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Development does not happen in clear and discreet stages nor in one giant leap. It’s more like a long-distance race where every runner represents one team. Its result is the average of their finishing times. The greater the number of stragglers, the poorer the overall time will be against other teams. As countries graduate to upper middle-income status, policymakers are often torn between supporting old-growth strategies still generating results (like agriculture and low-end manufacturing) and embracing the innovation economy. This should not be the dilemma it sometimes becomes. An economy will also have its pacesetters and stragglers. A policy aiming to help the weakest sectors improve performance by innovation and imitation, while edging on everyone else, will improve the pace. For policymakers who take a straight jacket approach; the middle-income trap turns in to a middle-income dilemma. However, Sri Lanka’s economic policy setting is complicated and compounded by the poor macroeconomic conditions, ageing population and unpredictability of its politics. The window for enacting bold policies will not stay open for long.

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