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Investing wisely in Sri Lanka's infrastructure: A call for transparency and accountability

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Photo credit: Jean van de Meulen/Pexels


Sri Lanka is facing an unprecedented economic crisis, marked by dwindling reserves, soaring debt-to-GDP ratios, and a struggle to meet domestic needs. In an insightful article originally published on July 20, 2022, by Advocata the challenges and potential solutions to Sri Lanka's infrastructure woes were eloquently addressed.


Addressing the Debt Dilemma


Over 50 percent of foreign loans in the past decade were directed towards transport infrastructure projects, with suboptimal economic outcomes. Professor Amal Kumarage points out that inefficient infrastructure investment has contributed significantly to Sri Lanka's debt.


Choosing the right path for progress


A fact-based project selection process and an optimized operation and maintenance system is required in infrastructure investments facilitated via a procurement comprehensive framework that is transparent and competitive procurement followed by careful evaluation and an in-depth financing structure. This approach is crucial to avoiding wasteful investments and reducing the country's spending significantly.


Foreign loans and infrastructure financing


The writers delve into how the government resorted to foreign loans, leading to a debt-to-GDP ratio of 104.6 percent in 2021 They explore the absence of a preliminary procedure in evaluating multi-million-dollar investment projects and emphasize the importance of thorough scrutiny, feasibility studies, and risk assessments.


Public infrastructure or political infrastructure?


Large infrastructure projects have become a breeding ground for corruption, often driven by political motives rather than economic viability. They caution against incomplete, poorly built infrastructure with limited benefits due to political considerations.


Gaps in information: The call for transparency


Concerns are raised on the lack of transparency in providing data on large infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, stressing the need for increased access to information for the public, including a breakdown of loan amounts, repayment terms, and interest rates. The authors argue that a comprehensive framework and increased transparency can turn infrastructure investment into a stepping-stone for development, rather than a source of corruption.


Conclusion


The authors posit that Sri Lanka's path to economic recovery hinges on strategic infrastructure investments, transparent governance, and robust financial management. By learning from past mistakes, implementing rigorous project evaluation processes, and fostering transparency, Sri Lanka can bridge its infrastructure gaps and pave the way for sustainable development.


Compiled by Shanika Gamage


References


About the Authors

Janani Wanigaratne is a research intern at the Advocata Institute, and Tiffahny Hoole is a former researcher at the Advocata Institute. The Advocata Institute is an Independent Public Policy Think Tank. The opinions expressed are the authors’ own views and may not necessarily reflect the views of the Alliance for Sustainable Infrastructure (ASI).


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