Sri Lanka’s humanitarian operation against COVID-19, a success

July 01, 2020

With the outbreak of new coronavirus and the world’s most powerful nations have become powerless and confused as to how to defeat the invisible enemy. The main issue which is hindering is who will be reshaping the new international world order in the Post COVID world. There are multiple arguments and some anticipate accelerated major powers decline and the advent of a more multipolar world. Others predict a deepening authoritarian turn worldwide, with an emboldened regional power atop the global standings. The Institute of National Security Studies conducted a webinar on “Sri Lanka in the post COVID world” and platform sponsored by MAC holdings. The webinar was held on 8th June 3 - 4.30 pm via zoom and the speakers consisted of the Director-General of INSSSL, Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage; Director-General of Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute, Dr Ganeshan Wignaraja and the Director of Bandaranaike Center for International Studies, Dr Harinda Vidanage. This was moderated by the Director Publication and Communication of INSSSL, Rear Admiral Dimuthu Gunawardena.

Director Publication and Communication of INSSSL, Rear Admiral Dimuthu Gunawardena  welcomed all three speakers followed by  an introduction on the present status of the pandemic and various precautionary measures taken by other counties in the world to prevent the pandemic from spreading and Sri Lanka in particular. He also mentioned that Sri Lanka is in the path to recovery with various Post COVID exit strategies that has been implemented by the government.

Director-General of INSSSL, Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage discussed about the present status of the pandemic, how it was dealt with by the government of Sri Lanka and its 3T (Testing, Tracing and Treatment) operational strategy emphasizing how the government swiftly stepped upon a humanitarian mission to lead a way successfully to prevent further spread while other countries were still battling to cope with the pandemic. He also mentioned how the political leadership was quick to consult and be involved with the SAARC and NAM and coordinated with the regional countries to assist in dealing with the pandemic. With respect to post COVID new world he discussed various aspects of the new world order, whether the next super power will be the one with an economic might or one who fared best in providing its citizens with human security during the pandemic. While appreciating the effectiveness of Sri Lanka’s health practices he proposed that the regional economic model should be revisited and the new regional order should focus mainly on medical security and food security.

The Executive Director of Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute, Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja discussed the economic perspectives on post COVID world. He initially elaborated on statistics of the growth rate of the world, predictions of IMF on an impending global financial crisis stating that it may be worse than that experienced in 2008/9. He insisted on the importance of revisiting Sri Lanka’s economic relationships due to the great depression experienced in world economics. He also mentioned that due to the pandemic and its consequences, Sri Lanka may face a challenging outlook consisting of international risks of capital outflows, depressed export market and financial stress. Therefore he stated that Sri Lanka needed to be agile and flexible to maximize the opportunities to strengthen the economic security of every sector. He further discussed 5 non-ideological practical strategies to improve the economic security by modernizing agriculture and social protection. He stated that to overcome the economic downfall Sri Lanka should build fiscal and external reserve buffers domestically from CBSL and other financial institutes to prevent falling further into debt traps. Also to improve the investment climate he proposed closing down loss making financial enterprises, corruption and cutting down interest rates and better tax revenue and administration with digitalization.

Director of Bandaranaike Center for International Studies, Dr Harinda Vidanage while appreciating how Sri Lanka super managed the pandemic brought out a few floating thoughts  on foreign relations and societal aspects on Post COVID world order at the discussion.  He debated that we are entering into a “post lockdown world” instead of “post COVID world” as we are still having the pandemic in the world and that we need to live with the threat. He further argued that coronavirus cannot be fought like fighting a war, but also that it should be looked as an invasion and social distance should be identified as a defensive strategy.  He also stated that COVID –19 has accelerated splintering the world DE globalizing it as tensions are already building up among certain countries with trade barriers and sees more aggression and intense competition for power between countries than before.  Therefore he stated that we need to manage this systematic challenge and suggested we consider natural security as a part of national security.

During the Q & A session, the panelists discussed about several perspectives on post COVID world its challenges in economic, foreign policy and societal perspective and proposed remedial action.