Christmas Eve is a time for good wishes, expectation of gifts and glad tidings. What are the glad tidings, expectations and wishes for the country and the economy this Christmas? In the spirit of Christmas, the most important wish for the country is the strengthening of national unity and the ushering in of ethnic and [...]


Christmas wishes, hopes and expectations for the economy


Christmas Eve is a time for good wishes, expectation of gifts and glad tidings. What are the glad tidings, expectations and wishes for the country and the economy this Christmas?

In the spirit of Christmas, the most important wish for the country is the strengthening of national unity and the ushering in of ethnic and religious harmony so vital for the country’s development. An improvement in weather and climatic conditions, substantial growth in exports, more tourists, and resuscitation of workers’ remittances, higher foreign direct investment and an improvement in the external finances are hopes and wishes on this Christmas eve.

Hopes and wishes
Everyone hopes that after two years of bad weather conditions, next year would be one free of drought, floods and natural disasters. The spurt of export growth this year it is hoped would gain momentum to generate a healthy trade balance and an improvement in the balance of payments in 2018. Higher foreign direct investment, larger tourist earnings and a reversal of the fall in remittances are other economic expectations this Christmas.
A crucial expectation is that the government will be able to implement its economic policies to bring about economic prosperity as envisaged in Vision 2020. A fervent wish is that the weak implementation capacity would be transformed into a more effective one and that the government would have the will, courage and capacity to undertake economic reforms.

National harmony
In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, the foremost hope and expectation is of strengthening national harmony. No other single factor has retarded the Sri Lankan economy more than ethnic violence, language policies, religious strife and inability to forge a national identity.

The Christmas messages of the President, the Prime Minister, Christian and other religious leaders would no doubt be to seize the Christmas message of peace and goodwill among all to strengthen national harmony. No doubt there is sincerity in this hope, yet the political will and courage to take concrete measures to ensure national reconciliation and equality among Sri Lankans are lacking.

Political gain and opportunism has characterised much of post independent politics and made the task of nation building and national harmony a goal still to be achieved. A march towards peace among the various religious and language groups would be a great leap forward for the economy, well-being and prosperity of everyone in the country.

One of the most unfavourable factors in the last two years has been the weather; drought, floods, drought and floods. This has not only caused a fall in agricultural output, especially in rice and food crops, retarded economic growth and increased imports, but also brought about much misery to the rural communities dependent on food crop cultivation and destroyed housing and livelihoods. So let us hope at this Christmas time of festivities and good cheer that the country would experience good weather next year.

Export growth
Since March this year there has been an upsurge in exports. In the first ten months of this year exports have grown by 10.6 percent and is expected to reach US$15 billion for the year. This is a vast improvement in exports from that of the last two years. The expectation is that this export growth would continue. Garments, sea food, rubber and leather manufactures are expected to increase this year owing to the GSP plus restoration in EU countries.

Tea exports that grew significantly in the first nine months of this year were expected to increase next year. Russia imposing an embargo on Sri Lankan tea imports this month is a serious setback, not only for tea exports but the entire economy. Let us hope the difficulties faced in exporting tea to Russia, which is one of the country’s main tea exporting countries accounting for nearly 25 percent of our tea exports, will be resolved soon.

Foreign direct investment (FDI)
Inadequate FDI has been a significant constraint to economic development, ethnic violence, especially the July 1983 disturbances, denied expected inflows of FDI. With peace in 2009, as well as the change of government in 2015, there was much expectation of increased foreign investment of the right types that would spur industrial development and exports. Inability to forge consistent and certain economic policies have deterred such expectation of FDI. This year has seen an increase in FDI that is expected to exceed a billion US dollars. This we hope is a beginning of higher foreign investment trajectory.

Workers’ remittances that have been a real strength to the balance of payments by offsetting around 70 percent of the trade deficit, has declined owing to geopolitical factors and depressed incomes in Middle Eastern countries. We hope this will be reversed. As we have no control over the geopolitical conditions in the Middle East, we can only hope this Christmas eve for peace among the countries in the Middle East and an improvement in incomes that would enhance remittances once again. The increase in oil prices may enhance incomes and increase the demand for workers and improve wages in some countries.

Tourist earnings
Earnings from tourism declined in September and October for reasons that are not very clear. The causes for the setback must be found and remedied. The wish and hope is that tourist earnings would resume its impressive uptrend of recent years.

Undoubtedly, the number of tourists and earnings from tourism will not increase by mere wishful thinking. There are issues in hotel rates and our competitiveness, environmental concerns that make some of the attractive locations less so. High charges to enter religious and archaeological sites, parks and other tourist attractions, congestion on roads and difficulties in obtaining rail tickets that are among the reasons for reduced tourism. A fervent wish is that these issues would be resolved to make the country attractive to tourists.

Wishes to achievement
Transforming these wishes into achievements rests with the government and people. This is particularly so with respect to ensuring national unity and harmony. There must be a firm political will and affirmative actions by the government to ensure that civil strife has no place in the country. Political parties should eschew narrow gains in popularity for the long run interests of the economy and country. And all communities must accept the pluralism of our nation.

Wishes for higher exports, increased tourist earnings and effective policy implementation requires appropriate policies and commitment.
The reasons for lesser performance must be studied and remedies found. Mere wishes and expectations will not achieve the desired results.
Let us together wish, will and strive for a peaceful nation that achieves rapid economic growth with prosperity for all.


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