ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 9, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 41
Financial Times  

Sri Lanka facing brain drain of accountants

Sri Lankan management accountants are seeking job opportunities mainly in Australia, Africa, Middle East, UK and Canada which is triggering a brain drain of this talent in the country. The demand for Sri Lankans is in middle management positions in finance, IT, and engineering in the West and the SAARC region as well. These comments were made by CIMA Sri Lanka Council member and Managing Director Cornucopia Lanka Ltd Dinesh Weerakkody when he addressed the first CIMA HR leaders forum in Colombo this week.

He revealed that around 50% or 1,969 CIMA Sri Lanka members are now serving overseas creating a dearth of qualified and talented management accountants in the country. Only 1,993 out of 3,992 CIMA members are working in the island and the number of CIMA students is 12,150 at present. Lankan talent internationally enjoys a strong international reputation for strong language skills, analytical skills, and integrity and people skills. Sri Lankan managers are both cheaper and flexible than their counterparts in South East Asia, he said. He emphasized the need of moulding a growing cadre of managers and introduce best HR and management practices to maintain a competitive and effective work force.

Weerakkody said that it is very difficult for the government to persuade them to come back but the only option is to increase the capacity of producing employable graduates through the country’s education system with quality and advanced curriculum. He pointed out that CIMA Sri Lanka is producing 120 management accountants annually and 60 of them are leaving the island for overseas jobs for higher salaries and perks as well as due to present economic difficulties and the war situation here. He added that the government should initiate a programme in consultation with the private sector to equip university graduates with the required skills set so that ‘we’ do not turn out just graduates yearly but employable people. He revealed that it has become a difficult task to find the right person with required skills for lucrative private sector jobs due to the brain drain. The talent shortage will become a crisis in the near future. So the government and the private sector need to be more imaginative and recognize the fact that we need to do something urgently to manage the brain drain, he said.

Quoting the findings of a recent research conducted by an Indian company, Weerakkody said that the main challenges for doing business in Sri Lanka are high finance costs, short supply of skilled manpower, security situation, tight regulations, rigid trade unions, and administration problems. The research also revealed that Sri Lankan managers are loyal, good at numbers, good administrators, and they have the ability to face changes but they need space to deliver.

Delivering the keynote address, Richard Cowlishaw – Global Head of HR, Director of PD Courtaulds said that Sri Lanka should address the brain drain issue as soon as possible and Sri Lankan expatriates working overseas should be motivated to return to the island. He claimed that talent has become the world’s most sought after commodity and a growing number of companies outside the tech industries from hedge funds to consulting run on brainpower, therefore a shortage of it could and will cause serious problems to any economy. He said that HR practices are of vital importance in the day to day operations of any organisation. He added that good HRM practices are the key to the success or downfall of any organisation”.


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