Colombo, Economy, Politics and Governance, Post-War, Sport

In conversation with Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy on Sri Lanka’s post-war economic development

Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy is a Former Director, Economic Affairs Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat. Indrajit was also a staff officer at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. As Wikipedia notes, From 1981 t 1989 he was seconded to the Ministry of Finance and Planning. Thereafter he worked for the Commonwealth Secretariat from 1990–2008, holding the posts of Director, Economic Affairs Division and Deputy-Director, Secretary-General’s Office and was brought back to the Commonwealth Secretariat to head the Social Transformation Programme Division, as Interim Director.

Given Indrajit’s sporting background, we began by talking about his achievements in rugger and cricket at the University of Peradeniya in the early 70s and afterwards at Cambridge University, which to this day he said irked his mother who was of the opinion that he had spent far too much of time playing sport and far too little studying! I then asked Indrajit, an economist by training, about the global financial crisis and how, at the time, no one could really explain it, much less predict it but now, how many say they saw it coming.

We then talked about the role and relevance of the Commonwealth Secretariat before I asked him a crucial question pegged to what Prof. Sumanasiri Liyanage – also an economist and political analyst – told me a few weeks ago, that there was absolutely no correlation between development and democracy. My follow-up question was on how corruption influenced development. Indrajit’s informed responses to both are extremely revealing.

Our conversation then focussed on the nature of post-war economic development in Sri Lanka, and whether it would be urban centres like Colombo in the Western Province, or a more decentralised, regional blueprint anchored to local entrepreneurship that would drive growth.

To the question as to whether he was optimistic about economic development post-war, Indrajit’s response was one of great optimism, noting that he sees massive potential and “arguably… the most propitious set of circumstances since 1958′. He also looked at macro-economic policies Sri Lanka should be concentrating on, with a strong regional focus.

The conversation ended with the observation that though Indrajit went to the wrong school, he perhaps left early enough to turn out alright!