Home Contact Us  

Peace Audit and Ceasefire Monitor - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4978, 31 January 2016

Dateline Colombo

Forecast 2016: A Roadmap for Sri Lanka
Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

“Our objective is to make Sri Lanka the most competitive nation in the Indian Ocean and to develop the island as a mega city for the region that will go between Singapore and Dubai, thus make it competitive and the time has come for us to think how we are going to do it.”
- Ranil Wickremesinghe
Sri Lankan Prime Minister, at the Sri Lanka Economic Forum 2016

A year since the victory of incumbent Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, the rainbow coalition, despite huge promises of reform, has not delivered on everything. However, to its credit, it has managed (with some success) to introduce newer and more outward-looking policies. First, freedom of expression has been fully restored. The trend of blocking media sites has ended, and the safety of media personnel, restored. Second, independent commissions such as the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption have been fully restored. Third, a foreign policy rebalance between West and China is in the process of being re-established.

The January 2016 Sri Lanka Economic Forum brought with it some excellent thoughts from global leaders such as Ricardo Hausmann, Joseph Stiglitz and George Soros. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe stated, “Sri Lankans who voted for the change and those who didn't vote should unite to build this nation to the height achieved by nations like Singapore.” Soros said that Sri Lanka should lower its expectations as there is a clear sign of global economic slowdown this year. The US$27 billion Soros Fund Management (SFM) is looking to invest US$300 million initially in the economy – a good start at the beginning of the year. Economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia said that revenue as per GDP was 12 per cent when it should be 20 per cent. Comprehensive tax reforms are needed to increase revenue to 18 to 20 per cent of the GDP in the next few years.

Containing the fiscal deficit to 5 per cent of the GDP should continue to stabilise the economy. To reduce fiscal deficit, it is important to focus on increasing revenue and decreasing government expenditure – a difficult task to undertake in the present political context. Losses incurred by public enterprises are a huge fiscal burden that need to be addressed.

Politicians who offer employment merely to satisfy the electorate should be stopped. An example is that of the Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation, which had a little over 800 employees in 2009. Today, 1800 people are employed for the same lot of harbours. Once a profitable Corporation, it is currently incurring losses with its extensive employee numbers. In the same way, a large cabinet with nearly 100 ministers leads to the wastage of state resources.

It was against this socio-political and economic backdrop in mind that Wickremesinghe participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos – a conference where he could interact with top minds, investors and political leaders – to plan his strategic economic agenda for the country. For the first time in 10 years, Sri Lanka had high level political representation at Davos. In fact, this author, during two visits to Davos, was the only government representative from Sri Lanka, and without much support from the government. The tide has changed, and it is for the positive.

Standard of Living
The government should focus on improving the citizens’ quality of life by providing the best possible solutions to problems, instead of discussions about unfruitful political gossip. Unfortunately, most of Sri Lanka's headlines have been to the contrary.

For instance, 2,700 people, i.e. an average of 7.5 people every day, were killed in road accidents in 2015 – an increase compared to 2014. Given how there were numerous references to Singapore at the Sri Lanka Economic Forum, an example from Singapore is in order. On 25 December 2015, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, opened the Downtown Line 2 (DLT2), an extension to their existing public rail network, that is set to ease traffic. As Lee stated, “With a new MRT line and extension to be opened next year onwards the network will double to 360 km by 2030. It will be comparable to London, New York and Tokyo, this means eight in 10 homes will be within a 10 minute radius.” There are several important lessons and practices Sri Lanka could import from Singapore.

The World Economic Forum has categorised Sri Lanka as an efficiency-driven economy (stage 2) in this year's global competitiveness index. It is an achievement, for Colombo has moved up from factor-driven (stage 1). Almost all South Asian countries are still on stage 1 or in transition. Sri Lanka should aim to move from efficiency-driven to the next stage of transition, and then to innovation-driven by 2030. A goal to double per capita to reach US$7000 by 2020 and to improve all sectors of the economy, should be set.

Given its tremendous human resource potential, Sri Lanka has the capacity carry this out. However, in order to become the region’s top workforce not just in terms of size but also quality, this valuable resource requires training. Investment in research and development and improvement in educational systems and universities should be the government’s priority. The Moratuwa University could be Sri Lanka's own MIT or IIT.

Improving transparency and strengthening mechanisms to fight corruption are important areas that require focus. Optimising the productivity of the government’s loss-making institutions, strengthening and encouraging the private sector to expand, combating sexual abuse, and enforcing child protection rights, are among the neglected areas that should be addressed.
The government will announce the new constitutional assembly to draft the new constitution with public participation. After this, it will be sent for approval, and then, referendum. It is a task that will reset several core areas of the present governance structure; and therefore, should ideally be undertaken after debate and dialogue with the public. Malicious campaigns to create fear could be created and government should steer through this carefully with stakeholder participation.

The recent surge in nationalism resulting from a Sinha Le (Sinhalese blood) campaign that has gone viral on the internet is definitely not a positive sign as it could manifest in the worst form of nationalism. Instead, nationalism should be used to preserve one’s languages. This sort of appreciation for languages will create interest among theyounger generations to learn and appreciate a language such as Sinhala – a dying language according to UN.

As a nation, Sri Lanka has suffered tremendously in the past, and should now move towards uniting all ethnic groups via genuine reconciliation processes. President Sirisena demonstrated a sincere sign of reconciliation on the day he completed a year in office: he pardoned the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam assassin, Sivaraja Jenivan, who had attempted to assassinate the former in 2006. The pardon was an act of remembering the past but also forgiveness in order to create a better future. This is a great deed and signals the kick-starting of brave and genuine efforts towards the reconciliation process.
Sri Lanka possesses the potential to achieve great heights. With correct processes in place, and collective effort to create a better political culture, the country could spur its economic growth to overcome its challenges, both internal and external.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Related Articles
Asanga Abeyagoonasekera,
"Riot and Responsibility: Governance in Sri Lanka," 17 November 2015
Asanga Abeyagoonasekera,
"Sri Lanka and the World: Terrorism and Effective Reconciliation," 12 October 2015
Asanga Abeyagoonasekera,
"Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome," 8 September 2015
Asanga Abeyagoonasekera,
"The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament," 11 August 2015

Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Changing Political Horizons in Sri Lanka?

The Geopolitics of Floating Bases and the New World Order

Monuments Over Mortality?

Sri Lanka: Leveraging the Politics of Geography

The Forgotten Professions: The Plight of a Nation

Crisis and Foresight Analysis

Steering Co-operation Across Oceans

Sri Lanka: National Interests in a Globalised World

Re-building Sri Lanka: An Island at a Crossroads

Forecast 2017: Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Foreign Policy: Diaspora and Lobbying

Securing Sri Lanka's National Interests

Understanding our “Blindspot” to Make Peacebuilding Comprehensive

Oceans of (Dis)trust

Death and Democracy

The Island and the Mainland: Impact of Fisheries on Indo-Lanka Relations

New Delhi-Tamil Nadu Relations and India’s Sri Lanka Policy

Remembering Tagore in Turbulent Times

Politics of Promise: Between Sirisena and Rajapaksa

Conflict to Co-existence: Debating Heritage and Homogenisation

China Prepares for a Modern War

Riot and Responsibility: Governance in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka and the World: Terrorism and Effective Reconciliation

Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome

The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.