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Constitutional crises and Institutional costs by Dr. Asanga Welikala

Sri Lanka was plunged into a major constitutional crisis on the night of 26 October 2018. The outcome, an attempt at ‘democratic backsliding’ ended with a demonstration of ‘institutional resilience’, although deeper questions about political culture remain that work against an overoptimistic assessment of the crisis.

This talk examined the institutional and cultural aspects of Sri Lanka’s constitutional system, in the light of historical precedents, to outline some of the lessons we must learn. It will also argue that the potential for bad governance and unconstitutional behaviour that remains in our political system has a high hidden cost that explains, aside from any solely technical or economic policy explanation, how Sri Lanka’s chronic economic under-performance and inequality derives directly from bad institutions and the structure of socially undesirable incentives they create for political actors.