Sri Lanka IT professionals insist on greater transparency in ETCA

Feb 11, 2016 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s IT professionals have raised concerns over the lack of transparency and industry involvement in formulating the proposed Indo-Lanka Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement.

President of Sri Lanka Information Technology Professionals Association Indika Gamage told reporters that the government has placed a huge commitment without reputed statistical or contextual data to back the signing of ETCA.

“Sri Lanka should have a national policy when dealing with such important agreements. No official draft has been released so far. Though this is a blind act, major IT firms are still silent on this issue,” Gamage said.

The government recently held meetings with major IT sector players including SLASSCOM and Sri Lanka Computer Society to identify issues even if the outcome was not yet exposed.

Contrary to Gamage, Deputy Minister Harsha de Silva categorically says that there is no threat to IT in ETCA as the mode 4 services of the GAAT convention has not being included in the proposed agreement.

Mode 4 services deals with the movement of natural persons where a professional in one country can render his services physically moving into another country without facing barriers.

First three modes of the GAAT convention is already practiced in Sri Lanka even in the ICT sector.

“If other three modes are already operating in Sri Lanka, what is the purpose of signing a separate agreement on professional services?” Gamage asked.

The government response to that is the requirement to regularize the sector even though some argue that the sector, especially Business process management or BPM sector, should be liberalized to reach its full potential.

BPM involves undertaking specific business operations contracted by large companies to a third-party service provider, where Sri Lanka has an enormous potential to grow.

Sri Lanka’s BPM industry has set its vision to achieve 5 billion US dollars in exports by 2022 while generating 200,000 jobs and creating 1,000 start-ups in this process, SLASSCOM said.

The Information Technology Professional’s Association says the island already has over 80,000 IT professionals and it is the largest profession in the services sector contributing over 30 percent of services GDP.

2013 National ICT Workforce Survey shows that Sri Lanka has an over supply of ICT graduates.

“Sri Lankan IT professionals have a good international reputation and we are competing at the top level with other developed countries in this sector. But this may be the end of it,” Gamage further said.

As per the Central Bank data, IT sector contributes 10 percent of the services exports of Sri Lanka; 5th largest export earner in the services sector.