by Dayan Jayatilleka
In the run-up to the commencement of President Mahinda Rajapakse’s second term, Sri Lanka’s contemporary achievement received a glowing testimonial from an important political personality in the East Asian region, the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Singapore, Mr Teo Chee Hean.
The Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister was delivering the keynote address as guest-of-honour at the 6th International Conference of South Asia on the theme of ‘South Asia in the New Decade:
Challenges and Prospects’, organised by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) of the National University of Singapore (NUS) which has been rated three years running by the Times Higher Educational Supplement as one of the world’s 25 top universities.
Speaking on Thursday November 12th at the Mandarin Orchard hotel in Singapore, Mr Teo Chee Hian observed:
“Sri Lanka has emerged from a decades-long civil war, and is enjoying an economic revival. It is currently the second-fastest growing Asian economy after China, a fact not lost upon the IMF, which recently upgraded Sri Lanka to middle income emerging market status.
Like Brazil, Sri Lanka enjoys an adult literacy rate of just over 90%. Sri Lanka’s gross enrolment ratio, which gives an indication of school attendance, is also comparable to that of China.
What is particularly noteworthy of Sri Lanka’s growth is the narrowness of its gender gap. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2010 published by the World Economic Forum, which measures gender-based disparities on economic, political, education and health-based criteria, Sri Lanka ranked within the top 20, the only South Asian country to do so. Closing the gender gap is not just an issue of gender equity; it is also one of harnessing the current human resource potential, and uplifting the potential of the next generation. The most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human talent – the skills, education and productivity of its workforce. In any country, women account for half of the current talent base and have a key role in nurturing the next generation.”
Deputy PM Teo previously served as Singapore's Minister for Education from 1997-2003, and Minister for the Environment from 1996-97. Prior to entering politics, he served as Singapore's Chief of Navy from 1991-92.