2 December, 2020

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To ETCA Or Not To ETCA: What Is The Question?

By Ruvan Weerasinghe

Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe

Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe

The metamorphosed version of CEPA, the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) has sparked off various segments of our industry, and our politicians to respond in diverse ways. Much of this has been either of a knee-jerk type or of text-book economic theory. The former reaction is connected with the general dislike of our neighboring big brother, while the latter harps on the size of the market that will open up to us. In this article I want to show why both these reactions are flawed.

Market liberalization

In order to bring some logic into the argument, we first need to take the India factor out of our discussion owing to various, mostly negative connotations that are evoked. In order to do that, we can ask ourselves, is it good to liberalize our service industry to Country X? In order to give some context, we may need to also consider at least two parameters of Country X: its size in terms of population and its political/economic status. In order to focus our debate, we should set both these parameters at higher values than ours.

The rather simplistic argument of many of the politicians has been that it is advantageous for a small country like Sri Lanka to enter into a large market. This assumes that there is an absolutely equal playing field. This assumption is flawed owing to the second parameter: which country on earth that is stronger in terms of its political and economic status than us, would sign an agreement that is more advantageous to us than to them[1]? However, we should avoid throwing the baby with the bathwater. There are many examples of larger, more powerful countries benefiting neighboring smaller countries owing to liberalization, such as possibly Bhutan and recently Myanmar in our region and Vietnam and Cambodia not far from us.

The human resource factor

What we need to then ask is, when is it mutually beneficial for a smaller, less powerful country to open its market to a larger country which most probably will stand to benefit more? Many of the examples that have been proposed as success stories in terms of increased foreign direct investment and exports, have not brought the social costs into their calculations. Even if we leave that aside for the sake of this argument (though we probably shouldn’t), the countries in these examples were mostly not just smaller in size and political/economic status, but also impoverished in terms of the quality of their human resource: something that usually is rarely considered. In our situation, this is clearly not the case for the industries that have been linked with the CEPA/ETCA discussion: medical, engineering and IT professionals. In our case, arguably, the per capita human resource quality is higher than most countries in the region[2].

As such, even if we reject the justification of protectionism for fledgling industries (brought originally by no less than Adam Smith) by pointing to modern experience, we need to re-examine the conditions under which a particular industry is ready for liberalization. This indeed is what the developed countries do: strengthen their relevant industries to a level after which liberalization doesn’t hurt, but benefits that industry.

For a change, how about looking at countries such as Ireland, Switzerland and Israel as models rather than Myanmar or Vietnam? These were small countries with highly skilled human resources – not too unlike us. Their models of liberalization may shed some light on how to get this right.

Industry = IT

After we have cleared our minds about the timing, benefits and issues we need to be prepared for when liberalizing a particular industry, we need to come to the current focus in the debate we are faced with.

Let’s look at the industry first: IT. The IT industry is asking the government, if ETCA is the answer, what is the question? This is a first alert sign: didn’t the government seek the views of the industry before singling out that industry? Neither SLASSCOM nor FITIS had been involved in any consultation until more recently they demanded an audience. It is a body of IT professionals, the CSSL, that has been trying to alert the industry with little success[3]. The even more worrying fact was that even the state entity for top level policy in that industry, the ICTA, were mostly oblivious about the plans of the government! This is an ideal situation for any country to benefit from a free-trade agreement with another: an industry that has not got its act together.

Of course the IT industry as a whole does not only consist of the companies that sell software products and services, there are at least two other sectors of the industry: the education providers and the hardware manufacturers. These three interlinked sectors of the industry are at very different stages of evolution in the Sri Lankan context: the products/services sector is arguably the most mature and organized, the education providers sector is highly polarized between an over-regulated state sector and an unregulated private sector, and the hardware sector is in a fledgling state.

Liberalizing the IT industry without careful thought therefore would have unexpected effects on the industry as a whole. For instance, those that provide IT services could benefit by cheap labour which could potentially raise the bar on efficiency while also resulting in much larger attrition rates for instance. On the other hand, IT product companies which have penetrated niche markets globally could suffer by being forced to cut costs and having to enter non-niche areas. The hardware manufacturing sector could potentially benefit by larger companies setting up operations here[4]. These are but over-simplified caricatures of the complexities of the IT industry, but I claim are way more sophisticated than those being talked about by the government!

