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Home EFC News Prime Minister says education and digitalisation duals paths to robust growth
Prime Minister says education and digitalisation duals paths to robust growth PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 November 2016 08:58

Eying robust growth, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday outlined that it was key to modernise the economy with education and digitalisation in order to develop Sri Lanka to greater heights. 

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the 14th Annual Conference of AAT Sri Lanka themed ‘Digitalisation for Accountants’ the Premier noted that unless the country modernise its economy, it would be very challenging to bring about the changes that is necessary for a high-growth economic trajectory.
Stabilising the macro economy

Highlighting some of the key objectives of the upcoming Budget 2017, he said they intend to bring macroeconomic stability, while reducing the debt burden by improving the pace of growth through increased investments. 

“One of the key promises we gave to the public of the nation was that we will not pass on the burden to our children and grandchildren. We don’t want a budget with borrowings. We shall earn and pay our debts without further borrowing and eradicate the debt burden within a period of a decade,” he stressed.

He assured that debt will no longer be a problem in another five years as that issue has been taken to task by the upcoming Budget 2017.

It was noted that the debt to GDP ratio would be reduced to 4.7% next year, with an aim to further reduce it, while increasing the money available in the economy.

“We don’t want to have higher tax rates, but we want to collect taxes from those who are not paying and broaden our tax net,” he explained.

The Prime Minister said that directions have already been given to the Development Strategies Ministry to increase the country’s Ease of Doing Business ranking above 70 in the next five years.

He emphasised on the factors of productivity and efficiency as vital components in improving the economy and insisted that incentives would be awarded to projects based on its benefits and that every project would not be provided with eternal tax holiday schemes.

Strengthening trade ties

On the external economy, he said the Government would introduce a low tax regime in order to encourage an export-led economy where they have already laid the foundations to the world’s largest markets such as China, India and the EU with GSP+. These three markets provide access to around three billion people.

“If we can at least break into 1% or even 0.5% would be a great achievement,” he noted.

In addition the Government will enter into a FTA with Singapore, while deepening the intra-relationship with India via ETCA. He added that Sri Lanka is eagerly seeking trade ties with Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the EU.

Noting that entering the US market was the most difficult, he said they cannot predict anything at this point until the Presidential Elections are over.

Wickremesinghe reiterated that the modernisation of the economy and its structure was important. “We are still dependent on tea, rubber and coconut until very recent when apparel and tourism were also added to our export basket. We need to increase earnings and better schemes.”

Emphasising the importance of human capital development, the Premier asserted that they have made 13 years compulsory education to move into a knowledge-based economy.”

“We need a larger percentage of women participation in our labour force. Steps have already taken to establish a new Employment Training Fund to build capacity in the country to cater to the ever increasing middle-class demand,” he added.

He pointed out that the Government had laid the foundation to provide 1 million jobs and that would be executed next year.

Responding immediately to a request made by AAT Sri Lanka President J. M. U. B. Jayasekara, the Prime Minister promised that AAT Sri Lanka would be incorporated by an Act of Parliament in the near future.

Digitalisation of the economy

Digital Infrastructure and Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando, delivering the keynote address, said digitisation in today’s world is changing the way in which accounting standards are being implemented. 

Noting that accounting services have been one of the key pillars keeping institutions accountable and ensuring the principles of transparency, Fernando said it was time to evolve accounting in line with digitalisation.

“From the perspective of digitisation, we will provide the infrastructure needed for digital commerce.”

Highlighting one key project to facilitate digitisation, he noted the National Digital Identity and the Digital Transaction Cards which will be issued to every citizen from birth. This will ensure all citizens would have a digital wallet to perform digital transactions 24/7.

“ICTA has developed and is in the final stages of deploying the National Payment Platform which will allow citizens to send digital instructions for online payments to their respective banks. The National Payment Platform will reduce the merchant charges drastically and will facilitate growth of digital commerce,” he explained.

The Minister revealed that over 25 online services of the Government will be made available for citizens to pay for their mobile phone and they hope to have over 100 Government services online by 2017 and all Government services payment online by 2018.

Furthermore, he said the Lanka Government Network is another project that interconnects Government systems to improve productivity with the Ministry hoping to connect 860 Government sites this year while 3,500 more sites are to be connected by 2018.

He said the Big Data Platform which is currently being implemented, would enable policy makers and organisation heads to monitor performance using real time dashboards and ensure that evidence based decisions can be facilitated.

Immense challenges ahead

Fernando said it was an immense challenge to get organisations within Government to move away from territorial protective mindset to collaborative mindsets and in order to break such barriers ICTA is having another program for change management and capacity building. 

“Culture needs to change and if we don’t bring about the change we will all collectively let Sri Lanka down. It is important to ensure we move with the pace at which the rest of the world is moving and we need everybody’s support,” he stressed.

Business Process Management was another key area the Minister said ICTA is trying to undertake in order to bring about jobs for professionals. In addition, ICTA will work closely with the Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka to introduce Financial Accounting Outsourcing (FAO) intermediary curriculum know as FAO to grow jobs for financial outsourcing.

“We will be doing a lot more work in such areas and we are open to ideas which will move Sri Lanka for better economic prosperity,” Fernando assured.

Five humble requests from AATSL

Making use of the opportunity, AAT Sri Lanka President J. M. U. B. Jayasekara made five humble requests from Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, including incorporation of AAT Sri Lanka by an Act of Parliament, allowing public sector Accounting Technicians Service, financial assistance to undergraduates of Arts to follow AAT, nominating Accounting Technicians to ‘School Management Boards’ and introducing statutory provisions to regularise accounting in SMEs.

He said the AAT today has become a household name with a lot of school children now pursuing AAT qualifications after Ordinary Level examination.

Jayasekara also assured the Prime Minister that his institution was willing to conduct courses for schools as suggested by Premier Wickremesinghe. 

It was pointed out that 280,000 students have registered with AAT from its inception with 30,000 past finalists and 4,800 members.

Stimulating Technical Sessions have been planned to coincide with the substance and significance of the theme presented by eminent resource personnel tomorrow on topics of ‘Digitalization - A game changer’, ‘Revolutionised finance in a digital era’, ‘How to re-imagine HR in today’s context’ and ‘How safe is your data’.

The conference facilitates exchange of the expertise of 16 resource personnel in chosen fields and expects to attract over 500 participants for the conference.

The Annual Conference of AAT Sri Lanka is recognised as one of the most anticipated events, especially among SME sector key personnel. The conference is a thought-provoking summit, spurring insights on broad economic and business issues apart from its core emphasis on finance related topics. The expected gathering includes business leaders, policy makers, senior financial professionals, AAT Sri Lanka members and other dignitaries.

By Charumini de Silva 
Pix by Sameera Wijesinghe

Article From : Daily FT [ ]
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Last Updated on Thursday, 03 November 2016 09:03