Learning to Improve the Investment Climate for Economic Diversification: PDIA in Action in Sri Lanka
CID Faculty Working Paper No. 337
Matt Andrews, Duminda Ariyasinghe, Amara S. Beling, Peter Harrington, Tim McNaught, Fathima Nafla Niyas, Anisha Poobalan, Mahinda Ramanayake, H. Senavirathne, Upatissa Sirigampala, Renuka M. Weerakone, and W. A. F. Jayasiri Wijesooriya
Many countries, like Sri Lanka, are trying to diversify their economies but often lack the capabilities to lead diversification programs. One of these capabilities relates to preparing the investment climate in the country. Many governments tackle this issue by trying to improve their scores on ‘Doing Business Indicators’ which measure performance on general factors affecting business globally (like how long it takes to open a business or pay taxes). Beyond these common indicators, however, investors face context specific challenges when working in countries like Sri Lanka that are not addressed in global indicators. Governments often lack the capabilities to identify and resolve such issues. This paper narrates a recent initiative to establish these capabilities in Sri Lanka. The initiative adopted a Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) process, where a team of Sri Lankan officials worked with Harvard Center for International Development (CID) facilitators to build capabilities over a six-month period. The paper tells the story of this process, providing documented evidence of the progress over time (and describing thinking behind the PDIA process as well). The paper will be of interest to those thinking about the challenges associated with creating a climate that is investor or business friendly and to those interested in processes (like PDIA) focused on building state capability and fostering policy implementation.
Affiliated Research Program: Building State Capability