The Australian High Commissioner, Bryce Hutchesson, launched the Skills for Inclusive Growth Program with Minister for Skills Development and Vocational Training, Mahinda Samarasinghe. Australia will provide around 1.6 billion rupees in aid and technical assistance, over four years, to strengthen Sri Lanka’s tourism sector – through training and mentoring for employees and small businesses. The Program will benefit local communities and businesses – with an initial focus in Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Polonnaruwa districts.It will prioritise the underemployed, particularly local women, youth and people with a disability.It will supportthe full value chain of the tourism sector –for example, food suppliers, hospitality trainers, artisans, surf instructors, spa owners, accommodation providers, taxi drivers – as well as district planners, park rangers, industry regulators and business chambers.“This is a time of hope and opportunity for Sri Lanka.Australia, as a long-standing partner, is glad to be playing a part in supporting Sri Lanka to build a bright future,” Hutchesson said. (Colombo Gazette) “Australia understands tourism. It is one of our most important exports. We also understand skills development. We have a world-class education system and one of the world’s best vocational training systems,” remarked Hutchesson.Speaking at the event, Minister Samarasignhe stated “I express my sincere gratitude to Australian High Commissioner His Excellency Bryce Hutchesson and the Australian Government for committing such a large sum of money for the future development of Sri Lanka not as a loan but as a 100% grant, which is very rare to see in this day and age. This underscores the very special historic bilateral relationship that exists between the people of Australia and the people of Sri Lanka.” This program will help Sri Lanka develop a highly-skilled labour force to take its rightful place as a premier tourist destination.