It has been President Mahinda
Rajapaksa's constant refrain that economic progress should go
hand in hand with human development.
In achieving this, he has taken several meaningful steps such
as promoting the teaching of English countrywide and IT
knowledge. By this, what the President no doubt has in mind is
to make the population particularly the youth fit into the new
order and new avenues that would open up with the country's
advancement in many spheres. At the same time, he also ensured
progress and advancement in other spheres effecting human
development and also access to many benefits and facilities
parallel to the country's development drive.
Addressing the 90th Anniversary of the International Labour
Day, President Rajapaksa stated "a significant aspect of Sri
Lanka's development strategy is our concern with the human
aspect of progress".
He said, this was reflected in our human development indices
such as, the widespread literacy rate in the country, ready
access to health services to all sections of society, the
advances made in industrial health, retirement benefits and the
many advances in the laws that govern retrenchment and other
What all this signify is that development and economic
progress cannot take place in isolation. The country cannot
develop on the one hand while its population is left in want on
The President therefore, should be commended for his
far-sighted vision in identifying this dichotomy and taking
measures to meet the situation.
The President also said it was the country's pride that no
finger has been pointed at it for violating labour conditions
particularly at a time when the world attention is being focused
on working conditions in countries that export products,
especially conditions in factories that have been set up by
foreign investors in the West.
Sri Lanka though a Third World country can be proud of its
record on the labour front. There is no known case of child
labour of the scale reported in other countries and so far no
strictures have been delivered against Sri Lanka on this score.
Perhaps the country's cultural ethos have a bearing on this
aspect unlike in permissive societies where anything is game.
Today, our workers are provided with the best facilities and
agreeable working conditions. They have also been granted
frequent wage rises despite the heavy strain of the economy
grappling with a long drawn out war which at last is coming to
an end. The working class has the President a lot to thank for
in ameliorating their conditions.
It is no secret that most Western countries put up shop in
Third World countries due to their cheap labour and chances to
make maximum profits by exploitating this labour. These
impoverished countries with rampant unemployment have little say
in the matter.President Rajapaksa himself a doughty workers
rights activist in his days as a young politician fought for the
rights of the workers who were similarly being exploited by
multinational companies which mushroomed here in the immediate
aftermath of liberalisation.
He took up cudgels with the authorities who turned a blind
eye on the exploitation of the workers for fear of these
foreigners relocating elsewhere. He could justly be proud and
happy today, that the working class has been able to break the
shackles and advance their lot. Not only here, he even fought on
behalf of our workers of the Middle East to obtain for them a
fair deal. Today, they are a happy and contended lot.
Steps have now been taken to improve their quality and remove
the stigma of being branded across the board as housemaids, with
the launch of training programs to impart new skills.
As already mentioned, it has been the President's constant
refrain that economic development should go hand and hand with
human development and all the conditions and ground work have
been laid for achieving this objective.Even the costly war that
is being waged did not affect the strides made in the human
The President certainly would have taken cognisant of the
fact that a high literacy rate alone would be meaningless unless
the country's youth be made proficient in the fields that meet
modern day employment demands. Hopefully these steps would
provide Sri Lanka with a rich pool of skilled talent that would
second to none.