Structural Transformation in Sri Lanka

From a new IMF country report:

“Sri Lanka has a compelling growth story. The economy has grown at an average of 5 percent over the last four decades, amidst the 30-year civil conflict, weather calamities, and swings in economic policy orientation depending on ruling parties’ ideology. Sri Lanka seesawed between protectionist and liberalization strategies: state control and import substitution in early 70s; two waves of liberalization in early 80s and 90s; closing up again in early 2000s at the height of the war; and then opening up again since the end of the war (text table below).”

“Strong economic growth has led to a significant decline in poverty rates (text table below). While a recent IMF study (IMF, forthcoming) finds that emerging markets experienced a significant increase in average growth rates in the 2000s, particularly in Asia, only half of these emerging markets are converging with developed countries in per capita income levels. Remarkably, Sri Lanka has halved its poverty gap over the last decade. Nevertheless, challenges in terms of inclusiveness, regional disparities, quality of education, and gender equality remain.”

“The government has ambitious plans to achieve upper middle-income country status in 2025 by transforming Sri Lanka in an Indian Ocean Hub for trade, investment, and services. Unlike the 70-80s when investment in the tradable sectors led the productivity boost, the post-war capital deepening was mainly driven by mega-scale public-financed infrastructure projects, which did not seem to result in immediate productivity gains, as reforms to enable the business environment lagged. Sri Lanka’s static export structure signifies an absence of competitive forces to drive trade dynamism, innovation, and diversification: for over two decades exports have remained concentrated on garments, tea, and rubber products with a declining share in global trade. Introduction of para-tariffs barriers during the last decade has effectively doubled the protection rate, making the present trade regime one of the most complex and protectionist in the world. Despite operating a complex and an expensive system of tax incentives to promote investment, FDI remains low.”


Posted by at 9:51 AM

Labels: Inclusive Growth


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