While some may think Sri Lanka’s cricket team did well in the recent Champion’s Trophy, myself included, vigorous debates have been going on, on TV and social media and even here in our office, which clearly suggest that not everyone agrees on their performance.
Despite these differences in perspective, I witnessed the excitement of many of my colleagues and friends from different parts of the world as they cheered, supported the opposing teams, analysed the games and mulled the behind the scenes politics that affect the game and also passed judgements on the winners and losers.
The key point here is that for Sri Lanka to be in the top eight internationally, they had to play with other countries. This analogy fits well with how economies grow and are recognized; so hold on to this thought.
Reading through the many articles in the news, be they paper, Internet or just exchanges between citizens on social media, one thing is clear, there is no one unified view on how Sri Lanka is growing. While developed countries would salivate at a growth rate of 4.4 percent, in Sri Lanka, it is considered below potential. Some even question if it’s growing! The result is a confusing landscape on an important issue that touches everyone in some way.
Twice a year, the World Bank adds data and analyses to the many out there. We try to answer questions such as: what is Sri Lanka’s actual growth? Which parts of the economy have grown and which have not? If the country is to accelerate growth, what needs to be done? What can its people do to help?
We know from cricket that the players can be excellent but if no-one cheers for them, they lose interest and cannot be successful. Eventually the game loses its lustre and the competitive edge of the country’s ranking also slips. Both sides need to understand what needs to be achieved, how, by whom and when the team doesn’t quite deliver in a match, what part of the game should they change. This is what has made Sri Lanka a cricket powerhouse.
Based on our findings, Sri Lanka has been growing but the pace could be faster. Not everyone has benefitted from growth. While adverse weather has curbed growth, many opportunities to grow remain. To be internationally renowned, you need to play on an international platform. Sri Lanka will need to become competitive beyond its borders and improve its trade potential.
It needs to invest in skills development. Imagine if cricket teams didn’t practice and simply turned up on game day or the teams couldn’t innovate and played the same game every time. I doubt success would be the result. Sri Lanka has demonstrated it can do all these needed reforms and be world players. Tea and tourism come to mind, and GSP Plus will no doubt add more opportunities for exporters. Once the doors open, many Sri Lankans will benefit.
Our Sri Lanka Development Update will be launched in the next few days. I hope it will be insightful but more importantly will, using data and analyses add to the conclusion that Sri Lanka is growing – but it can grow a whole lot more.
By the way, I still believe that for a country the size of Sri Lanka to remain this highly visible on the international stage for cricket, it is in itself an achievement. And the occasional weak play should serve only to make the team more determined!
Tell us what you think.
(Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough is the World Bank Country Director, Sri Lanka and the Maldives)