Lanka export acceleration push begins

Daily FT

20/08/2014

Lanka export acceleration push begins

Exports, the lifeline of Sri Lankan economy, are a national priority. The urgency of the exports accelerating strategy is such that it could kick-start even before its full design cycle is over. Meanwhile, brand Sri Lanka packs hidden potentials that could be leveraged for national export growth.

“At the end of the day the buck lands at somebody’s desk. Who is ultimately responsible? We can start implementing the export acceleration strategy while it is being designed and before it’s totally finalised. We may not need to wait until it is fully endorsed,” said ITC Chief of Export Strategy Anton Said on 13 August in Colombo, addressing the launch of the EDB’s National Export Strategising Initiative.

The Export Development Board (EDB), the national trade promotion organisation specially vested with the responsibility for promotion and development of exports, is embarking on formulating the 2015-2020 National Export Strategy (NES) to achieve the $ 20 b export target by 2020 as set out in the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’.

The formulation of the 2015-2020 NES is being carried out with technical assistance from International Trade Centre (ITC) Geneva and in consultation with the public and private sector stakeholders. NES formulation is also a statutory requirement under the Export Development Act No. 40 of 1979.
Geneva’s ITC is a subsidiary of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), providing trade-related specialised technical assistance to exports of various economies, especially transition economies. ITC is no stranger to Sri Lanka; in 2010, ITC implemented a business survey in Sri Lanka in collaboration with Lanka Market Research Bureau Ltd. (LMRB).

Also taking part in the National Export Strategy formulation session at EDB were representatives from the export community, various chambers, EDB officials and top Government officials from many line agencies connected to exports.

Addressing the session, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said the export strategy effort is being carried out with valuable technical assistance from ITC and in consultation with the public and private sector stakeholders.

“As global markets are increasingly separating to groups of mature markets and emerging markets as well as consumer markets become more demanding, we need to change our export strategies as well. In fact I have been given to understand that in International Trade Centre’s global assessment on Trade Promotional Organisations, the ITC recently indicated our EDB is on par with some of the export agencies of highly-developed economies. ITC revealed that EDB is now an ITC benchmark for the first time. This is encouraging news in our efforts to achieve $ 20 b exports by 2020 under the committed vision of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Thanks to our committed exporters and the vision of the President, today we are able to see a five-year high in first half exports for 2014 at $ 5.4 b. This is a huge increase of 45.9% from 2010’s first half exports of $ 3.7 b.”

Bathiudeen asserted there is no doubt that both ‘country branding’ and ‘export strategy’ always go hand in hand. “To this end also there is good news for Sri Lanka exports.  It is that Sri Lanka in its first effort entered at 67th rank in the Country Brand Index of Future Brands. Out of 118 countries surveyed Sri Lanka emerged at 67. Immediately above us is China at rank 66 while Vietnam ranked below us at 69 and Poland at 75. Despite the export successes of these countries, Sri Lanka still has a stronger ranking. What this shows is Sri Lanka’s hidden market potential and it is time we leverage it for our export development.  For us to leverage these international developments to our export growth, we need to take viable steps. What should be stressed is that today’s strategy effort enables our exports sector to draw in private and public sector partnerships. This is fundamental in our approach to national export strategy development, implementation and also the achievement of $ 20 b by 2020. Today’s National Export Strategy session is an important step in accelerating exports, and not just a mere fulfilment of the requirements stipulated in the Export Development Act No. 40 of 1979.”

ITC Chief of Export Strategy Said, addressing the session, said: “In 10 years the world has changed. Export acceleration strategy is the process and the realism needs to be apparent in the final product. ITC’s mission is to enable developing economies and transition economies’ export success in the global economy. In the last 12 years we have developed over 50 strategies in 40 countries, and therefore we have lots of experiences in this business. A national export document can provide a direction and a blueprint which if followed can lead to success.”

ITC’s approach to national strategy design and implementation is based on two fundamental objectives – to enhance international competiveness of enterprises and export orientation. Asserting that export enterprises do not exist in a vacuum, Said noted that export competitiveness is defined as cross cutting issues and constraints affecting multiple sectors – for example, quality.

“The growth momentum needs to be acceptable to all players winning their confidence, including development partners. All institutions and ministries that define export success are part of this initiative. Prioritisation is an important challenge. We need to ensure that the established systems, structures, mechanisms of the country are effective; they need to be functional at policy level as well as operational level so that export momentum is sustained and accelerated. This initiative has to work through existing organisations and many Lankan initiatives such as hub strategy and ‘Unstoppable Sri Lanka,’ etc. Therefore our point of departure is using existing national strategies and to build on them.”

“At the end of the day the buck lands at somebody’s desk. Who is ultimately responsible? We can start implementing the export acceleration strategy while it is being designed and before it’s totally finalised. We may not need to wait until it is fully endorsed,” said ITC Chief of Export Strategy Anton Said on 13 August in Colombo, addressing the launch of the EDB’s National Export Strategising Initiative.

The ITC Chief of Export Strategy emphasised that the success of exports depends on the aggregate institutional network: “We may not need to wait until the export acceleration strategy is fully endorsed since we may know what the targets are, parties are and priorities are. After this we can move on to a detailed design. At that stage the principle sectors identified by the strategy will have their own detailed sub strategies in relevant areas such as trade financing, branding, quality management, trade promotion, packaging, etc.

The Consolidated National Export Strategy document will have an implementation management framework with measurements to track progress. ITC will partner in this acceleration effort, help you to make the transition, and we are available as much you need us. This is both a top down and bottom up approach. We want you to be passionate about your export strategy. Having a strategy is a huge milestone but not the end.”
EDB Chairman and CEO Bandula Egodage addressing the event said: “Our exports are growing rapidly thanks to you, our exporters. Export revenues are at 20% of our GDP and we are confident that we can achieve the $ 20 b goal by 2020. This is due to the clear framework of the ‘Mahinda Chinthana,’ the visionary leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the strategic economic controls of P.B. Jayasundera, the well-supported economic development of Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and the committed leadership and guidance of Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Lakshman Wasantha Perera and our Ministry Secretary Anura Siriwardene. The reason we need an export strategy is that with limited resources, we may have to prioritise to further develop and accelerate it. Also it’s a statutory requirement and we need to have a microscopic view. We are fortunate to have ITC supporting us.”