The Qatar project
Government's success in securing a major engineering contract to
construct 5,000 luxury villas in Qatar is an outstanding
According to our page 3 lead story yesterday this is the
first time in history that a Sri Lankan Government had offered
the expertise of its workmen for a major project to a foreign
Government. The feat is doubly significant in that it is mostly
the other way around ie. we depend on foreigners to handle our
The report which quotes Construction and Engineering Services
Minister Rajitha Senaratne states that the project costing US$
5,000 million would provide lucrative earnings for more than
10,000 Sri Lankans who will be employed in the project as
engineers, architects, plumbers, masons and others related to
the construction field. An MoU has already been signed by the
two Governments in this regard.
Sri Lanka all these years has been overly dependant on
foreign expertise for its development projects. Time was when we
had foreigners even painting our zebra crossings, a task which
could have been easily performed by our own men.
A heavy influx of foreigners into the country was witnessed
with the advent of the open economy that saw a construction boom
and the launch of mega projects such the accelerated Mahaweli
Development scheme. True, we had our own engineers working in
these projects but it was the foreigners who called the shots
and directed the course of every project.
That was also a time when there was not much expertise we
could boast of that could match with the foreigners. This came
about only with more and more exposure to new developments in
advanced technology afforded by the free market enterprise and
also to a large extent through the novel medium of television.
It is in this context that the selection of Sri Lankans for
the "Qatar project" assume significance in that it will be the
first time the country will showcase
Sri Lankan expertise and professional skills in their
original form in a foreign land, a feat every Sri Lankan could
be proud of.
The credit for this is owed to Minister Rajitha Senaratne who
was largely instrumental in striking this deal for Sri Lanka
under the guidance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
It is hoped that this will pave the way for more overseas
contracts in the future for Lankan professionals in diverse
fields which would help put Sri Lanka on the world map for its
The Qatar venture more than anything underlines the fact that
Sri Lankans possess the skills and talent to hold their own in
any field of endeavour on par with the best. What had been
lacking is the proper environment and advanced facilities to
give rein to their abilities as in developed countries.
In fact, what had been keeping many Sri Lankan professionals
domiciled abroad from returning to help in the development
activities of their Motherland is this lack of advanced
facilities that they are familiar with in their adopted
countries. Bureaucratic red tape was a another deterrent.
However the 'Qatar contract' has shown that Sri Lanka too has
now entered the big league where the expertise of her workmen
could be in demand even in developed countries. This is a
tribute to the vast strides made in the introduction of skills
based education over the years in technical and related fields.
The present Government has further expanded these frontiers
for the youth to acquire diverse skills that could be marketable
in diverse employment fields here and abroad as seen by the fund
of skilled personnel that have been recruited for the 'Qatar
The recognition of Sri Lankan expertise by the Qatari
Government would also dispel the popular notion of Lanka being
chiefly an exporter of unskilled labour.
But we should guard against a heavy exodus of skilled
manpower lest the country would be bereft of local expertise at
a time gigantic projects are in the pipeline. The lure of the
mega bucks could precipitate such an exodus.
Therefore, it is incumbent that the Government offer extra
incentives and perks to our pool of skilled manpower to retain
their services for the massive tasks ahead. Some time ago
President Rajapaksa made an appeal to Lankan expatriates to
return to their country and offer their expertise for the
country's development effort.
It is hoped that this appeal is heeded at a time the
Government is to embark on its ambitious "Eastern Awakening"
programme. We hope the "Qatar Project" will prove a catalyst for
the opening of opportunities to our youth to demonstrate their
talents on the world stage and bring honour and glory to the
Every opportunity should be afforded by the Government to
realise this ambition.