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Liberalising services could help overcome Sri Lanka skills shortages

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – It might be time for Sri Lanka to consider liberalising professional services with other countries doing the same and skills shortages hampering faster growth, an economist said.

“Even in developed countries this is a sensitive issue because it involves foreign workers,” said Saman Kelegama, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies.

But he said liberalising professional services as the United States, Europe and countries like Australia have done, could be a way to overcome the skills shortage in Sri Lanka.

“The skills gap is affecting foreign and domestic investment,” Kelegama told a forum on ‘Liberalization of Professional Services’ organised by CA Sri Lanka.

The health sector has a shortage of 12,000 nurses, 600 radiographer, pharmacists and other technical workers and 7,000 doctors while the tourism sector is short of 30,000 workers.

The construction sector has an annual requirement of 15,000 crafts workers although the current capacity to train them is 11,000.

Kelegama said Sri Lanka could consider liberalisation under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), a treaty of the World Trade Organization.

“The advantage of GATS is that is becomes easier to attract foreign investment even without tax incentives because it gives predictability for investors,” he said.

“But to be effective, regulatory frameworks must be in place.”






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