Speech made by the Minister at the Dubai forum on the 15th of May at the La-Meridian

 

 Your Excellency, Distinguish Guests, ladies and gentleman,
Arabia is on the move. I have just come in from Qatar to Dubai. As in Qatar, I find in Dubai a society which is vibrant. Arabia has about 350 million people, living in 22 sovereign States. Some are tiny, others are large.
 
But all of them have two great resources. One is Islam, the religion, the other the Arab Language. Arabia had a magnificent civilization, starting with the Abbasid dynasty in the ninth century. Arab civilization covered all aspects, art, architecture, science etc. This civilization was the leader of the world. But, unfortunately, this civilization went into decline. The last two centuries  were years of humiliation for Arabia. We know what it is to be humiliated. Sri Lanka underwent it for five hundred years.
The great Chinese civilization too had its two centuries of humiliation. On the 1st of October 1949 China stood up. Now, Arabia is standing up. I saw it Doha and now, I am seeing it in Dubai.
Despite the years of humiliation, these two great countries have sustained its religion and language.  In Arabia, Saudi Arabia  has preserved and safe guarded its religion. Al –Azhar University in Cairo, preserved and safe guarded her language. Al Azhar is the longest surviving institute of higher learning in the world. But a religion and a language alone, cannot for long, fully safeguard the distinctive Arabian soul. Economic Development is required. Otherwise, these two will go the way of Mesopotamia, which was the cradle of human civilization. Dubai, with Qatar, is in the forefront of economic development of the Arabian People.
Dubai has this great task. Like Singapore, she has no physical resources. But, through far seeing leadership, she has been able to, like Singapore, to build this magnificent economy, we now see before us.
 
Dubai has very early, decided that it will build specialized hubs, maximizing on her resource endowments and geographical location. These are petroleum and gas refining hub, the airport hub, the energy hub and the financial hub. For the energetic building of these hubs, personnel are required. As it stands today, Arabia cannot do without these personnel, particularly at the semi-skilled and skilled levels. In the meanwhile she is building these personnel though a massive educational and training programme. The output of these initiatives will be available to Arabia in the next generation.  The foundational efforts of Arabia, in this generation, need the importation of its man-power skills, specially at the semi-skilled and skilled levels. However, Arabia should be careful about its importation. There should be assurance that these imported personnel, should get back to their countries, once their job contracts are over. Sri Lankans have a good record of doing just that.
Sri Lanka is next to China in the Asian Human Resources Index. It has built and is building Human Resources, having ------  Universities and ---------technical schools.
 
I have come here, to explore opportunities in skilled and semi-skilled labour supply. In addition, I am looking at possibilities of backward integration, in building education institutions, in collaboration with Dubai entrepreneurs. I offer you opportunities to invest in those institutions, devoted to producing certified semi skilled and skilled personnel for the entire specialized Middle East job market. To manage these courses, we have a local, government sponsored host agency, called the Employment Bureau. I have them with me. They will be presenting information of how they regulate and guide the local migrant workers. 
Arabia, is in the middle of a development wave, never seen in world history. With the supply of inputs, not available at the moment, Arabia could firmly grasp the opportunity, to take her place as a proud member of the community of nations. I wish her well.