Sri Lanka

Stock, D., 2019. Exit and Foreign Ownership: Evidence from Export-Oriented Firms in Sri Lanka.Abstract
While foreign direct investment may play a transformative role in the development of economies, foreign-owned firms are also said to be more “footloose” than comparable local firms. This paper uses a semi-parametric approach to examine the link between firm ownership and exit rates, tracking a set of export-oriented firms operating in Sri Lanka in years between 1978 and 2017. We find that foreign firms are in fact 42-56% more likely to exit than local firms, but only for their first years of existence. In their later years, foreign firms are actually less likely to exit than local firms, though this late advantage is not statistically significant when conditioned on the firms’ initial characteristics (such as employment size). This pattern supports the theory that foreign firms face a steeper early learning curve in adapting to local conditions.

Re-visiting the “Sector Targeting” study: Why BOI and EDB opted for sector targeting

Author: Neluni Tillekeratne, Sri Lanka Project Officer

It has now been 9 years since Sri Lanka's three-decade-long civil conflict came to an end. In the period following the end of violence, Sri Lanka saw a surge in economic growth, due in part to increased investment in infrastructure. However, this surge was not sustained, and the economy's growth rate has slid back to moderate levels. As...

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Working with the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority to Develop Resources for Creating and Analyzing Tourism Policy

Author: Ceylan Oymak, HKS MPP Student

Sri Lanka tends to conjure up a range of ideas by would-be tourists: its deeply intriguing history and relation to colonial powers, a 26-year civil-war with the Tamil Tigers, or, more simply, the paradisiac beaches, beautiful landscape, warmth of the people and the rich cuisine. I believe each of these things contribute differently to Sri Lanka becoming one of world’s top tourist destinations in the past few years.

High demand among foreigners to visit Sri Lanka surely presents wide opportunities for the country’s...

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The knowhow path to Sri Lankan development

September 5, 2018

Ricardo Hausmann - DailyFT

When Adam Smith wrote ‘The Wealth of Nations’ in 1776, the richest country in the world was four times richer than the poorest one. Today, Singapore is over 110 times richer than Burundi. What could possibly explain such an extreme divergence of the wealth of nations? 

Economists have shown that these differences are too large to be explained by differences in the availability of land or capital – including human capital. So, they ascribe it to differences in the productivity with which land and capital are used,...

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O'Brien, T., 2018. Sri Lanka's North Central Province: A Growth Diagnostic.Abstract

In 2018, the Growth Lab team turned attention to diagnosing growth problems at the subnational level. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka requested that the team start with the North Central Province, which had been experiencing recurring droughts, which had in turn been affecting national rice production. This presentation summarizes what the team found and presented to a local university in the North Central Province in September 2018. People in the province had long been working to escape from the vulnerability and low income levels of rice farming and the diagnostic found important areas for national-local coordination to support pathways to a stronger, and more connected, local economy.

Hausmann, R., 2016. Constraints to Sustained and Inclusive Growth in Sri Lanka, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract
In late 2015, CID was requested to conduct an initial analysis of constraints to sustained and inclusive economic growth in Sri Lanka. The findings of this analysis were presented at the Sri Lanka Economic Forum in Colombo in January 2016. This presentation outlined the initial findings and offered a series of questions that were then discussed at length with policymakers and academics during the two-day forum. The initial analysis found that recent growth and the sustainability of growth moving forward are constrained by weakness in Sri Lanka’s balance of payments, where a trade imbalance combined with low levels of foreign direct investment effectively puts a speed limit on economic growth. While monetary and exchange rate policy could be used to soften this constraint, solving the underlying problem requires structural transformation, which has proven difficult in Sri Lanka. At the same time, the analysis identified the government’s inability to raise revenues as a major risk that threatens to be more binding moving forward. Finally, the analysis identified the primary dimensions of inequality in the country as between regions and between cities and rural areas.
2016. Sri Lanka’s Edible Oils Exports, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract
By request of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development reviewed edible oils exports in September 2016 based on the latest available international trade data. The analysis identified the products and markets key to Sri Lanka’s edible oils sector and compared with competitor countries. Although edible oils are non-complex products that make up a small share of the country’s total exports (0.5% in 2014), they help to diversify Sri Lankan exports and may serve as stepping stones toward further diversification into other more complex exports in the future. Coconut oil, which made up 86% of Sri Lanka’s edible oils exports in 2014, is particularly promising, with exports growing by more than a factor of 10 in just five years and much room to grow based on global demand.
2016. Targeting Investment from Japan: Promising Leads in Targeted Sectors in Sri Lanka, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract
In October 2016, at the request of the Government of Sri Lanka and in advance of a investment promotion trip to Japan, this presentation was prepared to experiment with new forms of communication to Japanese industry groups. The Growth Lab at CID used export data, qualitative research on companies, and comparative work on free trade agreements to identify promising opportunities for Japanese investment in Sri Lanka in targeted sectors, which were emerging through work by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade with the support of CID.
2017. Immigration Policy Research, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

