(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – There is a growing appetite among Sri Lankans for economic and societal innovation which have got stronger over the last three years, outgoing US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina B Teplitz said.
In an interview with ‘Awarelogue Initiative’, she said Sri Lanka needs an outward focused national economic vision to address the economic woes introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sri Lanka does have a history of economic resilience, and it has got a lot of innovation. The country is just talking about sort of innovation on the small scale, but there is big scale innovation in the apparel sector where Sri Lankan business owners have really made a name for themselves globally. I think there is a real foundation to build on there. Sri Lankan entrepreneurs, even during the pandemic have shown that they can fill niches, build delivery services from scratch or do other creative things. But that innovation alone is not enough to make the economy prosper. You have got the appetite, now you have got to have a facilitative environment. I think that greater economic success is definitely possible if the right policies are in place to facilitate exports, to encourage entrepreneurism and to attract Foreign Direct Investment,” she commented.
“I just read about the young Sri Lankan boy who built a solar powered tuk. This streak of creativity and innovation is out there and it is really obvious that there is a place for it here and it is just sort of waiting to blossom so that it can build the economy of the future,” she observed.
Commenting on the U.S.-Sri Lankan trade relations, Ambassador Teplitz said the US is always looking for opportunities to make that relationship stronger and to make it a two-way street.
“I think there is potential in sectors beyond apparel. I think looking at energy, technology, you name it, kind of the sky’s the limit and that we have more opportunities to build that relationship.
I think the key to this is cultivating a transparent economic environment with consistent policy-making. It will make Sri Lanka internationally competitive,” she commented.
Commenting on the human rights issues, she said the US remains committed to supporting the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.
“We remain fully engaged with the Sri Lankan Government on this topic. We are hoping to advance reconciliation, transitional justice and a lasting peace for all Sri Lankans. We are committed to just having the difficult conversations and helping make an enduring difference in Sri Lanka.
“Addressing human rights, I think, is tough. But we also believe it is really important not just for ourselves as Americans which we endeavor to do at home but also with our partners, and particularly our democratic partners. We do need to address human rights issues, the past and the present. We need to deal with the injustices of the past and the present. In our view, a democratic Government that is accountable to all of its people should be willing to genuinely and credibly investigate and adjudicate criminal allegations.
There should be an attempt to meaningfully address political, economic, and social issues that spark conflict or have the potential to spark conflict in the future,” she noted.