Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Professor Razeen Sally’s advice at the Advocata Lecture – Sri Lanka still needs to get the basics right before trying to leapfrog!

In speaking to a packed audience at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Professor Sally who is also the Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka’s Premier think tank on Public Policy, said that until the basics are in order, there is little possibility of growing an economy to benefit from the latest advances in technology.

The lecture was titled “Capitalism in Asia and what it means for Sri Lanka.”

He explained the present day scenario of the various nations in Asia and Australasia, and which category of development they fell into and attempted to explain their various attributes and rationale for how they got to where they are at. I will not go into that which will shortly be covered in more detail in the Media in the next few days.

I will concentrate just on ONE aspect of the Basics that he mentioned. He did give credit to the present Governor of the Central Bank, in steadying the ship and balance, Monetary Policy, Exchange Rate and Balance of Payments, with some Fiscal Policy improvements taking place in the Treasury to complement.

However Labor productivity is the key to growth whichever way you look at it and if Sri Lanka just concentrated in improving the quality of its labor force, we can let all other factors just fall into place almost automatically.

What needs to be done to improve the quality of labor’s ability to grow the Economy, so that we achieve the expectations of the Citizens of Sri Lanka?

The points below are all mine, and repeated ad nauseam for 10 years in different sections in this blog, of over 1,000 entries, and if only policy makers read what I wrote 10 years ago and implemented just a few recommendations, we will not be where we are presently wondering, floating in space unable to reach firm ground.


1                      I have blogged - our pre-school education hundred years ago was the best in the world, but now is asinine. I have recommended that special emphasis be placed in this area, so we empower our children, to retain the creativity they are born with throughout their primary and secondary education to make the right choices thereafter in their lives.

2                      In order to attain 1 above, we must retrain, and train pre-school teaching to a much higher level, even compensate at a higher rate than even University Lecturers, so that our MOST precious resource our Children get the right start in life.

3                      We then at primary school be completely trilingual, which is now proven as the best means to attain the most from our intelligence, making it easier to learn concepts like Mathematics and Logic, while being introduced to the extracurricular activity that currently obtains step motherly treatment at schools to develop interests in ability outside of the strict school syllabi.

4                      This will include, singing, dancing, musical instruments, and art, a well-rounded primary pupil who enjoys his first 5 years in school. This obviously means that the Grade 5 exam is done away with as being unnecessary, as there are easy to implement attitude tests to sort out different levels of intelligence if that is what is needed for directing some gifted children to perform at their best.

5                      Secondary School with a broad base of multi-disciplinary subjects, that with group participation in projects automatically points students to the subjects and specialties of their choosing. With the only public exam they will sit together being the equivalent of O levels. I will not go into the list, but I certainly DISAPPROVE of the Government attempt to bring it down from 8 to 6, when I would rather have at least 10 if not 12, but to a more commonsense understanding of subject matter, not facts to memorize.

6                      From age 16 (formal schooling then is 2 years pre-school and 11 years 5 primary and 6 secondary) the student chooses their calling. Into a vocational training school, further education in subjects if they wish to be University Educated Scientists, Engineers or Medical Professionals, the Social Sciences that include Business, Accountancy and Law, Hospitality and finally the Fine and Performing Arts, as in future this is an area (service sector) which will form part of civilized society, and income generating professions.

            I have not forgotten the three A's, Agriculture, Architecture and Advertising! they all need good people, interested in that field, who love the subject and we need to encourage that love equally.

7                      If we are able to leverage our unique Biodiversity Beauty to be valued worldwide, we will need 2Million workers in the Hospitality Trade and to get people interested in that field, true service standards, languages, map reading, trekking, history, archeology, zoology, sport recreation, guiding are all sub specialties of this, so students can be directed to their particular calling.

We must somehow send out to pasture the 10,000 staff in the Education Department who are the problem, warming their seats, drawing higher salaries than school principals, doing nothing, and preventing new ideas from being implemented, and spend that money directly in training the teachers to teach properly. That is most needed, without which this Human Resource cannot be developed to reach the standard necessary.

Just ask the chair warmers in the Education Department what has happened to the audio visual project of 10 years ago, to have distance learning in every school? Except for private and international schools that are in the forefront of education, does one Govt. school have a working distance learning center?

Why MUST we change our education system from that which has not worked to date? 

