- Urges NES to be used as springboard to guide export growth and recovery in post COVID-19 context
- Says New demand for products an “unraveling” silver lining
- Stresses SL should exploit opportunity as global MNCs re-asses supply chain
- Ready to work with public-private partners to anchor export revitalization
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
As Sri Lanka needs to urgently look at realigning its international trade efforts to become a strong contender in the post COVID-19 global market, Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) urged policymakers to step-up in creating a conducive environment by focusing on the National Export Strategy (NES) so that the much needed diversification of export basket and markets can be achieved.
According to the SLEDB, despite the prevailing crisis where trade dependent economies such as Sri Lanka with weak external financial reserves are being badly affected, an “unraveling silver lining” is the demand for new products due to changes in consumption patterns.
“While it is imperative that Sri Lanka increases exports of existing products, the country should also seize the opportunity to diversify,” the SLEDB said in a statement yesterday.
The SLEDB acknowledged that although the government has established proactive fiscal measures, the export community has reignited the discussion on diversification, which is also a point of focus on the National Export Strategy (NES).
It asserted that in this time of global crisis, imperative is for the NES to be utilized as a springboard by policymakers and industry partners to guide export growth and recovery in a post COVID-19 context.
Limited export diversification, accompanied by an over-reliance on buyers from developed countries; predominantly the US and EU, was highlighted as a long-standing structural constraint of the county, and to break the cycle the SLEBD stressed on the need for increased focus on diversification.
“...needed is an active effort to diversify the export basket and to penetrate into new markets, through higher value-added tradable products and services. The NES has been realigning the export strategy in the direction Sri Lanka needs to go,” the SLEDB said, pointing out that NES emphasises on six sectors, which are; processed food & beverages, wellness tourism, spices & concentrates, boat building, electronic and electrical components, and IT-BPM.
Calling the NES “a living document and process that is simultaneously responding to the COVID pandemic effects while building future resilience”, the state agency highlighted that the interventions in the national strategy were designed through public-private dialogues to address supply and demand-side bottlenecks. The National Quality Infrastructure (NQI), an essential supply-side intervention against the COVID-19 setting, was listed as an example.
The SLEDB also stated that along with the Advisory Committees (AC), it stands ready and active to steer the NES implementation to success.
“These committees bridge an essential connection between the government and the industry. The ACs are a formal engine facilitating public-private dialogue to strategize and monitor industry development, while guiding trade policymakers to implement initiatives that in-return will enhance industry competitiveness and growth,” the SLEDB said.
It added that going forward in a COVID world, the ACs will play a proactive role in setting realistic yet ambitious export goals and targets and rolled out are action plans that strengthen the country’s competitive position and capacity to meet post COVID-19 market requirements.
Meanwhile, as global MNCs are actively reassessing their supply chains and are looking to diversify regionally, the SLEDB suggested that this opportunity should be exploited as a positive windfall for Sri Lanka.
“The BOI (Board of Investment) and the EDB, jointly with the ACs are now presented with an opportunity to proactively collaborate on upcoming investment promotion campaigns to fast track growth of export-oriented industries.
“This collaboration is already ongoing with the Multinational Corporate Outreach Programme for the electronics and electrical sector,” the SLEDB shared.
The programme implemented jointly between EDB and BOI aims to engage global MNCs through G2G or G2B programmes, so that Sri Lankan electronic and electrical companies can play a greater role in the global electronic value chains.
The SLEDB assured that as normalcy returns, it will work closely with its public-private partners to anchor export revitalization at the center of economic recovery and resilience.
“With the newly appointed Presidential Task Force for Economic Revival and Poverty Eradication in motion, it’s vital that all export revival measures – including the NES - are synergized among all stakeholders,” it said.