After nearly thirty years of civil war, Sri Lanka has been on the fast track to development. Everywhere you look there is building and growth. But what is development really? Is it all about infrastructure? Should it be the same in every country?
In Sri Lanka, the current government is credited with winning the war and after doing so they were quick to forge ahead. More than anything they want Sri Lanka to be considered a “developed country.” The growth is unbelievable really. When I first arrived in Colombo there were no street signs, sidewalks or fancy new buildings. Now there is all the the aforementioned and more. Everywhere you look in this country construction is taking place, roads are being carpeted (a Sringlish term for paved), new airports built, etc. All these are things of which have made my life in Colombo easier and more enjoyable.
However, I can’t help but wonder two things – Where is the money coming from? and How does this benefit the average Sri Lankan?
I also wonder how there can be a “one size fits all” model to development when every country is so unique. For instance, my latest frustration is the traffic lights that have been added. I honestly think the traffic flowed better before because everyone understood the unwritten rules. Now, the lights can back up traffic for miles. Another example is the addition of pedestrian crossing lights which no one actually stops at anyway!
When I look at Canada which bears the prestigious title of a “developed country”, it’s not the infrastructure that I value most (although that certainly is part of it). It is the social fabric of our society that makes me proud to be a Canadian. I feel extremely grateful for universal healthcare, free education, social programming and policies that advocate for human rights. Sure our systems aren’t perfect, far from it in fact, but every citizen has the right to voice their opinions and advocate for change which means we still have a chance.
I wish Sri Lanka all the best on their road to development. I just hope they take into consideration the big picture before forging too far ahead.