COLOMBO, November 3, 2021 – The Government of Sri Lanka committed to accelerate more and better investments in human capital – health, education, and social protection – becoming the 82nd country to join the World Bank’s Human Capital Project.
At a high-level Human Capital Summit held today, at least 12 Ministers and State Ministers, Secretaries and State Secretaries, and several high-ranking officials including the Director General of the Ministry of Finance came together in person to discuss priorities to accelerate investments in human capital for increased future productivity and economic growth, and enable green, resilient, and inclusive development. The event also attracted around 200 virtual observers connecting from around the world and based in Sri Lanka.
“Investing in people is at the center of our government strategy, and is key to ensure a successful post COVID-19 recovery. We will continue to prioritize investments in human capital, to improve early childhood education, achieve universal primary and secondary education, increase access to and quality of higher education, as well as technical and vocational education, enhance quality of the health care system to face future health care challenges, and support vulnerable individuals and families through Samurdhi and other safety nets and employment programs,” said Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Finance.
Sri Lanka’s solid human development outcomes are reflected in the country’s relatively high pre-COVID-19 Human Capital Index score, which is higher than the South Asia region and global averages. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on human capital accumulation in Sri Lanka, including job losses, a devastating learning crisis, and worsening malnutrition. This has led to increased poverty and vulnerability, especially among those groups who lack coping mechanisms and were already disadvantaged.
The World Bank is supporting the Government of Sri Lanka to address its human capital challenges through targeted engagements across health, education, and social protection, aligning with the Government’s National Policy Framework of Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor.
“Protecting and investing in people will be key to Sri Lanka’s recovery from the pandemic and boosting future productivity and economic growth,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for South Asia. “Sri Lanka’s membership in the Human Capital Project is timely for the country to protect its hard-won gains. The World Bank stands ready to support Sri Lanka to accelerate human capital development and pave the way for more inclusive, resilient growth.”
The Human Capital Project is a global effort to accelerate investments in people for inclusive economic growth. It makes the case for investment in the human capital of the next generation; provides access to a program of measurement, research, and analysis that helps to invest in and protect human capital; and supports peer-learning for countries as they develop and implement accelerated priorities for human capital development.
Committing to the cause of accelerating investments in people, the Ministers participating at this event made statements as follows:
“Investments in education are central to reach higher levels of human capital outcomes for Sri Lanka. Our Ministry has made every effort to provide inclusive early childhood education and school education to all children. The opportunities to receive quality higher education and vocational training help to increase productivity, resilience, and enhance labour market outcomes. We look forward to working with the World Bank to invest in children and youth to realize their potential to contribute to the economy,” said Hon. Dinesh Gunawardene, Minister of Education.
“A healthy population is the bedrock for the enhancement of a nation’s human capital. Prioritizing investments in nutrition at every stage of a human being's life and ensuring a responsive, robust healthcare system are paramount. At the same time, leveraging technology will further enhance the efficiency, quality, and governance of healthcare service delivery,” said Hon. Keheliya Rambukwella, Minister of Health.
“Securing and restoring jobs and incomes will be central to Sri Lanka’s recovery from the pandemic. We need more ambitious policies and programs to tackle these challenges, along with effective social protection strategies and social insurance programs. Sri Lanka can benefit fully from investments in human capital by improving labour market programs, especially for migrant workers. We look forward to working with the World Bank to improve Sri Lanka’s labour market programs, social protection and labour policies to realize full potential of all Sri Lankans,” said Hon. Nimal Siripala De Silva, Minister of Labour.