Building Capability for Economic Transformation in Sri Lanka

Project team: Matt Andrews, Peter Harrington, Tim McNaught, Anisha Poobalan, Salimah Samji, and Gita Thiagarajah
May 2016 - September 2017

Building State Capability teams in Sri Lanka Sri Lanka has an unusually static export basket. In order to solve this problem, the government needs to build the capabilities to proactively promote and facilitate export-catalyzing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). BSC was invited by the Government of Sri Lanka in 2016 to mobilize PDIA teams to work on improving the business climate, targeting new industries, promoting new export activities, engaging new anchor investors, and strengthening Sri Lanka’s tourism offerings.

In September 2016, the BSC team hosted the first “Launchpad” workshop to inaugurate the first 6-month cycle of delivery work. Five government PDIA teams attended and worked intensively on their topic problems. During the sessions, BSC guided the PDIA teams through defining the problem statement, breaking down the problem into root causes, identifying which roots to start tackling and which stakeholders to engage. Each team finished with a set of clear concrete next steps to do over the following two to four weeks. During the trip the BSC team also engaged with multiple senior government officials to ensure the work was authorized and aligned with priorities.

In March 2017, the BSC team held a second Launchpad workshop that involved a combination of new teams and some teams continuing from the first phase. A group of 64 Sri Lankan government officials, from 7 different ministries/agencies, worked across 8 cross-sector PDIA teams to successfully complete this program.

In addition, the BSC team initiated an ambitious program in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce, to create an 18-week online action-learning course for Sri Lanka’s commercial attaches stationed around the world or awaiting deployment. The course took attaches through an intensive process of understanding the investment process, and then linked them to the activity and strategy of the PDIA teams to create an integrated, cross-government effort to aggressively secure export-diversifying FDI in new sectors. 49 diplomats signed up for the course and 39 of them completed the course.

BSC has published three faculty working papers about the work of the PDIA teams, which you can find below:

Blog posts related to the BSC work in Sri Lanka and PDIA in action: