Comparing Sri Lanka and China
For a company in our position – a developer looking to redevelop Sri Lanka to be one of the greatest countries in the region, it is easy to see a long road ahead after visiting countries like China. We only visited two cities in China, and so this will be a very limited perspective, but our experience was that one can see and feel the pace of development and ambition of the people across the full spectrum of society wherever you go. This is from the moment a plane lands and people are impatient to get up and undo their seatbelt to get going, to the frantic pace of traffic, the actual construction and trade that you see, and so on. People are hungry to progress, and you can see this country one day soon becoming the World’s number one economy. But the most impactful experience in China of this, is when dealing directly with the Chinese people for business purposes – they have a level of conviction, vision, ambition, and positivity, with the ability to follow through, that is a world away from what we currently have in Sri Lanka. We have experienced that the people follow through on what they say, they are at their office/ business posts at 10pm on a Saturday night, are ever ready to answer any questions to take a business decision forward, and are willing to trust in good people – this all makes for a fast-paced business growth process where things happen. It is no surprise that China are where they are now and where they will end up in-the-near future, because this attitude and approach to life and business are the ingredients needed for growth.
When you look China's recent history you can see how the country has created this trajectory of self-determination – having experienced great suffering in the past 100-150 years under the hands of other nations, and having come from one of the greatest national dynastic cultures of pride and strength in the world, one can see why China have decided to take a clear and decisive path towards true global independence to make sure they do not have to suffer like they did before. This period of becoming the world's greatest power and economy is to make sure the country does not have to suffer under the hands of others ever again. And they will elevate those who believe in the same vision along the way.
So when one returns to Sri Lanka, and they look at where the country is at and where it needs to be to fulfil its full potential, one can be easily discouraged. The people in general are plagued by low productivity, give false promises, provide unclear leadership, lack vision, have a closed-inward view of the country with respect to the rest of the world, and decisions tend to take far longer than they should or would in other countries. These challenges limit growth, and one can see how this is having an impact on the economy today. This culture is damaging the growth needed for the country to reach the levels it can achieve given the inherent wealth already here.
In our position, we simply need land to be authorised, for development permits to be granted, for foreign direct investment to be approved, and for our building projects to progress without political interference. We also want proper due-process to be followed, and for there to be no short-cuts – we are very happy to follow proper processes that are put in place to help fair governance and transparency. We also want people in their respective official positions to take responsibility, to enjoy what they do, to have passion for their involvement in the process, and for this to feel like an entire team effort where we all win when progress is achieved. This as a whole is what we really wish to try and achieve with our presence and involvement in Sri Lanka – we want to help inform a culture where our individual successes feel part of a greater collective success, and that this is done with the entire country in mind. We want to elevate the people of this country, to create opportunities that would allow us to compete with those regionally, and to allow the people of Sri Lanka know that they can be whoever they wish to be.
But we also need to be open to our faults and learn from those who are setting a good example, and I think as much as China gets bad press for their growth in power, they are clearly doing something right in terms of their attitude, culture of collective effort, and sense of self-determination on an international playing field. They are willing to do the hard graft, to make sacrifices, and see a brighter future that is completely dependent on them. We NEED every Sri Lankan to also see that – a brighter future here. This all can’t be implanted by foreigners like us, but must be felt in the core of the Sri Lankan people where real power will be achieved – like a Tsunami, the real power is at the base of the wave. Once we identify this, and can drive it in the right direction, the country will be unstoppable. And our small role would be to help embody this vision and identity in the built environment, creating businesses to support this, and provide access to those wanting to learn the ladder to their own success.