Sri Lanka

Andrews, M., et al., 2017. Learning to Target for Economic Diversification: PDIA in Sri Lanka.Abstract

Many countries, like Sri Lanka, are trying to diversify their economies but often lack the capabilities to lead diversification programs. One of these capabilities relates to targeting new sectors to promote and pursue through a diversification policy: countries know they are ‘doomed to choose’ sectors to target,1 but lack effective capabilities to do the targeting. This paper narrates a recent (and ongoing) initiative to establish this kind of capability in Sri Lanka. The initiative adopted a Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) process, where a team of Sri Lankan officials worked with Harvard Center for International Development (CID) facilitators to build capabilities. The paper tells the story of this process, providing documented evidence of the progress over time and describing the thinking behind the PDIA process. It shows how a reliable targeting mechanism can emerge in a reasonably limited period, when a committed team of public officials are effectively authorized and engaged. The paper will be of particular interest to those thinking about targeting for diversification and to those interested in processes (like PDIA) which are focused on building state capability and fostering policy implementation in public contexts.

1 The term here comes from Hausmann, R. and Rodrik, D. 2006. Doomed to Choose: Industrial Policy as Predicament. Draft.

Andrews, M., et al., 2017. Learning to Engage New Investors for Economic Diversification: PDIA in Action in Sri Lanka.Abstract
Many countries, like Sri Lanka, are trying to diversify their economies but often lack thecapabilities to lead diversification programs. One of these capabilities relates to engaging new investors—in new sectors—to bring their FDI and know-how to a new country and kick-start new sources of activity. This paper narrates a recent (and ongoing) initiative to establish this kind of capability in Sri Lanka. The initiative adopted a Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) process, where a team of Sri Lankan officials worked with Harvard Center for International Development (CID) facilitators to build capabilities over a six-month period. The paper tells the story of this process, providing documented evidence of the progress over time (and describing thinking behind the PDIA process as well). It shows how an investment engagement approach can emerge in a reasonably limited period, when a committed team of public officials are effectively authorized and engaged. The paper will be of particular interest to those thinking about investor engagement challenges and to those interested in processes (like PDIA) focused on building state capability and fostering policy implementation in public contexts.
Andrews, M., et al., 2017. Learning to Improve the Investment Climate for Economic Diversification: PDIA in Action in Sri Lanka.Abstract
Many countries, like Sri Lanka, are trying to diversify their economies but often lack thecapabilities to lead diversification programs. One of these capabilities relates to preparing the investment climate in the country. Many governments tackle this issue by trying to improve their scores on ‘Doing Business Indicators’ which measure performance on general factors affecting business globally (like how long it takes to open a business or pay taxes). Beyond these common indicators, however, investors face context specific challenges when working in countries like Sri Lanka that are not addressed in global indicators. Governments often lack the capabilities to identify and resolve such issues. This paper narrates a recent initiative to establish these capabilities in Sri Lanka. The initiative adopted a Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) process, where a team of Sri Lankan officials worked with Harvard Center for International Development (CID) facilitators to build capabilities over a six-month period. The paper tells the story of this process, providing documented evidence of the progress over time (and describing thinking behind the PDIA process as well). The paper will be of interest to those thinking about the challenges associated with creating a climate that is investor or business friendly and to those interested in processes (like PDIA) focused on building state capability and fostering policy implementation.
2017. Recommendations for Trade Adjustment Assistance in Sri Lanka, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

Sri Lanka has an excessively complex tariff structure that distorts the structure of the economy in important ways. It is a priority for the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to rationalize the system in order to facilitate a transition to greater economic diversification, stronger export growth, and the emergence of new, higher paying jobs. Sri Lanka’s New Trade Policy makes this tariff rationalization a priority. It also recognizes that tariff rationalization should go hand in hand with new trade adjustment assistance measures to support the adjustment of firms and of people. The New Trade Policy outlines the basic contours of tariff rationalization and trade adjustment assistance measures but does not provide a detailed roadmap.

This discussion paper was prepared at the invitation of the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade (MoDSIT) as part of the Center for International Development’s research project on sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Sri Lanka. The aim of the paper is to study policy tools that the GoSL could use to structure trade adjustment assistance in the context of tariff rationalization. In order to accomplish this aim, we begin by outlining the type of tariff rationalization that needs to take place in order to address key constraints to growth in a way that is sensitive to both government revenue needs and political economy considerations. We stress that tariff rationalization must be approached in a holistic way that treats the various tariffs and para-tariffs as interrelated, rather than an approach that attempts to address one part of the system at a time. A holistic approach would provide many degrees of freedom to solve the underlying problems in the system while increasing revenues and potentially generating strong public support. Critically, a holistic approach would allow for a single tariff rationalization plan to be phased in over a period of years in a predictable way, whereas attempts to rationalize the system one part at a time would lead to extreme uncertainty.

With the principles of smart tariff rationalization in place, we draw upon international lessons and Sri Lanka’s own institutional capabilities to recommend a two-tiered approach to helping industries and workers adjust. In each case, the first tier represents low-cost measures that can begin in the short term to help industries and workers, regardless of whether they will be negatively impacted by tariff rationalization, while the second tier of assistance applies only to trade-affected industries and workers and can be developed in the medium term. For industries, Tier 1 support involves the use of an innovative process of public-private problem solving of industry-specific constraints, and Tier 2 support involves the use of special safeguard measures to provide an objective and transparent process for determining which industries require longer phase out periods for tariff reductions versus the tariff rationalization plan. For workers, Tier 1 support involves improved access labor market information and training opportunities through the development of regional (or local) job centers. Tier 2 support provides government funding for training and job placement services. We conclude that this package of trade adjustment assistance measures could be used to complement a holistic tariff rationalization plan. But we caution that attempts to rush the implementation of these measures without careful design and communication could deeply undermine the potential for the reforms to work in solving underlying economic problems.

