Trade pacts with Asian countries in pipeline
A series of trade pacts will be negotiated with many Asian countries,
the next global economic power house, to boost trade, Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe told the inaugural session of the Sri Lanka Human
Capital Summit 2016 in Colombo on Thursday.
He said negotiations on Free Trade agreements with China, Japan and
South Korea are in the pipeline and added that discussions in this
regard will commence soon.
“The Economic and Technology Cooperation agreement with India will be
in place by the end of this year ensuring a win-win situation for both
countries. Sri Lanka will hopefully regain the GSP Plus trade concession
from the European Union next year,” the Prime Minister said.
However, Sri Lanka will not be able to benefit from the GSP Plus
concessions for too long as it graduates to an upper middle income
country which puts it off from the eligibility criteria for the trade
“Water, energy and most importantly human resource are major
challenges for Sri Lanka on the road to economic development. Around 60
percent of the students stop their education after the Ordinary Level
Examination. We are looking at an Education and Employment Act to
develop human capital which will improve the quality of life of all
employees,” Wickremesinghe said.
It is estimated that a large number of school dropouts end up as
trishaw drivers. The recent Economic Summit in Colombo focused on the
need for a national policy to harness the talents of school dropouts
with programs that will direct them to vocational training.
The Prime Minister said measures will be taken to enhance female
participation in the workforce through vibrant private-public
participation. There are one million skilled workers working outside Sri
Lanka. “We need to pay at least US$ 300 per month to make use of their
skills in Sri Lanka. We need to train workers for our country and not
“Our focus now is to bring in economic stability and ensure a better
life style with higher income for people who were suffering for over 30
years due to the war.
We have the distinct advantage of being a country in the middle of
the Indian ocean. Second, the strong democratic political system in the
country and third, human resource. The unity government is committed to
create a strong social market economy,” he said.
Speaking via video tele conference, Asian Development Bank Vice
President (Operations) Wencai Zhang said Sri Lanka stands up in South
Asia on human capital development and human development indicators.
Human Capital development is vital for Sri Lanka to excel in the global
market. It needs strong leadership for implementing measures for human
The ADB will support initiatives in Sri Lanka for human resource
Conference Chair, Dr. Amit Dar said skills development is a critical
factor for Sri Lanka which is ranked 73 in the global competitiveness
index. Skills development will help improve competitiveness, reduce
poverty and boost development. The policy makers must focus on soft,
cognitive and job specific skills development. Investing in early
childhood development programs is vital to enhance employees
contribution to economic growth.
“Beginning early in life with skills development in childhood is
critical for a country. Additional years in pre-school leads to 16 to 17
percent growth in productivity and economic development in a country,”
Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Korea are good examples for skills
development. Raising the productivity of the informal sector is crucial
for economic growth. Mexico is a classic example of enhancing
productivity of the informal sector.