Country X = India

Lest this article be accused of being irrelevant, we finally need to consider if the country under consideration is India. Firstly, the Indian IT industry is in a completely different ball game. They are primarily in the IT services space and have little investment in the open source eco-system for precisely that reason. Indian IT graduates are also not a uniform breed: at the top level, they are produced in relatively small numbers by the elite IIT’s, but at the (large) bottom end, they are unemployed, and arguably unemployable. The best IT graduates, not unlike ours, seek greener pastures in the developed world, and would hardly consider Sri Lanka as a destination to realize their ambitions. Sri Lanka’s unregulated private tertiary education system would allow even the lowest quality Indian degrees (some as short as 2 years) to be offered in Sri Lanka and compromise the quality of university education available in Sri Lanka. This could potentially wipe out the relatively high quality degrees franchised from UK and Australia currently in Sri Lanka.

Liberalization also has different implications in the two countries. As experienced already by the products sector (under GATT[5]), tariff barriers removed at the country level do not bind individual states from removing theirs. As such, an IT product may enter India without tax, but would be slapped a significant tax when it tries to enter a particular State. In contrast, once the Sri Lankan government signs an agreement, the entire country is open to the counterpart.

Way forward?

So, what is the way forward then? Consultation is the primary need of the hour. Consultation with the real representatives of the industry, and not just reports, here say or anecdotal evidence. As outlined before, the services industry in IT actually consists of two sectors: software products and software services. More and more companies in this space have realized that the way forward for the Sri Lankan software industry is through products, owing to the niche areas we need to play in, given our human resource skills and availability.

These companies however do however have problems of retention owing to the world-class human capital they posses. They are constantly being lured by overseas giants, or simply ‘greener pastures’ particularly in terms of housing, schooling for children and ownership of what they perceive as basic necessities. They also would not in general be averse to accepting high level professionals with quality degrees and 5 to 10 years of experience.

And then we have an extremely talented pool of Sri Lankan diaspora who aren’t being attracted to fill these gaps in our talent pool. Before opening the IT services sector to other countries, what if Sri Lanka made it easier for those who were citizens and have taken up residence and citizenship in other countries? The reintroduction of the dual-citizenship scheme is a welcome step in the right direction. However, more incentives could be given to lure these individuals back the way India itself has been able to.

Parallel to these incentives, there also needs to be some level of responsibility given to Sri Lankans benefiting from free education at least at the secondary and tertiary levels needing to serve and obligatory period before seeking migration, or paying the state a relevant fee in lieu of such service.

Ultimately, we need to make our decision: do we want the Sri Lankan IT industry to give up its niche and become little subsidiaries of Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys or Wipro in the global IT services industry, or to remain focused on its niche product trajectory and emulating small but agile countries such as Ireland, Switzerland and Israel?

There are many and significant other ways in which the government can help the Sri Lankan IT industry move from being the 5th highest export earner to the top most spot. Signing the ETCA without paying attention to the peculiar nature of that industry in Sri Lanka has the potential to bring disastrous consequences for that industry and the country in general.


[1]    If we for a brief moment set X to India, the export figures in either direction after the signing of the last free trade agreement (ISLFTA) between our two countries shows us clearly that Sri Lankan exports remained mostly flat, while those of India have steadily risen.

[2]    One source claimed that Sri Lanka has the highest per capita employees at NASA; we also have the highest per capita committers in one of the worlds’ largest software code-bases, Apache.

[3]    Was this the reason that the government felt it could use that industry as a ‘soft target’ (as was the case in liberalizing tertiary education)?

[4]    Arguably, if we really want the top tier hardware manufacturers to setup here, we should open up to countries such as Taiwan and South Korea.

[5]    Not to be confused with the GATS we are now working under.

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Latest comments

  • 27
    36

    Human civilization is based on human social and economic integrations, this is one of the main differences between humans and animals. In the last 100 years, we saw rapidly expanding country level economic and social integration based more on care and respect instead of physical or gun power, like in the past.
    Now SL and country X (India) is preparing for a new trade agreement. Isn’t it correct to assume that the main aim of this is to create new trade opportunities or to enhance current ones between the two countries? If this creates 100 new opportunities, we may say 50-50 benefit to both is the ideal situation. Even if our big brother India gets 70 and we get 30, isn’t it good thing for us rather than zero new opportunities. If we as employees and entrepreneurs, work harder with more respect & care to the services & products we generate, I believe we may reach 50-50 or beyond.

