‘Education system should focus on needs of modern job market’ | Sunday Observer

‘Education system should focus on needs of modern job market’

16 September, 2018

The education system needs to cater to the needs of the modern job market and special emphasis should be placed on skills development. The need of the hour is for the pro economic policies to propel economic growth as Sri Lanka is lagging behind in many socio-economic spheres, Chamber leaders said at the Economic Summit 2018 which concluded on Friday in Colombo.

“The Chamber which focuses developing entrepreneurship in the country empowers the youth to become entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs who take risk, engage in business, create wealth and generate jobs are more important to the economy in today’s context. Their contribution enhances GDP. However, research and development and innovation are an integral aspect of entrepreneurship that should be given priority,” Chamber of Young Entrepreneurs Sri Lanka, Dinuk Hettiarachchi said. “We need to train the youth to make them enter in to the production mechanism and also make them employable. Our education system needs to be geared to cater to the growing market demands and the government should focus on changing the education structure to meet the employment opportunities,” he said.

The entrepreneurs need effective access to capital, stable currency and controlled interest rates. However, creating this enable environment is a challenge. The Enterprise Sri Lanka program which also has a concessionary loan scheme is a positive move in this regard. However, the young entrepreneurs need to be mentor with regard to finance management as within first two years 70 percent of the businesses fail, he said. Highlighting the need for a national trade policy, President National Chamber of Commerce Sujeiva Samaraweera said that market access and increasing international market share is important while innovation and technology to improve the value chain process is necessary.

“We cannot depend on the government for market access. However, the supportive services by the chamber to develop market linkages have helped the business community. We should emphasis on niche markets utilizing our capabilities and specialty in the fields of agri exports, ayurveda products and health tourism,” he said.

The FDIs are a key factor in economic growth and we should look at how logistically we are prudent to attract investments. We need to provide efficient services at the entry and the exit points of the country and ensure a user-friendly service. We need to bench mark our services, he said.

The initiatives taken by the government to encourage trade such as Single Window concept and anti dumping laws are necessary to move forward. It is also important to look at how government agencies could be made to be efficient, he said.

The improved literacy rate and technological advancements has made the women entrepreneurs come forward. However, there are restrictions for their progress which they over come due to their ability talent and power. This has enriched families and the economy of the country, President Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chaturi Ranasinghe said.

The Chamber, while uplifting and assisting the women entrepreneurs is working towards creating an enabling environment for them to move forward. This has compliment by the government’s initiatives such as concessionary loan scheme, Ease of Doing Business index and flexible working hours. One of the main drawbacks we consider is the education policy which lacks direction to the future. There iis a mis-match in the job market and this is a major issue that needs immediate attention, she said.

The women entrepreneurs need financial availability to aspire and realize their efforts. We need to have policy for micro credit facilities to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs. There should be policies aimed at and assisting entrepreneurship development to achieve their goals. We call upon the government to create a sustainable environment for women to propel socio-economic development of the country. For this, women empowerment is essential, she said.

Sri Lanka is not moving fast enough as other war thorn countries such as Vietnam and we are lagging behind. Even after nine years we have not reached significant development in terms of GDP and exports. The rupee depreciation is a major issue that the Central Bank should intervene, Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ruwan Edirisinghe said.

“Most of our people are on the roads and not in factories. This has hampered the progress of the country. As a nation, political leadership and bureaucracy play a negative role in the development agenda. Ad-hoc trade agreements, inconsistent policies and political instability are major concerns for the business community,” he said.

“Are we going to the future, he asked and replied in negative. Giving statistics to support this statement, he said that in 2002, Sri Lanka’s exports were US $ 2 billion the same figure as Bangladesh and Vietnam. Today, while Sri Lanka recording $ 12 billion, Bangladesh has reached $ 38 billion and Vietnam recording $ 248 billion. This shows the way the country is moving on, he said.

The loss making institutions needs to be turn-around as it also pumps up the inflation. When compared to other South Asian countries , our business environment is not supportive for the industrialists who are now moving to Bangladesh and Vietnam among other countries. The government gives shocks to the industrialist as they increase taxes over night, he said.

“There is no attraction for FDIs to come to Sri Lanka. The local construction industry faces difficult times as more contracts are awarded to Chinese companies. The industry’s future is at a stake. Therefore, the government needs to take this matter seriously, he said.

The business of exports is going through a difficult time. The falling exchange rate is not a consolation. We need to think about the mechanism we should look at to manifest forward looking strategies. However, inconsistency of policies is a big drawback. One of the pressing issues are the uncertainties arising from the free trade agreements, President National Chamber of Exports Ramal Jasinghe said.

While stressing the importance of skill development, he said that youth should be attracted to the industrial machine. The development of the industries depends on innovation and capacity building. We need to compete in the global market. However, we are paying the highest electricity rates and this has affected our competitiveness, he said.

“When signing FTAs, we need to look at the advantages it provide. The country has to get reciprocal benefits as the other party to the agreement. We need to be mindful of tariffs and quarantine barriers. The assurance from the trading partner is necessary,” he said.

It is necessary to safeguard companies and industries and protectionism is important for the local entities to survive. The facilities given by the Board of Investment for the companies that set up factories is a threat to the growth of the SME sector. We welcome the FDIs, but, we have to have some protection for the SME sector which is an important segment of the economy, Chairman Ceylon National Chamber of Industries Sri Lanka Raja Hewabowala said.

The country’s SMEs contribute 52 percent to the GDP and generate 32 percent of the employment. We need to have a forum to discuss concerns of the industries and make them efficient and effective. The labour laws in the country are 70 years old and no foreigner will want to come to the country where outdated laws are there. We need to change these laws, he said.

“Vocational training needs to be enhanced, The technology should be used to develop and upgrade training as it is very important to train workers that will solve the labour shortage, he said.

“We will launch the Joint Business Forum, bringing all the trade chambers under one umbrella for greater collaboration shortly. The joint chamber will work towards three pillars of ethnic harmony, good governance and economic growth, Chairman Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Rajendra Theagaraja said.

The country needs stability and a level playing field. There is an opportunity for the domestic trade to improve with the efficiency element in the export sector where holistic value chain rolling out. We have concerns with regard to policies, focus on economy and need for a proper communication, he said.

There are too many bureaucrats in the system. The central government should have a well focused plan and proper alignment with the other agencies. The waste of resources due to having a number of institutions needs to be stopped. Effective mobilization of resources is a must. A system of connectivity should be in place to avoid duplication of work and resources. There should be one line of value chain and should work on a common agenda, he said.