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To address widening trade gap ‘Country needs to increase high tech exports’

August 20, 2018

Sri Lanka exports only one percent of high tech products and to address the widening trade gap the country will have to increase its high tech exports, National Science Foundation (NSF) of Sri Lanka Chairperson Prof Sirimali Fernando said.

Addressing a gathering summoned to announce the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the NSF in Colombo recently, she said the recommendation was that a country should spend at least one percent of its GDP on research. But this is done only by developed countries and they invest more than one percent. South Korea invests five percent and USA and Israel four percent.

In the USA it was shown that 90% of its economic development is based on technology. But in Sri Lanka’s development agenda technological development had not got any prominence. “We were so happy to get technology from outside and use it. But we didn’t develop it. Even the industry’s mind set was the same. Unless we spend the money on research wisely and invest in high-end technology we are not going to make it.” She said the country faces a widening trade gap and if this is to be addressed the state has to increase the value of its experts. “The only way to do that is by increasing the high tech exports,” she said.

To overcome this situation the National Science Foundation is endeavouring hard to enhance the capacity of researches in the country and also come out with solutions to develop entrepreneurs and innovators so that high technology could be used for value added products, said National Science Foundation Director General Prof Ananda Jayawardane.

“We actually export raw rubber; raw coconut and raw cinnamon and we need value added products to be developed. For this the Ministry of Primary Industries has commissioned a research project spending millions of rupees so that we can come out with solutions for different species and value added products in Sri Lanka.”

Prof Jayawardane said for a country to develop it needed to invest on future education, research and development. He said Sri Lanka invested only 0 .106 of its GDP on R&D where as India allocated 0.6 of its GDP which is a colossal amount. Therefore the state needs to provide incentives to researches and motivate them. The research institutions in Sri Lanka are the lowest paid, he said.

Prof Jayawardane however said many initiatives has now been taken to overcome this situation .He said Rs 50 million has been allocated for cinnamon research project spanning over three years funded by the Ministry of Primary Industries. “Long-established institutions such as the National Science Foundation have ensured throughout the years that Sri Lanka was steadily progressing in the right direction towards a promising future in advancing knowledge and technology,” Minister Sarath Amunugama said. The NSF will celebrate 50 years of service excellence on October 4, 2018 as the country’s apex body powering the promotion of science, technology and innovation for the economic and social prosperity of Sri Lanka. The event will be held under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena.