The World Bank has urged Sri Lanka to increase data sharing among government agencies and the private sector and reduce the number of agencies exporters and importers deal with under its trade facilitation initiatives.
“Clear, transparent border management would significantly boost investor confidence,” World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough said.
Sri Lanka must also reduce the trade transaction costs faced by the trading community, she told a conference on the application of technology in enhancing Sri Lanka’s trade facilitation process.
According to the Logistics Performance Index, in 2014 the average cost to export from Sri Lanka was US$579 whereas in Vietnam it was about US$237 and in Thailand about US$250.
“Similarly, the average time to export in Sri Lanka is 2 days whereas in Thailand and Vietnam it takes only 1 day,” she said.
The government must also reduce the number of institutions interfacing with traders, Pswarayi-Riddihough told the conference on “Applying New Technology to Make Sri Lanka’s International Trade More Efficient and Inclusive” in which there were sessions on Blockchain technology.
“A recent assessment by our team found at least 22 agencies involved in issuing regulations and approvals related to trade. Another study by the Department of Commerce found 34 agencies involved in publishing regulations that affect trade.”
Blockchain technology allows the traceability in supply chains, a key ingredient to today’s consumer confidence, Pswarayi-Riddihough said.
“Consumers don’t only demand a variety of products; but they also want to know where the products are coming from. With re-entry into GSP+ this information will be a game changer.”
Pswarayi-Riddihough said Sri Lanka should use technology to promote transparency and efficiency in the business environment.
“Streamlining approval processes; and enhancing communication between government agencies and with the private sector increases efficiency.”
Pswarayi-Riddihough said institutional culture also matters.
“Technology is as good as the people who use and manage it. All these points I have mentioned will require institutional behavioral changes, many that will challenge the status quo for doing business, even the skills required to operate in this new environment.
“There is no substitute to formalizing new agreements to increase the sharing of data amongst government agencies and the private sector; honoring signed agreements to standardize and streamline data requirements; and re-training of staff,” she said.
“This is the hard part; and it will require strong commitment from the government and development partners.”