Multi-pronged development, focal point of Govt plans
Before the year is over, Sri Lankans will be
able to go on a journey that a few thought was possible even a decade
ago. Physically, the journey begins in Colombo and ends in Galle and
takes maybe 90 minutes. But the journey is not only physical – it is
also a massive transformation in the Sri Lankan mindset, for Sri Lankans
will now feel that they are truly on a rapid path to development. When
the Southern Expressway opens, Sri Lankans will realise what they have
been missing all these years. After all, an expressway network is a sine
quo non for attaining developed status.
This expressway and indeed others such as Colombo-Kandy and Colombo-Katunayake
expressways were on the drawing board for decades. But all previous
governments lacked the political will and commitment to go ahead with
these massive development projects, even if the funds were available
from foreign donors and local sources.
This is a hallmark of the present administration under President
Mahinda Rajapaksa – it is not reluctant to go ahead with projects that
are crucial to the country’s development despite various objections
raised by parties with vested interests.
And unlike the previous governments, the conflict was not cited as an
excuse to halt or go-slow on development and welfare projects. Among the
other projects that have leapt off the drawing board to the ground are
Upper Kotmale, Norochcholai, Sampur (power), Hambantota Port and
Airport, Oluvil Port, Colombo Port extension (transport), oil and gas
exploration and the development projects specific to the North and the
East under Northern Spring and Eastern Resurgence programmes.
In nearly all of these cases, the projects had been postponed by
various Governments due to lack of commitment, not necessarily funds. As
for the North and the East, the present Government also removed the
biggest obstacle to development – LTTE terrorism that raged on for
nearly three decades. That was perhaps the biggest example for the
Government’s steadfast commitment to a given cause.
Although short-term measures could be popular, the Government has
instead chosen to focus on long-term development under a comprehensive
10-year master plan. This means that the results may not be immediately
The benefits usually flow steadily in a decade or more.
That is a holistic approach to development which is essential for a
country that aspires to be an Asian miracle.
Middle income country
The next generation(s) will benefit immensely from these projects,
even if the present one does not. Sri Lanka is well on its way to
becoming a Middle Income country with a Per Capita Income of at least
US$ 4,000 by 2016. New vistas in power, transport and communications
will transform the outlook of the entire nation. Sri Lanka has become
the favoured destination among savvy international investors, stock
market and project wise.
Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama remarked at a parley recently that Sri
Lanka is one of the very few countries that has requested the IMF to
delay the granting of the next tranche in its US$ 2.6 billion facility.
Sri Lanka’s sovereign bonds are being snapped up at an incredible
rate. Poverty levels have been reduced drastically. School attendance is
Health indices are on par with those of the developed world.
Oil and gas reserves
The North and the East are being rapidly integrated to the rest of
the economy, which will boost the country’s indices further. The
discovery and eventual exploitation of oil and gas reserves off the
country’s coast will be a huge boost to the economy.
These are the results of a far-reaching, prudent economic policy
which aims for the equitable distribution of resources among all nine
provinces. Colombo and Western Province are still on top, but the other
provinces are catching up fast.
That is an ideal scenario – even the North, the East and Uva shall be
equal to the Western Province in terms of development, education and
Investors too will see the benefits of locating their industries out
of Colombo if the infrastructure levels are on par with those of
It will also lead to job creation, further reducing unemployment,
which has already decreased to record levels. Youth in all areas will
thus be able to contribute meaningfully to the national development
The administration has placed emphasis on the youth population, which
at five million is the highest ever in Sri Lankan history. This includes
four million schoolchildren.
Part of the Government’s plans for the equitable distribution of
resources to all provinces is the upgrading of at least one school in
each major township to the level of a popular school in Colombo. This
should end the mad scramble among parents for the best schools in
Colombo for their children.
If your local school is as good as a big school in Colombo, Kandy or
Galle, why not take advantage of it ? The Government’s plans also
address the needs and aspirations of youth who are unable to get into
universities, which have limited spaces. After all, youth frustration
has led to two insurgencies in the South. It is thus very important to
secure higher educational and employment opportunities for these youth.
Vocational and other job-oriented courses are offered islandwide for
students who are unable to enter traditional universities.
Another approach is working with the private sector to secure
employment for graduates and others after a training programme centering
on the work ethics and needs of the private sector.
The youth who gain skills also have another avenue – foreign
employment. Within the last five or six years, the Government has found
new markets for our skilled labour, including South Korea and Italy in
addition to the existing markets in the Middle East. Recently, nearly
10,000 youth passed the Korean language proficiency examination, a
prerequisite for finding employment in that country. The Government is
engaged in talks with several other countries to find more such openings
This will also enable more males to find jobs abroad. Right now,
females comprise the majority of 1.5 million Sri Lankans working abroad,
who collectively remit nearly 3 billion dollars back to the Motherland
The Nation can never forget another very vital segment of our youth
population – the members of the Security Forces who eradicated terrorism
two years ago.
But now, the Government faces the challenge of transforming the
Forces to act according to peacetime requirements while remaining ever
vigilant on any renewed threat to that hard-earned peace.
The youthful members of the Security Forces have now become active
partners in the development process all over the country, but especially
in the North and the East, emerging after decades of strife and
Their experience, vitality and patriotism are being harnessed
effectively to build a better tomorrow for all Sri Lankans. All Sri
Lankans must necessarily participate in the development process if we
are to achieve ‘fully developed’ status. That is the aim of Mahinda
Chinthana programs such as Gama Neguma (Village development), Maga
Neguma (road development) and Divi Neguma (Livelihood development
These programmes call for a participatory approach to development,
whereby villagers get an opportunity to voice their opinions on and
actively contribute to the project work. This gives them a sense of
belonging to the development process in their own areas.
Development per se cannot uplift livelihoods without an attendant
spiritual component. The Government has taken many steps in this regard
during the last several years through concepts such as Mathata Thitha
(full stop to drugs, tobacco and alcohol). This has drastically reduced
the problems associated with the abuse of these substances. The
Government has also extended assistance for the expansion of Dhamma
schools, since the foundation for a virtuous society can be successfully
laid from the younger generation. These are far reaching measures which
will have a positive impact on the country’s journey towards becoming a
front-ranking country in Asia.