Financial Times

Sri Lanka will face latest impact of global crisis

By Natasha Gunaratne

Triumphant financial liberalization over the past decade has brought with it deregulation, producing a deepening crisis which it advocates scarcely expected, said Managing Director of Chevron Kishu Gomes. Addressing the AAT Annual Conference 2008 on developing future professionals last week, Mr. Gomes said it is inevitable that Sri Lanka will face the consequences of the recent global economic meltdown sooner or later.

According to him, there are six major issues that impact the global economy and thus everyone's lives. They are the energy crisis or imbalance between demand and supply, population growth, food shortage, the economic impact of natural disasters, terrorism and related expenditure and epidemics. "While these issues are common to all countries across the world, Sri Lanka has its own issues," Mr. Gomes said. Though the challenges are of a very tough nature, he added that professionals cannot take the position that these issues are not controllable or relevant to them.

These are issues for the professionals in every discipline to find solutions for the sustainability of the world that worsen the crisis.

Mr. Gomes said the only resource for Sri Lanka to achieve economic independence is people. "Every other resource that can be used to generate revenue for the country has its own limitations," he said. "We have over 8 million people in the workforce but with 14% under employment and 6.5% unemployment. So in absolute terms, more than 1.6 million people in the workforce are not making a meaningful contribution to the country's economy." He predicted that for future professionals, the job market in Sri Lanka will get tougher due to the fact that the local job market is being penetrated by expatriates, mainly from neighboring countries.

"Sadly, we have a strategy of exporting unskilled labour and allowing the importation of very expensive professionals by default or otherwise, which I term as a 'suicidal strategy' from our country's perspective," Mr. Gomes said. "We need to immediately correct this situation. There is no better strategy to counter this issue than elevating the knowledge and skills and thereby developing the professional standards of the Sri Lankan workforce."

As a practitioner, Mr. Gomes said he sees the need to close certain gaps in the Sri Lankan workforce relative to global and regional competition. Sri Lankans should work on their confidence and willingness to undertake challenges, apply knowledge to create commercial value, have good people skills and engage in continuous skill development to keep pace with evolving trends in the job market.

His advice to students is to gain knowledge that can be converted into commercial value which that can be marketed or has a natural demand. His request to AAT SL is to offer knowledge and skills that can be used by students to create commercial value.

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