    You also mentioned that our education is better (I categorically deny this, our school & Uni education system is our biggest problems) and claimed we have highest per capita representation at NASA. Similar guys like you in India claimed that 36% of NASA employees are Indians. Why don’t you guys spend 5 mins to do intelligent Google search before making such comments in public. There are ethnicity based employee percentages in NASA site and I also saw some Indian blogs ridicule 36% Indian representation at NASA claimed by their fellow Indians.

    • 5
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      The essence of you comment is that “there would be new opportunities” – the same we here from the GoSL. It’s more complicated than that; just the new opportunities won’t help the industry or the country.

      First we need to be in an able position extract the benefits of the new opportunities. Secondly, we need to think about what we compromise for the new opportunities. Otherwise, it is like loosing you health to earn more money so that you can buy better healthcare

    • 4
      6

      Ruwan

      Even at present there may be 100+ IT professionals working in SL at any given point of time. Most of them come on tourist visas for 30 days. They could be in mobile applications to IT security etc.

      Almost all banks have hired Indian companies for their IT work. Even now 2 banks are using Indian companies for IT upgrades. BoC hired McKinsey from India recently. Before that JKH hired them.

      In the tax sector all transfer pricing specialists are from India since we have adopted Indian TP principles.

      So what is the issue? Whether there is ETCA or not we need Indian specialists since we simply don’t have them. The good thing is their productivity is very high, committed and very competitive pricing. Most WB and ADB consultancies are carried out with Indian specialists.

      Also we have sent 1 million house maids to middle east to work without any trade agreements.

      What are we talking here?

      Jagath

    • 3
      3

      Ruwan

      Even at present there may be 100+ IT professionals working in SL at any given point of time. Most of them come on tourist visas for 30 days. They could be in mobile applications to IT security etc.

      Almost all banks have hired Indian companies for their IT work. Even now 2 banks are using Indian companies for IT upgrades. BoC hired McKinsey from India recently. Before that JKH hired them.

      In the tax sector all transfer pricing specialists are from India since we have adopted Indian TP principles.

      So what is the issue? Whether there is ETCA or not we need Indian specialists since we simply don’t have them. The good thing is their productivity is very high, committed and very competitive pricing. Most WB and ADB consultancies are carried out with Indian specialists.

      Also we have sent 1 million house maids to middle east to work without any trade agreements.

      What are we talking here?

      We can discuss until cows come home. Get it done !!!

      Improve productivity to compete.!!!

      Jagath

    • 6
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      Alahakoon -> “Why don’t you guys spend 5 mins to do intelligent Google search before making such comments in public”

      Dr. Ruwan is a Lecturer at the University of Colombo School of Computing.. I’m pretty sure he knows how to google better than you son

  • 22
    18

    If the government wants to proceed with this they should go through a process of explaining this to the public.

    For example how will any of our local industries compete ? the economies of scale related to the cost of manufacture in India will make all Indian products much cheaper. The argument could be that this is beneficial to the consumer but what happens when competition is removed from the market ? We will be totally at the mercy of India.

    It would be a situation similar to when india sneezes, Lankans’ die of the plague !

  • 22
    20

    Thanks Dr. W. for this analysis that brings some important implications to the fore. I feel that the RW government is being brow beaten by India to open up these areas to support the US-supported expansionism being pushed by Modi. THat in turn is in reaction to CHinese expansionism.

    Sri Lanka needs to do what is best for the majority of its people – not what is best for the US/China or India.

    IF the Indian economy were better than Sri Lanka’s (per capita), then it might be a good idea to open our services sector (similar to Canada exporting their services and talent to the US). THe impact on the US economy of incoming Canadians is negligible (30 v. 400 million). However the per capita GDP is higher in Sri Lanka, so what would most likely happen is a flood of workers from India into Sri Lanka. This is already happening in the hospitality sector, and the illegal migrant Indian itinerant business people roaming around the country.

    The quality of life in Sri Lanka is better than in India even for the indiam upper-middle class. Thus it would be very attractive for the Indian professionals to migrate to SL.

