Sri Lanka and South Asia to gain by freeing trade: report

From left: Dr. Fernando Im, Senior Country Economist for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, The World Bank, Hon. Eran Wickramaratne, State Minister, Ministry of Finance and Mass Media, Dr. W A Wijewardana, Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Prof. Indralal de Silva, Former (Chair) of Demography, University of Colombo, Prof. Amala de Silva, Department of Economics, University of Colombo at the panel discussion on "Demographic Change in Sri Lanka" moderated by Dr. Ramani Gunatilaka, International Centre for Ethnic Studies.

Feb 20 (LBO) – South Asian countries including Sri Lanka could make huge gains by freeing up trade in education, health and tourism and lowering other barriers between themselves, a new report by a regional business forum and the World Bank has said. South Asian countries included in the report include Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. South Asia is lagging behind as the least integrated region of the world, with intra-regional trade at just two percent of Gross Domestic Product.

Bulk of South Asian business goes to markets outside, like the United States, Europe and Japan, though some neighbors like India and Sri Lanka have made some gains in opening up borders.

Comparatively, trade within East Asia is 20 percent of GDP, the South Asia: Growth and Regional Integration report, prepared by the World Bank with the SAARC Business Conclave in Mumbai.

Integration within South Asia has just not happened, with countries maintaining higher levels of protection and restrictive policies within the region, the report says.

As a result, the cost of trading across borders is the highest in South Asia, while South Asia’s competitors in other parts of the world have dramatically lowered customs and port cl