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Russia-Ukraine conflict: Economic implications for Sri Lanka



By Asanka Wijesinghe

The Russian invasion of Ukraine deepens the existing global economic woes – persistent supply chain bottlenecks and associated rising inflation – clouding the prospects of a smooth global economic recovery from the pandemic. The West, led by the US and the EU, swiftly imposed strict economic sanctions, targetting Russian banks, oligarchs, political leaders, and state-owned and private entities, generating additional uncertainty over the global economic outlook. The initial disunity in the West on cutting off Russia from SWIFT-a global financial telecommunication system that allows the smooth and rapid cross-border transaction of money- was resolved over the weekend. Such a move will inevitably make payments for Russian exports and imports hard. The ongoing military conflict in Europe could not have come at a worse time for Sri Lanka given its own prevailing high inflation, rising energy costs, and scarcity of foreign exchange. Against this backdrop, this article discusses the economic impact of the European conflict on Sri Lanka, the sectors that will be hit hard, and ways to mitigate the negative impact.

Global Economic Impact

Immediately after the Russian invasion on 24 February, commodity markets rallied up. The Brent spot price of a crude oil barrel reached USD 105 for the first time after 2014. Similarly, the cost of wheat futures for March 2022 in the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) exchange peaked, at its highest since mid-2008 (Figure 1). The Russian Federation and Ukraine-known as Europe’s breadbasket- are major cereal, fertiliser, critical minerals, and iron and steel exporters. Meanwhile, the Western powers were busy over the weekend in negotiations to tighten sanctions on Russia.

While the fate of Ukraine hangs in the balance, the consensus among analysts is that the Ukrainians were mounting a fierce and unexpected resistance, effectively increasing the costs for Russia. The US, EU and their allies are contributing to the military conflict by providing financial and military assistance to Ukraine while imposing sanctions on Russia to make dollar transactions difficult. Thus, the severity of the global economic impact will be determined by the scope and duration of the conflict and the effectiveness of Western sanctions.

Western countries will be keen to minimise the spillover effects of sanctions on their economies. Like Germany, the major European economies heavily depend on Russian energy, making it necessary to exempt the energy sector from sanctions. Indeed, the sanctions package unveiled by the Biden administration did not target the energy sector. As long as payments for energy-related transactions go through non-sanctioned and non-US financial institutions, an unconstrained flow of money is guaranteed. Thus, oil prices dropped with futures closing below USD 93 a barrel in New York. However, that optimism was largely fading in early trade on 28 February. The Brent price rallied over 100 dollars again while wheat, soybean, and corn futures were up. Cutting off Russia from SWIFT and imposing sanctions on the Russian Central Bank can deal a severe blow to the Russian economy in the long run. The collapsing ruble can be a harbinger of Russia’s economic collapse. A possible economic fallout will reduce Russian demand for foreign products, and if Russia cuts off natural gas to the European market, a likely outcome will be a recession.

Implications for Sri Lanka

Overall, Russia and Ukraine account for 2% of Sri Lanka’s imports and 2.2% of exports in 2020. However, both countries are vital import sources for wheat and export destinations for Sri Lanka’s black tea (Figure 2 and 3). Russia and Ukraine purchase about 18% of fermented black tea (>3kg) exported by Sri Lanka. Similarly, 45% of Sri Lanka’s wheat imports are sourced from Russia and Ukraine. In addition, more than half of Sri Lanka’s imported soybeans, sunflower oil and seeds, and peas are from Ukraine. Moreover, Russia and Ukraine are significant import sources for asbestos, semi-finished products of iron and steel, copper (cathodes), and potassium chloride for fertiliser.

Unless the Ukraine crisis is not solved immediately, the fuel and commodity prices can rally further. The inflationary pressure in the Western markets, especially in Europe due to high energy prices and supply chain bottlenecks, may reduce consumers purchasing power, lowering the demand for goods exported by Sri Lanka. Europe is a significant export destination for readymade garments, tea and spices, and seafood.

There is also a growing tendency for increased military expenditure in the long run, which might reduce the “peace dividends” for European households. For example, the German Chancellor committed 2% of GDP for defence expenditure, addressing an extraordinary session of Bundestag. Replacing consumerism with militarism will adversely affect countries like Sri Lanka that depend on the European export market. In addition, a prolonged crisis may impede Sri Lanka’s ability to purchase necessary raw materials like fertiliser. Importantly, Sri Lanka’s exposure to the situation is mainly through linkages to the commodity and European export markets rather than direct exposure to the two countries involved in the conflict.


Sri Lanka should focus on safeguarding access to vital raw materials and food commodities. Globally, responding to the crisis, countries are stockpiling grain and exploring alternative ways to do business with Russia in purchasing raw materials. Sri Lanka has limited options to mitigate the impact on already deteriorating food security conditions and access to raw materials. As wheat and rice are substitutes, high wheat prices may increase the demand for rice.

