Driving growth in uncertain times tops agenda at Oxford Business Group roundtable

Sep 10, 2019 (LBO) – The steps that Sri Lanka could take to harness digital innovations and mitigate the impact on its economy of domestic political disruption and global trade uncertainty were among the subjects explored recently at a roundtable organised by the global publishing, research and advisory firm Oxford Business Group (OBG).

Titled ‘How can Sri Lanka enhance competitiveness in the age of disruption?’ the event took place on Tuesday, September 10 at Cinnamon Lakeside, in partnership with First Capital Holdings.

The roundtable brought together an audience of high-profile representatives from across the public and private sectors to debate topical issues under the banner of domestic political disruption, disruption in the global trade environment and technological disruption.

A panel of business leaders comprising Dilshan Wirasekara, Director and CEO of First Capital Holdings; Ruwindhu Peiris, Managing Director, Stax Inc.; Jack Huang, CEO, Colombo International Container Terminals; and Nushad Perera, Chief of Digital and Commerce, Dialog Axiata, shared their views on several aspects of the theme, while Patrick Cooke, OBG’s Regional Editor for Asia, moderated proceedings.

High on the agenda were the lessons to be learned from the negative effects that the constitutional crisis of 2018 and subsequent delays in long-term policy decisions had on Sri Lanka’s economy, against a backdrop of forthcoming elections.

The measures that could help the country to boost exports and mitigate external disruption in a turbulent global trade environment were another focus.

Members of the panel also considered what Sri Lanka could do to capitalise on its strengths, which include a robust legal system and a well-educated population, to support longer-term economic development and galvanise new growth engines.

Opening the event, Cooke said that given Sri Lanka’s many geostrategic advantages, it was no surprise that China and India were jostling for influence in the country.

“Sri Lanka’s position along key Indian Ocean trade routes can enable it to become a prime logistics hub and service provider for these two huge markets, attracting investment in infrastructure and innovative industries,” he noted.

Cooke acknowledged that efforts to improve competitiveness in an era of domestic and external disruption inevitably presented hurdles for Sri Lanka, citing structural challenges and the need to adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution as two examples.

“Yet there is plenty for the business community to feel positive about, as the country can realistically aspire to transition into a successful knowledge-based economy by leveraging its strengths in human resources,” he said.

Many of the issues discussed at the roundtable are further explored in The Report: Sri Lanka 2019, Oxford Business Group’s latest publication on the country’s economy.

The publication is a vital guide to the many facets of the country, including its macroeconomics, infrastructure and other sectoral developments and is available online and in print.