Sri Lanka has to explore new avenues to increase its exports focusing attention on diversification of exportable products.
The Harvard Centre for International Development its latest growth diagnostic on the island nation found that with wages in traditional export sectors now below average Sri Lankan wages, and new higher-wage export industries are required.
Overseas Sri Lankans (OSL) have the potential to create new export industries in Sri Lanka, the Harvard CID research report revealed.
Diasporas were involved in the export-led development of India, Taiwan, and China by bringing industry know how and market connections to their home countries
There are large, well-educated OSL communities living in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia that have the industry know how to assist in export-led growth in Sri Lanka, research claimed.
OSL can have the biggest impact on diversifying exports if they return to start firms in new export industries rather than working with firms while based overseas.
OSL can play a useful role connecting the existent Sri Lankan IT export sector to overseas markets, but they cannot start firms in new export industries from abroad
If OSL return to start firms they can “seed” a new export industry that grows organically through the diffusion of know how.
The pharmaceutical sector is an example of an industry with high potential to be “seeded” by returning OSL entrepreneurs.
Preliminary policy recommendations focus on removing barriers and catalyzing latent motivations to facilitate OSL return entrepreneurship:
The Department for Immigration and Emigration should continue to ease border processes for OSL through dual citizenship and the OSL lifetime resident visa.
The Board of Investment should orient part of its “one-stop-shop” to dealing specifically with OSL issues.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should utilize its diplomatic network to engage potential OSL entrepreneurs to catalyze latent motivations to return.