Thus, it is necessary to remove input shortages like fertiliser to ensure domestic production is adequate. Due to the current foreign exchange crisis, Sri Lanka’s ability to effectively face such shocks is constrained. Thus, the urgent priority is to resolve the current foreign exchange crisis to regain the ability to trade swiftly. Achieving debt sustainability and securing dollar inflows from multilateral institutes might be the options at Sri Lanka’s disposal. Then, entering forward contracts for raw materials and fuel and negotiations with friendly countries for food on predetermined prices are possibilities.

Link to Talking Economics blog:

Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Economic Implications for Sri Lanka

Asanka Wijesinghe is a Research Fellow at IPS with research interests in macroeconomic policy, international trade, labour and health economics. He holds a BSc in Agricultural Technology and Management from the University of Peradeniya, an MS in Agribusiness and Applied Economics from North Dakota State University, and an MS and PhD in Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics from The Ohio State University. (Talk with Asanka –

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ADB partners academia to leverage Environmental Finance for Sri Lanka



‘Bio-diversity prospecting is a very risky area, and therefore, it has to be done right’

‘Many good consultations needed before Sri Lanka can go for climate bonds’

Forum aims at combining profitability with ecosystem conservation and regeneration

by Sanath Nanayakkare

Bringing together a collection of global good practices in investing in natural capital, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) recently held its Serendipity Knowledge Program (SKOP) at the University of Peradeniya on a hybrid platform.

Several high-profile officials and academics from around the world and panelists and participants at the physical forum with specialized knowledge in Bio-Diversity and the Natural Capital Asset Class shared their insights on the topic in a no-holds-barred full-day session on May 31, at the picturesque garden university.

The forum held a lot of relevance to the local audience as Sri Lanka is facing a significant challenge in managing its natural assets not only because of the growing demand for natural resources and the environment’s ability to restore these resources, but also the country’s limited public funds to invest in its natural capital for a sustainable future.

Andreas Thermann, Environmental Finance and Partnerships Specialist at ADB addressing the forum said,” We decided to contribute our expertise and experience by designing natural capital investment strategies for institutional investors, aiming at combining profitability and ecosystem conservation and regeneration. There is increasing interest for blue bonds from investors and potential issuers. However, the lack of universal standards creates risks and slows blue economy growth. In this context, a Global Blue Bond Guidance is to be published in June 2023. This new collaboration is building on: ICMA Green, Social, and Sustainability-Linked Bond Principles, UNEP FI Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles and Guidance, ADB Green and Blue Bond Framework, UN Global Compact Sustainable Ocean Principles/Practical Guidance, Blue Bond Reference Papers and International Finance Corporation (IFC) Guidelines for Blue Finance.”

Andreas made a presentation of ADB Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economy covering pollution control, sustainable coastal and marine development, ecosystem and natural resource management and ocean and climate finance.

He explained ADB’s frameworks for supporting governments to issue blue bonds and supporting the corporate sector to do same, providing them with training, outreach events, technical services and financial services.

Sanath Ranawana, Water Resources Specialist, South Asia Department ADB said,” There are opportunities for investment in Sri Lanka’s environmental resources. These investments may come from the public sector as well as the private sector. In order for these investments to really take place, there is a need for more in-depth assessments. There needs to be monitoring of our basic benchmarks; what Natural Capital do we have at the moment, what is their current status etc. Along with advocacy we need additional monitoring and assessments. As we are all aware, it is very relevant to this topic how the private sector can invest in Natural Capital. There is a general belief that bio-diversity prospecting for commercial purpose is a very risky area, and therefore, it has to be done right. There is a responsibility for the government side in this respect because together we have to undertake bio-prospecting in an organized, controlled and a regulated way. There is a lack of perception about the role the private sector can play in bio-prospecting. So, it is important to make sure that bio-prospecting is done right- that means that it is sustainable, ethical, and results in benefits for the country and the local people. It emerged during our discussion that in terms of environmental financing, there would have to be certain legal provisions that allow the government to make eco-system services payable or not. Such valid concerns may present policy barriers that require policy action. So, engaging relevant stakeholders, in-depth assessments, establishing bond frameworks, arranging independent external reviews etc., will lead to the final desirable objective of climate investment action.”

In addition to ADB, the following global institutes pledged support to provide global guidance to Sri Lanka’s journey in assessing and monitoring its natural capital with the objective of raising long-term environmental financing: The Research Centre for Eco- Environmental Sciences – Chinese Academy of Sciences, People’s Republic of China, Stanford University USA, Sovereign Debt Department Office of the Ministry of Economy and Finance Uruguay and the Government of Belize.

ADB established this new knowledge program in 2021 in line with its vision as a knowledge solutions bank.

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Unlocking New Possibilities: The impact of deep fake technology on brand storytelling



Kavi Rajapaksha

By Kavi Rajapaksha

By now, marketers know that they need to work hand in hand with artificial intelligence (AI) to be successful in this era driven by technological advancements. According to the most recent data, more than 650 million unique branded content pieces are posted every day but 87% of them fail in achieving any significant engagement. So brands continually search for innovative ways to engage audiences and captivate their attention.

