2016 January 28

Negative Impacts of Proposed Indo- Sri Lanka ETCA

As engineers, daily, in every corner of Sri Lanka, we fulfill our duty and responsibility to positively contribute towards nation’s development. Neverthless, successive governments have failed to utilize Sri Lankan engineers’ technical knowledge, professional wisdom and global exposure in national policy making. At this juncture where our country is planning to leapfrog towards a developed nation, we the engineers are determined to proactively participate in nation building and demand the Government of Sri Lanka to partner with us as much as or more than it does with foreign Professionals.

We are not isolationists – don’t isolate us!

On January 22nd, officials representing all engineering institutions, associations and trade unions gathered at the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL) and formed Organization of Engineering Associations (OEA) to directly influence the Government in policy making.

As an immediate impediment to Sri Lanka’s future, OEA’s attention was drawn towards the proposed India Sri Lanka Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA).

OEA is dismayed at the inexplicit procedures followed by the Government in relation to formulating ETCA or its Framework Agreement so far. The response/ feedback “United Professionals Movement” have received in response to the written request made for a meeting to discuss and work out the details related to ETCA is unsatisfactory and totally unacceptable.

India Sri-Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISL-FTA) which is active since 2000 has not given the expected dividends as anticipated by Sri Lanka. Under such circumstance, the rationale behind hurriedly pushing to open up Trade in Services (approximately 60% of country’s GDP) over implementing improvements for the prevailing ISL-FTA Agreement is highly questionable. Current unemployment rate in India is as high as 2 times Sri Lanka’s population and it is illogical to pave a poorly constructed path for Indian nationals to participate in Trade in Services with Sri Lanka.

The Government has stated that Information Technology, Marine Services/Ship-building industries will be initially opened to the services of Indian professionals. Exposing Sri Lanka’s Information Technology field to India may result in foreigners having access to confidential and sensitive country specific information. It is extremely unwise to expose the two industries at a stage when Sri Lanka’s younger generation is attentively pursuing their careers in those respective fields. In fact, the Government has heavily invested and investing in improving Sri Lankan youth skills in IT and advanced industrial vocations as part of a national strategy to create high value adding / high income jobs for Sri Lankans. Sri Lanka produces close to 2000 graduate Engineers per year while the number in India stands around 1.5 million. The scenario of an open Trade in Service in technological fields will certainly spell disaster to the budding technological aspirations of Sri Lanka and its professionals.

Furthermore it’s important to be aware of the inclusion of international Arbitration clauses which overides the local judicial system with unbearable legal costs. Arbitration proceedings with a superpower in the region will force us to negotiate on weaker terms in case of any dispute resolution or claim and will directly result in questioning the sovereignty of the state. A clear example from recent history is the badly construed hedging agreement.

OEA strongly oppose the planned signing of an open ended ETCA Framework Agreement in February without a detailed analysis of the socio-economic impact on Sri Lanka and active participation, hands-on consultation of Sri Lankan professionals.

OEA is of the view that entering into an economic partnership with a larger and much more diverse economy must be done with deliberate planning by Sri Lanka’s own professionals and its government in a collaborative and transparent union and not through a hurriedly executed, non-transparent, process lead by external forces or their proxies. The Government must develop a comprehensive bilateral trade policy for the nation ( not just India) in direct consultation with its professionals and stake holders. Further it is important to accelerate enactment of laws to regularize professional practices in the country. If the government had shown the same enthusiasm to pass bills such as Engineering Council act we would not have faced the predicament we may face under ETCA.

OEA proposes to identify flaws of the country’s existing framework in the contexts of technology, manpower & trade and address each issue systematically with hands – on participation of professional Organizations to derive timely solutions instead of cart-blank opening of the professional services fields to India.

We also would like to inform the relevant authorities that if our requests are not considered, we will have no option but to resolve into a joint and formidable trade union action to safeguard the interest of our profession and country.

Signed on behalf of “Organization of Engineering Associations” representing

Engineering trade unions:

President – Sri Lanka Engineers’ Association – SLEA

Secretary-Association of Public Services Engineers – APSE

President -Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union  -CEBEU

President -National Water Supply & Drainage Board Engineers Union -NWS&DBEU

President -Engineers’ association of Sri Lanka Port Authority – EASLPA

President -Telecommunication Engineers Union – TEU (SLT)

President -Ceylon Petroleum Corporation engineers’ Union – CPCEU

President -Road Development Authority Engineers Association  -RDAEA  President -Association of Mahaweli Engineers – AME

President -Central Engineering consultancy bureau Engineers Association – CECBEA
President -State Development & Construction Corporation Engineers Union- SD&CCEU