Priyan Attygalle

Economies of skill and scale undermine a closed economy

Q: As far as perceptions go, do you think Sri Lanka is capable of regaining its composure in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: Yes. But the speed at which the country’s composure is regained will depend on how the government and private sector manage it.

Q: How do you perceive Sri Lanka today – and what is your take of its response to the pandemic?
A: The nation’s initial management of the pandemic was very good although I can’t say the same about it today.

These days, it has adopted a reactive approach while successful countries have been proactive. This will impact Sri Lanka’s recovery as the first to emerge from the crisis will succeed over others in the post-pandemic world.

Q: And could you tell us how compatriots in your country of domicile view Sri Lanka?
A: Sri Lanka is seen as a beautiful holiday destination with very hospitable people. They also consider Sri Lankans to be intelligent and hardworking.

Q: Likewise, how do other Sri Lankans living in Saudi Arabia perceive their motherland?
A: They look forward to returning after their assignments. However, they’re somewhat disappointed that they are not valued sufficiently for their contribution to the economy. As such, there is much more that can be done to assist the expat workforce.

Q: What were your impressions of Sri Lanka on your last visit and how much has it changed from the past? If you visited Sri Lanka during the pandemic, how would you rate its COVID-19 protocols and the quarantine process?
A: I returned in December. It’s hard to say how much has changed because I had to be very careful during my stay. As for my experience with the quarantine process, it wasn’t good – I feel it can b
e managed a lot better. 

Q: From afar so to speak, how do you perceive news about Sri Lanka and what mediums do you rely on to stay connected especially during times of crisis?
A: I’m very much in touch with what is going on in Sri Lanka, and stay up to date through online newspapers, social media, and conversations with friends and family.

Q: How do you view the brain drain and why is there still no reversal of it, in your opinion?
A: Till such time as there are opportunities locally, we will see a brain drain. We should have more angel investors supporting local entrepreneurs – the younger generation is a lot more entrepreneurial than us.

Q: What should Sri Lanka focus on most in the coming decade?
A: The strengths of the country that have been identified should be exploited – we should not close the economy and try producing locally where there are no economies of skill or scale.

Consistent policies are very important where winning the confidence of investors is concerned. To this end, the state should make it easy for them to do business by reducing red tape and eliminating corrupt intermediaries.

Q: And last but by no means least, what are your hopes for the country in the next decade or so in the context of opportunities?
A: The opportunities are immense. How these opportunities are addressed will take Sri Lanka a few notches up or lead to stagnation. A lot is expected from the government to steer the country in the right direction.