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CA Sri Lanka, ICTA and SLASSCOM unveils specialised FAO qualification to achieve Sri Lanka’s 2022 vision

Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs, Dr. Harsha de Silva recently praised CA Sri Lanka, ICTA and SLASSCOM for taking the initiative to develop a specialised qualification specifically targeting the Financial Accounting Outsourcing (FAO) and the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in the country.

Speaking at the launch of the Certified Finance and Accounting Specialist (CFAS) qualification recently, Dr. de Silva termed the initiative jointly mooted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka), Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and the Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM) as an ‘amazing’ initiative, which should have ideally been an initiative by the government, as they have the primary responsibility in ensuring the country has the necessary skilled workforce.

“Our human resources must be skilled and competitive, and it is the primary responsibility of the government to ensure our country has the skilled personnel. Therefore this qualification is an amazing initiative, which has been developed by three organisation. You have done what the government should be doing,” the deputy minister said.

He also underscored that Sri Lanka is no longer in a position where it must be compared to countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal. “Instead, we have to aim higher, and compare ourselves with developed countries,” Dr. de Silva said.

He also disclosed that the government’s game plan was to make Sri Lanka the most competitive economy in this part of the world within the next five years. He also impressed upon the importance to take qualifications such as CFAS to the rural parts of the country, so that the country will have a skilled workforce comprising of youth not only from urban cities but also from villages.

Delivering the welcome speech, President of CA Sri Lanka, Mr. Arjuna Herath said that with the vision to make Sri Lanka the preferred BPO/FAO destination in the world, CA Sri Lanka took it upon its responsibility as the national accounting body to develop a specialised qualification for this area, with the support of ICTA and SLASSCOM.

Mr. Herath however noted that it was imperative to work closely with the industry to ensure the success of this initiative. “This is a very unique and timely qualification that we are offering,” he said.

“I am certain that the CFAS qualification will undoubtedly contribute to the enhanced standards of quality that Sri Lanka can offer the world as a FAO destination. As the national body of accountants in the country, and taking into account the important role accounting plays in this specialised sector, every effort will be taken by CA Sri Lanka to ensure the success of this initiative to help our country and the industry to realize before long the vision and the goals of the industry,” Mr. Herath added.

Chairperson of ICTA, Ms. Chithrangani Mubarak said that the lack of trained IT/BPO professionals is often cited as a deterrent to the development of the IT/ BPO industry in many developing countries. “If you don’t have a skilled work force that can perform IT services to a global delivery standard, a successful IT/ BPM industry simply cannot take root in the country,” she said.

She said that the BPM industry is poised for rapid growth and the FAO sub sector is widely considered to have the most potential – the expected annual growth of 8 Percent through to 2017 is very promising.  “Sri Lanka is well positioned to take advantage of this growth. I am told that the last few months have seen a renewed interest by international companies in setting up their operations in Sri Lanka across sectors,” she told the audience.

“The main limitation is a lack of readily employable staff with the right skills set and attributes to match the employer demands. This is just the beginning and the real success will come when this becomes the de facto minimum requirement to gain employment even in a subset of roles within the FAO industry,” Ms. Mubarak added.

Vice Chairman of SLASSCOM, Mr. Arul Sivagananathan said that SLASSCOM’s vision for 2022 is for the industry to achieve the US$ 5 billion mark, along with 200,000 direct employment opportunities and 1000 startups.

“Today, we are an industry which is worth US$ 1 billion, and we hope to increase this to US$ 5 billion by 2022, but to get there we need to ensure that some areas which are lacking are addressed, and among these areas is the lack of qualified people, which I believe this course can address,” Mr. Sivagananathan said.

He disclosed that companies are willing to go the extra mile and pay an extra premium to hire qualified persons. “So, hopefully this course will take off and make the difference in the FAO industry,” he added.