June 5, 2018        Reading Time: 3 minutes

Your weekly digest of foreign policy commentary*

Reading Time: 3 min read

Lee Jong-Wha explores how Asia could harness the “silver dividend” of their aging population. Image credit – AlexGukBO / depositphotos



Five Reasons Why Sri Lanka Needs to Attract FDIs, DailyFT, by Tatiana Nenova, World Bank

“FDI into Sri Lanka has been lower than in peer countries despite its location and access to major markets—hovering at less than 2% of GDP.”

  • Tatiana Nenova observes that increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) to Sri Lanka could (1) boost economic growth, (2) reduce the burden on public investment, (3) foster innovation, (4) diversify exports, and (5) increase state revenue and foreign reserves.
  • Sri Lanka should focus on attracting FDI in manufacturing and services. This would generate more export revenues and jobs over the long-term than FDI in infrastructure.
  • Sri Lanka also needs to address barriers to FDI, including policy uncertainty, limited financial support for small and medium-sized enterprises, and a low level of female labour force participation.

LKI Take: FDI is instrumental in transferring new technologies to developing countries. However, Sri Lanka’s limited negotiating capacity may hinder such transfers. The country must therefore also harness other avenues of technology transfers, like immigration and the diaspora network.



Making the Most of Asia’s Aging Populations, Project Syndicate, by Lee Jong-Wha, Korea University

“Asian countries can mitigate the risks of population aging and harness their ‘silver dividend’ to become more productive, resilient, and dynamic than ever.”

  • Lee Jong-Wha argues that Asian countries should increase their relatively low retirement ages and improve senior citizens’ productivity, to sustain labour supply and growth.
  • Countries could (1) develop “lifelong learning programmes” for senior citizens to upgrade their skills and (2) encourage employers to continue training senior employees.
  • Senior citizens could also be engaged to transfer skills that young workers lack from national educational systems; like critical thinking, collaborative and problem-solving skills.

LKI Take: Sri Lankan men and women spend 25 and 35 years, respectively, of their lives in retirement; far above the OECD average of 19.7 years and even of non-OECD countries in Asia. To harness its ‘silver dividend’ Sri Lanka could (i) increase its retirement ages, (ii) introduce flexible working hours, and (iii) legislate against age discrimination in employment.



Economic and Social Rights Must Be Addressed to Stop Violent Conflict and Sustain Peace, The Conversation, by Amanda Cahill-Ripley, Lancaster University

“There is a key element missing from the UN’s peacebuilding plans: the role of economic, social and cultural human rights.”

  • Amanda Cahill-Ripley notes that global conflict is increasing after a period of relative decline, and argues that the UN and its member states must re-prioritise economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) to address this rise.
  • The denial of ESCR (like the right to housing, food and health) is a recognised cause of conflict; and states should therefore closely monitor the provision of ESCR as part of an ‘early warning system’ for conflict.
  • The existing UN human rights treaty bodies could help to identify grievances relating to ESCR before violence erupts and recommend mediation when tensions are high.

LKI Take: Sri Lanka should build on civil society efforts towards an ‘early warning system’ for conflict which would include monitoring deficits in rights, including ESCR, and other risk factors. Given continued outbreaks of communal violence, such an initiative remains a relevant need and in line with international best practice.

*Written by Malinda Meegoda and Barana Waidyatilake and edited by Anishka De Zylva. The opinions expressed in these Weekly Insights 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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