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POSTED AT 11:04 AM 04-01-2019

Merchandise and service exports up 15% to $ 17 b in 2018

Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama addressing the media yesterday. Development Strategies and International Trade Deputy Minister Nalin Bandara and EDB Chairperson Indira Malwatte look on - Pic by Lasantha Kumara

- SL misses original target of $17.4b; Malik partly blames it on political instability
- EDB optimistic of achieving $20b target this year
- Minister believes transformational line up of programs will change exports landscape in Sri Lanka
- Outlines importance of outward oriented policies to uplifteconomic growth to next level
- Dy. Minister NalinBandara highlights need to identify village level suppliers, groom them to be active exporters 

Sri Lanka’s merchandise and service exports in 2018 are estimated to have hit an all-time high of $ 17 billion, up 15% from a year earlier prompting the Government to be confident of achieving the $20 billion milestone this year.

The Export Development Board (EDB) yesterday confirmed that the forecasted merchandise and service exports was $17 billion, falling short by $430 million from the original target. However, it was pointed out that last year’s performance has surpassed the previous best of $11.4 billion achieved in 2017.

“Our target for 2018 was $17.4 billion in merchandise and service exports. I believe we would have ended up with $17 billion in last year. If not for the political unrest we had, I am sure we would have achieved the original target of $17.4 billion,” Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama told journalists in Colombo yesterday.

He made these remarks addressing at the EDB Media Networking Session organised by the Board to share the highlights of the programs implemented in 2018, and objectives and targets for 2019, as well as to update on the progress of the National Export Strategy(NES) achievements. 

Despite missing the $17.4 billion original target, Samarawickramasaid last year’s performance was still noteworthy, considering that country’s exports were only $13.4 billion in 2015. 

“Since 2015, our exports have grown by 27% within the past three years. 

The target for 2019 is $20 billion, which is about 17% to 17.5% increase, which is an ambitious target, but with the support of the EDB our exporters will be able to achieve that. Our target for 2025 is $37.1 billion which is 177% increase from exports we had in 2015,” he added.

Acknowledging that $17 billion in export revenue has been achieved last year, EDB Chairperson Indira Malwatte asserted they were hopeful that Sri Lanka might have achieved the full year figure of $17.4 billion, after considering service sector final statistics.

“We are very proud to announce that we have achieved $17 billion of the $17.4 billion original export revenue target. With the service sector statistics by the end of this month, we are hopeful that we would have achieved the full amount,” she added.

Malwatte also expressed confidence in achieving $20 billion export revenue target by end of this year. “It is an ambitious and a demanding target, but with the support of the private sector and conducive business environment to operate we will be able to achieve it,” she said.

Reiterating the Government’s commitment to support all initiatives commenced and planned for this year, the Minister described 2019 as the year for ‘accelerated delivery’ and commended the exporters for their constant achievements in the global market.

“You all are navigating through difficult global trading conditions. Despite these headwinds, you are standing strong and growing sustainably. We now need to focus on diversifying our product basket and enter new markets. This is the year for accelerated delivery and we will be focusing very strongly on that,” Samarawickrama stated.

He said the Enterprise Innovation Scheme, which was approved by Cabinet last year, will soon get underway, which is a part of the Innovation and Entrepreneur Strategy 2018-2022. In addition, he said they launched the Market Access Support Scheme and the 2,000 exporter program in 2018, which are important initiatives to create and support the next generation of entrepreneurs and exporters.

“Last year was a landmark year for Sri Lanka’s export sector. We launched a 5-year National Export Strategy (NES), following extensive analysis and consultations with the industry. We have set out a clear agenda for action, and it is now being implemented with the support of line Ministries. We are encouraging more people to be export champions and these will see the real impact on the ground,” he added.

Together with EDB’s other ongoing initiatives, the Minister believes this transformational line-up of programs will change the export landscape in Sri Lanka. “We have not had this kind of systematic, well-thought-out set of initiatives to support our entrepreneurs for a long period of time. These initiatives don’t put concrete on the ground and don’t look like flashy projects, but are thereal nuts and bolts of what it takes to create sustainable, high income earning jobs in the export sector,” he pointed out.

Samarawickramaalso elaborated on the point of looking at outward-oriented policies to take the economic growth to next level. 

“All countries that have prospered in the world today have done so by being oriented outward – that is, taking what they are good at and trading with the world. Sri Lankan companies are good at many things and there is global demand for our products; from primary products to sophisticated parts and components, and increasingly, our own high-end brands. Our Government has always recognised this, and have been committed to supporting them,” he said.

Development Strategies and International Trade Deputy Minister NalinBandaraJayamaha said Sri Lanka cannot be complacent with its export performance last year, as the country has a long way in catching up with the rest of the markets in the world.

“We can’t be satisfied with our performance compared to our regional competitors. Performance of the export sector has been good and we have good plans going forward. It is now up to all stakeholders to work together to encourage young entrepreneurs and exporters to enter the sector and contribute to economic growth,” he added.

He also noted the need to identify village-level suppliers and groom them to be active exporters.

Charumini de Silva

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