If I were the President of Sri Lanka, I would definitely not take this offer. So this got me to thinking on what I would do if Sri Lanka were a corporation and I were the CEO* of it. Here are some non-conventional things I would do, apart from doing the best for the people in health, education, infrastructure etc etc.
- No Government hiring: The war is over. The country do not need such large military base anymore. Stop hiring for government jobs and use the qualified candidates from the military by moving them to appropriate government jobs where possible. Reduced government spending could be used for other development work. Rather than doing security training deals with India, do educational deals and give training to the currently non-qualified candidates.
- Postpone Excellence in Education and Research: Right now the country needs more educated people who will eventually become policy makers and great teachers for next generation. Otherwise excellent students will run away to West. The country needs more it's intelligent people right now than few hundred thousand dollars in remittance money. India is a huge country, it could survive the brain-drain, but Sri Lanka's population is too little to take the risk.
Rather than investing millions in finding a new medicine or the next big thing, prefer MoUs with other developed countries. No need to reinvent the wheel. Damn, there is no need to invent anything!
- Piracy and Somalia: For once, Sri Lanka is at a right place at the right moment. All the Chinese, Japanese and other Asian ships destined for Europe pass somewhere close to Sri Lanka. This is a really great business opportunity. Be the next hub for exporting countries. Invest money to buy ships which can provide security to the huge ships carrying goods. Sri Lanka is geographically closest and hence can provide the needed security, cheapest. In fact, don't take money in exchange for this, but knowledge and other non-mensurable resources from the powerful exporting countries.
- Have Double Standards: Seriously, every developing country must have double standards. Give preference to countries and cooperations that are more beneficial. Don't worry about others getting offended, everybody will forget once you are rich and developed. The first time I saw Indian museums charging more (almost 25x) for foreigners, I was upset, but now, 5 years later, it makes perfect sense.
- Tourism, Tourism and Tourism: There is a limit to export of agriculture when you have only 65,000 km2 of land. Other industries take a lot of resources to set up and have returns in the long term. Whereas, tourism is the easiest and fastest way to make money . With millions of working Indians just few hundred miles away always looking for a weekend get away, Sri Lanka could be the next destination. Build honeymoon resorts, have flight timings suitable for working class that are cheaper than what they have for neighboring islands in Andaman Nicobar!
- A big photo op! Look at the current Google maps view of Sri Lanka or Google images. They suck. Most of the tourists search for these things before choosing a destination. They need to feel the excitement. Invite nation's best photographers and may be some internationals. Nothing speaks more than a nice red sun setting in the ocean. No painting or artificial sketch can match that. This is serious business. While we are on this, invite some brands to make yearly calender with hot-shot photographers and models.
- Movies: This is a small point I realized after being in Europe. Every single Indian I know, that comes to Europe visits Switzerland (there was a famous movie in 1990s). People prefer Greece over Croatia (famous song). Thats ridiculous but it happens because of the social acceptance of these places. People like to visit places that they can brag about. Spend some money to invite the directors from Hollywood and Bollywood and give them complete freedom.
- Fact: I know at least a couple of thousand working Indians who are making decent money and go for regular vacations. Out of these few thousand, I know a few hundred have already spent more than Rs. 25, 000 (500$) on a single weekend for a party or a vacation. Not a single of them has been to Sri Lanka yet!
- Fishing: It seems ridiculous to talk about fishing in this list. But fishing contributes far less to the Sri Lankan GDP when compared to Agriculture, Industry and Services. Again, a small investment in buying huge ships and make it a government business could do wonders. Don't leave this to local fishermen. Government should enter this without effecting the fishermen by fishing in the deep ocean using huge ships. Develop/buy technology so that these fishes can be exported at the latest in the best condition.