Missing the bigger picture

Missing the bigger picture

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In 1978 Sri Lanka became the first country in South Asia to liberalise trade and investments. The establishment in that same year of the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC) ushered in what could have become a period of unparalleled prosperity. As Nimal Sanderatne notes, the level of liberalisation was such that, in the eighties, two major multinational electronic companies, Motorola and Harris Corporation, “had finalised plans to establish plants in the Export Processing Zone”, with Harris even starting to build a plant “with an initial employment capacity of 1,850 workers.” Then, of course, the promise of prosperity soured in 1983, with the anti-Tamil riots and the commencement of a 30-year war. The results were only to be expected: Motorola shifted to Malaysia and Harris soon left the island as well.

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