Eran can’t find 100 people who want to work in the private sector

State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne today lamented that Sri Lankans are still fixated on public sector jobs and have a deep-seated reluctance to join the private sector, saying he can’t find 100 people to fill private sector vacancies.

“My friends call me and say ‘Eran, I will help you. A lot of people come to you looking for jobs. Send 100 of them to me, and I’ll employ them’. But I can’t find 100 people who want to join the private sector!”

He was speaking on the first day of the Sri Lanka Economic Summit which kicked off today at Cinnamon Grand Colombo.

He recounted a conversation he had recently with the visiting Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera where he was told that Japan has only 850 people in the public sector, with 600 public servants in central government and 250 in the defence forces.

“I told him Sri Lanka has 1.4 million in the public sector and defence forces. Our population is 21 and Japan’s is 127 million!”

Wickramaratne said he hopes whoever is elected President in 2020 will make public sector reform his or her number 1 objective with the new mandate.

He went on to say that Sri Lanka devalues and stifles entrepreneurship, despite the immense value and job creation potential of entrepreneurs.

“Our mother and grandmother told us to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, banker, some professional. That’s the benchmark. Anything else is less. If somebody comes up with an entrepreneurial idea they say it won’t work, study and go to university. We have a value issue. It’s entrepreneurs who create value and jobs. But our society does not give them that value. “

He also said that Sri Lanka is one of the few nations in the world in which local Members of Parliament are treated as job banks by their electorates.

“When 10 young people from my electorate come to see me they will give me their CVs and tell me they want jobs. Those young people, nor their parents, know that this is probably one of the few countries in the world, if not the only country in the world, where you think your local MP is a job bank.”

He added that this system has persisted as the MPs’ reelection prospects hinge on his success in securing jobs for his electorate, which has created a dependency culture.

“If I can get them a job I’ll be reelected. If I can’t they’ll say there’s something wrong with me because I don’t know how to work the system. I feel sorry for them and their parents. What have we created? We have created a dependency culture.”

He expressed optimism that the Government’s rural and youth regeneration initiative ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’, the brainchild of Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera, would break the dependency culture and revive entrepreneurship.

“Mangala came up with a really good concept called Enterprise Sri Lanka. The thinking behind it is to break the dependency culture. I’m not referring to the loan schemes. I have lots of concerns about the loan schemes and the implementation. This is about telling young people you don’t only have to have a job you can be more than that.”

The first edition of the Enterprise Sri Lanka – Gamperaliya exhibition was held in Moneragala in late August with the participation of over 60,000 visitors from all over the country, Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera announced recently.