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Public Sector and Governance

Six reasons why Sri Lanka needs to boost its ailing private sector

Tatiana Nenova's picture
 Joe Qian / World Bank
A view of the business district in Colombo. Credit: Joe Qian / World Bank

Sri Lanka experienced strong growth at the end of its 26-year conflict. This was to be expected as post-war reconstruction tends to bring new hope and energy to a country.
 
And Sri Lanka has done well—5 percent growth is nothing to scoff at.  
 
However, Sri Lanka needs to create an environment that fosters private-sector growth and creates more and better jobs. To that end, the country should address these 6 pressing challenges:

1. The easy economic wins are almost exhausted

For a long time, the public-sector has been pouring funds into everything from infrastructure to healthcare. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka’s public sector is facing serious budget constraints. The island’s tax to growth domestic product (GDP) ratio is one of the lowest in the world, falling from 24.2% in 1978 to 10.1% in 2014. Sri Lanka should look for more sustainable sources of growth. As in many other countries, the answer lies with the private sector.
 
2. Sri Lanka has isolated itself from global and regional value chains 

Over the past decades, Sri Lanka has lost its trade competitiveness. As illustrated in the graph below, Sri Lanka outperformed Vietnam in the early 1990s on how much of its trade contributed to its growth domestic product. Vietnam has now overtaken Sri Lanka where trade has been harmed by high tariffs and para-tariffs and trade interventions on agriculture.


Sri Lanka dropped down by 14 notches to the 85th position out of 137 in the recent  Global Competitiveness Index.
           
3. The system inhibits private sector growth

Sri Lanka’s private sector is ailing. Sri Lankan companies are entrepreneurial and the country’s young people are smart, inquisitive, and dynamic. Yet, this does not translate into a vibrant private sector. Instead, public enterprises are the ones carrying the whole weight of development in this country.
 
The question is, why is the private sector not shouldering its burden of growth?


From the chart above, you can see how difficult it is to set up and operate a business in Sri Lanka. From paying taxes to enforcing contracts to registering property, entrepreneurs have the deck stacked against them.
 
Trading across borders is particularly challenging for Sri Lankan businesses. Trade facilitation is inadequate to the point of stunting growth and linkages to regional value chains. The chart explains just why Sri Lanka is considered one of the hardest countries in the world to run a trading business. Compare it to Singapore–you could even import a live tiger there without a problem.

Joining forces to maximize resources for Bhutan’s citizens

Savinay Grover's picture
Public financial management signing
The Multi-Donor fund for Bhutan's Public Financial Management was launched September 21st in Thimphu

Several years ago, a newspaper cartoon in a neighboring country caught everyone’s attention when it depicted the government machinery as a big pipe in which lots of water was being poured from one side as taxpayer’s money and only a drop reached the poor on the other end. The water, representing the funds were being lost due to holes in the pipe. The holes were depicted as inefficiency, wastage, corruption etc. Globally, governments lose trillions of dollars due to various inefficiencies, and lack of proper controls and oversight. Citizens suffer as they do not receive the services that they are promised.

Bhutan provides lots of attention to good governance, which is also one of the pillars of Gross National Happiness. Public Financial Management (PFM) is an important element of good governance and delivering high quality of services to citizens as it’s comprised of budgeting, revenue, procurement, accounting and reporting, internal controls and institutional oversight. Sound PFM systems play an important role in strengthening the efficiency, accountability and transparency of the Government systems. Every dollar, every Ngultrum saved through sound PFM systems mean that more resources are available for better schools, hospitals, roads, and other services.

Catalyzing Change: Regional Roundtables on Infrastructure Governance

Olivier Fremond's picture
Also available in: Français


Photo: Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, policy makers focused on improving access to finance, missing the crux of the problem: governance.

In pursuit of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, the Regional Roundtables on Infrastructure Governance* were created to promote a community of practice comprising government officials and the international development community to strengthen capacities within developing countries and establish good practices in infrastructure governance across various government sectors.

The inaugural roundtable, hosted by the Development Bank of Southern Africa, will take place in Cape Town on November 2-3, 2017, and aims to emphasize that for the commercial financing of infrastructure to be a viable option, governance reforms must happen.

Bangladesh corridor vital to India’s ‘Act East’ policy

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
India-Bangladesh land border crossing, Photo by Sanjay Kathuria
India-Bangladesh land border crossing. Credit: Sanjay Kathuria

Deepening connectivity and economic linkages between India and Bangladesh will be critical for the success of India’s ‘Act East’ policy.

Here are five priority areas that have the potential to change the economy of Northeast India:

1. Transport Connectivity

After 1947, Northeast (NE) India has had to access the rest of India largely via the “Chicken’s Neck” near Siliguri, greatly increasing travel times. Traders travel 1600 km from Agartala (Tripura) to Kolkata (West Bengal) via Siliguri to access Kolkata port. Instead, they can travel less than 600 kms to reach the same destination via Bangladesh, or even better, travel only 200 km to access the nearby port of Chittagong in Bangladesh.

This is set to change as close cooperation between Bangladesh and India (including various ongoing initiatives such as the transshipment of Indian goods through Bangladesh’s Ashuganj port to Northeast India, expanding of rail links within Northeast India and between the two countries, the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement) can dramatically reduce the cost of transport between Northeast India and the rest of India.

The resultant decline in prices of goods and services can have a strong impact on consumer welfare and poverty reduction in the Northeast. Such cooperation also opens up several additional possibilities of linking India with ASEAN via Myanmar.

