ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka businesses are facing a drain of talent, top business executives said as the country suffers the worst flexible exchange rate crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank and people lose hope.
“We are seeing a trend towards migrating,” Krishan Balendra, Chairman of Sri Lanka’s John Keells Holdings told an economic policy forum organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
“We have seen an impact mainly on the tourist hotels side, quite an exodus of staff (migrating) to countries we have not seen in the past.
“We have seen people go to Scotland, Ireland. It has usually been the Middle East and Maldives. Australia seems like a red hot labor market at the moment.”
Sri Lanka’s rupee collapsed from 200 to 360 to the US dollar after macro-economists printed money to suppress rates.
Sri Lanka operates a ‘flexible exchange rate’ where errors in targeting interest rates are compensated by currency depreciation especially after the 1980s.
Classical economists and analysts have called for the power to mis-target rates and operate dual anchor conflicting monetary regimes should be taken away to prevent future crisis.
Currency crises are problems associated with flexible exchange rate central banks which are absent in hard pegs and clean floats.
“Something new we are seeing is that older people, even those in their 50s, which was a surprise, are looking at migrating,” Balendra said.
Businesses are trying to retain talent as real wages collapse.
Balendra said as businesses they see some stability returning and based on past experience growth is likely to resume, and they were communicating with the workers.
“We have a degree of conviction that the economy should get better, its the stability phase now and it will get better going forward so without the way our businesses are placed we should see good growth,” Balendra said.
“We can’t chase compensation that’s just not practical and we are not trying to do that especially if people are looking to immigrate but what we can do is show the career opportunities in the backdrop of the situation that people would rather stay here because its home.”
Sri Lanka unit of Heineken says it is also trying to convince workers not to leave, with more success.
“We are all facing the effects of brain drain and it’s not just the lower levels… What we are doing is a balance of daring and caring,” Maud Meijboom-van Wel – Managing Director / CEO, Heineken Lanka Ltd told the forum.
“Why I say daring is, you have to be clear in what you can promise people, when you make promises you have to walk the talk. So with the key talents and everyone you need to have the career and talent conversations.
“I am a bit lucky because I am running a multinational company so my career path goes beyond Sri Lanka so I can say if you acquire certain skills here, then you can move out of here and then come back too, that is a bit easier for me but it starts with having a real open conversation with walking the talk – dare and care.” (Colombo/Dec7/2022)