    If we had a systematic and thorough process to identify critical sectors where labour is in shortage, and verify the professional and education qualifications of the migrants, then I would support the importing of such from other countries. However since we do not have a functional state bureaucracy (in almost any area og government), such vetting is a pipe dream.

    Let’s not destroy the niches in IT that we have created for our selves. Countries such as Finland (next to Russia), Ireland and Israel , Singapore are successful models to look at and emulate with much caution.

    Talk is cheap. RW needs to support his ideas with data and CONVINCE the people of this country before rolling over for big brother India or the bully USA.

    • 21
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      What most people don’t seem to understand is that we don’t have an “open borders” policy where professionals from India can just “migrate” at the drop of a hat. They have to be invited to do so by the management of the companies – companies that as per the companies Act need to be locally incorporated/have a local partner. As such, if Indians start flooding the market then we have only ourselves to blame.

  • 18
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    Thank You, Dr. Weerasinghe for very well analysed article on this subject. The industry needs more articles like this to understand the all aspect of this situation.

  • 50
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    I am neither an Economist nor an analyst.

    What I am going to say is through my very own anecdotal experience/encounters, hence just my gut feelings. Some of them are very generic sweeping statements, many will take me to task for it and I won’t even attempt to defend myself.

    I am sure there are many decent Indians but I haven’t met any, and I have met Indians all over the world. The Pakistanis I have met have similar ethics to Indians but with one very noticeable difference; the lack of a Gandhian legacy. If a Pakistani rapes my grandmother and I confront him he would say “Yes, I raped your grandmother, so what?” I have no problem with that. If an Indian rapes my grandmother and I confront him, because of their Gandhian legacy, he would go into some moralizing claptrap to convince me that it was good for my grandmother to get raped by him. And I have a problem with that.

    I want SL to stay as far away as possible from India; no bridges, no tunnels – no integration, economic or otherwise. Indians are Indians and Lankans are Lankans, never the twain shall meet.

    Ranil, Mangala et al can only see as far as the end of their noses. It’s like JR writing a constitution for the 12 years of his reign and country paying for it for decades. Indians and Lankans might be all lovey-dovey now but things can change in a bat of an eyelid.

    You have to look at India’s history, how they instigate trouble and take over smaller neighbours. Have people forgotten that India instigated and tried to control the “Tamil insurgency” to achieve their own ends? They were thwarted not because overnight they developed a good conscience towards their neighbours but because Velupillai wouldn’t play ball.

    Let us get over our “two-week” memories. The greatest act of patriotism (smart or otherwise) in recent times was done not by any Singhalese but by good old Prabakaran and the LTTE by giving India such a bloody nose that they were falling over each other to get out. Prbakaran cured for good, India’s lust for military adventurism in SL; it didn’t happen out of the goodness of India’s heart. If not for Prabakran, North-East SL today will be controlled by Indians through proxies. If we are vigilant about our independence this is not something we can overlook. If Ranil, Mangala et el want, let them migrate to India; they have no right to take the entire country.

    I am no fan of the Rajapakses, but the greatest service they did the country was keeping the Indian’s at bay when they were coming for their pound of flesh after they supposedly “helped” us win the war. Mahinda and Gota played them like a fiddle and rightly so.

    • 26
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      Just what one would expect from a “true blue ” Sri Lankan.
      Not a very good student of history though, brought up on a diet of our superiority vis-a vis these poor dirty Indians
      So, a few facts for your edification:
      Do you know that the parents of Parakrama Bahu were 100% iNDIAN?
      Or that our last 4 kings were Indians?
      Or that the Karawas and Salagamas arrived here from India ?
      We ARE Indians. So please do not look up and spit.

      “The greatest act of patriotism (smart or otherwise) in recent times was done not by any Singhalese but by good old Prabakaran and the LTTE by giving India such a bloody nose that they were falling over each other to get out.”
      Another revised version of history. It was Ranasinghe Premadasa who demanded the IPKF withdrawal, and even provided weapons to the LTTE, when VP was having a tough time. We all know what happened after that.

      And of course the greatest present-day exponent of smart patriotism was a Minister in the North-East Provincial Council.

      Sri Lankan smart patriots cannot be beaten at duplicity.

