In Sri Lanka – 7, 4, 5, 3, 4

Well, a week without blogging and in large part it’s because I haven’t been behind a computer long enough to get some thoughts down. As great as the iPad is, it is still a bit difficult to blog on. I arrived in Sri Lanka last evening and arrived at my hotel, The Galle Face Hotel, with the pleasant suprise that from my room I can hear crashing waves from the ocean. Obviously Sri Lanka is an island but I han no idea that my hotel would be on the ocean.

The last week has been both enjoyable and educational. In seven days, I have been in four countries, five cities, played golf three times (terribly once and mariginally better the other two times) and spoken to four different groups YPO/EO groups.

Last Friday, I played golf in the Phillipines with local members from the EO chapter. A few observations from the Phillipines. 1) everyone speaks English, 2) Pizza Hut is alive and well, 3) driving around the city presents more moving obstacles then the latest edition of Grand Theft Auto, 4) there is no middle class.

The fourth point has become a major theme as I have trekked through Asia. I have always taken for granted the financial structure we have in the US. When my parent’s arrived in the states for graduate school they were coming from the lower class of Taiwan but after graduating with advanced degrees in the states they quickly became part of the US middle class. Their work, support and resources gave me the opportunity to be where I am today.

The existence of such a large middle class in the United States is in large part what defines our country and makes it the amazing place that it is. But I worry if the fallout from the financial crisis may be a disappearance of that middle class.

When we talk about where jobs will come from in the next 10 years, we often list health care, energy, technology as the sources but most of those positions will need to be highly skilled and highly educated. What will come of the over two million that lost jobs in this recession and worked in construction? Are they going to be able to redefine and reeducate themselves in these other burgeoning fields?

The other point I have noticed is the number of Americans, either ex-pats or those educated in the States, that are now flourishing in Asia. The opportunities here are plentiful and in some cases simply too good to pass up.

As I sit in the business center of my hotel, I reflect on this country. After 25 years of civil unrest, Sri Lanka has become safe and a great land of opportunity. The stock market here has seen massive increases in the last two years and many are still bullish. China is investing in infrastructure that will connect many of the beautiful once remote locations with the main airport. Also, the Chinese are providing aid to build stadiums, civic buildings and housing.

The Chinese obviously have ulterior motives for friending Sri Lanka with its proximity to India but regardless of the motivation this type of help will fast forward Sri Lanka’s economy and clearly make Sri Lanka another country to keep an eye on.


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