Governor Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Dr. Coomaraswamy, distinguished guests of 23 Central Banks from around the world and colleagues. It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you to this beautiful island of Sri Lanka. First, I must thank Dr. Coomaraswamy for hosting this workshop in this state of the art conference facility; and of course for his excellent hospitality which you will all benefit from.
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka and the World Bank relations go back many decades. Seven years ago we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Central Bank with a visit of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Managing Director of the World Bank.
She delivered her speech in December 2010 from the same venue named after the founder of this institution, John Exeter, the first Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. This was the time Sri Lanka graduated from Low Income to Lower Middle Income Country status.
Today, Sri Lanka, with its population of 21.0 million people and a GDP per capita of close to USD 4,000 in 2016, it is closer to a higher middle income country status. Following 30 years of civil war that ended in 2009, Sri Lanka’s economy grew at an average 6.4 percent during 2010-2015, reflecting a peace dividend and a determined policy thrust towards reconstruction and growth. Sri Lanka’s economy is also transitioning from a previously predominantly rural-based economy towards a more urbanized economy oriented around manufacturing and services. The Government envisions promoting a globally competitive, export-led economy with an emphasis on inclusion.
Sri Lanka has also made significant progress in its socio-economic development. High growth has translated into shared prosperity with national poverty headcount ratio declining from 15.3 percent in 2006/07 to 6.7 percent in 2012/13. Extreme poverty is now rare; however, there remains a share of the population that subsists on little more than the extreme poverty line. The country has comfortably surpassed most of the MDG targets, and it was ranked 73rd in the Human Development Index in 2015. Sri Lanka’s determination remains high and it recently declared 2017 as a year to end extreme poverty and promote prosperity among all groups of its people.
The World Bank and other development partners are committed to supporting this reform trajectory. An example of such support by the World Bank is through the Reserves Advisory and Management Program run out of the World Bank Treasury. The Program is often referred to as RAMP. It helps sovereign asset managers such as central banks, sovereign wealth funds and national pension funds upgrade their asset management capabilities, operational infrastructure, and human resources capacity. A RAMP member receives asset management services with an embedded training and capacity building program.
RAMP currently has 67 institutions in the capacity building program. More than 50 of these institutions are central banks. RAMP has been in existence since 2001 through explicit Board authorization for its activities. RAMP is currently training more than 900 staff annually through its workshop program. A majority of these staff are from central banks around the world.
But before I wrap up I want to refer back to the three principles that Dr. Coomaraswamy laid out in his inaugural speech in July 2016 - integrity, technical excellence and professionalism. As you share your lessons and knowledge I have no doubt that these three critical principles will be overriding.
Let me end by thanking the team that meticulously planned this event; and of course without the Governor this would not be possible. So thank you Dr Coomaraswamy and all those who have participated to make the event a memorable one.
And to all the participants, I wish you all an insightful and enjoyable week of learning, interacting and knowledge sharing. For those who have travelled to Sri Lanka, I hope you get a chance to experience the beauty of this country.