Sri Lanka, compared to other countries in the South Asian region has a very high literacy rate as education is free and mandatory among all children. Even in some villages, where poverty persists, local state officials on ground ensure that children receive an education and are sent to school.
Sri Lanka has adult literacy rate of 93.2% (2017), which is above average by world and regional standards. Even with such a high literacy rate, Sri Lanka, is facing a staggering problem, that is the high levels of unemployment among youth. Today, Sri Lanka’s youth population number is estimated as 4.4 million out of the country’s 21.6 million population which is about 20% of the total population but youth unemployment is at 20.8% which is a high youth unemployment ratio in a developing country.
High unemployment in Sri Lanka has been attributed to unrealistic expectations, to queuing for public sector jobs, and to stringent job security regulations. For years, successive governments have been looking to solve this issue, but the stark reality is that Sri Lanka faces a shortage of skilled labor and jobs are scarce. Especially now, in the new COVID-19 world, the levels of unemployment will only widen, leading to several issues among our most vital social segment.
Following my appointment as the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs in August, I have been holding extensive discussions with the youth, from across the country. And the leading problem discussed in each district, is the high levels of unemployment, which results in many social and personal issues facing the youth. As a result, it was discussed that many of our youth then prefer to go overseas, in search of jobs, driving away Sri Lanka’s crucial workforce.
In order to provide some solution to this staggering problem, I held discussions with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa recently and proposed to establish atleast one industry in each AG division across the country so that, youth in that particular division will be provided jobs and will also be trained with the necessary skills. Presently industries are set up only in particular industrial zones, which leads to an influx of youth having to leave their homes and travel into the cities in search of employment. The practicality of this is now thin, with the world having to maintain strict health guidelines and social distance and working in environments with a minimum workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If corporate giants, including the leading industrialists can be encouraged to open up industries in different divisions, they can operate with the work force of that particular area, where they can be trained in a particular skill and this will also help Sri Lanka to manufacture more of its own products, which is the vision of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. This will enable to create more jobs among the men and women, and strengthen the GDP of that particular district. Further, the establishment of industries will also create many indirect jobs as well which will help alleviate poverty in the poorest of the poor districts.
Initially, I proposed that we identify the districts where the GDP is low and the rate of unemployment is high. Both the President and Prime Minister, reacted favorably and agreed to hold further discussions on the matter. The matter was also discussed with Minister of Industries, Wimal Weerawansa and Minister of tourism Prasanna Ranatunga and D.V. Chanaka who is the state minister of the development of export zones.
The government will look at discussing, to offer tax concessions to industries who look to get involved in this project and who agree to establish their factories in the AG divisions. Further discussions will also be held with the BOI and all stakeholders in the coming days. I have requested the President and Prime Minister and the concerned ministers to expedite discussions on this matter.
In my several articles before, I have mentioned the importance of the youth sector of any country. They are the backbone of the economy. I strongly believe the success of any government starts by addressing the issues of the youth and the education of the youth. While skilled labor is short in this country, as a responsible government we must now look at immediately providing a solution to this so that Sri Lanka can retain its workforce and strengthen its local markets as well. I will ensure that under my tenure as the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, a suitable solution is found to end the unemployment issue facing this country, and will work with all the ministries concerned.
Afterall, youth will decide what the future will look like for this nation and with right attitude, guidance and resources I am certain it can only be positive and bright.
Sri Lanka is always a nation we can be proud of. The unity, the strength, the commitment our citizens uphold especially during troubled times, is a fine example to the world.
Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka also has been plunged into a health crisis, especially since we are recovering from a second wave. But even in the midst of this we did the unexpected – and that was to successfully hold one of the greatest sporting tournaments this country has ever hosted – the inaugural season of the Lanka Premier League.
The LPL was a turning story for many during these trying times. It exposed some great young talent to the international audience who will now go on to further their career in cricket. It also placed Sri Lanka on the global map of sports as a nation who could be an ideal ground for international tournaments even during difficult times, in the new COVID-19 world. The tournament also welcomed many leading international cricket legends to lead the teams and provided great entertainment, which in some way we were yearning for in this new normal world. It also strengthened our sports economy, encouraged all those who were involved in organizing this tournament including Sri lanka Cricket and most of all it united all of us. When some thought this was an impossible task even while Sri Lanka was facing a second wave of the coronavirus, we made the impossible possible.