      • 10
        8

        ” brought up on a diet of our superiority vis-a vis these poor dirty Indians”

        I wasn’t “brought up” on anything; like I’ve said, my opinions are based on my experience. That’s all one can do. One can’t be untrue to one’s experience and disregard it. Your experience may be different from mine. To each his own. People grouped as nations have some distinct traits. Whether we like it or not – for whatever reasons – that’s the way it is.

        ” Do you know that the parents of Parakrama Bahu were 100% iNDIAN? Or that our last 4 kings were Indians?”

        Tracing DNA, they have discovered that the human race originated in Africa (I stand to be corrected) and then migrated to different parts on the world. People in different parts of the world have different traits distinct to them due to how they have adopted to their environment – physical or human. Most Americans originally would have come from England but now as a group of people there is distinct American identity/traits.

        We may have originally come from India but now we as a group of people have distinct traits different from Indians. Please, please, please understand, I am not saying “superior” but merely distinct/different.

        ” Or that the Karawas and Salagamas arrived here from India ?”

        I don’t know if you are making assumption based on the name I’ve chosen “Nimal Fernando.” It’s not my real name, It’s just a common SL name I picked up as a handle for the forum. No big deal.

        ” We ARE Indians.”

        No, we were once African ………. then Indians, now Lankans. Pakistanis were once Indians, now they are Pakistanis. Each with some distinct traits. Whether the traits are good or bad is open to debate.

        “Another revised version of history. It was Ranasinghe Premadasa who demanded the IPKF withdrawal”

        True. But you have to look at it within the context how it came about. Would India have stopped the “Parippu drop” if JR had just demanded? No, at that time India was so gung-ho about their small neighbour whom they thought they could just walk over. Originally IPKF/Indians thought (because of their size, no one would challenge them) it’s a few months “adventure” with very little or no cost. VP brought the Indians to a position where when Premadasa asked, they just decamped. If the Indians knew the cost – human and other – that VP and the LTTE (Premadasa didn’t do the fighting) would get them to pay they wouldn’t have stepped into SL – “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” An act of patriotism can be performed by someone unbeknownst to him/her or without intending to.

        ” And of course the greatest present-day exponent of smart patriotism was a Minister in the North-East Provincial Council.”

        And today, he would be an Indian proxy doing India’s bidding. Patriotism has no national boundaries. Who said one can’t be an Indian patriot?

        • 0
          1

          “…..like I’ve said, my opinions are based on my experience. That’s all one can do. One can’t be untrue to one’s experience and disregard it. Your experience may be different from mine. To each his own.”

          Dear Nimal,

          If you really mean this, you are in serious trouble. Experience is a very dangerous teacher. It is, to say the least, limited.

          Your experience is a particular whereas every opinion, as distinct from a mere account of your particular experience, is a generalisation.

          It is a pity that in our Buddhist country, we do not meditate enough on these matters explained for us thousands of years ago.

          There is no India and there is no Sri Lanka for all time. There are no Indians nor Sri Lankans for all time. These appellations are for entities that come together and change always. To go to a Greek, you cannot step into the same India or Sri Lanka twice.

          Also, you speak too easily of being untrue/true to your own experience. In whose language – your own again?

          May you have the Buddha’s blessings.

          • 0
            0

            Hi Susruta,

            Thanks for your comment. I must say that’s the last thing I expected, an offbeat Buddhist philosophical interpretation!

            Please don’t think I am being disrespectful, but the only way I can answer you is,

            Your experience, I am sure, is very different from mine, and you would vehemently disagree and that’s your right, but my experience – all over the world – has thought me that human beings are very primitive animals with highly sophisticated “systems of self-delusion” that make them believe they are “civilized.” That’s all.

            There is spiritual life and there is real life. To practice spirituality one must first find a way to survive. In man, will to live/survive is paramount; it dominates most of his actions and it manifests in many forms – I can elaborate on this but I don’t have the time now, perhaps later. Even Lord Buddha had to first eat something to survive for him to meditate.

            The question is, in the real world, how do we safeguard our space in this primitive dog eat dog animalistic world? When India violated our rights (“parripu drop,” “Tamil insurgency,” a “forced” 13th amendment …. ) as a practitioner of Buddhist meditation how would have you reacted? Please no platitudes but a direct real-world answer.