O'Brien, T., et al., 2018. Opportunity Analysis of Agriculture Products in Sri Lanka. Measuring markets and feasibility.Abstract

In August 2017, CID began focused work with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), specifically with their Agriculture Sector Modernization Project(ASMP) team. MPI requested Harvard assistance in the analysis of constraints and opportunities in the agriculture and fisheries sector, specifically in non-plantation, export-oriented activities. As a first step, CID worked with MPI research officers to compare the more than twenty agricultural and fishery subsectors being considered under the ASMP. These subsectors were analyzed across over 53 quantitative and qualitative variables, measuring market demand, feasibility, current strength, and poverty considerations. The analysis ultimately identified spices (especially pepper), aquaculture (especially shrimp) and plantains and bananas as especially promising subsectors for future research and ASMP activities. More broadly, the analysis identified the basic market and feasibility considerations that can provide a starting point for value chain analyses and public-private strategic planning. This presentation was prepared jointly by MPI project officers and CID Growth Lab researchers in order to inform MPI initiatives, both within the ASMP and beyond.

agri_sector_opportunities_chart

Sennett, J., 2018. Engaging Overseas Sri Lankans to Facilitate Export Diversification.Abstract

Insufficient export diversification is a binding constraint to economic growth in Sri Lanka

  • The Harvard CID growth diagnostic found that with wages in traditional export sectors now below average Sri Lankan wages, new higher-wage export industries are required

Overseas Sri Lankans (OSL) have the potential to create new export industries in Sri Lanka

  • Diasporas were involved in the export-led development of India, Taiwan, and China by bringing industry knowhow and market connections to their home countries
  • There are large, well-educated OSL communities living in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia that have the industry knowhow to assist in export-led growth in Sri Lanka

OSL can have the biggest impact on diversifying exports if they return to start firms in new export industries rather than working with firms while based overseas

  • OSL can play a useful role connecting the existent Sri Lankan IT export sector to overseas markets, but they cannot start firms in new export industries from abroad
  • If OSL return to start firms they can “seed” a new export industry that grows organically through the diffusion of knowhow
  • The pharmaceutical sector is an example of an industry with high potential to be “seeded” by returning OSL entrepreneurs

Preliminary policy recommendations focus on removing barriers and catalyzing latent motivations to facilitate OSL return entrepreneurship:

  • The Department for Immigration and Emigration should continue to ease border processes for OSL through dual citizenship and the OSL lifetime resident visa
  • The Board of Investment should orient part of its “one-stop-shop” to dealing specifically with OSL issues
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should utilize its diplomatic network to engage potential OSL entrepreneurs to catalyze latent motivations to return

*This is an edited version of a Policy Analysis written in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master in Public Administration in International Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Growth Diagnostics in Real Life: The Growth Lab's Project in Sri Lanka

On today's episode of The Growth Lab Podcast, CID Student Ambassador Emily Ausubel interviews Tim O’Brien and Dan Stock, Research Fellows at Harvard's Growth Lab. Tim and Dan discuss the Growth Lab project in Sri Lanka and how they are applying the Growth Diagnostics Methodology to identify the country’s binding constraints for diversification and economic growth. Read the Growth Diagnostic. Read more about Growth Diagnostics in Real Life: The Growth Lab's Project in Sri Lanka

New Pathways to Inclusive Growth: The Sri Lanka Project in Retrospect

Starting in November 2015, The Growth Lab was engaged in economic policy research with the Government of Sri Lanka. Led by Professor Ricardo Hausmann, the team focused on a single question: what is holding back investment in Sri Lanka – especially in new and non-traditional export-oriented sectors – and what can the government do about it? In this Growth Lab podcast, members of the Sri Lanka team share their learnings from the project and how they partnered with key counterparts in the government and civil society to support potential solutions, and better understand the deeper...

Read more about New Pathways to Inclusive Growth: The Sri Lanka Project in Retrospect
Hausmann, R., Nedelkoska, L. & Noor, S., 2020. You Get What You Pay for: Sources and Consequences of the Public Sector Premium in Albania and Sri Lanka.Abstract

We study the factors behind the public sector premium in Albania and Sri Lanka, the group heterogeneity in the premium, the sources of public sector wage compression, and the impact of this compression on the way individuals self-select between the public and the private sector. Similar to other countries, the public sectors in Albania and Sri Lanka pay higher wages than the private sector, for all but the most valued employees. While half of the premium of Sri Lanka and two-thirds of it in Albania are explained by differences in the occupation-education-experience mix between the sectors, and the level of private sector informality, the unexplained part of the premium is significant enough to affect the preferences of working in the public sector for different groups. We show that the compressed distributions of public sector wages and benefits create incentives for positive sorting into the public sector among most employees, and negative sorting among the most productive ones.

Listen to a podcast with author Ljubica Nedelkoska as she discusses the factors behind public sector wage premiums. 

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.
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.

Pages