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A significant feat

Sri Lanka has now recorded one of the lowest levels of unemployment in its post-independence history. The country’s unemployment ratio which stood at 8.3 percent in 2008 had come down to 5.2 percent.

This is a very significant achievement, given that even some of the richest countries (and multinational companies) have been forced to retrench workers as a result of the current global economic meltdown.

And with the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka, unemployment is poised to decrease. Economists are already talking about adding three percentage points to the country’s growth rate and an acceleration of industrial and agricultural activity.

Mired in conflict, the North and the East have not made a significant contribution to the national economy during the last three decades. However, this is likely to change in the near future as Northern and Eastern youth join the economic mainstream. There will be a huge demand for jobs for these youth. This could be fulfilled initially by the massive development effort already being planned for the North and later through new investments.

Sri Lanka now expects foreign direct investment to more than quadruple to $4 billion by 2012, according to the Board of Investment Chief Dhammika Perera. Among those already looking for investment opportunities are apparel manufacturers and hotel companies.

Well known international investor Jim Rogers recently spurred renewed interest in Sri Lanka, saying he sees ‘wonderful opportunities’ in Sri Lanka and that he would like to go to Sri Lanka to see ‘great opportunities’ because of dramatic changes in the country. This kind of endorsement will go a long way in boosting investor confidence in our country and the economy.

Development always generates employment. As the President told the victory rally at Parliament Grounds last month, the present Government has never made the war an excuse to curtail development. Now that terrorism has been defeated, development will continue with greater vigour all over the country.

Five harbours are coming up simultaneously while mega-electricity projects too have been initiated. Infrastructure is being developed fast with rural villages given priority in achieving equity in development.

The private sector should now play a bigger role in employment generation.

They should take their investments to the Northern and Eastern provinces as well. It is also important to encourage self-employment and small and medium scale enterprises countrywide. This is becoming one of the main avenues for generating employment without burdening the Government.

It is also creditable that this Government expanded the public service, in sharp contrast to previous Governments which pruned it down. They wanted to maintain the number of State sector employees around 600,000 due to various conditions imposed by lending agencies.

The present Government has expanded it beyond 1.2 million employees and raised their salaries substantially. The number of teachers alone has increased to 214,000 with 27,000 new appointees after November 2005.

This brings us to the whole question of education and employment. There is a glaring mismatch between the education system and the requirements of the job market.

The traditional theory-oriented subjects taught to students in both schools and universities cannot equip them to meet the tough demands of the employers.

Programs like the Tharuna Aruna, which conditions university graduates for the corporate sector, has seen some success, but what is required is a fundamental change in the education system towards job orientation.

More vocational training subjects should be introduced to the school curricula and the technical colleges strengthened. We hope the current education reforms would address these concerns. There should also be a healthy dialogue between the universities and the private sector on the requirements of the employment market.

The authorities should also concentrate on sending more Lankans abroad for employment. The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment must look for new markets for our migrant workers, especially males. Sending more skilled workers will help earn more foreign exchange for the country’s coffers.

Existing agreements with foreign principals must be strengthened, with more safeguards for our migrant workers. However, we must not allow an exodus of professionals from the country at a moment when the Government is on the verge of commencing a massive development program.

There is no doubt that this development drive would generate a vast number of employment opportunities across the country, in a variety of sectors including the services sector, which is fast becoming a high growth area.

The dawn of peace will lead to more opportunities for creating more business ventures and hence, employment. The unemployment rate will decrease further, giving the economy a major boost.

Winning the war, a triumph of all people

Our President led our Security Forces and our people with courage and fortitude to victory over forces of violence, destruction and separatist terrorism. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has impressed upon the people of Sri Lanka that this was no victory for one segment of the community over another.

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Minister Dodangoda:

Humble politician with impeccable character

Amarasiri Dodangoda was born on October 18, 1942 at Dodangoda Baddegama as the fourth of a family of nine children. His parents were William Appuhamy (Market Ralahamy) and Punyawathie Gunasekera. He had his education at Baddegama Ratanasara Vidyalaya and Richmond College Galle.

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Time to rebuild our friendship

I write this with a lot of sadness, relief and hope, from what has happened in the past few months. As a Tamil, (and proud to be one) I deeply feel that together, we can build the burnt bridges and pave a path to peace, happiness, equality and prosperity for us and for the future generations to come.

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