      • 8
        3

        Our Kawum, Kokis, Idiampum, Pittu, Appa.. all from South India, mostly from Kerala…”..
        Until 1950s~60s, our music, films were directly from south India, then it moved to North India.
        All our Gods, Lord Buddha, and most beliefs are from India… Babies hair cutting, Idul Kirim, girls attaining ceremonies, are all Hindu ones… Then why this hatred or mass dislike now?
        This Fernando says “I am sure there are many decent Indians but I haven’t met any, and I have met Indians all over the world”
        Even India had Portuguese, Dutch invasions from before Ceylon, I hardly met any Indians with names like “Fernando’, DeMel, De Silva, Perera… (There are lot of Anglo Indians) …. This could be why this Fernando couldn’t find any decent Indian…@#$@

        • 3
          1

          Please see my reply to Old Codger (I am not insulting him, that’s his handle)

          ” Or that the Karawas and Salagamas arrived here from India ?”

          I don’t know if you are making assumptions based on the name I’ve chosen “Nimal Fernando.” It’s not my real name, It’s just a common SL name I picked up as a handle for the forum. No big deal.

          As for my purity of race and caste (about which I don’t give a rat’s behind,) I don’t know who mixed with whom in all those passionate ancient nights! If you get my drift.

    • 8
      0

      But Nimal, you Karave folk are but recent Indian immigrants. Are you nervous of your antecedents?

      • 4
        2

        It’s strange that you have got many thumbs-up for accusing me of belonging to a caste that I do not belong to!

        Please see my reply to Old Codger (I am not insulting him, that’s his handle)

        ” Or that the Karawas and Salagamas arrived here from India ?”

        I don’t know if you are making assumptions based on the name I’ve chosen “Nimal Fernando.” It’s not my real name, It’s just a common SL name I picked up as a handle for the forum. No big deal.

        As for my purity of race and caste (about which I don’t give a rat’s behind,) I don’t know who mixed with whom in all those passionate ancient nights! One can never be sure. If you get my drift.

    • 10
      2

      ” We may have originally come from India but now we as a group of people have distinct traits different from Indians. Please, please, please understand, I am not saying “superior” but merely distinct/different.”

      Nimal F,
      You have to admit that at present we are much more Indian than African. Our music is Indian or Portuguese based (We did not have any music to speak of until Joseph Vaz arrived from India. Look it up)
      Our majority religion is Indian.
      And of course, coming to our higher living standards since the early 20th century, why do you think this is so? Certainly not because Sri Lankans work harder or are more intelligent. No, it is due to the labour of generations of poor INDIAN workers on plantations, who produced tea and rubber which earned earned the foreign exchange so that you can use the Net to express your opinions.
      I don’t suppose you have met any of these people to improve your anecdotal experiences?

      • 5
        1

        Old Codger,

        “You have to admit that at present we are much more Indian than African. Our music is Indian or Portuguese based (We did not have any music to speak of until Joseph Vaz arrived from India. Look it up) Our majority religion is Indian.”

        Sure. But does that mean we are Indians? No, we are Sri Lankans – I include all Lankans here, irrespective of their ethnicity. Cast aside the cultural similarities – Americans too have cultural similarities with England – but we both have very dissimilar national traits/characteristics that makes us oceans apart. For starters we don’t continuously meddle in neighbouring countries’ affairs.

        My main concerns are not song and dance cultural similarity claptrap, but what mischief India caused us in the past and the mischief they are still up to. India has a history of causing mischief in smaller neighbouring countries, find out what happened to those countries on the Himalayan border. One was named Sikkim, I think.

        No neighbouring country can implicitly trust India. This is one of the few things that the Rajapakses got right.

        You have used the term “dirty Indians.” That’s your choice, I, from my anecdotal experience, would use the words slimy, devious and conniving. Most of the Indians I have encountered were from the “educated” affluent class who should have known better. Not the “poor dirty” (your term, not mine) Indians you are talking of.

        Remember, India although the largest democracy, was in the Soviet camp and they instigated the “Tamil insurgency” to thwart JR from giving the Yankees a foothold in SL. Now, India is in the capitalist US camp. That takes care of my point about how countries change in a bat of an eyelid. And Ranil for the sake of the country should see beyond the tip of his nose and take a long-term view.

        Well, If you want few more good deeds that India has done us, what about the “provincial councils?” That has given us so many hard working politicians in every province who are selflessly striving to give us value for the money we pay them.

