Sri Lanka`s GDP would touch the US $ 100 billion mark in four or five years` time, we are told by the authorities, and this is no mean achievement. Moreover, if all goes well, our per capita income, which is currently US $ 2000, would soon exceed the US $ 2,700 mark we are given to understand. Needless to say, all these achievements and more are cause for considerable satisfaction.
Given that the world economy is still in the doldrums, the economic performance of this country is something notable and we hope the national economy would continue in humming condition. The prospect of an annual eight percent growth rate is something that cannot be glossed over and these achievements speak volumes for the deftness with which the local economy has been handled over the past few years.
However, the acid test of sound economic growth is material equity and this could come about consistently only if a concerted effort is made by the state to ensure that the wealth that is thus created really seeps down to the mass of the population. As we have often said, redistributive justice is the hall mark of a judiciously managed economy and the expectation of the people is that increasing efforts will be made in this direction.
Fortunately, this has not escaped the attention of the political leadership and President Mahinda Rajapaksa in particular has been untiring in his efforts to ensure that the mass of the people progressively enjoy some welfare benefits that would cushion them against the vagaries of the market economy. One such people-friendly initiative is the `Induravi Health Insurance Scheme` for media personnel launched by the National Insurance Trust Fund and other people-targeted welfare schemes by the latter which promise a degree of material and financial security to the less well off sections in this country. All this is in addition to the ongoing state-initiated social service projects and the Samurdhi scheme which is bringing a degree of material relief to lower income groups of this country.
All these and more state-run projects are essentially aimed at ensuring that the wealth of the country `trickles-down` to the less privileged groups in society. At a time when sizeable and glowing sums are being quoted as our per capita income, these measures are vitally important because they could go some distance in ensuring that growth does percolate down to the masses, so to speak. We need hardly say that the goal that should be targeted is the making available of US $ 2,700 to everyone in the country without exception.
But it is not only the state that needs to be endowed with a social conscience. We would like to see an increasing involvement of the private sector too in the enterprise of generating economic equity. Business enterprises in the provinces, no doubt, have the effect of taking some of the fruits of growth to the hearths and homes of the poor but these enterprises could do with more and more enlightened thinking and a greater degree of visionary social purpose, we believe.
Garment factories have gone some distance in meeting the employment needs of the provinces and now the reviving hotel industry could bring about the same benefits to an extent but a fuller assessment needs to be made of the potential of our human resources in particularly the North-East.
There is the exemplary case of an Indian investor who has already set up a factory in Omanthai in the North which promises employment for the widows of the province, besides meeting some needs of the local people. He intends setting up more factories in the North-East with the aim of employing more and more vulnerable sections of the regions. Besides, making good use of these human resources in economic enterprises an important humanitarian cause is being served. We could say that the entrepreneur in question is making good use of the economic complementarities of the North-East, through a proper assessment of the potential of the human resources available to him.
Thus, business enterprise with a social conscience and purpose is among our vital needs. Such businesses need to be encouraged by the state and fostered if growth is going to be meaningful and human-centred. When these aims are achieved we could proclaim that development is being progressively achieved and in full measure too.