SL must improve competitiveness in int’l trade to achieve growth targets - Economists | Sunday Observer

SL must improve competitiveness in int’l trade to achieve growth targets - Economists

Sri Lanka cannot achieve economic growth targets such as creating employment and solving the debt burden without entering global markets, attracting foreign investment and improving competitiveness in international trade, Sri Lanka Economic Association (SLEA) President, Dr. Upananda Vidanapathirana, told a media briefing last week at the launch of SLEA’s Annual Sessions. The Sessions will be held at the Centre for Banking Studies, Rajagiriya from January 18-19.

With the rapid progress in technology and improvement in transportation and communication global integration is growing at an irreversible pace. The debate on globalisation and its impact has ceased as the world has recognised the importance of integration for mutual support and development, he said.

However, economists said that the global trend has shifted towards adopting populist protectionist measures to steer clear of adverse influence of globalisation.

“We have seen in recent years populist protectionist sentiments growing in Europe, USA and Canada. Brexit is an example of protectionism which is seen today in the emerging new leadership in Italy, France and Germany,” Dr. Vidanapathirana said.

Economists said that there are diverse schools of thought in economics as in any science. In Sri Lanka, in the post-independence era, the debate was whether the economy should be liberalised or not. While some held the view that liberalisation of the economy is essential to develop the economy there was a strong view that opening up the economy will have adverse repercussions on the country’s sovereignty and integrity.

“It is, therefore, vital that policy makers address these issues looking at global trends, especially considering the policies adopted by the USA and Europe which are not in favour of globalisation. Sri Lanka completes 40 years of liberalising the economy and it is time to take stock of its impact on the economy. Policymakers need to evaluate whether opening the economy has benefited the country or not,” an economist said.

It is in this light that we need to look at Free Trade Agreements. The Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement which has become a hot topic should be looked at in a holistic manner with input from all stakeholders, economists said.

Outlining the role of the SLEA and its achievements since its launch in 1985, Dr. Vidanapathirana said the SLEA over the years has helped reshape economic policies for the benefit of the country through recommendations and key findings.

The SLEA voiced its concerns about living beyond the means and curbing the widening deficit at the last budget.

“We have been harping on the need to create sound policies and a conducive environment which are pivotal to attract foreign investments. Policy consistency and predictability are key factors to promote private investments,” economists said.

The SLEA annual conference will comprise five sessions under the theme ‘Impact of Globalisation on the Sri Lankan Economy’.

‘Towards a full employment production economy’, ‘Trade liberalisation in Sri Lanka: Then and now’, ‘Performance of Service Sector’, ‘Migration as an economic stimulant’, ‘Achievements and challenges’, ‘ Trends in population in Sri Lanka’, ‘Human capital’, ‘Private sector perspective’ and ‘Good governance and development’ are some of the key topics that will be dwelt under the main theme. 

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