Surely will anyone dispute what I have laid out above? Is that not the best blue print? Only then will we have qualified, electricians, carpenters, masons, builders, and all manner of specialties in the travel industry, even the dancers and singers are part of the entertainment industry allied to the travel industry. All of the above will have the dignity of labor that is lacking today. We will concurrently have to, through the medium of TV change the mindset of the parents, that these professions are those of tomorrow that their children should pursue and not of yesterday, that has no future.

With the changing population age structure, especially in Sri Lanka, we need trained youth at 19 to join the workforce with the equivalent of a diploma. A degree if they are 21 and post graduate if they are 22. We JUST CANNOT AFFORD our graduates to enter the workforce at 27 as at present. They are too old, to join a productive labor force. The Prime Minister's 13 years of compulsory schooling at 5 is wrong, it should be at 3, as by 5 your brain is fully developed, and there is little you can do to change that.

Much job training and learning and possibly post graduate qualifications are obtained while in employment. This means is the only way we can ensure a productive society that all work from 19 to 70, as with advances of medicine and nutrition, we expect all humans to live to about 100, but the population to decline due to poor reproduction rates.

As can be seen from the above, it is service industries that have the future in employment growth, while agriculture and industry will have robotics and automation and innovation replace, but unlike the west we will be fortunate at not having a net loss in employment, as we would have a thriving hospitality industry to which we are geared taking the slack.


Sri Lanka has the highest number of barbers per head of population. Our youth, and within them, male more than female use the salons MORE frequently. They are all private sector. YOU CANNOT GET A ROBOT TO REPLACE THE BARBER and with increasing vanity of males to preen for females, and not the other way around, this demand is still not adequately satiated. Each 14,000 villages in Sri Lanka has a barber salon, for men even though it does not have a motor bike repair shop. I live in a village so I know, that the men even go there for a shave. The average earnings of a Hairdresser, is Rs30,000 a month, with no traveling expense to work.


The key to success is a LABOR FORCE of a different in mindset, encouraging a work ethic from a young age, weaning children from parental overindulgence, with govt. jobs not even on their radar, to find a satisfying livelihood in a field of their choosing as the opportunities are endless, and they have to be shown what they are to gauge interest. If we succeed in this, the sky is the limit.


Anonymous said...

Labor is the real gold of a country, not the rocks in the ground or the paper in bank vaults! However a simple problem. How to keep those 2 million workers paid x amount in hospitality in Sri Lanka when they are paid 2x or 3x to work the same job in the Middle East? this is the crux of the labor problem. what is your answer?

Ratmale,Minneriya,Sri Lanka said...

It is the perennial problem that a globalized market place faces. The cycle stops when the quality of life in Country is better than out Country. The answer is in dignity of labor, valuing one's GOLD as you put it. We cannot have our Shangri La Local staff having to spend three hours coming to work, when the foreign ones are housed a few minutes away. Even though they are paid differently the HR has to treat them well.

I just had a post on FB that said that the Service Quality of the Shang staff, (60 were hired straight from Cinnamon Grand) was so bad, that they have employed foreign staff in Sri Lanka and he had even met a Mexican working at the Shang in a low level!

So we then have to train sufficient numbers, allowing for the fact that a certain percentage leave, but finding the pool of the labor is the issue I was trying to address in this entry. It is a long term plan, but we have to start changing mindset and that takes time, if only we had the foresight to do that earlier

Ratmale,Minneriya,Sri Lanka said...

I believe we must leapfrog education not the technology, as that will merely flow into Sri Lanka and develop, purely on the ability of our education system to deliver, entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, which we have in our system but has been stifled by the parochial and croni capitalists who as Sally put it are threatened by education, as that will create competition to their ineptness!

So shall I then state that my proposal here stated in the blog is leapfrogging the present 20th Century education we wallow in and zoom straight into what is required for the 22nd Century which those born today, if they reach 88 will come into.

Something to think about

Anonymous said...

Did you notice that the Echelon Magazine that was given at the Lecture was Headlined, "WANTED Skilled Migrants - Sri Lanka's Tech Industry wants open Borders for skilled foreign professionals."

GMOA will get apoplectic seeing that.

So developing the HR resource for the future is the key to getting out of this mess, and if we just concentrated on just this one point, all others will flow smoothly along.