The Colombo Port Expansion Project: Can a rising tide lift all boats?

Abstract

This case raises the question of whether infrastructure development can foster inclusive growth and poverty reduction for an entire population. After decades of civil war, Sri Lanka witnessed rapid gains in economic and human development, vaulting the country to low middle income status. The Mahinda Chintana (national development strategy) attempts to refocus the county on a broader developmental agenda. In pursuit of the Mahinda Chintana goals, Sri Lanka aims to harness rapid economic growth by reorienting its economy toward knowledge-based and high value-added sectors.

A key element of this development strategy is the Colombo Port Expansion Project (CPEP). Sri Lanka envisions its future as a “strategically important economic center of the world,” linking East and West. Terrified of losing out on potential gains from trade, the Government of Sri Lanka set the CPEP in motion in 2011. CPEP will allow Colombo to remain a competitive player in transshipment while building the capacity to become an origin and destination (O&D) port over the long term.

The case deals with how (and whether or not) the CPEP can move Sri Lanka up the global supply chain and provide high skill job opportunities to its citizens.

This case study is part of a series of cases designed for the course "Case Studies in Sustainable Development" at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

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