Moving forward, expanding direct connectivity between NE India and the rest of India via Bangladesh, while giving Bangladesh similar access to Nepal and Bhutan via India, is critical.

2. Digital Connectivity

Broadband connectivity of 10 gbps is now being provided from Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar to Tripura and beyond, to help improve the speed and reliability of internet access in NE India. Bangladesh has the capacity to provide more.

PPI Database users leave their mark on the new resources section

Deblina Saha's picture


Photo: yuttana Contributor Studio / Shutterstock.com

Most of us carry out research and report our findings with the expectation—or at least a hope—of an audience.
 
Yet fewer amongst us are familiar with our audience, even though their feedback may help us improve our work.
 
We, the team behind the Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) Database—the most comprehensive database of private investments in infrastructure in the developing world—continue to strengthen the database and our ensuing analyses. Learning more about our audience is an important component of these efforts. 

Afghanistan’s learning crisis: How bad is it really?

Anahita Hosseini Matin's picture
Anahita Matin/ World Bank
Students at the Abdul Hadi Dawi school getting ready for class. Photo Credit: Anahita Matin/ World Bank

At the heart of Kabul City in Makroyan 3, lies the all-boys ‘Abdul Hadi Dawi’ school. Despite having 3,000 students, there are no latrines, only a remote plot of land dotted with containers for the students to use. The school is also located near the Supreme Court, an area with potential security risks.The Abdul Hadi Dawi School encapsulates many of the problems with the education system in Afghanistan.

There is little evidence of high-quality instruction or learning happening in the classroom. And neither were teachers being assessed on their performance nor the quality of their teaching.

Improving learning is a priority for Afghanistan. Therefore, the government of Afghanistan sought our support to document the reality of primary education in Afghanistan and identify bottlenecks in schools that impede the delivery of high-quality education.

Thirty-two schools participated in our pilot study in Kabul city in April 2017. Our findings break new ground and are based on SABER Service Delivery methodology already tested in the Africa region through the Service Delivery Initiative.

Our survey provides indicators necessary to track progress in student learning and inform education policies to provide high-quality learning environments for both students and teachers. The indicators are standardized, allowing comparisons between and within nations over time.

Nigeria: Getting PPPs right

Laurence Carter's picture

The Nigerian government’s Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission has blazed an important trail, publishing details of 51 Federal Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracts—the culmination of a year’s work with the World Bank to ensure that all, non-confidential information is easily accessible to the public. We hope other countries will follow Nigeria’s trend-setting lead.

Nigeria blazes the trail for PPP disclosures with new web portal

Chidi Izuwah's picture

Photo: Cristiano Zingale | Flickr Creative Commons

"The nation has a huge infrastructure deficit for which we require foreign capital and expertise to supplement whatever resources we can marshal at home. In essence, increased engagement with the outside world is called for as we seek public-private partnerships in our quest for enhanced capital and expertise. This is the way of the new world for all countries in the 21st century." – HE President Muhammadu Buhari

Within the first 100 days of his administration, President Muhammadu Buhari signaled his administration’s commitment to attracting the private capital and expertise needed to address Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit. This led to a renewed engagement between the World Bank Group and Nigeria to enhance the attractiveness of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) ecosystem in the country. 

Reforms Sri Lanka needs to boost its economy

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
 Joe Qian/World Bank
The Colombo Stock Exchange. Credit: Joe Qian/World Bank

Many Sri Lankans understand the potential benefits of lowering trade costs and making their country more competitive in the global economy. The majority, however, fear increased competition, the unfair advantage of the private sector from abroad and limited skills and innovation to compete.

Yet, Sri Lanka’s aspirations cannot be realized in the current status quo.  

While changes in trade policies and regulations will undeniably improve the lives of most citizens, I’m mindful that some are likely to lose. However, many potential gainers of the reforms who are currently opposed to them are unaware of their benefits.

Implementing smart reforms means that government funds will be used more effectively for the people, improve access to better healthcare, education, basic infrastructure and provide Sri Lankans with opportunities to get more and better jobs. Let me focus on a few reforms that I believe are critical for the country.  First, Sri Lanka needs to seek growth opportunities and foreign investment beyond its borders.    

First, Sri Lanka needs to seek growth opportunities and foreign investment beyond its borders.

Experience shows that no country in the world today has been able to create opportunities for its population entirely within its own geographic boundaries. To succeed in this open environment, Sri Lanka will need to improve its skills base, better understand supply and demand chains as well as produce higher quality goods and services

Experience shows that no country in the world today has been able to create opportunities for its population entirely within its own geographic boundaries. To succeed in this open environment, Sri Lanka will need to improve its skills base, better understand supply and demand chains as well as produce higher quality goods and services.

Boosting access to market-based debt financing for sub-national entities

Kirti Devi's picture



Many countries are experiencing urbanization within the context of increased decentralization and fiscal adjustment. This puts sub-national entities (local governments, utilities and state-owned enterprises) in the position of being increasingly responsible for developing and financing infrastructure and providing services to meet the needs of growing populations.
 
However, decentralization in many situations is still a work in progress. And often there is a mismatch between the ability of sub-nationals to provide services, and the autonomy or authority necessary to make decisions and access financing—often leaving them dependent on national governments. Additionally, they may also contend with inadequate regulatory and policy frameworks and weak domestic financial and capital markets. 


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