When Wednesday January 1, 2020, dawns it will be just another day in paradise, as Kussi Amma Sera reminded me this week. “Aie janavari palavenida enakang balagana inne (Why are you looking forward to January 1)? Eka thavath davasak nemeda (Isn’t it just another day)?” she asked, as she brought me the morning tea. “Ovu….. [...]

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Just another day (in paradise)!


When Wednesday January 1, 2020, dawns it will be just another day in paradise, as Kussi Amma Sera reminded me this week.

“Aie janavari palavenida enakang balagana inne (Why are you looking forward to January 1)? Eka thavath davasak nemeda (Isn’t it just another day)?” she asked, as she brought me the morning tea. “Ovu….. Ovu (Yes…yes),” I nodded in agreement, watching her walk towards the gate where Mabel Rasthiyadu and Serapina were bargaining with the vegetable seller.

Apoi, mey elavalu-wala gaana wedi (Apoi, the prices of these vegetables are too high),” argued Serapina. “Aney, madam, mila adukaroth, mata paadui (Aney madame, I will lose out if I reduce prices),” pleaded the trader.

As the bargaining continued, I could hear the strains of the popular baila ‘Wadakaha Sudiya’ coming from the vegetable seller’s small speaker fitted to his motorcycle. The chorus of this song went like this: “Bivva neda wada kaha sudiya//Bivva neda wada kaha sudiya//Ane mage emali pane kiyannako aetta ane//Bivva neda wada kaha sudiya.”

As I enjoyed the song, the landline phone rang. Wanting to engage in conversation this Thursday morning was Kalabala Silva, the often agitated academic.

After the usual morning pleasantries, Kalabala Silva asked: “I say, do you know that we are entering a new decade next year?”

“Ah….right! Wonder what is in store for us,” I said in a response.

“The past decade was very eventful. The war ended; the era was dominated by flashfloods and extreme hot weather and low economic growth,” he said, adding that “technologically, it was a very progressive era”.

As we move on, it would be interesting to record some statistics of the decade that is over.

For example, the population in 2000 was 19.1 million, which rose to 20.6 million (2010) and slowed down (in January-October 2019) to 21.2 million. Population growth rose by 1.3 per cent in 2000 but slowed to 1.1 per cent (2018).

The number of workers was 51.8 per cent of the population (that is those above 15 years) in 2018 compared to 48.1 per cent in 2010 and 50.3 per cent in 2000. Per capita income was US$4,102 (2018), $2,399 (2010) and $899 (2010).

Exports rose to $9,960 million (2019) compared to $11,890 million (2018), $8,307 million (2010) and $5,522 million (2000).

Imports also grew during this period, while the trade deficit was -$6,451 million in 2019, -$10,343 million in 2018, -$5,205 million in 2010 and -$1,798 million (2000).

The movement of the exchange rate was interesting. The dollar was pegged at Rs. 181 on December 13, 2019; at Rs. 182.75 in 2018; at Rs. 110.95 in 2010; and at Rs. 80.06 in 2000.

The new decade brings with it many promising developments particularly on how technology will transform lives in the next 10 years. Companies that are unable to seize this opportunity and transform into tech-savvy companies are likely to get wiped out.

The start-up eco system, using technology as the base, is the fastest growing in the world and Sri Lanka has also embraced this development with Sri Lankan companies taking on the world with globally accepted products.

In the services sector, IT-related export services are likely to reach a point (in the next 20 years) where it could become the biggest earner of foreign exchange.

According to Ajit Gunewardene, Founder and CEO of Bluestone Capital Pvt. Ltd, the new era is about succeeding in the ‘new economy’. “Any business or process that hasn’t changed dramatically over the last three to five years will not exist in the next 10 years. This could be a product or a service. The world as we know it will not exist. The change will be swift and brutal. Keeping ahead of the change and, in fact, being the change agent is the only way to sustain and win,” he asserts.

Samantha Ranatunga, a former Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, believes that older established companies need to join hands with new tech firms. “New companies will give the old companies vast access to technology. Old companies can teach new companies the discipline required to manage cash and run projects,” he said.

According to renowned economist, Prof. Sirimal Abeyratne, Sri Lanka has many opportunities and challenges in the next decade. “World capital flows will grow further and Asian markets will expand further. Countries which are prepared to take advantage of these opportunities will go fast leaving other countries behind,” he said.

Tourism could reach 5 million arrivals in the next decade though questions would arise as to whether this would lead to over-capacity and threaten our natural resources.

But for all these changes to occur in a positive sense, the keywords towards rapid progress are ‘peace and stability’. Sri Lanka, lulled into a false sense of peace and stability after the end of the ethnic conflict in 2009, let down its guard enabling Moslem terrorists to unleash terror and mayhem at three churches and three luxury hotels, resulting in dozens of deaths of innocent civilians during Easter Sunday in April 2019.

Ever since that day, security has been beefed up at hotels, malls and places of religious worship, an exercise that is bound to continue across the next decade. Security, like it or not, has regained its importance to almost the same level of the pre-2009 era.

It would be interesting to see how the next decade would pan out for Sri Lanka’s traditional export crops – Tea, Rubber and Coconut. Will tea still be a labour intensive industry or will mechanisation take over? In the case of rubber, there have been rapid changes and most of the rubber is exported through rubber-based products, unlike in the case of tea.

Apart from icons like Dilmah Tea, Sri Lanka Cricket and Ceylon Cinnamon, will there be other local brands that would gain dominance in the world in the next decade? Only time will tell.

As I sit back and reflect on what the next decade holds for us, Mabel Rasthiyadu walks into the room with another cup of tea saying, “Mahattaya, 2020 di kumak weida (What will happen in 2020)?”

Apita suba vasarak vevi kiyala prarthana karanawa (I wish it would be a good year for us),” I replied, hoping at the same moment that politics, which has been the bane of society, would be less confrontational and work towards advancing Sri Lanka, instead of crippling its progress.

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