Developing human capital key for SL’s to become upper-middle-income economy

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Sep 27, 2019 (LBO) – Sri Lanka needs to invest in people to unlock its productive potential, a senior official said.

“People are the most valuable resource in any country and investing in people is smart economics,” said Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank County Director for Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

“Technology and automation are radically changing the very nature of work and reshaping industry. Children in primary school today are likely to work in jobs that may not even exist right now.”

She said developing its human capital to a new and higher level will be key for Sri Lanka to become an upper-middle-income economy.

These comments were made at the launch of Sri Lanka Human Capital Development: Realizing the promise and potential of human capital report 2019 in Colombo, Friday morning.

The report finds that in 2019, Sri Lanka performs only moderately well globally, with an overall score of 58 percent, and a ranking of 74 out of the 157 countries included in the Index.

In other words, Pswarayi-Riddihough says if current education and health conditions persist, a child born in Sri Lanka today will be a little more than half as productive (58 percent as productive) as she or he could have been if they had the benefit of a complete education and enjoyed full health. 

“By contrast, children born in Singapore today can expect to achieve 88 percent of their full potential, while those in Japan and Korea can reach 84 percent.”

And while Sri Lanka is the best performing country in South Asia, it lags behind East Asian countries such as China, Malaysia, Mongolia, Thailand, and Vietnam in terms of human capital.

Sri Lanka has the highest score in South Asia, above the average for the region and income group. 

Sri Lanka performs well in survival to age 5, expected years of schooling, adult survival, and stunting.

The main constraints to achieving a higher score for Sri Lanka are under-nutrition, and on average, inadequate learning outcomes in school.

“Sri Lanka needs to address human capital development from the twin perspectives of upper-middle-income growth and regional equity,” said Harsha Aturupane lead economist and program leader for human development for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

 “Greater resources and policy attention are needed for provinces where human capital is less advanced, while also making rapid improvements in human capital in the more advanced provinces”.