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Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja, Executive Director of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI), was invited to speak on ‘Economic Reforms in Sri Lanka: Then and Now,’ on 25 February 2019 at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
The talk was an update of Dr. Wignaraja’s book, ‘Trade Liberalization in Sri Lanka: Exports, Technology, and Industrial Policy,’ which was on economic reforms in Sri Lanka, published internationally 20 years ago. The presentation focused on issues such as the export diversification, the shift towards Asian markets, foreign direct investment inflows, the debt crisis, the recently upgraded monetary policy and labour scarcity.
He concluded his presentation with seven key questions for policymakers:
- How does political uncertainty affect private investment and growth?
- Do high debt service payments mean fiscal austerity?
- How can lagging productivity be improved?
- How might the digital economy take root?
- Is rising inequality temporary or permanent?
- How can the cost of living be reduced and development be spread outside Colombo?
- What economic reforms are necessary?
He noted that developed countries like Korea and Singapore have forged a national policy consensus for their economic development by answering these questions. Dr. Wignaraja highlighted that Sri Lanka could follow suit, with economists playing an important role in educating the public of these issues.
The wide-ranging discussion brought together a diverse audience of reputed academic experts and senior officials from the Central Bank and other Ministries.