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Speeches & Transcripts April 28, 2021

Opening Remarks at the launch of the Sri Lanka Development Update – April 2021

Members of the Panel, esteemed guests and colleagues, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you this morning and thank you for joining us to get an update on Sri Lanka’s economy and its outlook. It comes at an important juncture as Sri Lanka strives to build back better from this devastating pandemic.

We just launched the annual Sri Lanka Development Update. It is a World Bank publication that provides insights into the current state of the economy and discusses medium to long term implications. The reports also provide a more in-depth examination of selected economic and policy issues.

The current report provides an update on Sri Lanka’s economy and outlook, highlighting the devastating impact of the pandemic. But it also notes that Sri Lanka’s economy is expected to recover in 2021, mainly due to foreign investments and normalizing tourism. On the other hand, the slow global recovery, economic scarring from the slowdown, and the high debt burden may continue to weigh on the outlook.

The report notes that through an enhanced focus on an export-oriented growth model that taps the full potential of private investment, Sri Lanka could increase its competitiveness and raise growth in a sustainable manner.

The Special Focus section of this edition discusses the impact of COVID-19 on poverty. The economic contraction in the wake of COVID-19 has reversed past progress, at least temporarily. Poverty has risen since the onset of the pandemic mostly due to widespread job and earning losses. The report looks at how Sri Lanka could protect livelihoods amid the current pandemic and prepare for any future crises.

The report is intended to inform a wide audience, including policymakers, business leaders, financial market participants, and the community of analysts and professionals interested in Sri Lanka’s economic progress. In this spirit, we have invited a distinguished panel of thinkers and practitioners who will help us dive deeper into thinking about how Sri Lanka can build back better. I am confident that we will have a fruitful discussion. Please feel free to send in your questions and comments in the chat box.

I now pass on the virtual floor to my colleague Robert Beyer, Senior Economist at the World Bank to present the latest Sri Lanka Development Update.