Whilst finding and grooming the right talent from around the country and giving them the international exposure was the main objective, LPL surely has helped and will impact positively in developing a sustainable sports economy in Sri lanka. With the massive reach of more than 800Mn viewership globally via online, streaming and broadcast, LPL has got a massive social media exposure around the globe. Analysis say More than 22mn were streaming online during a match, quoting brand watch. During every match, more than 23,000 hashtag exposure for LPL has been calculated within an hour. These numbers are a proof that LPL is not merely a cricket tournament focussed only on Sri lankans but a global sports fest which attracted the attention around the globe.
Today, I take this opportunity to congratulate the Jaffna Stallions for a remarkable victory. Their story is one that will go into the records of Sri Lanka Cricket. I could not be more happier than to see this team win for their outstanding performance throughout the tournament and it was a proud moment for me as well when I handed them the trophy.
Along with the Jaffna Stallions, I also congratulate all the other teams who participated. Their performance was beyond excellence and they played a gentleman’s game which kept the audience hooked on to their television sets. I also especially thank the foreign players who arrived here to participate in the LPL. Their support and patience in undergoing the mandatory quarantine period, undergoing all the health protocols and leading their teams for the matches is outstanding and appreciated. I welcome them to take part in all future international cricket tournaments including the next season of the LPL in 2021.
A special appreciation and mention to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Without their support this tournament would never have been possible. A special appreciation to the government who showed equal dedication towards the success of this tournament and gave me and Sri Lanka Cricket all the encouragement. A special mention to Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Army Commander Lt. General Shavendra Silva and the COVID-19 prevention task force, and all the officials from the Health Ministry, I am grateful to them all. They guided us throughout this tournament with the necessary health protocols and guidelines to ensure the safety of all those involved in this tournament including the players.
I also take this opportunity to thank the sponsors of the LPL tournament and the owners of each teams and the IPG Group. When we were at a discussion stage as to whether the LPL tournament could be held this year, it was a concern if we could find the necessary funds. But with the sponsors showing great interest and commitment and with team owners stepping forward, it set the foundation for us to begin work. Since their commitment, there was no stepping back.
I also thank the match referees who showed equal commitment as the players, the commentators for their spectacular work because without them, we would have to admit that the audience can never be glued to their screens, the ground staff at the Mahinda Rajapaksa Cricket Stadium, the commando units which provided the security and the health staff who were on ground. It was indeed team work by all.
The hotels and hotel staff which stepped in to provide accomodation to the players, where they could undergo their quarantine as well, I thank all of you. To ensure that the comfort of the players was maintained at all times, is truly appreciated. The beauty of the hotels was also appreciated by the international players who enjoyed a comfortable stay while being in the country.
A big thank you to Sri Lanka Cricket for their dedication, hard work, commitment and unity from day one to ensure the success of the inaugural session of the LPL. The SLC has been through many ups and downs in the past but their hard work to make this tournament a success is truly remarkable and spectacular. I thank each and every individual in the SLC who made the LPL a reality especially in these difficult times, and ensuring that transparency was maintained and working and coordinating with the Ministry of Sports and all other officials on the ground level. It definitely goes on to the say that without the strong commitment of the SLC, no cricketing tournament will ever be a success in this country.
Lastly and not the least, a big thank you to the media and the fans without whom the LPL would never end in such a high note. As much as I, as the Minister of Sports and all other officials made this a success, this tournament would have never reached its height if the due publicity was not given and the fans had not supported us. I have followed all the comments and the excitement on social media over the LPL and the great unbiased coverage the tournament received by the media. It was a great encouragement to see the number of fans seeing the tournament live from several parts of the country and world. Thank you for trusting us.
The inaugural session of the LPL was an impossible task in this COVID-19 world, which all of us made possible. It united every district of the country, forgetting any barriers which existed in between. It proved that Sri Lanka is one nation, one land. We are back as a strong country ready to face any challenges. And I say, unity is the real victory of LPL!