Sri Lanka unveils 5-year National Export Strategy

20 July 2018 10:18 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama (left) and ITC Executive Director Arancha González (right) presenting the five- year National Export Strategy (NES) blueprint that aims to achieve US$28 billion export target by 2022, to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the presence of EDB Chairperson and CEO Indira Malwatte (extreme left) and the Charge d’ affaires of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Paul Godfrey (extreme right).
Pic by Pradeep Dilrukshana 

 

Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama (left) and ITC Executive Director Arancha González (right) presenting the five- year National Export Strategy (NES) blueprint that aims to achieve US$28 billion export target by 2022, to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the presence of EDB Chairperson and CEO Indira Malwatte (extreme left) and the Charge d’ affaires of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Paul Godfrey (extreme right).
Pic by Pradeep Dilrukshana 

 

  • Aims to achieve US$ 28bn from exports by 2022
  • PM says NES will create new employment, boost income
  • Trade adjustment policy to assist local enterprises 
  • New laws to set up single window for investors


By Nishel Fernando 

Sri Lanka yesterday unveiled the five-year National Export Strategy (NES), a blueprint for achieving US $28 billion in exports by 2022, aiming to facilitate a sustainable transition to a higher middle-income country. 


The NES is centred on achieving four strategy objectives providing a clear road map for the export community concerning the interventions required to transform the Sri Lankan export sector. Sri Lanka is expected to invest over US $138 million in implementing the strategy. 


The four strategies are: creating a business enabling, predictable and transparent policy and regulatory framework that supports exports, strengthening Sri Lankan exporters’ market-entry and compliance capacities, becoming an efficient trade and logistics hub to facilitate exports and driving export diversification through innovation and strengthening of emerging sectors.


Addressing the NES launch at a ceremony held at Temple Trees, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe averred that NES is not only a strategy to boost exports, but it is also strategy to create new employment while enhancing income levels of Sri Lankans. “These are the policies, we are following to ensure that people in the country have better incomes, better jobs, better housing, better education and better healthcare,” he said.


Wickremesinghe stressed that NES is an important element to achieve these policies of the government by increasing the foreign exchange revenue of the country.  

“This is the only way, unless you have money. You can’t have money, unless you earn your foreign income,” he added.


The Prime Minister said the government plans to hold meetings with exporters every six months to discuss the progress of NES implementation.


He also revealed that the government is exploring introducing new laws to set up a single window for investors.


“We are now looking at legislature which will cover the single window for investors. The legislature is there in Bangladesh, Kenya and South Africa. It’s the time we brought in this legislature.” 


Wickremesinghe said the government is in the process of establishing a development bank as proposed in the 2018 budget proposals and assured that Rs 10 billion credit will be made available for the private sector.


At an earlier occasion, he said that the allocation of Rs.10 billion is specially targeted at large-scale companies, which are planning to expand their businesses overseas and improve competitiveness.


Addressing the occasion, the Charge d’ affaires of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Paul Godfrey, highlighted that NES would be a good platform for Sri Lanka to enhance its exports to the European Union, which accounts for 27 percent of Sri Lanka’s export basket.


Godfrey said, however, Sri Lanka should make more efforts to eradicate corruption and to reduce government red tape, which has become an obstacle for advancing the business confidence in Sri Lanka. 


Meanwhile, the Prime Minister also stressed that as Sri Lanka pursues FTAs with China and deepening the current FTA with India while exploring FTAs with Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, the government is committed to assist vulnerable local enterprises to become more competitive through a trade adjustment package. 
“We won’t let any of domestic enterprises to be adversely affected. We are, for the first time now bringing in trade adjustment policy; even tax incentives will be available for domestic industries to become more competitive,” he said. 


Wickremesinghe insisted that the private sector needs to learn to conduct its operations in the most competitive environment marked by the rapid advancement in science and technology that now underpins industry and commerce. 


“We have to go up the value chain. We have to exploit it. That’s what this government has started to do from the time President Maithripala Sirisena took over and formed a new government,” he stressed. 


Wickremesinghe asserted that the successive governments have neglected the export sector hiding behind the war since mid 1990’s, while pointing out that the former presidents R. Premadasa and J.R. Jayewardene were able to place Sri Lanka at a higher place in apparel sector value chains while also expanding the rubber-based export industry. 


However, he noted that Sri Lanka’s export sector came to a standstill following the end of President R. Premadasa’s government. 


“We have given excuses on non-performance, but we haven’t looked at why we didn’t perform; why we haven’t given our people better income as a high middle-income country; why we haven’t given our people more employment; why did they have to go to Saudi Arabia, Jordan etc.” 


Meanwhile, NES focuses on four crosscutting areas, which impact all exporting enterprises, namely the improvement of island-wide logistics services, national quality infrastructure, innovation and entrepreneurship and access to trade information and promotion services.


The strategy identified six sectors to ensure more value addition and facilitate greater access to regional and global markets. They are: information technology and business process management (IT-BPM); spices and concentrates, wellness tourism, processed food and beverages, boat building and electronics and electrical components.


The NES design and management process was led by the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade (MoDSIT) and Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB). Technical support was been provided by the International Trade Centre (ITC) within the framework of the EU-Sri Lanka Trade Related Assistance Project funded by the European Union. 


The National Quality Infrastructure Strategy was designed as part of the project in close partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

 


Exporters shouldn’t fear competition 

Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama asserted that Sri Lanka’s exporters should not be afraid of competition pointing out that some of Sri Lankan industries already have excelled in the global arena. 


“Look at some of the exporters we have today – our medical gloves are used by the world’s best surgeons, our electronic sensors are used in the world’s top car brands, our apparels are worn by the world’s top athletes, and our IT software is used by world’s leading stock exchanges.


Anyone who says we should be careful before opening up because we might not be able to compete, is doing Sri Lanka a huge injustice. Why should we be scared of competing with the world?” the minister questioned. 


Samarawickrama expressed his confidence on achieving US$ 17.2 billion from exports and US$2.5 billion worth of FDI inflows to the country this year.


Despite the country achieving its highest ever export figure of US $15.15 billion last year with US$1.9 billion in FDIs, Samarawickrama noted that these are extremely low figures in comparison with some of the other Asian countries. 

“For example, annual exports in Singapore are US$480 billion, in Taiwan it is US $340 billion, in Thailand it is US$254 billion. Even Bangladesh, a country that was a much later entrant to the international trade game, is now at US$41 billion,” he pointed out.


He noted that a similar pattern also could be observed in terms of FDI inflows.


“What is very clear is that Sri Lanka has a long way to go, and if we concentrate only on our market of 21 million people we will never be able to achieve the rapid development that we need. Our only choice is to integrate with the world markets, and exports are a key pathway for that.” 


Samarawickrama assured that every export sector will benefit from the implementation of NES, particularly from the four trade support functions.


“These are aimed at supporting all sectors, all size of firms and even those who aren’t yet exporters, but are aspiring to be. National quality infrastructure, trade information and promotion, logistics and innovation – these are aimed at helping all sectors and that is why they are included in the strategy,” he stressed. 

 

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