Dulshan Hamangoda

A mid to long-term growth map for Sri Lanka is a dire need

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, it will certainly regain its composure mainly due to the resilience of the Sri Lankan people and private sector organisations rather than through organised formal governance or strategy.

This has always been the case in Sri Lanka with the civil war being an example. Despite governments failing to establish a logical and sustainable growth plan for the country, the people and local businesses have kept it afloat.

Q: How do you perceive Sri Lanka today?
A: Our geostrategic location, natural beauty, hospitality and great heritage are useless without a consistent long-term strategy that puts our resources to good use, without the interference of petty politics, corruption and myopia.

Q:And how do compatriots in your country of domicile view Sri Lanka?
A: Sri Lanka is viewed with great admiration by many British people mainly due to old colonial links, sporting ties, fond memories of vacations and of course, the love of Ceylon Tea.

It goes without saying that most of these gifts come from our past, and we have failed to deliver new propositions that will keep our flag flying high and turn our island into a top of the mind holiday destination.

Q:Likewise, how do other Sri Lankans living in the UK view Sri Lanka?
A: Many don’t foresee returning to Sri Lanka and most don’t want to. This is mainly due to the lack of fair access to opportunities, resources and justice, as well as the presence of systemic corruption.

Addressing these issues is critical if we want our nonresident Sri Lankans to contribute to the island’s development. They need to be seen as people bringing knowledge and best practices back to the country, and not only in terms of short-term forex earnings.

Q:What were your impressions of Sri Lanka on your last visit and how much has it changed from the past?
A: My last visit to Sri Lanka was 18 months ago before the chaos of the pandemic set in. It was very encouraging to see many active startups and businesses striving to make a change.

Access to education seems to have increased, and it was great to note that the scope has diversified and offers studies in niche sectors.

If there is one piece of advice I’d like to give young Sri Lankans, it’s to travel. It teaches you to appreciate what you have at home; and helps you bring back positive thinking and practices.

Q: From afar, how do you perceive news about Sri Lanka and what mediums do you rely on to stay connected especially during times of crisis?
A: A summary of news headlines on the internet usually does the trick. Fortunately, connectivity levels are of a high standard compared to other South and East Asian countries – therefore, staying in touch has not been a major challenge.

Q: How do you view the brain drain and why is there still no reversal of it, in your opinion?
A: The brain drain can be curtailed and repatriation achieved by offering fair and equal access to knowledge, resources and justice, and curbing corruption.

Q: What should Sri Lanka focus on most in the coming decade?
A: We should establish a mid to long-term growth map covering infrastructure, science, education and social issues, which is backed by actual data and insights rather than individual opinions.

There needs to be a national consensus and commitment to deliver, regardless of changes in governments and leadership.

Q:And what are your hopes for the country in the next decade or so?
A: My hope is that today’s youth will look at our country in a different light and demonstrate an attitudinal change that will make it a better place for them to live in.

I lost my father who was an army officer to a suicide bombing when I was only 11; and I often wonder what life would have been like for my family and our country if we didn’t have such a painful past.

Let’s hope that our youth don’t forget the lessons and sacrifices of the past, and ensure we head in the right direction.