By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
The Lord Mayor of London opined that Sri Lanka would have to open its doors to expertise from abroad in order to become a financial hub.
“There are skills that Sri Lanka hasn’t got. Not just professional but also some creative skills that aren’t necessarily indigenous to this country. So you have to go and find those skills,” Allan Yarrow said.
He was speaking out of experience as the head of the City of London Corporation, which administers the ‘Square Mile’, home to the biggest financial hub in the world, which accounts for 41 percent of the global foreign exchange.
He said that during his tenure, many professionals were drawn to the city from India, Africa and France. The London Stock Exchange too owns training and innovations centres in Japan and Singapore, as well as MillenniumIT in Sri Lanka.
“City of London didn’t become successful because of the British. Let’s be honest. The City of London is successful because it values those who are talented,” Yarrow added.
Practicing what he preached, Yarrow offered The Mansion House Scholarship Scheme to Sri Lankans, which would fund recipients in the finance field to study for a Master’s Degree or gain work experience in the UK.
He had said that Sri Lanka’s professionals were the best in the developing world.
Meanwhile, NDB Bank CEO/Managing Director Rajendra Theagarajah added that all financial markets have a majority of foreign professionals working more than locals.
“So families, when coming to a city, look at good prices, good healthcare and open minds,” he said.
However, Sri Lanka’s Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations with India were boycotted and halted by industrialists who feared a flood of Indians into the local labour market. The Sino-Lanka Free Trade Agreement too includes a clause which calls for the evaluation of movement of services and people two years after the enactment of the agreement.
Most experts are however now asking the government to formulate a brain gain strategy similar to India, by enticing expatriates who hold key positions and expertise.
Theagarajah’s examples on motivation hold true to expatriates as well, as experts say that good schools for their children, good governance, competitive salaries and perks are highly sought after.
Sri Lanka is currently or going to be facing acute professional shortages in tourism and hospitality, health, and logistics.