A future-oriented Policy Statement | Sunday Observer

A future-oriented Policy Statement

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s comprehensive Policy Statement delivered in Parliament on Friday was a radical departure from previous such speeches in that it did not dwell on the pessimism of the past, but rather on optimism for the future. Indeed, the future was the central theme of the speech which was admired by both Government and Opposition Members.

His words “our most valuable resource as a nation is our future generation - we have identified the development of our human capital as one of the primary responsibilities of the Government” speak volumes about his vision for the future. In fact, the President’s ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ is a futuristic document in itself and the Policy Statement can be described as an extension of that exemplary vision.

His emphasis on utilizing the opportunities afforded by the 21st Century Knowledge Economy for the country’s advancement to the front ranks of Asia shows the depth of his commitment to the nation. He even called for the deployment of modern methodologies and indicators to gauge whether the needs of the people are truly being met, and whether they are happy. He also stressed the need for infusing new technology to the State sector to provide a better service to the people.

“Our target is to make Sri Lanka a developed country. It must be a sovereign, independent nation. Also, it must be a safe, and a peaceful country. Sri Lanka will be a prosperous nation only when all of these are achieved. We must plan for the future based on the geographic location, natural resources and human resources of our country,” opined the President, outlining his vision for the future of the Motherland.

The President made the right call on Sri Lanka’s geographic location in the ocean connecting the East and the West, saying the country can benefit from this advantage as it did in the ancient trading days. In fact, during the period from 2005 to 2014, the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa planned to develop Sri Lanka into the commercial hub of South Asia. He recalled that the decision to develop the Colombo Port City (though the UNF Government wasted precious time dilly dallying on it) was taken with the aim of making Sri Lanka a hub for finance and commerce in Asia. “We must carry forward these projects that were designed to achieve long term objectives.”

The President emphasized the need to encourage international businesses to locate themselves in Sri Lanka and supply goods and services to regional neigbouring countries. It goes without saying that to encourage such investors, we must be prepared to swiftly provide all the facilities they require within Sri Lanka.

The President noted that for economic development to occur, it is important to accelerate improvements to the road network, including the expressways. The development of the train service is an integral part of this program. In line with the President’s vision, Ministers and officials must now complete the Central Expressway and begin work on the Ruwanpura and other expressways.

He also identified the provision of high-speed internet and telecommunication facilities throughout the country as an essential component of development along with the use of eco-friendly renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro-power to generate electricity. This will be essential to ward off a looming power crisis, as the demand for electricity is soaring exponentially. This also tallies well with the President’s pledge during his speech to ‘protecting the natural environment for the future generations’.

The President struck the right note when he said that when planning for the future, more attention must be given to the agriculture, plantation and fisheries sectors. As a country that possesses a large oceanic economic zone in temperate waters, we can indeed develop these industries much further.

The President pointed out the need for ensuring that the future generation will become productive citizens by nurturing them with the required knowledge, skills and abilities. In this process, the opportunities young people have to pursue higher education and technical education should be broadened.

He also addressed a perennial sore point for the business and investor community - some of the courses taught in universities are not in consonance with market requirements. The President thus intends to introduce short-term courses to equip university students to meet the needs of the modern job market, which they can opt to attend while pursuing their current courses of study.

Universities and other higher education institutions should be given more freedom in the enrollment of students and in the restructuring of their syllabi to meet the needs of the marketplace. Similarly, he called for the strengthening of colleges which provide technical and industrial training in order to create a workforce that has received vocational training in line with global standards who can seek high wage employment in the fast-evolving marketplace both here and abroad.

Referring to new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, biotechnology, robotics, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things, that are continually changing the world, the President told the House that most developing nations are spending substantially to attract technology centric investments. Hence, the need to direct the youth to learn these new technologies and undertake research relevant to them and also to assist the education system to speedily prepare to facilitate this change.

Now all must extend support to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to empower our youth to seek a brighter future in line with this broad vision.