Ceylon Chamber chief tells Chartered Accountants: Private sector should lead country out of middle income trap | Sunday Observer

Ceylon Chamber chief tells Chartered Accountants: Private sector should lead country out of middle income trap

Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya
Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya

The country needs to evade the middle income trap and the effort should be led by the private sector, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) chief Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya told the 40th National Conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

The conference was held in Colombo last week on the theme ‘Finding Your Mojo: A Journey of Self Discovery’.

He called on the private sector to take the lead in breaking out of the middle income trap with positivity and greater focus on inclusivity, instead of waiting for the economic growth to return.

“When we complain of slow economic growth, we wait rather than drive. This is an externality that we need to take into our own hands. There is no denying that business growth comes from economic growth and equally business growth will drive economic growth. I believe instead of waiting for economic growth, we must create that growth ahead,” CCC Chairman and Axiata Group Bhd’s Chief Executive Officer - South Asia Region and Corporate Executive Vice President Dr. Wijayasuriya said.

As Sri Lanka struggles to break out of the middle income trap with continuous subpar economic growth, he emphasised that business leaders in the country must take it up as a challenge with a positive mindset.

“That’s a challenge we should take with positivity as opposed to despondence and with energy as opposed to inertia. It’s about taking greater risk instead of being dormant with empathy for all around us including businesses large and small as well as the government. This sense of apathy takes us nowhere,” he stressed.

Dr. Wijayasuriya also highlighted the importance of addressing the disparities in income distribution in Sri Lanka to achieve sustainable economic growth.

According to the World Bank (WB), the income share held by top ten percent increased from 29.9 percent in 2009 to 32.9 percent by 2016 in post-war Sri Lanka while the income share held by bottom ten percent had declined from 3.2 percent to 2.9 percent during the same period.

After Maldives, Sri Lanka has the second highest wealthiest top ten percent income share in the South Asian region.

“The majority of the population has to share the minority of wealth in this country. This is not a sustainable equation and it certainly will not let the mojo to be created to the required level. The mojo is about opportunity, hope, aspiration and it’s about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel which enables us to do better today and tomorrow,” Dr. Wijayasuriya noted.

He urged business leaders to take the leadership in driving sustainable economic growth while encouraging all citizens to join in to become a part of this journey.

“Lets us not keep what we have at the top of the pyramid, but use our skills, use our mojo, technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to allow everyone to participate in the economy of the future. This could be called a form of socialism, nouvere socialism or inclusive capitalism,” he said.

Dr. Wijayasuriya pointed out that business would also ultimately benefit by driving the sustainable economic growth in the country.

“We as business leaders can ignite and spread a nation’s mojo, if we are positive. If we take challenges before us with a positive mindset and it is the determination that will ultimately benefit our homes, organizations, nation and society at large,” he added.

Technology transformation is the next biggest challenge as well as the biggest opportunity that is before us in the years to come. This digital transformation paves the way for the rise of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) involving the markets and the consumer around us, thus if used correctly the power of human beings could be redefined. The rate of this change is not linear but exponential, thus it is known as exponential times, he said.

Some of the new digital transformations if used correctly and effectively would increase the power of humans.

“IR4 will redefine the purpose and Mojo of people and hence it is the duty of us, as the leaders who understand this evolution and revolution around us with IR 4.0 to re-invent the work to differentiate what tasks need to be accomplished by machines and humans,” he said.

Reinventing includes automation and mechanization of work leading to work 4.0 and the creation of the work force 4.0 which is a team capable of making the most of IR 4.0.

“Agile work places and agile ways of work should be introduced in the organizations. The challenge is not to restrict this agile ways of work and agile concepts of work phenomenon but find a way to translate this phenomenon throughout the workforce of the organization,” he said.

“Mojo is about opportunity, aspiration and hope. We should take this message to every citizen of the country being the iconic leaders of the private sector to make the opportunity for them to participate in the economy of the future. We should commit to carry the nation along with us,” he added. 

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