Skill drain continues to threaten struggling Eastern province

21 December 2015 05:26 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • Over 20,000 unemployed, of which 4000 are graduates
  • Export Development Zone to retain workforce
  • Aims at establishing 20 garment factories in 2016


By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Eastern Province Chief Minister recently stressed the need to create employment opportunities through the setting up of industries to prevent an increasing outflow of skilled and unskilled workers from the province. 
Despite having a plethora of untapped resources, the challenges and hardship the East has undergone have left over 200,000 individuals unemployed, of which 4000 
are graduates.
“It is imperative that we give due emphasis to the East and create employment opportunities. The need is more now than ever to stop the export of our female workforce as housemaids, and the male workforce as cheap labour.  It is essential that we retain our human resources to develop our region which will be major contribution to the development of the national economy,” Eastern Province Chief Minister Naseer Ahamed  said in Colombo.
In 2014 alone, it is estimated that 14, 871 workers left the province as housemaids and over 20,000 were employed in the Middle East as cheap labour.
In an effort to stop the flight of the much needed human resources, the Chief Minister said they were actively working towards transforming the province to an Export Development Zone.
To realise the ambitious objective, Ahamed shared that five key areas had been identified for mega investments.
While aiming to set up an IT park and industries for pharmaceuticals, light-weight machineries, fisheries, and apparel, the Eastern Provincial Council has allocated funds amounting to Rs.100 billion for infrastructure development, and land for each project.
To have a more inclusive approach in establishing the East as an export zone the provincial council said it would encourage the 45 local government authorities in the province to contribute to this initiative.
It is confident that of the 45, at least 20 local government authorities will set up garment factories in their respective areas, each would providing training and employment opportunities for 5000 individuals.  
The 20 factories are expected to be established within 2016.
“The ministry (provincial council) is prepared to give land and assist the local authorities in setting up the factories, and we will do this in six months. All the necessary permission and approvals will be facilitated. We are keen on having the local authorities contribute to our efforts in uplifting the East,” said Ahamed.
Further, he pointed out that the East must be given the necessary attention as it is not only yet to open up for foreign investors but also it is yet to open up to other provinces.
Pointing out the challenges faced in proceeding with the initiative Ahamed revealed that issues were largely bureaucratic.
However, the Chief Minister said while investment promotion is treated as top priority, “serious discussions” were being held with potential investors and the council was confident that funds would be committed in the immediate future. 
Currently 50 Board of Investment (BoI) companies operate in the Eastern Province providing employment for 11, 000. 

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