Ex­ports, govt.’s top pri­or­ity, says Ma­lik

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - LATE CITY -

The gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day em­pha­sized on the im­por­tance of Sri Lanka get­ting its ex­port equa­tion right in the short to medium term so that the coun­try can reap the ben­e­fits of a sta­bi­lized econ­omy, de­spite some lead­ing global econ­o­mists in­creas­ingly cast doubts over the abil­ity ex­ports has to drive sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth.

With Sri Lanka cur­rently be­ing on a path to­wards eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, in which the re­vival of the lag­ging ex­port sec­tor is an in­te­gral part, De­vel­op­ment Strate­gies and In­ter­na­tional Trade Min­is­ter Ma­lik Sa­ma­rawick­rama said it is cru­cial to reach the US$ 20 bil­lion ex­port goal by 2020 to “en­rich our coun­try and our peo­ple”.

Ad­dress­ing a fully packed au­di­ence at the Pres­i­den­tial Ex­ports Awards yes­ter­day in Colombo, the min­is­ter said that boost­ing the ex­port per­for­mance of the coun­try is of para­mount im­por­tance to the gov­ern­ment.

“From time to time, var­i­ous gov­ern­ments have given at­ten­tion to ex­port de­vel­op­ment in vary­ing de­grees. But let me be clear, ex­port de­vel­op­ment is a top pri­or­ity of this gov­ern­ment,” he said at the event that was graced by Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing Sri Lanka’s slump­ing ex­ports, where the con­tri­bu­tion as a per­cent­age of GDP dropped from 33 per­cent in 2000 to 12.7 per­cent in 2016, it was pointed out that the coun­try by no means can af­ford for the trend to con­tinue as the scope within the do­mes­tic mar­ket is lim­ited.

A par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge faced by the coun­try, Sa­ma­rawick­rama noted, is that the ex­port bas­ket is heav­ily con­cen­trated on a few mar­kets and a few prod­ucts. A re­cent study has shown that 44 per­cent of Sri Lanka’s ex­ports are con­cen­trated in just three mar­kets, USA, UK and In­dia.

So far, Sri Lanka has seen lim­ited suc­cess in ex­port­ing to key Asian mar­kets such as Ja­pan, China, South Korea, and Hong Kong, which are among the top ten mar­kets for ex­ports in the world, ac­count­ing for 20 per­cent of the global ex­port mar­ket. How­ever, the four coun­tries ac­counted for only 6 per­cent of Sri Lanka’s ex­ports.

“It is high time we made stronger in­roads in Asian mar­kets,” he as­serted.

The min­is­ter as­sured that ac­tive ef­forts are be­ing taken to tackle ex­ist­ing chal­lenges, in a proac­tive and sys­tem­atic man­ner. One of the main ini­tia­tives was pointed out as the Na­tional Ex­port Strat­egy, driven by the Ex­port De­vel­op­ment Board with tech­ni­cal sup­port from the In­ter­na­tional Trade Cen­tre.

Ac­cord­ing to Sa­ma­rawick­rama, the ini­tia­tive is “prob­a­bly the most am­bi­tious and sys­tem­atic ex­port de­vel­op­ment drive” the coun­try has un­der­taken in many decades.

Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena ar­rives at the event, flanked by De­vel­op­ment Strate­gies and In­ter­na­tional Trade Min­is­ter Ma­lik Sa­ma­rawick­rama (left) and Fish­eries and Aquatic Re­sources Min­is­ter Mahinda Amaraweera

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