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Ranil readies reforms to boost human capital

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By Nisthar Cassim

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday identified human resources as one of the key strengths of Sri Lanka to differentiate and improve competitiveness for which new reforms are underway to ensure sustainable inclusive socio-economic growth.

Inaugurating the first ever Sri Lanka Human Capital Summit at the Taj Samudra, the Prime Minister said a new Education and Employment Act is in the offing and under which the Human Resources Development Agency and Employment Relations Council will play a key role in steering key initiatives with stakeholder collaboration. The new Act will take forward the Government’s plans for education to employment, continual and compulsory education of 13 years and other required reforms. “The Act will provide the legal framework for policies for human resources development,” he emphasised. 

“One of the three advantages of Sri Lanka is its human resources,” said the Premier adding strategic geographic location and a strong parliamentary democracy as the other two. 

“Human resources is also the greatest strength of South Asia which could make the biggest difference towards the region’s prosperity,” Wickremesinghe emphasised at the Summit organised by the Association of Human Resource Professionals, Sri Lanka and the National Human Resources Development Council, of which the Chairman is Dinesh Weerakkody.

He also said given future growth potential and envisaged development plans, Sri Lanka too will have to overcome the scarcity of skilled human resources apart from managing power and water requirements. 

As far as human resources are concerned he said that the upcoming Human Resources Development Plan will complement the new economic development plan which the Premier will unveil shortly. “It is time for a new HR policy to be formulated. This will go hand in hand with the new economic development plan which will be out soon,” Wickremesinghe said.

He said skilled human capital was critical to harness the key advantages of Sri Lanka including the strategic geographic location, create 1 million jobs, meet growth aspirations of a fast expanding middle class and revitalise the rural economy. 

“We are keen to develop a highly competitive social market economy with an open economic and business model attracting foreign direct investments,” the Premier said. He warned that the private sector needs to partner in this transformation and generate the required jobs instead of looking for personal deals. 

“As far as local businesses are concerned they have a low wage mentality. We need to change this mindset. We need to carry everyone with us and leave none as part of our social market economy policy,” the Premier said.

It was pointed out that Sri Lanka must seek ways to bring back 1 million people who are working outside the country, for which pay and perks as well as the country must be more competitive. 

Wickremesinghe reiterated that President Maithripala Sirisena and the UNP are committed for reforms and to usher much needed development Sri Lanka must be made a logistics and business hub for which we need to develop ports, airports, shipping and airlines. We also need to be an energy hub. We are progressing towards establishing Sri Lanka as a financial hub to fill the gap between Singapore and Dubai. In parallel we are also going to boost infrastructure development with Hambantota-Colombo-Kandy corridor, the Megapolis, the Southern Development Plan and the Trincomalee Development Plan. In pursuing these developments, the Government will look to Public Private Partnerships. 

Noting that South Asia is the place for growth with economic power shifting from East Asia to the South, the Prime Minister also detailed about how greater market access is being achieved. “We will secure GSP+ by next year and forge a separate agreement with UK. We are also deepening ties with India via an Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement by end of this year. The five southern states of India and Sri Lanka has a combined GDP value of $ 500 billion and ETCA will be a win-win proposition,” the Premier said adding that it will change the pace of development in the region. He also said that FTA with China and Singapore and an economic cooperation with Japan and Korea are being pursued since future FDIs will come from East Asia, India and the Middle East.

The Summit today starting at 8.30 a.m. will feature a host of international, regional and local business and professional leaders to crystalise the way forward to meet the human capital challenge in sectors such as tourism, manufacturing and construction, IT, financial services and logistics and foreign employment.

Indian Minister urges SL to develop job creators not seekers

A well known Indian Minister yesterday urged Sri Lanka and the Government to focus on developing job creators and not seekers. 

In response to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s pronouncement of Government plans to create 1 million jobs at the Human Capital Summit yesterday, India’s Government of Telangana Minister K.T. Rao who was the guest of honour said it was more advisable to pursue a strategy of developing job creators than seekers. 

“In South Asia we don’t focus more on creating entrepreneurs, innovators and job creators. We dont encourage risk taking rather stifle innovation. We don’t embrace and celebrate failures but rather look down upon on such,” opined Rao who is the Telangana Minister of IT, Municipal Administration and Urban Develpment, Industries and Commerce, Public Enterprise, Sugar, Mines and Geology and NRI affairs.

At the Summit, he briefly showcased Hyderabad’s successful efforts to foster innovation and entrepreneurship and make youth job creators than seekers. He said the strategy followed by the Telangana boosts confidence among youth. One key initiative is the Telangana Academy for Skills and Knowledge which promotes innovation, incubation and incorporation of start ups creating many jobs. 

“If one thinks imparting skills is expensive then try ignoring it,” warned Minister Rao at the inauguration of the Summit attended by business leaders and international development and donor organisations.  

The Summit today starting at 8.30 a.m. will feature a host of international, regional and local business and professional leaders to crystalise the way forward to meet the human capital challenge in sectors such as tourism, manufacturing and construction, IT, financial services and logistics and foreign employment.

Malaysia’s State of Perak Chief Minister Dr. Zambry Abdul Kadir who was also the Guest of Honour said human capital development was the key driver for inclusive and sustainable growth and development and his State has immensely benefited from such a strategy.

He also said that competent human capital is also key for countries to harness the fourth industrial revolution. He said Malaysia as well as Perak State benefitted from a conscious strategy of workplace and workforce transformation.  “Such transformation boosts productivity which is critical to ensure growth across the economy,” Kadir emphasised. He also outlined Malaysia’s success in terms of Tertiary and Vocation Education and Training initiatives, which he identified as a “game changer” for Malaysia. 

Focus of Education and Employment Law

The Education and Employment Law proposed will focus on developing human resources with the goal of improving the standard of living and quality of life of all Sri Lankans by promoting a highly developed, skilled and globally competitive workforce thereby building a strong economy.

It will also address the structural failures of job supply and the formal education based on coherent policies to rationalise education, training and employment, programs anchored in economic policy thereby ensuring greater synergies between economic growth on the one hand and the education and labour market policies on the other. 

Another objective is to enhance the female participation and promote lifelong learning and upgrading the skills and professional qualification of employees.

It will provide the fullest possible opportunity to each employee without discrimination to qualify for and to use his/her skills and knowledge in a job for which he or she is best suited and thereby improve the quality of life of the working population in promoting effective public-private partnership for job training.




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