        What about Indian secret service RAW guiding the attack on Maha Bodiya through radio-contact? What is the word we should use here, dirty or slimy? Any suggestions?

        During the “Iron Curtain” no great Soviet armies walked into East European countries to control them. Those countries were betrayed by few of their own people for a few crumbs off the table. There are some in SL now doing India’s bidding.

        ” it is due to the labour of generations of poor INDIAN workers on plantations, who produced tea and rubber”

        I can’t agree with you more. But I consider all “upcountry Tamils of Indian origin” as Sri Lankans not Indians. It will be churlish of me to belittle their enormous contribution to the SL economy. I have very little regard for the SL Leftists, especially the present lot, they are all shameless humbugs, but when it came to the issue of citizenship for “upcountry Tamils” most of them took a principled stand from very early on, and I salute that.

        • 0
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          Nimal F,
          “. Cast aside the cultural similarities – Americans too have cultural similarities with England – but we both have very dissimilar national traits/characteristics that makes us oceans apart. For starters we don’t continuously meddle in neighbouring countries’ affairs.”
          I’m sure we would if the roles were reversed. You must have read of the recent interactions with Maldives.
          My point is that states operate in order to further their own interests, period. So if our leaders , by their own acts of omission or commission, managed to irritate the Indians, they deserved the consequences.
          You have to remember that Sri Lanka and India have been separate independent states only since 1948. Before that, in colonial times and before, there was much coming and going between the various kingdoms that presently make up these 2 “states” . You cannot just shrug off 3000 years of history. Our affairs were their affairs and vice versa. As I said earlier, most of our kings were of Indian origin.
          “During the “Iron Curtain” no great Soviet armies walked into East European countries to control them. Those countries were betrayed by few of their own people for a few crumbs off the table. There are some in SL now doing India’s bidding.”
          Perhaps you have not heard of East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968?
          India wanted only 1 PC for the NE, but it was the then SL govt that foisted the rest on us.
          This paranoia about Indian meddling will do no good to SL. What we need to do is to observe and be careful of no-go areas .You might call this surrender, but remember ,we are only 30 miles away, and even the US told us to settle it with the Indians.
          You may be prepared to suffer for so-called “sovereignty” , but leave me out of it!

          • 0
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            Old Codger,

            “Perhaps you have not heard of East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968?”

            Yes, I suspected you would bring this up. But what you have to remember is they were initially betrayed by few of their own citizens and those countries were already under the control of the Soviet Union. When some of their “patriotic” leaders showed some mild signs of independence the Soviet Union could not tolerate that, so they moved in a battalion or two to take control with the connivance of few traitors in those countries who were waiting in line to become Soviet lackeys and enjoy some power and privileges.

            Some of your points are quite interesting. I have to take care of some business now; I’ll come back to them later.

  • 12
    3

    I think this is a clear indication that we as IT students should plan on migrations earlier than we were supposed to. Having worked hard and excelled the industry standard technologies what we have left with is a poor skilled label. What we thought when we choose software engineering was to commit Sri Lankan IT industry at the best of our capacity. There are many students who already own startups and who plans to make ones in near future. I have no clue as to how these Indian laborers are going to serve us in that matter. They will intrude the entire IT sector from various corporate and technical position. I see no option than migrating to a country where the skills are valued over cost.

    • 4
      4

      No, it’s another EXCUSE for “we as IT students” to migrate after having first milked the country’s free education system for all it’s worth, then done nothing to develop the country, instead taking the easy option out.

  • 21
    8

    If anything come from present day India get rid of it.

    • 3
      2

      Ian,
      You must be talking about Indian buses , trains, trucks, Marutis, Hyundais, Fiats and Nissans (yes, in case you didn’t know). Also sarees,( I am sure your wife/girlfriend/daughter will patriotically wear a Sigiriya costume to work. What joy!) Sumeets and Ushas.
      Yes we will abhor all these and get down Austins, Bedfords (if you know what those are),tweed sarongs and blonde wigs of course.

  • 9
    1

    These need to be done.

