While Sri Lanka has been successful in establishing and growing its apparel manufacturing industry, more can be done to realize its potential as a regional hub and to continue to boost opportunities, especially for women and the poor, said a new World Bank report released last week.

The report, Stitches to Riches: Apparel Employment, Trade and Economic Development, launched in Colombo was aimed at demystifying the global, South Asian, and Sri Lankan apparel markets, estimating the potential gains in exports and jobs (including for women), and identifying policies that can unleash Sri Lanka’s export and jobs potential compared with those of their closest competitors in the Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

The report said that Sri Lanka’s apparel sector, accounting for $4.4 billion of its exports, outperforms other South Asian countries in terms of quality, lead time, reliability, along with social compliance and sustainability.

As China gradually scales back its apparel manufacturing, Sri Lanka stands to gain market share, but currently not as quickly as some Southeast Asian countries. Comparisons reveal that its apparel prices are higher than competitors, but Sri Lanka produces more sophisticated products, though there is room for improvement on lead times and product range and availability.

“Competition is increasing in the global apparels market with buyers moving towards greater consolidation in sourcing decisions and the impending approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Gladys Lopez-Acevedo, report co-author and a Lead Economist for the World Bank.

“Sri Lanka should seize this opportunity and implement policies to become a regional leader in creating good jobs, bringing more women into the work force and diversifying its products and end markets to increase skills and value.”