Sri Lanka has become a middle income country with a per-capita GDP of over US $ 2000 recording a healthy economic growth of more than 5 percent in recent years according to the Sri Lanka Labour and Social Trends Report 2009 launched yesterday at the Hotel Intercontinental.
The Report has been compiled by the Central Bank, Department of Census and Statistics and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Manpower.
Elaborating on the Report on emerging opportunities for growth and development in a post conflict era, Economist, Steven Kapsos said that the prospects are clearly improving to increase Sri Lanka s competitiveness in the global economy.
He said that the current competitiveness ranking places Sri Lanka at 79 out of 133 countries, breaking away from neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The policy needs to harness Sri Lanka s highly educated, healthy and innovative workforce to exploit new opportunities in the post war period, he said.
The Report said that a dialogue needs to be started as to where to invest the country s peace dividend. Defence spending is likely to fall over time.
If it were to decline in line to what neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Indonesia spent and even if half of the savings were used to reduce the Government budget deficit, the balance funds would be sufficient to boost spending on education by 40 percent or to increase health expenditure by 55 percent or to increase spending on agriculture and irrigation by 70 percent.
There is a need to identify productive investments that could boost agricultural productivity and improve the situation of the rural poor, it said.
ILO Colombo, Director Tine Staermose said that the Report aims at presenting an overview of major trends in labour and social conditions in Sri Lanka, while drawing attention to key policy challenges.
It brings together comprehensive and up-to-date economic and labour market information and includes a detailed analysis of the key trends driving economic growth and labour market outcomes.
She said that it is significant in Sri Lanka that there is so much good economic data available.
This means that there is a lot of potential for analytical research. The Report identifies a number of key policy issues including labour market policies employment opportunities by opening new markets for Sri Lanka s exports and investments, marketable skills development and social protection.
Stermose said that the Report will be useful for policy makers, researchers and others in the country and become a part of the toolkit for the many planning departments at a time when major infrastructure projects are taking place in the reconstruction of the Northern part of the country, where the population can reap the benefit of the employment opportunities that come with it.