Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama on Thursday stressed the need to reach equality within the economy in a bid to do away with the differences between prosperity and poverty.One of the areas of difference is in trying to create islands of prosperity in a sea of poverty, he said in addressing the inauguration ceremony of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Sri Lanka`s first National Conference on Thursday evening.
The minister observed that in order to develop the country in a competitive global space the necessary infrastructure needs to be in place.
In this regard, he pointed out that more than 50% of the wealth of the country is only created and enjoyed by one or two districts thereby creating an environment of two countries within one based not on social grounds but on economic terms.
Asserting the position that the two manifestos put forward by the two main parties, was that the growth rate should be in the range of 8% to 10%, he said.
In this respect, Dr. Amunugama pointed out that in the immediate future 10% is ?wished? but it has to be worked out with the country presently having only a growth rate of 6% due to the tsunami and oil prices currently observed adding that as such there is a need to at least achieve the 8% growth.
The minister also observed that there are certain commonalities that need be achieved in Sri Lanka with the very obvious being that of peace, the positioning of the country in the South Asian context, doing away with the traditional system of education and increased dependency on physical infrastructure.
Dr. Amunugama observed that all leading industrial countries are today turning to India, Pakistan, China and Malaysia among others in the region. In this light he said: ?We have to think of a hub context.?
He also said that there is a need for policy to have access to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), tariff systems by the European Union and continuous access to global market so as to join all together.
The minister while being critical of the traditional education system observed, that this was being continued in the country, however. He noted that under the leadership of President Chandrika Kumaratunga special emphasis was placed to functionalise education in the country.
Other areas from which they could benefit were those relating to physical infrastructure, explaining that it was only now that the country was beginning to realise in building up on infrastructure development such as in the power, energy among other areas which have to be capitalised.
Former Trade and Commerce Minister and UNF MP Ravi Karunanayaka noted that the ACCA conference`s theme ?Open Minds? was very appropriate ?during the elections days since our minds are now opening up.?
He observed that in today`s context we need to take advantage of the globalized world as it creates a tough competition to our industries, service sectors among others.
Mr. Kaunanayaka said that there was a need to create global trade and that was why the FTAs have come to stay.
A strong government and good leadership is required for the assurance of the business community within the country and investors as well, he pointed out.
He said, this country has to open to the global market and capture by having open minds and on a political note he asserted that one must also have a clear conscience and open mind on November 17, the date of the election.
In delivering the keynote address Tata Sons Limited Executive Director Alan Rosling OBE, said Sri Lanka has many opportunities with great potential in view of its positioning within the geographical context.
The Tata group he pointed out was carrying out a quarter of their business outside of India and asserted that in the use of technical and high quality and for conduct of business with competitive advantage the main factor lies with the people. ?We have chosen a number of priority countries and Sri Lanka too is one of them,? he said adding that this was due to the long standing investment and links with the country.
He pointed out that Sri Lanka is one in which ?we can play a role? in which the type of world we think of could be achieved in a couple of years.
There is a change of mindset in the world today with the services sector having joined hands with the physical goods, he said explaining, ?we are entering a world where distance is dead.?
Sri Lanka must compete in a flat world in tomorrow`s world, he asserted while also stressing that in this context there is a possibility of expecting a backlash from the West. 0There is a huge opportunity for South Asia because it could be a movement of these industries to South Asia; he said adding that the world is today going through a series of changes dramatically.
?I think Sri Lanka if you play to your strengths? it is possible to outplay the larger economies, he said. ?Taking insular attitudes is committing suicide,? he said whereas there is likelihood that it is possible to open up for the smaller countries in competing globally unlike the larger economies.
Mr. Rosling identified three points based on which the country could achieve their targets: firstly in fully exploiting the advantage of geographic positioning through sea route and air links for the South Asian region; creating policies for open markets with the main challenge based on speeding up the pace of getting things done; and playing to your strengths of human capital with increased knowledge of English in the tertiary and technical educational levels and through the use of the availability of the immense human capital.
National Conference Committee Chairman Dilshan Rodrigo speaking on the occasion said that both industry and academia professionals have been involved in presenting their papers during the sessions at the first ever National Conference of the ACCA Sri Lana.
ACCA Sri Lanka President U.H. Palihakkara making the welcome address said that with Sri Lanka having an abundant amount of resources only a fragment has been achieved in the economy.
In terms of working with technology he perceived that it was not only breaking down barriers today but also becoming increasingly competitive.
The technical sessions yesterday dealt with four crucial areas of focus for global competitive advantage to become the norm for Sri Lanka. The speakers were Attock Oil Refinery of Pakistan Chief Executive Officer Adil Khattak who dealt with the Entrepreneurship ? The Vision to Succeed. The subject of ?Innovation ? Adding value for growth? was discussed by Amba Research Senior Partner and ex-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Anand Aithal while Centre for Management of Health Services, Indian Institute of Management, Public Systems Group Chairman Prof. K.V. Ramani shared useful insights on critically ensuring transition in the form of initiatives such as business process re-enginnering and privatisation to ensure all enterprises in Sri Lanka become globally competitive, efficient and effective in his paper, ?Managing Change ? Switching course for the better.? A former Sri Lankan of the Year and past Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and currently Director of Eagle Insurance Chandra Jayaratne drew on his extensive experience as a highly respected dynamic business leader to address the issue of how Sri Lanka can achieve sustainable development by addressing the above issues from a global context.