Sri Lanka’s plan for economic development, VISION 2025, didn’t even survive the summer of 2022:
Our economic policy, Vision 2025, is firmly embedded in several principles, including a social market economy that delivers economic dividends to all. In the first place we need to ensure we have a skill pool that matches the job market’s demands. Sri Lanka’s education system is being transformed through progressive and important policy reform: the minimum length of schooling has been increased to 13 years, while better education is being brought to rural areas through the Nearest School Is the Best School programme, and Sri Lanka is investing in more teachers and better training. Also, opportunities for vocational training in selected areas during school education will be introduced. Further, we have taken action to empower new and innovative ideas by strengthening the intellectual property regime in Sri Lanka. The plan for an “Empowered Sri Lanka” identifies the priorities of raising incomes, ensuring employment and housing for all, and improving the quality of life for all citizens.
The plan is delivering impressive results. The current government has created over 460,000 jobs and helped more than 260,000 families secure a home. Strong progress is being made on plans to bring opportunities to rural communities by building necessary infrastructure such as roads and bridges, connecting rural and urban areas and linking Sri Lanka’s economic hubs. A programme, Enterprise Sri Lanka, has been launched to encourage young and educated entrepreneurs, who will receive loans to start SMEs. The government has also invested in some mega projects, including the Colombo Megapolis constructions – to build a city of the future – and irrigation projects including the Moragahakanda-Kaluganga Dam, to generate green energy and provide water resources for agro-production.
For the first time, Sri Lanka has now been linked to the large ASEAN region by entering into the free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore. To have struck its first comprehensive trade agreement (including not only goods but services and investment) with a country like Singapore, regarded as one of the most open economies, with high-quality institutions, is an important milestone for Sri Lanka, and a major achievement for the current government. The Singapore FTA is a strong step towards closer integration with ASEAN, and in fact was signed in the same month that Singapore took over the chairmanship of ASEAN for the year 2018. It signals to ASEAN that Sri Lanka is interested in the region, and signals to the world that it is serious about reform.
It only took FOUR YEARS for Sri Lanka’s embrace of free trade to lead to massive riots and politicians being forced to flee the country. This should cause even the most intrepid supporter of the Comparative Advantage concept to consider the possibility that Ricardo is indeed Retardo.