Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons?

A: In my opinion, the government has taken several commendable steps to contain the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) by focusing on physical distancing, quarantining where necessary, and even imposing a curfew to curtail public movement and contact with each other.

Yet, the state has to now concern itself with managing the shutdown for the sake of health security while simultaneously keeping the economic nucleus active in the country. Not doing so in due time will eventually inflict economic repercussions for the nation.

So far, the committee spearheading the state’s COVID-19 response has comprised medical officers and the military. Perhaps it is time for the government to widen its scope, and appoint other representatives from the private and public sectors to this committee – officials who can contribute towards facilitating the state’s economic resurgence.

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has made available a comprehensive set of recommendations for the economy under 10 key areas, which include Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), food security and retail, as well as logistics and transport. If the state can consider such recommendations in its strategy deliberations to help keep the economy afloat while continuing to follow through with the advice of the medical community, it might be able to sufficiently protect public and economic health.

Q: As for state finances, should we print money despite the obvious repercussions and/or seek more funding from global lending institutions and other channels?

A: Printing money isn’t a good solution for the national economy. If isn’t managed properly, the ‘cost push’ inflationary impact will most certainly affect the public adversely.

I would rather see the state follow a combination of renegotiated bilateral borrowing that would make for an easier strain on external debt with additional multilateral funding. Multilateral borrowing from institutions like the IMF and World Bank could even prove beneficial in the long run as they compel recipient countries to follow certain measures as a prerequisite to improve national economic practices.

However, this demands that there’s personal belt tightening across the public and private sectors right down to individuals. in controlling unnecessary expenditure in order to ease the strain of borrowing.

Q: How do you see the ‘new normal’ for business panning out?

A: There is a silver lining to COVID-19; the virus has necessitated change and forced both the public and private sectors to embrace evolution.

Work from home (WFH) measures have proven that in most cases, companies can maintain productivity – and this could signal a promising change to how Sri Lankan companies work in the future – this could be in the form of ‘hotdesking’ and rotational visits to the office a few times a week, which will lead to a better quality of life for both employees and businesses.

We have also seen that e-commerce has bloomed in several areas in the country and has compelled the public to learn to use and trust online platforms and facilities such as non-cash electronic payments. Even institutions such as the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) now allow payments to made by CEFTs and online methods.

Simply said, the virus has forced efficiency in interactions between consumers, the state and businesses.

RESILIENCE AMID TURBULENT TIMES

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: From a pro-perspective, I admire the quick decision making and immediate lockdown measures, which saved many lives and put us on the right track. Moreover, the involvement of the military in this process provided additional validation for the…

SECURITY WILL BECOME MAINSTREAM

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: Compared to other nations, Sri Lanka, has undoubtedly made great progress. Among the positives are that people are confident, safe and more settled in facing the pandemic. If the situation had gone out of control at the early…

TOUGH DECISIONS ON EMPLOYMENT

Q: What is the outlook for jobs and employment in the medium term? And how should the authorities address the prospect of rising unemployment? A: The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has affected Sri Lankan businesses across all sectors except perhaps agriculture, which has faced a minimal impact. Export oriented industries (many of which survive on revenue earned…

FOCUS ON ‘GLOBAL ORIENTATION’

Q: What is the outlook for jobs and employment in the medium term? And how should the authorities address the prospect of rising unemployment? A: While Sri Lanka has a low number of social safety nets for permanently vulnerable people such as the poor, disabled and elderly, COVID-19 has highlighted the need for a social net…

ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES MUST GO ON

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: At this juncture, COVID-19 seems invincible. However, while the global pandemic is unprecedented, Sri Lanka’s response has been a great success especially in managing the prevalence of infections. The positive factors are the synergy between important stakeholders in driving…

TRAVEL BUBBLES MAY BE A BOON

Q: How do you see the ‘new normal’ for business panning out? A: The new (hopefully temporary) normal is all about uncertainty given that we are in uncharted territory. There are two phases: the pre-vaccine phase supported by increasingly effective cures like remdesivir and the post-vaccine era. The post-vaccine era should mean that we return to…

PRINTING MONEY IS A NECESSARY EVIL

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: Sri Lanka’s response to the pandemic has been commendable. While we can all say what could have been done better with the benefit of hindsight, what’s important is that Sri Lanka has placed a greater value on lives…

LESSONS IN CRISIS PREPAREDNESS

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: I for one am of the opinion that our initial response to the islandwide lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19 was admirable. Timely action enabled the authorities to properly quarantine overseas returnees and infected persons adequately. Apart…

PUBLIC HEALTH IS A PRIORITY

Q: In your view, how should the authorities balance the twin imperatives of safety and the economy? A: The COVID-19 pandemic has put us in a situation where we have to either prioritise public health and in turn sacrifice economic output, or prioritise the economy and sacrifice public health. Although this is unprecedented, public health…

THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: I think we have responded very well to the crisis as the lockdown has been effective from mid-March. In an unprecedented  situation like this, there is no blueprint for safeguarding the health of the nation while simultaneously keeping…

A COMMENDABLE PERFORMANCE

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: The response from the government has been strong and consistent. Hard decisions were taken at certain junctures; and these decisions were consistently and swiftly implemented. As the crisis is unprecedented globally, there has been no blueprint or tried…

PARADIGM SHIFT IN THE BIZ MINDSET

Q: What is the outlook for jobs and employment in the medium term? And how should the authorities address the prospect of rising unemployment? A: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, several key industrial sectors including tourism, travel, hospitality, manufacturing and exports have been affected. This is not withstanding the numerous SMEs and micro-enterprise segments, as…
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