ETCA can be a wake up call for Sri Lankans: professionals

Feb 25, 2016 (LBO) – Sri Lankan professionals say integration with India through the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) is a must for the islands future development.

“Yes, ETCA is needed. We have labour problem and if Sri Lankans can’t do it and we don’t have the people then we have to bring them from elsewhere,” Reyaz Mihular, Managing Partner, KPMG Sri Lanka said at a recent forum.

“I don’t see the IT sector and marine engineers fighting this. Why is it that only the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) who are making an issue?” he asked.

“If we have Megapolis then we need to have the expertise.”

Mihular says that Sri Lanka has nearly one million three wheeler drivers and this is an unproductive workforce.

“They should look for better skilled jobs.”

“Due to intense competition we find it hard to keep a qualified IT youth in the same job as they are grabbed by other companies.”

Another senior professional said that integration with India will be a key if the island is to move towards developed country status.

“When you look at integration, the ASEAN Region is at 35 percent while South Asia is only at 5.3 percent,” Rohantha Athukorala, Chairman, Lanka Sathosa, Ministry of Trade and Commerce said.

“If we (Sri Lanka) want to ride the wave of the developed countries then we have to come up with a partnership like ETCA. There is no doubt.”

However, he stressed on the point of stakeholder participation and transparency.

“Yes, we need stakeholder participation but we need to take decisions that are good for the country in the long-term. ETCA needs to move on but the document needs to be made public and ensure a degree of transparency.”

Nithya Partners Partner, Neomal Goonewardane said that many of Sri Lanka’s young professionals aspire to go overseas and that this creates a vacuum.

“I think ETCA is necessary – It will be a good wake-up call, as our people need to work harder as if not there will be no future for the younger generation,”

“All professionals between the ages of 30-40 years don’t want to work in Sri Lanka. They want to work overseas in place like Australia, Canada other places.”

He also said that Sri Lanka has to create innovative new jobs for the youth similar to Singapore which has mobile BPO Law Desks for India targeting big law firms.

“This is very successful and is a model that could be adopted in Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Harsha de Silva, told LBO recently that there is no formal document with regard to ETCA yet and that the government will have consultations with local stakeholders before finalizing a draft.

“Opening up of the services sector will not result in Sri Lanka being flooded by Indian professionals and the agreement will not be going in for Mode 4 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services which allows movement of “natural persons”.”

Entry will be allowed only in IT and ship building, he said.