One such technological marvel that has emerged in recent years is deep fake technology. This cutting-edge AI-driven technique, with its ability to manipulate and recreate images and videos, is revolutionizing brand storytelling. As we explore the potential of deep fake technology, we uncover a new dimension of creativity and narrative possibilities for brands to produce more emotionally captivating and relevant content.

Breaking the boundaries of imagination

Deep fake technology has the power to blur the lines between fiction and reality, allowing brands to push the boundaries of imagination. By seamlessly blending the real and the surreal, brands can transport audiences into immersive storytelling experiences that captivate and leave a lasting impact. Whether it’s bringing historical figures back to life, resurrecting beloved characters, or merging multiple personalities, deep fake technology unlocks a world of limitless possibilities.

With the introduction of ChatGPT, Canva and various other AI platforms that has transformed how the creative industry does things, many have started to question if AI can indeed replace marketers and creatives. AI can automate basic and repetitive tasks and work efficiently to find the best, published information available. However, whether or not Ai can be programmed to emulate human emotions and think like a human is an answer only the future holds. But, the one thing that holds true is that all brands must adapt right now to stay ahead of the curve.

Also, deep fake technology disrupts conventional notions of authenticity and challenges the way we perceive truth in storytelling. With the power to recreate personalities, brands are now faced with the responsibility of navigating the ethical landscape surrounding this technology. Transparency and clear communication are crucial to ensure audiences understand the creative intent and the boundaries between reality and fiction. As brands venture into this realm, it becomes essential to strike a delicate balance between the captivating allure of deep fake technology and the need for honesty and integrity in brand storytelling.

Empowering creativity and collaboration

The most common jokes in the industry are revolved around how small the client budgets are versus the very inspiring briefs that are received. Often, marketers and creative teams come up with great ideas that require a lot in terms of the budgets which prevents them from executing them. In a way, its fair to say that the strength of the ideas is parallel and even better than some of those in the world right now, but not many organizations can afford to spend the required amount to make those a reality. But now with AI, many of those boundaries can be easily crossed and a lot of video and static content can be created within seconds.

Now is the time to leave hygiene content to AI and focus on really breaking the clutter with unimaginable things that collaborations between human intelligence and creativity can achieve in partnership with AI.

In conclusion

Deep fake technology is transforming brand storytelling by unlocking new realms of creativity and narrative possibilities. It empowers brands to establish emotional connections, challenge the status quo, and collaborate with technology experts to create captivating campaigns. However, as brands explore this innovative technology, they must prioritize transparency, ethics, and authenticity to maintain the trust of their audiences. Ai is unlocking the possibility of pursuing larger than life campaigns that previously was not a possibility due to budgetary restrictions and now more than ever, marketers need to really adapt and work hand in hand with Ai and all forms of technology to stay relevant.

(The writer is the Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer at Softlogic Life Insurance PLC)

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IronOne Technologies appoints former Sri Lankan ambassador Manori Unambuwe as vice president to drive global expansion



Left to right: Manori Unambuwe - Vice President of Strategy and International Markets at IronOne Technologies, Lakmini Wijesundera - Founder and Executive Director at IronOne Technologies and BoardPAC, Buddhika Abeygooneratne - Head of Operations at BoardPAC.

IronOne Technologies is pleased to announce the appointment of Manori as Vice President of Strategy and International Markets. In this role, Manori will lead IronOne’s global strategy, overseeing the company’s expansion into new markets and driving growth in existing ones. She will also be responsible for IronOne’s business development efforts, identifying new opportunities to bring innovative IT solutions to clients worldwide.

Manori brings to IronOne over 20 years of experience in Information Technology, having held senior leadership positions in three global technology giants. Prior to her appointment as Ambassador, she served as the Sri Lankan Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Federal Republic of Germany with concurrent accreditation to Switzerland, Croatia, North Macedonia, and Montenegro. She has also served on the Boards of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT).

“We are delighted to welcome Manori to the IronOne team,” said Lakmini Wijesundera, Co-founder and Executive Director of IronOne Technologies. “Her extensive experience in information technology and her track record of success in business development and market expansion will be invaluable as we continue to grow and expand our global reach.”

The appointment plays a crucial role in IronOne’s strategic vision to position the company as the foremost IT solution provider in the field of artificial intelligence across Asia and expand its global business presence.

Manori said, “I am excited to join IronOne Technologies and to work with the talented team to drive the company’s growth and success. I look forward to contributing to the company’s vision of bringing innovative IT solutions to clients worldwide.”

IronOne Technologies is an IT solutions provider to many clients worldwide, including some listed in the Fortune 500. Its AI labs division, consisting of a highly skilled team of AI engineers with experience in Data Science and Machine Learning, can deliver state-of-the-art solutions to various industries. Atrad, a multi-disciplinary financial trading platform with over 80% of the market share in Sri Lanka, and the Mobile web solutions, with unique apps provided to renowned global brands, are the other business solutions the company provides.

Manori currently serves as an Ambassador for AsiaBerlin Forum, an initiative by the Berlin Senate to support Asian tech startups to access the German market. Her experience and knowledge will be instrumental in guiding IronOne Technologies’ strategic decisions and expanding its global footprint.

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