PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Develop a Sustainable Tourism Project

Written by Tim McNaught and Anisha Poobalan

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Tourism is a strong contributor to Sri Lankan economic growth. The bulk of development in this sector has been in the south and west of the island. The northern and eastern regions, the areas most affected by the civil war and most in need of an economic boost, have experienced slower development. In an effort to promote tourism in the east, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) put together a team to work on the Kuchchaveli project. The K-team was part of the Sri Lanka PDIA project from September 2016 – September 2017.

The team was initially challenged with constructing the problem, which included identifying what the problem was and why it mattered. The team’s first problem statement, “Changing of existing land alienation policy” (Figure 1), was an accurate assessment of the situation but failed to promote immediate and urgent action. The team reflected further and a few quick calculations on the opportunity cost of inaction led the team to ask “Why delay 14,000 jobs to [the] public and [lose] $205 mn per annum to country?” (Figure 2). Now this was a problem that could be rallied around. Instead of being framed simply from the perspective of potential investors, it clearly quantifies how solving this problem could boost the economic well-being of an entire community. This sense of urgency is essential to building momentum towards action.

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Continue reading PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Develop a Sustainable Tourism Project

PDIA in Sri Lanka: Evaluating Potential Sites for New Industrial Zones

Guest blog written by Priyanka Samaraweera

The Land Team (L team) consisted of government officials from multiple departments in the Board of Investment, Sri Lanka. This team was formed as a continuation of the Targeting Team in Phase 2 of the PDIA Sri Lanka project. The Targeting Team identified new priority sectors to diversify the economy. The Land team then worked to map out suitable lands for anchor investors in these new sectors. This was part of a PDIA engagement from May 2016 to September 2017.

L team members: Upali Senarath, Ranjan Sibera, Sujani Pilapitiya, Priyanka Samaraweera, Lalith Katugampalage, Nalini Egodawatte, Sukumary Niranjan, Tharaka Jayawardena & Marlon Perera. This is their story!

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Through the comprehensive analysis conducted, the Targeting Team was capable of identifying priority sectors for attracting investment and enhancing the exports of Sri Lanka. The next task was to identify suitable lands for establishing factories in these sectors, especially given that over 89% of the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) of the BOI are already filled. Since limited access to productive land for the potential Investors can be considered as one of the most important limiting factors to attract investments, due consideration should be given to resolving land issues prior to marketing priority sectors to the investor.

Having identified the problem, the Land Team began gathering information on available lands for investment projects. It was noted that the state owns over 80% of land in Sri Lanka, though this ownership is spread over at least ten different Ministries and Departments. The team met with many of these bodies, ultimately creating a database of over 600 available lands (Figure 1). Continue reading PDIA in Sri Lanka: Evaluating Potential Sites for New Industrial Zones

PDIA in Sri Lanka: Attracting Anchor Investors in Solar Panel Manufacturing

Guest blog written by Ganga Palakatiya

The Investor Engagement team (I team) consisted of government officials working at the Board of Investment, Sri Lanka, to diversify the economy by engaging new anchor investors and attracting Foreign Direct Investors (FDI) in new sectors. This was part of a PDIA engagement from May 2016 to September 2017.

I team members: L K D Lawrance, Nelson Kumaratunga, Dilip Samarasinghe, Vipula Jayasinge, Ganga Palakatiya, Dhammika Basnayake, Krishnatha Britto, Indunil Perera, Hemadree Naotunna, and Rushda Niyas. This is their story!

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Based on the Targeting Team (T team) findings on sector targeting, Solar Panel Manufacturing was identified as a potential sector for investment in Sri Lanka. The “I Team,” consisting of dedicated officers for investment promotion, was assigned to promote Sri Lanka as an attractive destination for this and other priority sectors and attract key “anchor investors.” The timeframe given for this task was period of one year. Solar Panel Manufacturing would be a pioneer sector for Sri Lanka. There were no existing manufacturers in the country except one player who was under construction status. Thus, this was a new technology for the country, unfamiliar to Sri Lanka’s workers, suppliers and government bodies. This formed a challenge for the I Team, but with trainings from CID, the team crafted a four-step strategic approach (Figure 1), combining existing BOI investment promotion methods with a more proactive targeting of key sectors, countries and companies.

Figure 1: Strategic Approach of I Team in Investor Engagement Targeting Sectors for FDI Attraction & Export Promotion

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Continue reading PDIA in Sri Lanka: Attracting Anchor Investors in Solar Panel Manufacturing

PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Engage New Investors for Economic Diversification – Let’s Go Fishing!

written by Anisha Poobalan

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Meet the Investment Promotions team, a group of Sri Lankan government officials from various departments, experts in differing fields, and all novices at the daunting task ahead of them – attracting foreign investors to Sri Lanka. I had the privilege of working alongside the I-team as a coach and colleague for a year. This post is an introduction to the ‘I team’, the challenges faced, victories celebrated, and the learning and experience gained for all involved, coaches and team members alike. Continue reading PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Engage New Investors for Economic Diversification – Let’s Go Fishing!

