Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo


Rachel Cooray calls for leveraging on the nation’s talented human capital

Q: What’s the good, the bad and the ugly here in Sri Lanka?

A: Sri Lanka is a beautiful island with an abundance of natural resources and a prime geographical location. Its rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and friendly and hospitable people make it a haven for tourism.

In addition to a pleasant year-round climate, the country’s natural resources lend themselves to agriculture and plantations. However, it does not astutely optimise these resources both natural and human.

Despite having one of the highest literacy rates in Asia, Sri Lanka’s surfeit of talented professionals is not utilised to develop the economy.

What is ‘ugly’ is the corruption that impacts us the people and development of our country.

Q: In your assessment, what are the challenges facing the country today?

A: COVID-19 and how to overcome it! The government and health authorities have taken necessary precautions to limit the spread of the virus. So as citizens, we must try our very best to adhere to the health guidelines.

Sri Lanka also faces economic challenges due to the pandemic. Rejuvenating tourism, strengthening the apparel industry and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country are some ways to overcome this economic instability.

Q: What changes do you see in the spheres of women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability?

A: With an increase in qualified and educated women, we see Sri Lankan females making their mark on almost every field as independent and strong professionals.

More females are in senior management positions and women around the island have become entrepreneurs. There is a significant increase in employed women across a large spectrum of professions and businesses in the country.

In terms of the environment, positive measures have been taken towards environmental sustainability. The government has imposed new regulations and is promoting renewable energy concepts.

Meanwhile, the private sector and manufacturing facilities are being transformed by reducing the use of plastic, using solar power, and introducing better waste management practices, eco-friendly production and green concepts.

Q: How can Sri Lanka retain its talent?

A: The limited intake of local universities is the reason that many talented young people opt for overseas higher education. Insufficient employment prospects in the island mean they do not return and prefer to stay abroad.

One avenue Sri Lanka can use to retain its talent is if the government can create more job opportunities by ensuring that Sri Lankans play a part in infrastructure development projects instead of hiring foreign consultants.

Q: Where do you see Sri Lanka in 10 years’ time?

A: As a country, if Sri Lanka
can achieve political stability, unity and peace among all citizens, utilise its natural and human resources efficiently, and move towards the development of identified infrastructure projects (e.g. the Port City and highways), it will undoubtedly be a notable hub in South Asia. 

Q: Do the present world leaders live up to your expectations?

A: No, they do not. Many present-day leaders strive to remain in power for longer periods, not considering how their actions impact society and the environment.

Leadership without direction has led countries to unnecessary conflicts and disharmony among people. Leaders must act responsibly, and consider how their decisions impact the climate, natural resources and human lives.

Q: Who is responsible for climate change or global warming?

A: Every one of us is responsible. Reducing the use of polythene, plastic, toxic and harmful chemicals and gases; protecting trees; growing more plants; better waste management by factories and carbon emission reduction are ways to reduce the impact of global warming.

People must invest in energy efficient appliances and optimise the use of renewable energy. With positive leadership and responsible action by the people, we can overcome climate change.

Q: How do you view the growing importance of social media today?

A: Social media is now a tool that – given its user-friendly features facilitates people to connect easily, creating a global village with the world at our fingertips.

The benefits include communication, social interaction, e-commerce and advertising.

But there are negatives too for instance, addiction, cyberbullying and hacking. Therefore, social media users must act responsibly at all times.