Compiled by Nicola Jayasundera


Joel Shankar believes that Sri Lanka has immense potential due to its geolocation

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

A: Society sums up all three to create an interesting grey area.

It’s the obstinate behaviour of most Sri Lankans that has led our country to where it is today. And those ideologies have infected our communities, industries and politics, and prevented us from utilising our resources effectively and promoting our developmental trajectory.

Q: And what are the challenges facing the country today?

A: In the midst of financial, environmental, healthcare and political crises, a more practical question would be ‘what challenge isn’t our country facing today?’

We need to use a bottom-up approach from there.

Sri Lanka has immense potential due to its geolocation; and with the help of projects such as Port City Colombo, it can position itself as a major transport and logistics hub. This would not only encourage foreign direct investments (FDI) but also anchor our nation’s position as a major stakeholder in South Asia.

Q: Do you believe that Sri Lanka will be united one day – and how, if so?

A: There isn’t one country that’s been united throughout its existence. Even the most powerful nations in the world are engaged in some conflict or the other.

A united society in and of itself isn’t necessarily a good thing because it suggests that diversity of thought has been erased. Instead, what we should hope for is that our grounds for conflict are utilitarian rather than corrupt or self-indulgent.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: I envision myself working in R&D or in a lab researching and testing various theories. Through the Model United Nations (MUN) programme, I realised that the world has many problems and it’s difficult to fix most of them simply through political dialogue.

By studying and researching solution-oriented projects, I hope that I’ll be able to work on something that will help solve at least one of the world’s many problems.

Q: And where do you see Sri Lanka in a decade from today?

A: It’s impossible to know what Sri Lanka will be like tomorrow, let alone 10 years from now!

A realistic approach would be to consider how far we’ve come since 2014 and extrapolate that data for the coming years.

I’ve always been dismayed by Sri Lanka’s inability to convert talented individuals into beacons of research and scientific advancement within the country. Our nation’s growth could be exponen­tial if we choose to invest resour­ces in technical spheres such as the chemicals sector.

Q: Who is responsible for climate change and global warming – and what must be done about it?

A: The onus of solving the climate crisis rests with the collective rather than the individual. It’s nice to think that cycling to work instead of booking a taxi reduces emissions but that’s like placing one ice cube in a fire and hoping it will reduce the temperature of the flames.

Governments must introduce laws that enforce climate friendly practices while businesses need to sacrifice their bottom lines to ensure there’s something left of the planet for future generations.

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

A: Social media is extremely important in the sense that it’s been able to create a global village.

Its benefits and drawbacks lie in the way it’s used; and with the advent of generative AI, it’s a lot easier to get lost in the flood of divisive content. The virtual realm is as volatile as the real world and needs to be navigated carefully as society progresses.

Q: And finally, where do you see the world in 10 years?

A: I think the world is in a liminal space right now.

Many conflicts have tipped towards violence – such as those between Russia and Ukraine, and Israel and Palestine. Many countries are seeing their populations engaging in public demonstrations to voice their dissatisfaction with the ruling bodies.

Meanwhile, developing countries are trying to expand their spheres of influence.

In the next decade, we could experience a major shift in the global balance of power. Whether that’s going to be good or bad is something only the future knows.