Early Childhood Development: Driver of sustainable economic growth | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Early Childhood Development: Driver of sustainable economic growth

(starting from left) – Tim Sutton (Representative, UNICEF Sri Lanka); K.D.S. Ruwanchandra (Secretary, Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs; Hon. Mangala Samaraweera (Minister of Finance and Mass Media); Ms. Ashoka Alawatte (Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Affairs); Janaka Sugathadasa (Secretary, Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine); Ms. Badra Vithanage (Director – Education for All Branch of the Ministry of Education.
(starting from left) – Tim Sutton (Representative, UNICEF Sri Lanka); K.D.S. Ruwanchandra (Secretary, Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs; Hon. Mangala Samaraweera (Minister of Finance and Mass Media); Ms. Ashoka Alawatte (Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Affairs); Janaka Sugathadasa (Secretary, Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine); Ms. Badra Vithanage (Director – Education for All Branch of the Ministry of Education.

Building Brains Building Futures, The Sri Lanka Early Childhood Development High-Level Meeting was held last week in Colombo.

Government Ministries and UNICEF joined forces and used this event as an opportunity to secure increased national budget investment in Early Childhood Development from the Minister of Finance and Mass Media Managala Samaraweera and three budget proposals were presented to the Minister .

Investing in health, nutrition, education and protection from birth through to age five – known as Early Childhood Development – enables all children to reach their full brain capacity, and is one of the most effective and proven drivers of sustainable economic growth.

The budget proposals focused on health and nutrition, protection and early childhood education were presented by the Ministries of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Women and Child Affairs and Education, to the Minister of Finance and Mass Media for his consideration in the National Budget for 2019.

For Sri Lanka, the cost of not investing in critical interventions that ensure a child’s full brain development could be substantial including a generation with poorer health, fewer learning skills and even a reduced earning capacity resulting in a weaker economy with a greater burden on social welfare systems. “The human capital development of the country is necessary to achieve socio-economic development and education has yielded good results in this regard. However, there is much more to be done for effective returns,” Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera said.

The Early Childhood Development (ECD) is an important element of long term investment in the children. As Sri Lanka is heading towards a highly competitive knowledge based economy, the ECD interventions should facilitate better growth in children. The Government is looking forward to implement PPP model for child care facilities and enhance different types of skills, he said.

“There is a large drop-out rate and government plans to modify the curriculum to rectify educational mis-march. The first step in providing quality education for children is to provide adequate teacher training facilities and thereby to improve the quality of education. The Government allocated Rs 1.46 billion in 2015 and Rs 3.5 billion in 2017 and has the objective to increase the allocations up to 6 percent of the GDP by 2025,” he said.

“The proposals presented today have the power to transform the lives of children, and drive Sri Lanka’s economic growth. Evidence shows that this investment is one of the most cost effective ways to build this country’s human capital, with a return on investment of as much as 13.7 per cent. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka and the Members of Parliament to support this call for national budget investment in early childhood, to ensure that every child in the country reaches their full potential,” the UNICEF Representative for Sri Lanka Tim Sutton said.

Sri Lanka can be proud of the fact that it is a trail blazer in terms of human capital investments in the South Asia Region. This position is because of enlightened and consistent health and education policies, implemented by forward thinking governments over a number of years, Regional Director for South Asia, UNICEF Ms. Jean Gough said. As Sri Lanka becomes a knowledge-based economy, its growth will be driven by the innovation of its workforce, who will produce knowledge-based products and services .The markets for these products and services, and trading partners, will likely be the fast-growing economies of the Asia Pacific region, including Malaysia, Singapore, Viet Nam, and Thailand. Unless Sri Lanka invests in its future workforce, to enable innovation and increased productivity to meet the needs of future, it will risk being trapped in middle-income status, and will be unable to transform its economy, she further added. This will result in it struggling to compete with existing knowledge-based economies within the region, or with wider global market. The proposals presented will play a key role in facilitating and driving this transformation. They are bold and based on real needs, and they are informed by a cross sectorial group of experts, who each deeply care about the future of Sri Lanka, and the children and young people within it, she said.

As the Regional Director for UNICEF, my work enables me to compare and contrast how countries in the region, are preparing for and responding to the economic and social changes that are upon us.

Today’s event is testament to Sri Lanka’s recognition that it must invest in its young people, to ensure that the country can seize the opportunities before it, and overcome the challenges it may face in the future. This meeting is the culmination of two years of activities that under the leadership of the Government reflect the increasing recognition that investing in Early Childhood Development will be a key driver for Sri Lanka’s sustainable development.

These activities started in November 2016 when the Minister of Women and Child Affairs and the State Minister for Finance both participated in the ‘Billion Brains Asia Pacific’ High Level Meeting in Malaysia.

At this meeting, leaders shared learning’s with counterparts across the wider region to make progress for children in three areas - social protection, ending violence against children, and providing universal healthcare. 

Comments