Spotlight on poor productivity

Education needs overhaul, 1,600 schools to be closed

Unemployment rate among A/L qualified the highest

Govt. drags feet on productivity, why not urgent bill for this crucial aspect of economy?


By Mario Andree

Despite the global Market becoming more competitive, Sri Lanka has managed to leap ten positions from 62 to 52 in the Global Competitive Index but, the country now needs to focus on greater productivity and quality for further improvement according to senior officials.

The Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga addressing the Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Quality and Productivity (SLAAQP) said that there was a need for quality education in Sri Lanka to produce better employees and professionals for the country to rapidly develop.

He said the concepts of productivity and quality should be taken to the school level in order for the country to achieve a better workforce, "with nearly four million in school it would be the best location to start the exercise".

The setting up of the information service well known as 1919 has been immensely successful with more than seven million calls answered from its inception with 4000 calls answered each day, Weeratunga said.

He said a remodelling of public offices was essential in the present scenario to be more productive to deliver a quality service and also urged the private sector to actively participate in educating quality and productivity as part of the school criteria and the public sector for the country to double its per capita income to US$ 4,000 by 2016.

Institute of Policy Studies Research Economist Anushka Wijesinha said that while Sri Lanka’s achievement of leaping 10 positions on the Global Competitive Index 2011-12 was commendable, the country needed to focus more on quality education.

He pointed out that Sri Lanka needed to improve its quality and productivity, both being comparatively low compared to its regional competitors.

The research economist said that the services sector which was driving the country’s economy, and increasingly the highest employment generator, needs a well educated workforce to drive the economy to its targeted US$ 4,000 per capita income by 2016.

He said that Sri Lanka’s public spending on education as a proportion of GDP was lowest among its comparator countries, and 93 percent of schools do not have A/L science streams.

The universities in the country were unable to meet the demand for higher education, which has left the 17 to 24 age group with limited access. He also noted that it is time for the private sector to step up its R&D expenditure, noting that unlike in most competitor countries, the bulk of R&D is conducted by public research institutions rather than the private sector. "In countries like Korea and Taiwan, the private sector undertakes 60-70 percent of R&D, while in Sri Lanka this is 8 percent. Hopefully the new budget will help fix this, as it has several incentives for R&D"

He also noted that despite the national unemployment ratio being as low as 5 percent, unemployment among GCE A/L qualified was the highest in the country at 11 percent.

Acknowledging Wijesinha’s statement Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga said that nearly 1,600 schools which had less than 50 students were expected to be closed down in a bid to improve quality in the remaining schools within the next few years.

Meanwhile, Dankotuwa Porcelain Chairman and President of the SLAAQP, Sunil Wijesinha said although the National Productivity Policy was drafted in 2002, it had not been implemented.

He said it was time for quality and productivity to become national obsessions.

Though the labour productivity of the country has grown year on year and is higher than neighbouring countries, it is 14 percent of that of Hong Kong.

However the rate of productivity of Sri Lanka is falling behind with other competitors. The country’s growth is still impressive but others are growing faster while we have the potential to do more, he said.

He said Singapore’s productivity campaign was a good one to emulate. "They wanted to improve productivity and focused on the public sector to move ahead, understanding that even if the private sector moved faster while the public sector was inefficient results would not be realized."

"Though the government claims to have plans to incorporate the National Productivity Secretariat under a separate Act of Parliament, this still has not happened even after several years. If the government was serious I am sure a separate Act could have been brought in with lightning speed as we have see them do in other areas," he said.

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