Immigration and Economic Transformation: A Concept Note

Ljubica Nedelkoska, Tim O’Brien, Ermal Frasheri, Daniel Stock

In May 2017, CID prepared a concept note that described the connection between immigration and knowhow transfer internationally and profiled the current state of low immigration levels and immigration policy issues in Sri Lanka. The note identifies immigration policy reform as an important area of opportunity for unleashing higher levels of entrepreneurship and the introduction of new knowhow for economic diversification in Sri Lanka, but stops short of providing specific recommendations. Instead, the note lays out broad ideas for making immigration policy more flexible and encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to activate a cross-government policy team that is capable of developing reforms that meet Sri Lanka’s particular needs. 

A Comparative View on of Immigration Frameworks in Asia: Enhancing the Flow of Knowledge through Migration

Ermal Frasheri, Ljubica Nedelkoska, Sehar Noor, Tim O’Brien

Later in 2017, at the request of a policy team of the Government of Sri Lanka, CID conducted research to compare immigration policy frameworks in other countries in Asia to understand promising policy options for Sri Lanka. Our resulting research note focuses on Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. We find that the immigration policies of the six countries vary across numerous dimensions as each country prioritizes attracting the talents, skills and resources it needs from abroad in different ways. These variations provide a range of examples that may be relevant to decision-makers in Sri Lanka. Additionally, we find an emerging pattern among the six countries where more developed economies tend to have more elaborate immigration systems and target a more diverse set of people. By looking at available data, we also confirm that more elaborate immigration systems are closely associated with more actual immigration, higher presence of foreign firms, and higher levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) among this group of countries. Based on the comparative analysis, together with the issues identified by the Department of Immigration and Emigration’s Gap Analysis, it is possible to identify a number of principles around which future immigration reform in Sri Lanka should be organized. 

Malalgoda, C., Samaraweera, P. & Stock, D., 2018. Targeting Sectors For Investment and Export Promotion in Sri Lanka, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

In August 2016, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Building State Capability program of CID convened five teams of civil servants, tasking them with solving issues related to investment and export promotion. One of these teams, the “Targeting Team,” took on the task of formulating and executing a plan to identify promising new economic activities for investment and export promotion in Sri Lanka. With the assistance of CID’s Growth Lab, the Targeting Team assembled and analyzed over 100 variables from 22 datasets, studying all tradable activities and 29 representative subsectors. Their analysis highlighted the potential of investment related to electronics, electrical equipment and machinery (including automotive products), as well as tourism. Ultimately, the team’s recommendations were incorporated in GoSL strategies for investment promotion, export development, and economic diplomacy; extensions of the research were also used to help plan new export processing zones and target potential anchor investors.

This report summarizes the methodology and findings of the Targeting Team, including scorecards for each of the sectors studied.

targeting_report_figure15

Hausmann, R., 2018. Accessing Knowhow for Development, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

Economies grow by adding new products and services to their production portfolio, not by producing more of the same kinds of products. The key to such diversification is access to know-how, but know-how often has to come from abroad. This is because it is often easier to move brains to new countries than to move new know-how into brains. In the experience of Singapore, India, Vietnam and most other dynamic economies, three channels of know-how transfer stand out: FDI, immigration and diaspora networks.

In this lecture, Professor Hausmann explores the relationship between economic development and the accumulation of know-how. In particular, he discusses how to tackle Sri Lanka’s limited export diversification.

Video - Acessing Know-how for Growth in Sri Lanka

Video - Full Q&A on Sri Lanka's export diversification

Noor, S., O'Brien, T. & Stock, D., 2018. Can Industrial Zones Address the Binding Constraints to Sri Lanka’s Growth?, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

This note collects evidence related to possible constraints to economic growth, and their relation with GoSL’s industrial zone development agenda. We find that new zones are especially well-suited to help address Sri Lanka’s lack of industrial land and high policy uncertainty, both of which may be holding back growth. Less clear, however, are zones’ impact on Sri Lanka’s limited transport links beyond the Western Province. Finally, partnering with well-connected zone management companies may also help create opportunities to connect with firms in new, non-traditional sectors.

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