When Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment introduced its electric vehicle (EV) permit scheme, the news spread like wildfire among the expatriate community. For the first time, it felt like our remittances—our hard-earned money—were not just faceless contributions to the national economy but investments that could empower us and our families.
The financial numbers alone were staggering; according to Minister Manusha Nanayakkara, remittances have spiked to an impressive $541 million, a 93% increase from the previous year. And let’s remember the environmental benefits: a cleaner, greener Sri Lanka for our children to inherit. The scheme symbolized something far more significant than a simple financial transaction—it gave us, the overseas workforce, a tangible link to our homeland, families, and communities.
But Will It Last?
Yet, as the initial euphoria subsides, a collective question arises: Will this initiative continue? Given the nation’s history of policy flip-flops and the internal governmental opposition that Minister Nanayakkara himself acknowledged, our optimism is tinged with apprehension.
The Underlying Concerns
The opposition the Minister and his team faced during the scheme’s proposal stage raised red flags. What guarantees do we have that the initiative won’t be axed or significantly altered by future governments or even the current administration under different circumstances? After all, political winds can change direction swiftly. For us, this is not just about importing a vehicle; it’s about ensuring that our remittances are respected and valued sustainably.
More Than Just Numbers
This EV permit scheme is not merely a way to boost remittances or promote green initiatives. It’s a potential paradigm shift in how the country views its migrant workers—we are not just laborers in foreign lands, remitting dollars and euros, but integral members of the Sri Lankan family. And like any family member, we need assurances that the newfound attention and respect are not momentary but part of a lasting change.
A Humble Request for Assurance
While we applaud the government’s innovative approach and appreciate its tangible benefits, we call for more transparent communication regarding the scheme’s future. We ask for formal guarantees that the EV permit scheme will be a long-term policy, immune as far as possible from the fickleness of political changes.
The electric vehicle permit scheme has the potential to be a cornerstone policy, rewriting the social contract between Sri Lanka and its overseas workforce. But for that to happen, we need more than optimistic projections and initial success stories. We need commitments that transcend political cycles and remain steadfast despite internal opposition. Only then will this initiative cease to be a glimmer of hope and become the bright, unwavering light that guides Sri Lanka into a future of economic stability and environmental sustainability.
By Tusith W Perera, Sri Lankan Migrant Worker