Focus more on developing the tea, rubber, coconut and minor export crop sector – Editorial

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Countries should increase public and private investment in labor-intensive economic sectors that generate broader benefits for society

According to generally accepted economic theories and their practical application, stimulating economic growth has been seen as the best way to create employment opportunities and raise people’s living standards.

However, growth is slowing in Europe, the United States, China, Japan and other major economies, as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank recently pointed out by revising their global forecasts considerably to the lower end. decrease. Sri Lanka is no exception.

Moreover, development economists and sociologists know that economic growth alone is not enough to reduce the increased inequalities and insecurity that accompany work transformation.

In addition, the high debt levels, the low ratio of exports to GDP, the vulnerability of our traditional textiles and clothing exports and the currencies from income from travel and tourism, etc. left policymakers with fewer traditional tools to stimulate the economy.

Inclusive growth models and labor-intensive industries
As we have to live with the COVID-19 pandemic, the government would now view it slightly differently and focus more on developing livelihoods and better equipping its employable workforce and population. We need to navigate the world of work, in an era of increasing automation, stagnant wages and more temporary part-time jobs, so we could effectively stimulate inclusive growth and economic development to improve purchasing power of the working population.

The International Labor Commission has recommended three practical steps – all of which involve investing more in people – that countries can take to simultaneously improve social inclusion and economic growth.

Investing more in people is not only essential for strengthening countries’ social contracts with citizens in an era of rapid technological change. It can also form the basis of a new, more “people-centered” model of growth and development which may be the best hope for sustaining economic development.

First, countries should increase public and private investment in the capacities of their populations, which is the most important way for them to sustainably increase their rate of productivity growth. Sri Lanka must take a bold decision to reverse the negative trend of underinvestment in access to quality education and skills development. The committee called on countries to put in place a universal framework to support lifelong learning, including stronger and better funded labor market training and a universal social protection floor.

Second, governments, together with employers ‘and workers’ organizations, should improve national labor rules and institutions. These influence the quantity and distribution of employment and earnings opportunities, and hence the level of purchasing power and aggregate demand within the economy. All workers, regardless of their contractual arrangement or employment status, would benefit from a “living wage” as defined in the founding constitution of the ILO 100 years ago, and protection of workers. occupational health and safety.

Third, countries should increase public and private investment in labor-intensive economic sectors that generate broader benefits for society. As for the Sri Lankan situation, it includes the tea, rubber and coconut plantation sector, the rural economy, education and training.

Development of the plantation sector – extraction of a gold mine
The Sri Lankan plantation sector has enormous potential to contribute to national economic growth and improve the purchasing power of the population.

Due to concerns about declining tea and rubber production, we need to focus more on sustainable agricultural practices and other estate development programs by injecting more investment / management inputs in order to put implement an accelerated program: increase the production of plant material, establish nurseries, model of tea gardening with drip irrigation, mechanization and appropriate technology, undertake replanting, crop diversification, agroforestry, etc.

It appears that the plantation industry currently owned and managed by public institutions, PRCs, and tea and rubber smallholders have not been able to adapt mitigation strategies for resilience to the effects of change. climate in order to practice integrated management of total quality and improvement of productivity. The author is of the opinion that the potential to earn foreign exchange and higher net financial returns through optimal use of resources – environmental resources, including human resources, have not been properly harnessed.

As a result, the role of “large conventional plantations” is gradually becoming insignificant – other actors thus becoming major contributors to foreign exchange earnings and job creation. There is a need to migrate to a new economic and business model aligned with national priorities of economic and social well-being, while providing reasonable financial returns to businesses on a sustainable basis.

It has become necessary to promote “high quality” plantations, improve sustainable agricultural practices such as the use of precision farming technology, reduction of chemical fertilizers, protection of biodiversity and advancements. technology in manufacturing, etc.

The government could provide the necessary incentives and incentives in the following two important areas of development activities:

1. Advancing the global value chain of staple crops such as tea and rubber and / or diversification into other crops such as cinnamon, coconut, coffee, commercial forestry, other cash crops of fruits and vegetables should be encouraged by the authorities.

2. Empowerment of youth / workers through skills development and career development to alleviate labor shortage and deploy youth to productive work.

As for the second point, it is important to ensure the “dignity” of the youth and of the small owner of the estate. This could be done by empowering them by providing them with opportunities and plenty of facilities such as;

Create additional monthly income sources for the youth of the field in areas such as dairy production, fruits and vegetables, horticulture, compost factories, tree planting, many other interesting vocations and jobs to earn money, provide vocational training for landscaping and gardening, chefs, drivers, security, salespeople, etc.

The government could provide qualified teachers for science and computer studies and schools with science laboratories and technical and vocational training courses, standard library facilities, knowledge and interest for “scout services”. It will even eliminate the use of “drugs” among schoolchildren and the increase in alcoholism “on the plantations.

Property management to offer more opportunities to have access to sports and recreational activities, social clubs, training centers for cultural activities (Ex: dance, yoga, music and singing).

Provide access to banking services to pursue higher education and an efficient public service to obtain ID cards, passports, driver’s licenses, etc.

Re-designate their jobs; say for an example; Pruning machine operators, mechanized harvesters, etc. without treating them as “workers”. organize “contests” at the national level to motivate productive employees to recognize their expertise and talent.

By empowering the young people in the estate, we could meet their aspirations, solve their problems, including the habit of young people buying “three wheels” with their parents’ contingency fund, the money from tips without thinking. other employment opportunities to improve the quality of life, etc.

The way forward, an inclusive growth model
Ten years ago, the leaders of the G20 countries pledged to put in place a model of more balanced and sustainable growth that takes into account the lessons of the economic imbalances and the political mistakes of the past. According to an ILO study, the world has recently made progress towards this goal. But the way forward is clear: sustained and increased investments in people’s capacities, purchasing power, employment opportunities and above all we must have “inclusive economic institutions”.

The Chinese success story and the contrast between South and North Korea, the United States and Latin America, illustrate a general principle. Inclusive economic institutions promote economic activity and productivity growth. Sustained economic growth is always accompanied by technological improvements that allow people (labor), land and existing capital to become more productive.

The plantation industry in Sri Lanka could also follow this inclusive growth model to create employment opportunities and raise people’s living standards. The government and private actors must engage in a dialogue without delay.


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