From left: EDB Chairman and Chief Executive Indira Malawatte, Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrema and his Deputy Nalin Bandara
Pic by Pradeep Pathirana
- Export income in 2018 estimated at US $ 17bn, below targeted US $ 17.4bn
- Malik blames political turmoil for failing to achieve target
- But says performance still noteworthy as export income grew 27% since 2015
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The Export Development Board (EDB) has set an ambitious target of fetching US$ 20 billion through merchandise and services exports in 2019, a goal that has been set following the export revenue moving towards a positive growth trajectory in the last couple of years.
The set target is expected to be achieved with the EDB shifting its focus towards greater product and market diversification for which comprehensive plans have been laid out in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
With the target of achieving US$ 17.4 billion export revenue for the year 2018 likely to fall short by about US$ 430 million, the authorities are upbeat on Sri Lanka picking up pace and realizing export incomes for 2019 as expected.
Data released by the Sri Lanka Customs showed that export income reached US$ 14.7 billion during January – November 2018 period, and estimates based on past values of exports published by the Central Bank, the EDB forecasts 2018 to end with an export income of about US$ 17 billion.According to Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrema, Sri Lanka could have achieved its 2018 target if not for the political turmoil the country witnessed during the latter part of the year, which negatively impacted international trade and the overall economy.
“Our target for 2018 was US $ 17.4 billion– that is merchandise and services exports. I think we will end up with around US $ 17 billion, and if not for the political crisis we would have ended the year higher,” Samarawickrama stressed.
“Still, this performance is noteworthy considering our exports were at just US $ 13.4 million in 2015 and has grown 27 percent since. The target for this year 2019 is US $ 20 billion in merchandise and services exports, and we are confident that this can be achieved,” he added.
While apparel, tea, and ICT/BPM are expected to continue their contribution to a greater proportion of the export revenue, areas of new focus include organic agriculture, automobile components, boat building, light engineering and wellness tourism.
Year 2019 will also see an increased focus on pushing value-added Sri Lankan coffee to the international market, as plans are conceptualized to facilitate an integrated product and market development programme for producers and processors of the same.
As the EDB together with the Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry has planned out a series of initiatives, which include Enterprise Innovation, a part of the ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategy 2018-2022’, the government is confident such “transformational initiatives will change the export landscape of the country.”
“We have not had this kind of systematic and well thought out set of initiatives to support our Sri Lankan entrepreneurs for a long time. And as I have said before, these initiatives don’t put concrete on the ground and don’t look like flashy projects – but rather are the real nuts and bolts of what it takes to create sustainable high-income earning jobs in the export sector,” professed Samarawickrama.
Meanwhile, he pointed out that it is necessary for the country to do away with its inward looking mentality and protectionist policies, as such tends to stand as barriers for economic growth and prosperity.