Much media coverage is given to the tourism development promotional strategies that are intended to be carried out in the immediate future in order to increase revenue from tourism. Is the same coverage given to export promotion strategies which are equally important?There is no doubt about the ambitious plans to increase exports from Sri Lanka. These need to be inclusive of the people who are not only exporters today, but also of those who would be exporters of tomorrow by highlighting through media, creating the same awareness of the importance of the sector as in the case of tourism.
Sri Lanka’s main trading partners in the past have been the developed markets of the West. The West’s importance as world economic leaders is fast disappearing. Plagued by unemployment, low wages and an economic downturn from which there are no signs of immediate revival, the traditional export markets have begun to dwindle.
The BRIC countries and some of the other large developing countries are fast changing the situation and becoming the world economic leaders of today and tomorrow. All reports presented recently by international organisations on the world economic situation indicate this trend. This was not an overnight happening, but something which has been gradually evolving, allowing the world to see the new opportunities.
Such a situation creates the necessity for Sri Lanka to change her export promotion strategies to move with the times. There is an urgent need to enter the emerging markets aggressively in order to reduce the dependence on the traditional developed markets. Product adaptation to suit these new markets might be necessary in which case exporters must be made aware of these requirements.
There is no doubt that policy makers are aware of this trend and are adapting their export promotion strategies to move with the times. Publicising these new strategies would be of immense benefit to new and old exporters, particularly those in the small and medium categories. Not only the exporters, Government officials and particularly our Missions abroad, which are important elements as they are involved in promoting the country’s exports, must be made aware of the export promotion plans.
Export promotion strategies necessarily include supply development strategies. Promotion with insufficient supplies would be meaningless. As such, when export promotion strategies are publicised, plans for the improvement of supply positions must also be conveyed. They must be made aware of the new export promotion strategies in deciding on markets and products, which markets are now more important and which products must be promoted more vigourously.
Current supply positions, future expansion plans for such products, etc. should be conveyed to the Missions, chambers and all others engaged in export promotion so that a combined and coordinated effort will be in place. Development plans for the expansion of exports must be available with the relevant authorities. If these plans could be given wider publicity, like in the case of tourism, the country might be in a better position to tap the new opportunities created by the emergence of new world economic leaders.
In an ever-evolving globalised world, opportunities and challenges are many. New sectors become more important than the traditionally known sectors. The services sector is one such area which has been growing worldwide in the recent years.
The export of services is an extremely important area for many countries including Sri Lanka today. The opportunities available in this area need to be publicised much more than is happening in the country today in order to create public awareness of the sector so that many more can explore opportunities available in this sector.
The hype that is being effectively created around tourism promotion, particularly through media, must also be created for export promotion and sustained for a long period so that Sri Lanka benefits from the emergence of new markets of countries which are friends of Sri Lanka and will help Sri Lanka to enter their markets competitively.
(Manel de Silva holds an Honours Degree in Political Science from the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya and has engaged in professional training in Commercial Diplomacy at ITC and GATT. She has served as a trade diplomat in several Sri Lankan Missions overseas and was the first female Head of the Department of Commerce as Director General of Commerce.)