    1. Make the agreement transparent so everybody can see what’s in it.

    2. Put it forward to a discussion forum with relevant representatives (this is if a decision has to be made urgently on ETCA)

    3. Through such a forum agree on a national policy to be compliant with when it comes to agreeing on STAs like this. (So ccountry x,y,z.. it doesnt matter; only the parameter values will be taken into consideration)

  • 11
    7

    1 Class IT grads go to California.

    2 Class get jobs in Kerala.

    3 & below who can’t get gigs in Thamil Nadu or elsewhere will come to Colombo , because Indian Companies will give them preference..,

    Even without Free Trade that is what the Indians who have set up Businesses in the First World do..

    But the biggest problem will be in the Medical Field.

    Our MBBS grads are mainly from the rural sector , selected on Merit .

    India produces thousands in private Medical schools.

    The current Government MPs & Ministers who want to buy MBBS for their not so smart kids, will use the Indian grads to break up the monopoly of our local Doctors.

    Look what the Yahapalana Government have done to the successful Infrastructure development, Hotels , Casinos and Industrial Parks which were providing job opportunities to our locals in the rural sector.

    India is no China..And one doesn’t need a PhD to work that out..

  • 6
    7

    Why are our reactions to anything Indian so predictable!!?

    And how easily we speak knowingly about of the “nature” of a very very large population when it is obvious everyday that we do not know even the nature of fellows who were most prominent in this little country for a decade!

    • 5
      5

      Fareeda,
      It is a result of brainwashing from birth and ignorance thereafter.

    • 9
      1

      Fareeda,

      “Why are our reactions to anything Indian so predictable!!?”

      For cramming down the utterly useless “provincial council system” down Sri Lanka’s throat. And we having a raft of useless politicians hanging around doing nothing. Did the Lankan people have a choice in it? The simple truth is Indians meddle in other people’s affairs which they have no business to.

      When the LTTE attacked Sri Maha Bodiya the Indian secret service RAW was in radio-contact with them and guiding the whole shindig! For a moment, if you can get your mind around it, imagine Sri Lanka doing that to India. Just imagine. Then you will be able to answer your own question.

  • 10
    3

    Time was when I trusted India as a great country to be respected by its neighbors for its ancient and impressive history that had left its mark on this island too, especially through Buddhism. Any expectation that India would play FAIR by our little Sri Lanka lasted for the shortest time, and that was many, many years ago, around the granting of Independence to our 2 countries by the British colonials.
    Since then, Indian intervention through Indian Ocean waters lapping at our shores and air space being used for “Parippu drops” have dampened our enthusiasm. India’s forays “BEARING GIFTS”, and other political intrusions in guise of neighborly interest that have only left much trouble in their wake.

    We should have learned our lessons by now, but the old tactics of brotherly “concerns” from across the Straits go on, with our kowtowing leaders coupled with sloppiness of our administrators that permit all that India suggests, with just a little loophole to slink through in every Agreement written up by them, and Signed and Sealed by us. They are manipulative and have ONLY Indian interests lingering beneath every Pact and Agreement, plotting in the meanwhile to annex the island through one ruse or another as was dreamed by Panikkar et al. with hegemonic objectives.
    The RW/CBK Government is in awe of the current US/India combine, and are readying to cave into their demands. Indians in high office in the US administration and corporate bodies may end up making the US subordinate to THEIR motherland, THROUGH ONE ACCOUNTING/STATISTICAL/FINANCIAL ROPE TRICK OR ANOTHER. Sri Lanka had better beware and protect its sovereignty and national security, as well as its own unique culture which is fast getting affected through an “Indianization of Sri Lanka” Policy. CEPA/ECTA is part of it.
    Only a few in the professional organizations and the corporate world of SL seem to have their antennae sensing what is going on, and care enough to meticulously examine the Agreements, while the ignorant and easily intimidated among politicos will simply cave in to “power” as they have always done.

  • 6
    0

    IT is not a field in which incompetents can survive, unlike even Medicine. If you cannot produce the goods you are out on your ear. The point here is not whether Indian IT professionals will come in thousands. It is whether they are any good. I know many local IT students with fancy degrees who cannot write three lines of Java. If an Indian can carry out the task he is given faster than a local, he will be preferred in any IT company.
    I know from personal experience that salaries are higher than SL in Bangalore for GOOD programmers. There are quite a few Sri Lankans working in India.
    I would advise local IT persons to improve their skills, particularly English, if they want to compete.

  • 0
    0

    [Edited out] We are sorry, the comment language is English – CT

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