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The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade (MODSIT) and the World Bank launched a joint programme of technical assistance and advisory services to the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to enhance the competitiveness of the private sector and unleash the potential of Sri Lankan exports.

The World Bank in a statement released on Friday (24) said the programme was aimed at addressing the most significant obstacles to the creation of new private enterprises and the growth of existing ones; the attraction of efficiency-seeking foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country; and the growth of higher added-value exports.

“Ultimately, the programme responds to the vision of the GoSL to facilitate the transformation of the economy through exports and private sector growth. In turn, thriving and competitive private enterprises are expected to be the source of new jobs,” the statement said.

According to the World Bank, under this collaboration, the Government of Australia has made available 6 million Australian Dollars that will enable the provision of technical assistance by the World Bank to MODSIT and other public sector stakeholders on several areas including improvement of the investment climate; enhancement of the ability to attract FDI; elimination of policy and regulatory barriers to trade; development of export-oriented Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and high-growth start-ups; and sustainable and inclusive growth of the Tourism sector.  In particular, through this programme the most significant regulatory, procedural and institutional obstacles will be identified and the relevant authorities will receive assistance to implement necessary reforms.

Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrema said that there was a strong commitment from the Government to facilitate the transformation of the economic model from inward oriented and government driven to an export-oriented and private sector led one
“Sri Lanka aspires to become a higher middle income country. In pursuit of this aspiration there is a strong commitment from the Government to facilitate the transformation of the economic model from inward-oriented and government driven to an export-oriented and private sector led one” said. “The Honourable Prime Minister has set the challenge for us to become one of the top 70 countries in terms of ease of doing business and this programme will help us to achieve that and other important reforms.”

Meanwhile, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Bryce Hutchesson said Sri Lanka deserves credit for sustaining strong economic growth over the last five years and for impressive education and health standards.

“Australia has long stood by Sri Lanka as a close friend. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Since independence, we have worked to support Sri Lanka’s economic development: from education to health to infrastructure, among many other areas”, he said.

“To help ensure the sustainability and equitable spread of this growth, we are shifting the focus of our development partnership to support Sri Lanka’s economic performance through this collaboration with the World Bank Group.”

County Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives at the World Bank, Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough meanwhile commended the Government for articulating a development vision for the country that aimed to create one million additional jobs and achieve upper middle income status.

“The Government’s vision considers the rebalancing of the economy, where the private sector is enabled to take a leading role through the elimination of legal, regulatory and institutional obstacles. This is a major undertaking but one that no doubt can be a source of better opportunities for the population, and the basis for sustainable and shared prosperity for the next generations,” he said

The World Bank portfolio in Sri Lanka comprises of 16 operations [of which 14 are financed by International Development Association (IDA), and two financed through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)] with a total net commitment of approximately $2 billion.  Urban operations account for 21 percent of the overall portfolio, followed by water (16 percent) and resilience to climate and disaster risk (13 percent).  The education (13 percent) and health (10 percent) sectors also continue to be core sectors for Bank support. Trust funds have continued to play an important role in implementing the World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Framework (CPF) in Sri Lanka, supporting both analytical work and technical assistance, as well as providing stand-alone or co-financing for projects. The portfolio currently comprises 5 recipient-executed trust funds of a total net commitment value of $65.5 million.