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Sunday, 30 January 2011

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Skills development vital in globalised economy:

Need preparation for technological advancements:

Sustainable development - the way forward

New National Chamber of Commerce President emphasises:



NCCSL President Asoka Hettigoda handing over a memento to NCCSL past President Lal de Alwis. Governor Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal and External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris are also seen.

Skills development, improving trade and investment in the Asian region with a focus on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and promoting sustainable development are the three key areas, the newly-elected President of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) Asoka Hettigoda plans to focus on during his term of office.

Speaking at the 52nd Anual General Meeting of the NCCSL, Hettigoda said that development of skills is important in a globalised economy as it leads to increasing international standardisation of educational challenges and systems while organisations increasingly emphasise competence development and lifelong learning.

He said that technological advances have accelerated at an unprecedented pace. Accordingly, the development of skills through training should be the strategic response to technological change, globalisation and other forces affecting labour markets. The new generation of technologies, especially information and communications technologies and certain manufacturing processes have a likely effect on productivity and on the demand for workers with a higher-level of skills and broader workplace competencies, who can command higher wages, he said. The introduction of new technologies has reduced the demand for unskilled labour and raised the value of advanced skills and competencies in industrialised economies.

In the services sector, technological changes have created new categories of high-skilled occupations in healthcare, information processing, finance and business services. In the manufacturing sector too, the emphasis is now less on physical strength and adherence to routine and more on workers’ behaviour, flexibility and initiative.

Therefore, the NCCSL will embark on an aggressive skills development program and hopes to be positioned as a centre of excellence for training. “We applaud the Government’s recent decision to allow setting up private universities, promoting the use of the English language and improving IT literacy to set up a knowledge based economy. These activities will have a direct impact on the performance of our companies and building competitive advantages for the export sector, while generating more foreign exchange on high-skilled foreign employment,” he said.


NCCSL President Asoka Hettigoda addressing the gathering

Hettigoda said that with the Government’s strategy to make Sri Lanka a logistics hub, it will definitely assist trading activities while giving Sri Lankan companies a competitive edge. The expansion of Colombo and Hambantota seaports, expansion of Colombo international airport and other domestic airports in Ratmalana, Palali and Trinco would offer efficient sea and air cargo options to the business community.

Banking sector

“With the two largest populated nations located in our region, we hope to focus more on trading within Asia. To support SME development and investment, the NCCSL will lobby the banking sector to improve long-term low cost lending to SME’s and traditional and non-traditional exporters who add value to their products. SMEs play a key role in all developed countries; for example; in the European Union, EU, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises which are socially and economically important, represent 99 percent of an estimated 19.3 million enterprises and provide around 65 million jobs representing two-thirds of the all employment sector. In Latin America, 80-90 percent of companies are micro enterprises; in Japan 81 percent of all employment is in SMEs while in OECD countries SMEs represent over 95 percent of enterprises and generate over half of private sector employment. In Sri Lanka the figures are no different. Hence, the development of SMEs is vital to the Sri Lankan economy”, he said.

A significant section of SMEs in Sri Lanka operate in traditional areas, generally with low levels of productivity, poor quality products and serving small, localised markets. There is little or no technological dynamism in this segment, and few ‘graduate’ into large sized or modern technologies. “Hence, we, the NCCSL like to work with the Government to support more research and development activities to create new products, introduce new technologies that are sustainable and to assist these companies to enter international markets and to build internationally recognised Sri Lankan brands”, NCCSL President said.

Private public partnership

Hettigoda said “with the Government’s initiative in private-public partnerships, we would also like to request that local companies be given the first choice before projects are offered to international bidders as we are keen to participate in our country’s economic growth.”

The NCCSL will continue to hold international trade and investment events such as Ayurveda EXPO 2011 to be held under President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit Sri Lanka 2011 program, INTRAD, and Arogya in the coming years.

Hettigoda said, “sustainable development is the future for our wonderful nation which is blessed with the abundance of nature and biodiversity.

Development which balances the environment, economy and our culture, will bring more benefits and I believe we will become a competitive nation.

The need to manage our water resources is paramount with an agricultural economy and erratic weather patterns which we all witnessed during the last few weeks. Hence, the promotion of sustainable water management methods like rain water harvesting, drip irrigation, waste water treatment and controlling of water polluting activities will preserve enough drinking water for future generations while promoting development. In addition, green building strategies, renewable energy, environmentally sensitive site planning, resource efficient building materials, organic farming and recycling are some of the well-established practices of sustainable development.

Carbon tax

“Certain countries in the developed world are discussing the introduction of a carbon tax on merchandise with high carbon levels and products coming from countries that refuse to contribute to reducing greenhouse gases. Further, the use of certain chemical pesticides and fertilisers and the health effects that these chemicals have on them, poor labour conditions, are factors considered by certain countries in controlling imports”, he said.

Hettigoda said considering these factors, it’s easy to see why sustainable development is not only good for the earth, but also required to survive in the new economic order. “As we target more export revenue, sustainable development practices will give us the competitive advantage we are looking for.

The business community, will fully support the Government’s initiatives to make our nation a prosperous country and not settle for anything less than President Rajapaksa’s vision of making Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia and with the emphasis that the National Chamber means always ‘national-minded’.

Hettigoda did not forget to thank the people who had supported him and taught him good values.

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