March 27, 2018        Reading Time: 2 minutes

Your weekly digest of foreign policy commentary*

Reading Time: 2 min read

Daniel Alphonsus highlights that the demographic dividend did not materialise in Sri Lanka. Image credit – kotelnyk / deposit photo



Beyond FDI and FTAs: How Demographic Fracking Can Boost Sri Lanka’s Growth, The Daily FT, by Daniel Alphonsus, Fulbright Scholar, Harvard University

“Unlike much of the industrialised world, Sri Lanka has two major underutilised demographic pockets it can mobilise – women and migrant workers.”

  • Daniel Alphonsus argues that although Sri Lanka is unlikely to experience the extraordinary growth of East Asia, tapping into specific demographic groups could reap economic benefit.
  • In particular, Sri Lanka could (1) tap into the demographic groups of women, migrant workers, and the diaspora, and (2) redirect labour from the armed forces.
  • Increasing female participation in the labour force is likely to have the highest impact on economic growth in Sri Lanka and result in significant social dividends.

LKI Take: Sri Lanka may need to invest in extending its usual school hours. Studies show a positive correlation in Germany between extending afternoon hours at school and more women in the labour force.



Unpacking the Free and Open Indo-Pacific, War on the Rocks, by Jeff M. Smith, Heritage Foundation

“The Free and Open Indo-Pacific is a normative concept imbued with the values, principles and norms [that] Quad members see as underpinning the informal regional order.”

  • Jeff Smith explains how the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ differs from its newer iteration of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’—now favoured by the democratic ‘Quad’ of Japan, the US, Australia, and India.
  • While the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ re-imagined the Indian and Pacific Oceans as a single geographic and geopolitical space, the new iteration refers to a rules-based order that represents values like freedom, prosperity, transparency, and the rule of law.
  • Although the new iteration is not an anti-China containment policy, it represents a rules-based order that Quad countries consider to be threatened by a more assertive and ambitious China.

LKI Take: Smaller states stand to benefit from a free and open Indo-Pacific. However, the task of ensuring substantial compliance with this vision’s inherent norms, like freedom of navigation, may call for a normative code.



Pax Trumpia, Project Syndicate, by Joschka Fischer, former German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005

“Chinese leaders are probably privately celebrating the Trump administration’s promise to ‘make America great again,’ because, so far, it has merely undercut US interests.”

  • Joschka Fischer argues that President Trump’s protectionist policies are not just related to trade, but also to the departure of the US from the post-war rules-based order and from Pax Americana.
  • Protectionist policies by the US will negatively affect Europe since Germany—Europe’s largest economy—relies on open markets and free trade and is vulnerable to trade barriers by the US.
  • Disturbed transatlantic trade relations will push Europe closer to China, and Europe’s most difficult challenge will be in striking a balance between the East and West.

LKI Take: Smaller states like Sri Lanka are arguably the main beneficiaries of multilateralism and free trade, and therefore, should lobby major powers like Germany and China to maintain that system despite the current US position.

*Written by Barana Waidyatilake and Malinda Meegoda, and edited by Anishka De Zylva. The opinions expressed in this Weekly Brief are the authors’ own and not the institutional views of LKI, and do not necessarily reflect the position of any other institution or individual with which the authors are affiliated.

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