Frankly I was caught flat footed in trying to second guess what he meant by acquiring know how, when it was so obvious, and had to use enough and more examples all the way from history to prove his point. He had just got off the plane and did most of this thinking about what he wanted to say on the plane.
He has been advising the SL Government for 3 years now and laughingly explained our trysts with the IMF when we face a balance of payments crisis, and then once it is back on track, we let loose again with a massive spending craze to win an election and that results in another balance of payments crisis, resulting in another IMF bailout and so on for all these years and he illustrated this with a series of graphs, to make his point.
Then he mentioned that many centuries ago the Dutch had the highest GNP per capita and the Country with the lowest was only one quarter of that. He then said as of today, if in current purchasing power parity, which is the way to measure GNP per capita, Burundi was at the bottom at US$800, then by multiplying by two each time he showed different Countries with Singapore in the peak with US$80,000, implying that the average Singaporean has 100 times the purchasing power of the average Burundian with Sri Lanka about a tenth of that of Singapore!
The details of the lecture is adequately covered in today's FT, with the link below, which quotes verbatim what he said, so there is no point in my regurgitating that, and so I am merely putting down my thoughts and recommendations here below to add to what he said if we are to encourage our population to "RISE FROM THEIR STUPOR"
If they are to remain in their stupor, then lets do nothing, and we will conveniently disappear if present policies are followed in about 50 years, and perhaps be enslaved by the more enterprising Chinese, instead. SO SHOULD I HAVE SAID AT THE SUBJECT LINE OF THE POST -
" IF WE ARE TO BE FREE OF CHINESE ENSLAVEMENT, THEN WE HAVE ONLY ONE CHOICE, OPEN THE BORDERS TO ALL, NOT JUST THE CHINESE WHO ARE FORCIBLY COMING IN, AND WE HAVE NO POWER TO STOP IT, NO MATTER WHAT WE DO!"
Then came the crunch – He showed how many foreign born people there were to each local person in Countries. In Singapore he said for every 2.2 locals there is a foreign born person in the economy. In Sri Lanka’s case it was in the regions of one for every 600, and hey presto that was the reason we are wallowing in our own self-pity.
The Controller of Immigration, Mr MN Ranasinghe was in the front row and was asked the pointed question, about what he is doing about it. HE then went on for a few minutes explaining the new thinking and the suggestions he has sent to the Legal Draughtsman on an Act, a New Immigration Act to supersede or override the only Act that is currently valid, something enacted in 1948, that is effectively irrelevant in this Globalized World.
He is NOT talking about a clear cut change and practical suggestions of a foreigners’ path to Sri Lankan citizenship, he was ONLY talking about people getting visas, permitted to work under certain conditions, under a particular visa category. THAT IS CLEARLY THE WRONG WAY TO GO.
We still live under the false belief that we should make it difficult to acquire Sri Lankan citizenship, when we should actually make it very easy.
Facts, There are 3M people of Sri Lankan origin who have acquired foreign citizenship, for whom Dual Citizenship system at Rs300K a pop and various forms to fill and conditions to be met will allow to be granted. These 3M people have another 6M people who are dependents born overseas, who under current laws have NO rights to acquire Sri Lankan nationality however hard they tried and want it, even if they come and live here for the rest of their lives.
Every year 50,000 people with Sri Lanka passports also acquire foreign citizenship, but only 5,000 per annum acquire dual nationality. Firstly, we must permit, them with a one-time fee of US$1,000 to AUTOMATICALLY get dual nationality NO QUESTIONS ASKED.
Then in a Country which permits our citizens to go overseas, live and qualify for other nations nationality, as easy as Apple Pie, we should allow foreign citizens to take employment after may be fulfilling certain conditions, of constant employment, certain levels of taxation paid, to a path to Sri Lanka citizenship within 10 years.
If we had allowed this 10 years ago, we have now ended the war 9 years ago this week! We would be already in a situation of double our GNP per head purely due to the efficiency, entrepreneurship and dedication of these new budding citizens to their adopted homeland. Don’t our leaders get it? It is as simple as that.
They then would have forced, a less corrupt culture, where meritocracy reins and the old guard with fossilized opinions (and corruption in their blood) would have been left screaming while being led away feet first.
They would have found ways of filling the vacancies, by training our existing workforce, and allowing our best and brightest a chance if improvement in their own country, without having to leave in droves for a better life with more opportunity as this opportunity will be available to them at home. We would NOT have had an exodus of companies out of Sri Lanka for lack of competitive labor, and the chance of hiring competent management to lead the workforce, as there is a severe dearth of experienced, honest, qualified managers to run companies on behalf of investors, either local or foreign in Sri Lanka.
If you want examples, just look at the hospitality trade, where even General Managers who are NOT past their prime are so hard to find. Companies have to resort to importing people at higher than normal rates just to fill this after going through immigration hoops that add to the cost, such as the wife cannot work!
So need I go any further in this debate? Professor Ricardo Kaufmann was most clear about this glaring VOID in the development debate, as they have studied all other reasons, and have come to the conclusion that unless we have a catalyst such as this desperate need for the right skills, we cannot have lift off, let alone make a yard of progress.
The island mentality of fear of foreigners, even amongst the intelligentsia like the doctors who are striking now, is part of this same problem of fear of the unknown. He smiled and that ETCA should be concern for Singaporeans not Sri Lankans, as if our professionals are so good as we make them out to be, they will want to go there and compete, and no one will want to come here and compete, unless in skills that are not available.
After all we have a severe shortage of certain specialties in the medical field, such as Cardiac Surgeons that Indian Surgeons come for a short time such as a month and do all the surgeries lined up for them in a private hospital! Why can’t they be allowed to practice, subject to clarification of the acceptability of their qualifications.
This holds true for the IT industry, as it has not grown in the way it should, perhaps because there are certain skill sets for growth that are not available in Sri Lanka and they could be attracted by more liberal immigration policies.
He then used examples to say how much more the Country’s own economy will grow, because of the ability of these immigrants to build and expand businesses, create employment and create skill sets for local people who are now leaving for overseas employment to obtain the skill sets.
He did say that Diaspora tapping is also a very important part of this where India has successfully tapped this in Bangalore and Hyderabad, where Foreigners of Indian Origin have been attracted back to build businesses using the Indian location, employees, sometimes to export product and services to the countries of residence of those Indians and he was sure that there were many Sri Lankans living overseas, who would be interested in investing in Sri Lanka, to use their knowledge to find markets overseas.
This reminds me of a Sri Lankan I know from Arizona who came to invest in Sri Lanka, with many millions and he was given the run around, trying to prevent his foreign born wife or girl-friend from helping him out in the business venture, and then being screwed by various Sri Lankan scam artists who took advantage of his good will. This man was so disgusted with the lack of ethics in business and the corruption at all levels, that meant his 4 year investment took 10 years to come to fruition and the resulting loss he had to endure.
You tube link for the whole lecture:
You tube link for the whole lecture: