"We have to be part and parcel of the global production process rather than trying to produce everything ourselves," Wijewardena told the annual sessions of the Sri Lanka Economic Association.
Current government policy is to strive for self-sufficiency especially in agricultural products like rice and milk and certain manufactured goods with local producers being protected by high import tariffs.
The policy means consumers end up paying more than world market prices although it ensures farms and industries remain viable and protects jobs.
Wijewardena said that Sri Lanka will benefit from the 'bazaar effect' of the global supply chain, where different components are made in different countries, as it emerges from a 30-year ethnic war which ended in May 2009.
"Sri Lanka being a new entrant will have to benefit from the bazaar effect and we'll have to align ourselves to global economic development. Other countries are benefiting from the bazaar effect, such as China."
Wijewardena also said Sri Lankans had no alternative but to work hard and focus on innovation to catch up for time lost owing to the conflict.
Achieving high economic growth means having to create a conducive environment for people to work hard.
"Everyone will have to work hard - there's no substitute for hard work. This is the real driver of economic growth in the next 5-10 years.
"Hard work comes from hard human capital development through hard learning and facilitating capital infrastructure for people to engage in economic activity."
High education and literacy levels and gender equality in education alone were not enough.
More relevant were research and development, creativity and innovation, Wijewardena said, noting that Sri Lanka's spending on R&D was insignificant and less than 100 patents are registered annually compared with thousands in other countries.
Sri Lankans also need to learn the new global language called 'globish', not English."Previously we thought it was English. Now we call it globish - global English - the language used by Chinese, Japanse and others - by non-English speaking countries - to do transactions with the rest of the world. We must teach our students globish."