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.
Throughout 2016, CID conducted a growth diagnostic analysis for Sri Lanka in collaboration with the Government of Sri Lanka, led by the Prime Minister’s Policy Development Office (PDO), and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). This presentation report aggregates collaborative quantitative and qualitative analysis undertaken by the research team. This analysis was originally provided to the Government of Sri Lanka in April 2017 in order to make available a record of the detailed technical work and CID’s interpretations of the evidence. A written executive summary is provided here as a complement to the detailed presentation report. Both the report and the executive summary are structured as follows. First, the analysis identifies Sri Lanka’s growth problem. It then presents evidence from diagnostic tests to identify what constraints are most responsible for this problem. Finally, it provides a summary of what constraints CID interprets as most binding and suggests a “growth syndrome” that underlies the set of binding constraints.
In brief, this growth diagnostic analysis shows that economic growth in Sri Lanka is constrained by the weak growth of exports, particularly from new sectors. Compared to other countries in the region, Sri Lanka has seen virtually no diversification of exports over the last 25 years, especially in manufactured goods linked through FDI-driven, global value chains. We found several key causes behind this lack of diversified exports and FDI: Sri Lanka’s ineffective land-use governance, underdeveloped industrial and transportation infrastructure, and a very high level of policy uncertainty, particularly in tax and trade policy. We believe that these issues trace back to an underlying problem of severe fragmentation in governance, with a critical lack of coordination between ministries and agencies with overlapping responsibilities and decision-making authority.
Ricardian theories of production often take the comparative advantage of locations in di fferent industries to be uncorrelated. They are seen as the outcome of the realization of a random extreme value distribution. These theories also do not take a stance regarding the counterfactual or implied comparative advantage if the country does not make the product. Here, we find that industries in countries and cities tend to have a relative size that is systematically correlated with that of other industries. Industries also tend to have a relative size that is systematically correlated with the size of the industry in similar countries and cities. We illustrate this using export data for a large set of countries and for city-level data for the US, Chile and India. These stylized facts can be rationalized using a Ricardian framework where comparative advantage is correlated across technologically related industries. More interestingly, the deviations between actual industry intensity and the implied intensity obtained from that of related industries or related locations tend to be highly predictive of future industry growth, especially at horizons of a decade or more. This result holds both at the intensive as well as the extensive margin, indicating that future comparative advantage is already implied in today's pattern of production.