Ranil Wickremesinghe

Prime minister on Rajapaksa-era exports: right on decline, not on details


In the ten years of the Rajapaksa administration, this country’s exports fell from 30% to 18%.

Divaina | August 12, 2019


Partly True

Fact Check

In the above statement, the prime minister is making a negative attribution to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency by citing a fall in export share of GDP by 12 percentage points, from 30% to 18%.

FactCheck evaluated the claim using data from the Annual Report 2018 published by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Exhibit 1 shows the export earnings as a percentage of GDP for the period 2000 to 2018.

Exports comprise both goods and services, and the prime minister does not specify which he is referring to in his statement. A previously published version of this fact check assessed the accuracy of the prime minister’s claims against exports of goods. This extended fact check looks at exports of goods as well as of goods and services.

Exports of goods as a share of GDP fell from 26.0% in 2005 to 14.0% in 2015. If the prime minister is referring to exports of goods, he is correct that exports fell by 12 percentage points during this period. But the data points he cites, of 30% to 18%, are not correct, i.e., he is 4.0% off on each end.

Meanwhile, exports of goods and services as a share of GDP fell from 32.3% in 2005 to 21.2% in 2015, a decline of 11.2 percentage points. On this, the prime minister’s claim approximates the actual decline in export share, but the specific numbers he uses are off by 2.3% and 3.1% on either end.

Overall, the prime minister is correct on the substance of his claim, that there was a decline of around 12 percentage points. However, he is not correct on the specific data points that he cites. Therefore, we classify his statement as PARTLY TRUE.

In evaluating the claim, it should also be noted that this period of decline in the export share precedes the Rajapaksa administration. Exports of goods fell from 33.3% in 2000 to 27.9% in 2004. Similarly, exports of goods and services fell from 39.0% to 35.3% in the same period.

*FactCheck.lk’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck.lk will revisit the assessment. 

Exhibit 1: Export performance (2000-2018)