By Kumar David –
Economic and Technical Collaboration with foreign countries; Dealing with the elephant next door
This essay deals with the concept of comprehensive economic and technical collaboration agreements. If ETCA is minimalist covering two or three sectors only or a mere trade pact, sadly it is an opportunity lost. Short-sighted nationalists and professional interest lobbies seem to have derailed a comprehensive version.
The Economic & Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India has still to be published and it seems the government, unfortunately but understandably, has been forced by lobbies and vested interests to back down on crucial aspects. Nevertheless I spent last week discussing international, not just Indian, collaboration and I will mention the participants at three of these gatherings. A three hour session was with five highly regarded engineers with decades of local and foreign experience in government and/or private sectors. Their expertise was in construction, hydrology, environmental engineering, water-supply and telecoms. The sixth less notable participant with an electrical supply systems background was yours faithfully. In addition to practical experience three of them had PhDs and the other three solid MSc degrees – not dime-a-dozen MBAs.
The second was a gathering of 90 engineers, 70 from overseas, who were here for a reunion. I spent a weekend with them in Kandy. A third discussion was with a Left parliamentarian, a democratic activist and a journalist who runs a website and edits a magazine in Sinhala. There is much merit in reflecting on all these conversations. Two conclusions summarise the gist of it.
- There is no doubt Lanka must reach economic and technical arrangements with other countries, mainly but not only Asian. First the Indian dish on the table must be dealt with.
- There is no doubt that the devil will be in the details. Hence skill is needed in formulating the protocols. Keep our fingers crossed that our ETCA