As a nation with enormous potential for output, we ought to be enjoying constant challenges to transform them to new opportunities if we are to reap the benefits of today’s globalization. In today’s economic terms, it is the knowledge-based economies that are successful while those that lack are left with scraps as bottom-feeders.
Less attention is paid to tertiary education and learning of advance science for the emergence of a knowledge-based economy.Pic shows students at an exam
A sustainable economy relies on a knowledge-based economy; it nurtures the feed systems, consolidates its foundation by building the crucial human capacity and incorporates capacity-building policies to pass on to successive regimes over decades in the best interest of the nation.
In Sri Lanka, our failure to promote human capacity building and entrepreneurship development under an environment of knowledge-based economy has left us with a shattered foundation to build little on. It leaves us with more questions than we seek answers, primarily, why did we let this happen to our country? Was it that no one cared or was anxious to move mountains to achieve the end?
While we await large-scale Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to flow in, the transformation of the global economy and the era of globalization have moved on, and already enjoyed a significant impact on the organizations of global society that benefited from knowledge-based economies.
This transformation is known as the emergence of global information or Knowledge Society and a techno-paradigm shift. In this period, the knowledge, skills and abilities required for socioeconomic development changed dramatically, and included the need to understand better how to manipulate symbolic knowledge and to work in global environment.
Through capacity building, substantial and growing knowledge base can be realized for global understanding and collaboration of technologies in science and in the workplace. An additional body of knowledge exists for understanding primarily asynchronous computer-assisted advance learning. However, there has been insufficient effort here to combine these approaches and explore unique globally distributed synchronous or any attempt to promote collaborative learning to develop our capacity building. Even less attention is paid to tertiary education and learning of advance science for the emergence of a knowledge-based economy. It is the role of the government to develop and implement policies to set deliberate plans of action to create the kind of economic transformation to achieve a Knowledge Society in Sri Lanka – which we have failed miserably.
Policy makers sleeping at the wheel
Effective policy-making is the most important service that the public service provides to government. For those who are unfamiliar with policy-making in government, it is the process by which governments transform their ‘political’ vision into programmes and actions to deliver 'outcomes' - desired changes in the real world.
What we desperately need is good policy-making talent, which is fundamental to the delivery of quality outcomes for the benefit of our nation and to the eventual realisation of public sector reform.
The UK’s Cabinet Office Strategic Policy Team in 1999 developed nine features of policy-making as a framework for the future, but we can amend them to fit our utility and improve our policy-making application:Forward Looking - Defining policy outcomes and taking a long term view.
Outward Looking - Taking account of the national, Asian and international situation; learning from the experience of other countries; recognising regional variations.
Innovative, Flexible - Questioning established ways of dealing with things, encouraging new and creative ideas, identifying and managing risk.
Joined Up - Looking beyond institutional boundaries; setting cross-cutting objectives; defining and communicating joint working arrangements across departments; ensuring that implementation is part of the policy process.
Inclusive - Consulting those responsible for implementation and those affected by the policy; carrying out an impact assessment .
Evidence based - Basing policy decisions and advice upon the best available evidence from a wide range of sources; ensuring that evidence is available in an accessible and meaningful form. Evaluated - Systematic evaluation of the effectiveness of policy is built into the policy-making process.
Reviews - Existing/established policy is constantly reviewed to ensure it is really dealing with problems it was designed to solve.
Lessons learned - Learning from experience of what works and what does not Modernising our public services is crucial to everything the government wants to achieve for the country. It begins with the appointment of quality people with leadership skills to create a strong and high quality public service if we are to achieve our central aim of spreading prosperity and opportunity in a knowledge society. Unquestionably, our public service must improve its capability and capacity to understand the importance of our human capacity development in nation building, and deliver appropriate programmes and projects to complement.
Those programmes ought to target what I call interlinked ‘pillars of knowledge economy’ – focused formal and advance education to meet our industrialization potential; management of our enormous human capacity potential by developing skills development to meet industry needs; developing a sound health care system for citizens to access across the country to create a healthy workforce; investing in transportation infrastructure to ensure flow of passengers and cargo; have innovation fair tax policies to minimise excessive cost to industries and encourage investment in key industries.
Consequences of failed policies
For over a decade, the Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation, Washington's pre-eminent think tank, have tracked economic freedom around the world with the influential Index of Economic Freedom.
In the 2010 Index, Sri Lanka’s economic freedom score is 54.6, making its economy the 120th freest, a drop of 1.4 points than last year, reflecting deterioration in four of the 10 economic freedoms. Sri Lanka is ranked 23rd out of 41 countries in the Asia–Pacific region, and its overall score is lower than the world average.
It is a sad reflection of where we are today and where we cannot be tomorrow as a result of decades of poor policy-making.
According to The Heritage Foundation, the economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labour and property. In an economically ‘free society,’ individuals have the freedom to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please.
That freedom is both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. In economically free societies, governments allow labour, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.
Therefore, as the first step in developing a knowledge economy, the policy-makers must recognise our right to enjoy economic freedom and seek full benefits. Imposing unwarranted constraints negates the evolution of human capacity building and affects the freedom of business, trade, fiscal, government spending, monetary, investment, financial, property rights, exemption from corruption and labour. Frequently, unprepared policy-makers confuse the right for economic freedom with overindulgence and fail to understand that the rule of law applies to all in a democracy.
Economic freedom counts
There are clear relationships between economic freedom and the level of prosperity in a given country. Economies rated “free” or “mostly free” in the 2010 Index enjoy incomes that are more than three times the average levels in all other countries and more than 10 times higher than the incomes of “repressed” economies.
Therefore, empirical evidence says that we are not so on the right track.
There are tangible benefits of living in freer societies.
Data shows higher levels of economic freedom are associated with higher per capita incomes and higher GDP growth rates, but those higher growth rates appear to create a virtuous cycle, sparking faster poverty decline and thereby making further improvements in economic freedom. When our government boast about reaching $4500 per capita income someday, they must take note what it takes to achieve such goals.
(The writer former. Senior Policy Analyst, Ministry of Trade and Economic Development, Govt of British Columbia,