Chinese worker in Trincomalee
At Chinese work sites I’ve seen in Trinco and Hambantota, many of the workers are Chinese. Dudes in the neighborhood say they got like 300-500 Rs a day for odd jobs, sweeping up and stuff. Which sucks. Some of the work is specialized of course, but many of these development projects don’t necessarily bring jobs. China today has over 740,000 workers abroad, and it’s causing tensions.
It seemed as if this village in northern Vietnam had struck gold when a Chinese and a Japanese company arrived to jointly build a coal-fired power plant. Thousands of jobs would start flowing in, or so the residents hoped. A Chinese worker at a power plant construction site in Vietnam. China, famous for its export of cheap goods, is increasingly known around the world for shipping out cheap labor. Four years later, the Haiphong Thermal Power Plant is nearing completion. But only a few hundred Vietnamese ever got jobs. Most of the workers were Chinese, about 1,500 at the peak. (New York Times)
I don’t know what the ratio is at Sri Lankan development projects, but I’m sure a lot of the labor is Chinese. This is not necessarily bad, we may not have the required expertise here. However, I think a big priority of development should be jobs. Infrastructure is important, but it’s also important to put money in peoples pockets and to develop our human resources. If there are jobs Sri Lankans can do, they should have priority. If there’s stuff beyond our ken, we should get training. I don’t think that stuff is negotiated heavily when we get the projects, and there isn’t much public pressure. We’re just vaguely aware that there’s some power plant being done in the north west and a port in the south.
However, I think we should ask, and even demand. The Chinese look out for themselves, they get contracts for their businesses and jobs for their people. Sri Lanka needs to stop looking at these projects as gifts (which they’re not) and as business deals. The Chinese are getting theirs, we need to make sure that Sri Lanka gets ours. After the ministers get their commission, we should make sure that the people get jobs.