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IMF, Geo-Politics and Sri Lanka: Assessing debt and economic sovereignty in Sri Lanka.

The Research Intelligence Unit (RIUNIT) with co-hosts Institute for Political Economy (IPE), held a webinar tackling Sri Lanka’s economic challenges through the lens of geopolitics, debt justice and the IMF. The first half explored international concerns, while the second focused on domestic/ internal vulnerabilities. This insightful event offered valuable alternative perspectives on Sri Lanka’s future economic strategy. 

RIUNIT and IPE welcomed a distinguished panel of internationally respected academic personalities and local entrepreneurs who delved into the pressing issues facing Sri Lanka and the world at present.  The expert panel was composed of;  Professor Yanis Varoufakis (Former Greek Finance Minister and internationally renowned economist), Tania Abeysundara (Award-winning businesswoman and head of the Federations of SMEs in Sri Lanka., Professor Dr. Howard Nicholas (leading economist with over 40 years of extensive teaching experience in the area of business economics and financial markets), Heidi Chow (Executive Director of Global Debt Justice, fighting poverty and exploitation) and moderated by CEO of the Research Intelligence Unit, Mr. Roshan Madawela and co-founder for the Institute for Political Economy, Professor Kanchana Ruwanpura. 

Professor Yanis Varoufakis delved into the turbulent state of the global economic order, explaining to the audience how the escalation of the new cold war between the United States and China which began with Donald Trump and is now being turbocharged by Joe Biden, is drawing in the European Union and creating a difficult geopolitical landscape for smaller nations like Sri Lanka to navigate a route between the competing forces within this geopolitical quagmire. He linked this geopolitical tension to ongoing conflicts like the war in Ukraine and the situation in Gaza, further compounding the challenges faced by vulnerable countries like Sri Lanka. He also touched on the ‘preposterous’ IMF solution put in place for Sri Lanka and how the IMF imposed a haircut on the country’s pension funds instead of targeting external debt so that foreign collectors would feel less pressured to affect the haircut. This highlights how the Sri Lankan government has secured an IMF deal that preserves the power of the oligarchy, causing a deeper dependency on the country’s people. So what is the solution? Professor Yanis’ discussion highlights how we as a nation should have focused exclusively on external debt not internal debt and also suggest the island would be better off holding direct negotiations with India and China.  With regard to the genocide in Gaza, he called out the government in Tel Aviv for its horrific crimes and said that the enormity of what’s going on has overwhelmed his ability to think and rationalise as an professional and economist 

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