Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2009

The Theme: “Dawning of a new Era … Opportunities and Challenges”
The When: 30th June to 2nd July
The Where: Oak Room, Cinnamon Grand Hotel
To quote the official release by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, which is organizing it;
“The war has hampered the country on many fronts for decades and much of the economic and human resources of the country have been wasted on the war. This has, over the years, pushed one of the most promising nations in the world to an abyss of despair and gloom. Although under- investment in education, infrastructure and health has held back progress of the country, the ending of such a dismal era would naturally invigorate the spirits of its people.”
Factors arising from the recession in the global economy such as declines noted in global trade as more protectionist measureas are adopted by countries, the slowdown of developed economies and a credit sqeeze leading to reduced foreign borrowings and reserves are stated as posing challenges from the international arena.
I think that the end of the war, if taken advantage of, can create a mini economic boom in Sri Lanka that could allow us to ride out some of the bumpier repercussions of the global crisis such as reduction in export revenue, foreign inflows of currency and remittances. Also, the emergence of market confidence and animal spirits will help drive productivity and growth and attract investment, at least thats a viable hope.

But there needs to be a concentrated effort from the business community together with the government to enable this to happen. Innovative policy instruments should be put in place and removals of bariers like red tape, corruption and non tariff barriers should be ensured. Also collective development of various sectors is needed to enable complementary growth.

As per the official release, the Summit

“..will discuss important matters on topics relating to the economy, banking & financial sector, agriculture, dairy, fisheries & tourism, employment, need for English and ICT as business languages and the importance of governance & accountability, both in the private and public sector“.

…pay special emphasis to key challenges confronting the country, which includes post war reconstruction and resettlement, developing the northern and eastern regions, promoting balanced growth and macroeconomic management.

…will explore how challenges could be converted into opportunities and opportunities turned into time-bound action plans. The challenges and opportunities, both external and internal, would require cohesive effort from all stakeholders and the program for the summit has been designed to generate fresh ideas, a consensus view and a clear vision for the development of Sri Lanka.”

It costs roughly Rs14,000 for individual participation and they do not provide free passes for students, i checked. So unless someone is willing to generously sponsor me, live updates and blog posts on the outcomes of the summit seems somewhat of a hazy reality. Also, if you’re foreign, It costs you $200 which at today’s rate comes to roughly 23k and i think that is without taxes.

Im not sure if there is any mechanism in place for the conclusions and ideas ensuing to be released to the public. Ideally they should have organized some sort of a live feed like a twitter/blogging platform and enabled recordings on YouTube etc. The Chamber of Commerce needs to get with the times.

The list of panelists include individuals from the government, international and regional financial/ research sector, local business leaders etc and looks promising. Hopefully, findings and conclusions made will have a concrete nature and would not be afraid to suggest radical change.

Also, the areas of concern seem to be largely related to the immediate future. But thats alright. Hopefully, this will help shape the government’s future policy framework for the economy when they get down to it. What I’d really like to see is some serious governmental communications as to what their long term vision for the economy is. Flowery talk and metaphorical allusions to Singapore/Hong Kong etc notwithstanding.


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