Sri Lanka Archives — Page 10 of 57 — LIRNEasia


The 80 percent and 160 percent increases in taxes on voice-SMS-VAS services and data, respectively, caused me to write an oped anchored on one instrument of public policy, use of fiscal means to discourage use of demerit goods. I wish to make clear that there is nothing wrong with subjecting telecom services to normal taxation such as VAT and NBT. Many years ago, that was the case. But over time various additional levies were layered on top, taking the overall tax burden to around 32%. Around 2009, the previous Government rationalised the mess, exempting telecom services from general taxation while imposing a single telecom levy.
The government-owned Sunday Observer has carried a story on the unraveling of the previous tax regime affecting telecom services that makes reference to the findings of our Systematic Reviews. “This will be the highest tax ever imposed on telecom users in the country. It is likely to reduce telecom use, especially of data. It is contrary to government policy seeking to encourage internet use,” Prof. Samarajiva said.
It appears state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have risen in salience in Sri Lanka recently. I am giving a keynote address on this topic at the launch of the Advocata Institute. The slideset that I will be using is here. The day before yesterday, I was debating on a TV talk show what should be done with the least defensible of the SOEs, the renationalized SriLankan Airlines and the misbegotten Mihin Lanka. It is interesting that the successful reform that I was associated with, telecom, keeps coming up in these discussions.
I was asked to comment to the state-owned Sunday Observer on the Sri Lanka government’s decision to extend value-added taxes to the telecom industry. Below is my response. I have always taken the position that telecom services should be treated no differently from other goods and services. Therefore, I do not object to making telecom services subject to VAT. The problem is with the approximately 25 percent mobile levy.
Yesterday, a report entitled Rebuilding Public Trust was launched at a meeting attended by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Media Minister and his Deputy. I contributed to the report, primarily on policy and regulatory recommendations, not all of which were accepted, as is normal. My responses will be published shortly. But I was pleased that the report made several references to LIRNEasia research, below being one example. LIRNEasia’s Teleuse@BOP research in Sri Lanka and other emerging markets in Asia have proved useful in making government understand the significance of telecom, especially the mobile, at the Bottom of the Pyramid.

LIRNEasia partners with UNDP on SDGs

Posted on April 27, 2016  /  0 Comments

On 18th April 2016 LIRNEasia inked its Memorandum of Understanding with UNDP on areas of cooperation for the first national summit on foresight and innovation for Sustainable Human Development titled “Visioning Sri Lanka #2030NOW”. The summit will be held in Colombo from 24-25th May 2016. In addition to LIRNEasia and UNDP, other core partners for this two day conference include The Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (COSTI) of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research, the United Nations Global Compact Network of Sri Lanka, Sarvodaya, and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. Collectively the partners will work towards mainstreaming the use of foresight and facilitating innovation in Sri Lanka so as to successfully implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). LIRNEasia will help to develop the direction and outcomes of the conference and facilitate the discussion on improving the use of data and particularly big data in both monitoring as well as achieving the sustainable development goals.
For many, daily travel is a product of routines that have been established over time. From commuting, getting the kids to school and back home to the occasional shopping trip much of our movements follow a predictable pattern. Attempts to map human movement in different regions across the world using emerging sources of big data such as mobile network call detail records (CDR) show that in general aggregate human movements change very little from one week day to another or from one weekend to another. Our work on human mobility using a large CDR dataset have shown that Sri Lanka is no different. However during some days of the year such as during festivals, holidays and natural disasters routine travel behavior gives way to unique travel behavior.

Inclusion through platforms

Posted on April 11, 2016  /  0 Comments

The only platforms LIRNEasia is currently studying are those used for micro work in the IT and ITES sector. There our focus is on inclusion. But, this article shows we should consider looking at more platforms. Deepthi, the single mother of a teenager, says she has tried other types of self-employment. She worked as a goldsmith, nursing home careperson and, sometimes still makes shoes and bags at home.
I spent the past two days immersed in a new subject: elections management. We have been engaged in one of the hardest public policy puzzles, that of improving Sri Lanka’s electoral system, since early 2015. As a result of that engagement, I was invited to participate in a vulnerability assessment of Sri Lanka’s election management system. Seventeen aspects of the election management system ranging from the way counting was done to legislation governing elections were discussed in detail. External experts had interviewed various stakeholders (interlocutors, they were called) and prepared a report.
That was the title of the two-hour TV talk show at ITN that I participated in yesterday. One does not expect new knowledge to emerge from a talk show, but this one was an exception. Illuminating information was disclosed by the Additional General Manager of the Ceylon Electricity Board in response to some statements I made. The disclosures can be seen in the Daily FT and Ravaya in a few days. Here below is my conclusion.
I am sitting here at a World Bank consultation on setting priorities for Bank lending in 2017-22. I was shocked by some of the comments, an example being: why isn’t there government-provided training for BPM? It seems that people are still stuck in government-centric thinking. What is the track record of government in providing training for globally-competitive industries? It has been a spectacular failure, except perhaps the case of the German Tech Institute, which is an extraordinary resource for Australia.
The nationwide unplanned outage last Sunday has obviously got everyone upset. While some are trying to make political capital out of it, the responsible thing to do is to understand the causes and act to avoid a recurrence. This appeared to be the objective of the reporter who interviewed me last week for this article. There is one place where the report does not exactly reflect what I said. I was asked whether I was happy with CEB’s /PUCSL’s role.
We are aware that the UN has identified tourism data as priority area in terms of exploring the potential of big data to contribute to the work of national statistical organizations (NSOs). However, this was not something we took on, given our programmatic priorities which are urban development, improved socio-economic monitoring and epidemiology. When we were asked to share ideas on tourism data and a few other areas by a major business group, we did apply our minds to the problem. Here is the slideset. What are the key ideas?
In our teaching-focused comparative work on electricity, we found there was a fundamental difference in the way the problem of costs was approached in Sri Lanka and on the sub-continent. In Sri Lanka, the focus was on the costs of NOT having power. In India, the focus was still on the costs of inputs, per se. That is, they cared about the costs of switching on another power source to meet peak demand. On that basis, they got along with load shedding and low prices, around half that charged from Sri Lankan subscribers.
We generally know how to measure performance in the telecom sector: increased connectivity in voice and data; lower prices; improved quality of service experience; and greater choice. Similar in electricity. In each of these cases we can also identify the factors that led to improvements in performance. Recently I was thinking about the healthcare sector. This sector has commonly accepted, internationally comparable indicators such as the infant mortality and maternal mortality rates.
I had been invited to moderate a panel discussion on consumer rights in electricity, in the context of a recently issued charter of consumer rights and obligations. This was set to be a ho-hum affair, until the country experienced its third nationwide blackout within the last six months. This resulted in the shutdown of the 900 MW coal-powered plant, which means that the system will be in distress for 4-5 days until they get it fired up again. Since 2002, Sri Lankans have got used to uninterrupted power which they pay a lot. There is a lot of anger.