COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s private sector will focus more on improving the quality of education and ensuring youth are better suited to work in the corporate community, the new head of the island’s main business chamber said.
“Educational and skill development is talked about a lot yet as an economy we tend to underestimate the economic impact it has,” said Samantha Ranatuga, new chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
He noted warnings by economists that Sri Lanka is getting trapped as it is no longer a low waged nation and neither has it adequate skill sets to be part of the knowledge economy.
“As we pressurise government to focus on more spending on education, the private sector should play a leading role in monitoring, regulating and supporting the quality of the outcome of our educational institutions,” Ranatunga told the annual general meeting of the chamber.
“Other than a few companies, the involvement of the private sector in education area has been left to mushrooming educational institutions.
“This I feel is an indictment to the entire private sector.”
Ranatunga said that if the private sector needs quality people to compete in the future market place it needs to play a role in developing those people and not leave it to the government alone.
“In the coming years, we will strive hard as a chamber to increase standard of education in business subjects with closer collaborations with the university system and also to take the knowledge levels which resides in the urban areas to the rural.”
Ranatunga said regional inclusivity is another priority for the chamber since, despite high economic growth, increasing per capita income and infrastructure development, key statistics show the magnitude of disparity between the urban and rural populations.
“Nearly 50 percent of rural children drop out at Ordinary Level, in spite of a free education available,” he said, adding that four percent of rural and 12 percent of estate children do not attend school at all.
Alcohol abuse was higher in the rural areas than in urban areas while savings remain lower in rural households compared to urban households.
“The disparity in the urban rural populations, we try to equal through subsidy schemes, with severe impact to the national budget and economy.”
The fertilizer subsidy costs between 50 and 60 billion rupees, 30 percent of the total budget.
“We need to critically look at priorities,” Ranatunga said.