Gender equality as a source of economic renewal

Few countries navigated a more difficult course last year than the island nation of Sri Lanka. It defaulted on its foreign debt. Then food and fuel shortages sparked protests that toppled the government. Inflation peaked at 70%. Yet rather than being prologue to prolonged helplessness, Sri Lanka’s annus horribilis set the stage for a possible model of economic recovery.

The country of 21.6 million people has started to repair confidence with foreign creditors and restore price stability through financial discipline. The International Monetary Fund is expected to approve a $2.9 billion bailout on Monday, which would unlock foreign money for needed infrastructure. Last week, the United States lauded the government’s commitment to transparency.

What may be more important is an overhaul of Sri Lanka’s social contract. Last week, the government adopted a plan to uplift women and security. Parliament is working on a gender equality bill. In a country where women make up 35% of active workers but only 5% of the national legislature, these measures acknowledge the importance of gender inclusivity to economic health.