Learning to improve Sri Lanka’s business and investment climate using PDIA

written by Peter Harrington

This past week, the Building State Capability (BSC) program published two new papers about our work doing PDIA-in-practice in Sri Lanka.

The first paper is about working to improve Sri Lanka’s business and investment climate, and is the subject of this blog post. The second is about working to promote foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka, and will be covered in a separate post .  Continue reading Learning to improve Sri Lanka’s business and investment climate using PDIA

Building capability: the true success of PDIA

written by Anisha Poobalan

The PDIA team has been working in Sri Lanka for the past six months with five talented and motivated government teams. This work is challenging and demands hard work by government officials and yet through short, repeated iterations, real progress is achieved. The teams update a facilitator every two weeks while also preparing for their next two week ‘sprint’. Once a month, the teams meet together at a ‘Launchpad’ session to update each other, evaluate their progress, adapt their action plans accordingly and set out for the next month of hard work. I have the privilege of sitting in on team meetings every week. This work takes time, it takes perseverance and it requires trust, and the task of attacking some of the most challenging areas in government is frustrating but absolutely worth it with each breakthrough. While impossible to articulate completely, this post attempts to reflect the ground reality of practicing PDIA in order to build state capability.

Emergence, in complexity theory, is the process by which lessons learned from new engagements and activities lead to a unique recombination of ideas and capabilities that result in unpredictable solutions. Emergence is evident in each PDIA team. For example, as one team made progress on their problem, they identified a constraint that needed to be addressed if they were to succeed. Another team had a similar realization and eventually the idea for a potential solution cropped up and an entire team was formed around it. As one of the team members noted, the more we engage, the more opportunities arise and connections are made and we will get lucky soon!

As the teams prepare for their lucky moment and produce tangible products, the individual capability built is the true success of this work.  As one team leader said, ‘We haven’t done something like this in the 30 years I have been [working] here!’ At the first launchpad session, a team member told me about experiences they had had at similar workshops. ‘We meet and discuss various topics and then leave. But I think this will be different, we must actually do something.’ Faced with a new challenge, undertaking a task he had no experience in, this member is now an expert and motivates the others along. From the onset, he has been determined to achieve his targets and has proven to the rest in that team, that hard work and genuine interest can lead to unexpected, impressive learning and results.

Another team member, an experienced yet skeptical team leader, did not leave the first launchpad session quite as confident. She didn’t believe this work would lead to real results and doubted they would have the necessary political backing. A few months later, she is now the most motivated, engaged, focused member on his team. ‘So many people come to collect information, then they put down their ideas in a document and give it to us to act on. This just ends up on a shelf. It’s better not to talk, but to do something – so we are happy! Especially the support from the higher-level authorizers has given us confidence to keep working’. This team embarked on a journey from confusion to clarity. They had to trust this approach, take action and gradually fill the information gaps they did not even know existed a few months before. It has been frustrating, and yet they continue in good faith that with each piece of information gathered they are closer to a clear, achievable vision for their project. The capability to create project profiles like this has grown in this team and will be useful to their colleagues across government. These capabilities are the results of hard work, intentional engagement, and consistent expansion of authority.

Some people ask, ‘So what makes a good team? What departments should they come from or what expertise should they have?’ My answer to that is simple: a successful team comprises of people who are willing to work; government officials willing to trust a completely new approach and work hard. Hard working teams are essential to the success of PDIA and while expertise, seniority, and experience may be considered necessary, without genuine hard work, any team, no matter how talented, will fail. Here in Sri Lanka, each team is unique, with varying weaknesses and strengths they have learned to work around. Some teams lack strong leadership which forces team members to take greater responsibility and ownership in decision making and motivation. Other teams have strong leadership so some members took on less responsibility and at points didn’t contribute at all to achieving the teams’ goals. Some teams have capable workers frustrated by their lack of authority, and others have the authority but lack capability. There are teams that perform well with organized deadlines and targets, while others struggle to set deadlines beyond the coming week. Each team’s composition has adapted as the work evolved, and each team has achieved great things through their diverse skill sets, past experience, commitment to real work and time-bound action.

I hope these field notes help give a sense of what PDIA is like on the ground and how this approach, although difficult and emotionally draining, can lead to new, or make use of latent, capabilities within government.

If you are interested in learning more about the Sri Lanka work, you can read the targeting team working paper.

Anisha Poobalan worked with us on the PDIA Sri Lanka project from September 2016 to September 2017. This is part of a blog series that is tagged “PDIA Journey,” written by people who have participated in a PDIA process.