful life for themselves and their families.
Sri lLanka has a long way to go before they can match the growth achieved by the tiger economies of Asia. For that to occur, it needs politicians who are focused on enriching the lives of the people they represent rather than themselves, a rethink of their educational system that is more geared towards creating competency in technology, and some level of debt forgiveness by those countries and governance bodies that currently draining the country's cash flows with their interest payments and restrictive covenants.

Submitted by Idah on

Thank you for your comment. Growth in Sri Lanka while slow, has been positive. Yes, it can still grow but what the country has achieved is not insignificant. Looking at what the country has achieved in poverty reduction, improved infrastructure and increased opportunities for its people since the war, its hard to deny that this is a positive story. But like you I believe that it can do better. And the private sector, the government and development partners will need to continue to partner to make the economy even stronger.

Submitted by Radev Liyanage on

Thanks for this article.

I agree that the growth rate could be faster and that people do not have a unified view on the country's growth. I think this is because people come to conclusions based on what they see without properly researching. I read some very interesting research articles on Sri Lanka's growth on the IPS website.

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