Hard work pays off
By Umesh Moramudali
The 13th South Asian Economics Students' Meet (SAESM) which was held in Nepal from 28 February to 2 March was very special for Sri Lanka. For the first time in SAESM history a Sri Lankan, Naveen Wickremeratne (25), managed to win the Best of the Best Research Paper Award. The award is named after two prestigious economists in South Asia, Mahbub ul Haq and Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen.
Naveen is an undergraduate who is completing his degree in economics while specializing in Finance, Banking and Econometrics at the University of Colombo. He is currently interning at the Institute of Policy Studies. At the recently concluded SAESM undergraduates from seven South Asian countries took part. Research papers were presented under six themes. Naveen's paper, titled as 'Impact of Infrastructure and Trade Openness on Economic Growth in South Asia – A Panel Study,' was presented under the theme of 'Infrastructure, Connectivity and Trade'. It was awarded the Best Research Paper under the selected theme. His paper was also selected as the best out of over 40 research papers presented at SAESM winning him the prestigious Best of the Best Paper award, The Mahabub ul Haq and Amartya Sen Best Research Paper Award.
His research adopted quantitative method through using econometrics modelling to measure the impact on infrastructure and trade openness on South Asia. And Naveen has developed an infrastructure index to estimate the impact of infrastructure on economic growth in South Asia. Ceylon Today interviewed Naveen to know more about him and the award he won.
Q: You won the award for the Best of the Best Research Paper. What is the importance of this award for you and to the country?
A: South Asian Economics Students Meet is a juncture where the best economics undergraduates in the region meet each other with enriched insights of academic work. So, winning the best of the best research paper named as "Mahabub ul Haq and Amartya Sen Best Research Paper Award" is an exceptional milestone in my life. On the other hand, since the commencement of this award at SAESM, this is the first time a Sri Lankan undergraduate was able to earn this prestigious award and it glorifies the proud existence of our country in South Asia. I really felt so happy about the fact that I was able to bring glory to the University of Colombo, and to my country.
Q: Did you expect to win this award? How did you feel when you got to know that you won?
A: The moment my name was announced at the award ceremony I couldn't really believe that it was my name that was announced. I was hesitant to stand up until my name was called out for the second time. It was the happiest and proudest minute of my life thinking that I was able to achieve the impossible for the first time bringing a glory to my university and country.
Q: What was your secret to success?
A: It was hard work; nothing beyond that. Since I started doing my A/Level's, I dedicated myself to my studies. Every milestone of my life was not something handed to me on a silver platter. I had to work hard with great determination. It does not mean that I did not have a life outside studies. I did hang out with friends, listen to music, watch movies and I did enjoy my life. However, I prioritize studying and I did it by my heart, not for namesake. Economics was a passion to me and that passion and hard work got me here.
Q: How do you describe economics as a subject matter?
A: Theoretically and in definition Economics is a subject that studies the efficient allocation of limited resources among unlimited human wants, maximizing the utility which we usually refer to as satisfaction. The irony here is ultimately utility or satisfaction is the happiness of a person which can be achieved by limiting human wants in such a way that would emulate with the existing limited resources. Hence there is no virtue of maximizing consumption. It has always been an interesting subject to study.
Q: At present, there is a big debate going on about the university system. As a local university student who competed at an international level and won awards, what is your opinion about the university system of this country?
A: I would like a university education system which is currently practiced by most of the American and European Universities, where higher education institutions are nonprofit making. So, two quotas will be recruited, one quota is subsidized by the government based on the exemplary results in high school and the other quota should pass the high school examination and pay for their education. I would like if an ideal system is introduced to our country. After all education is everyone's right and the governments are obliged to protect it.
Q: With winning this prestigious award, you will be a role model for many. What advice would you like to give them?
A: I would say it is important to work hard, have determination and collaboration to compete. No one can achieve anything and be happy without working hard and without determination. The other thing that I would like to stress is collaboration to compete.
I am well aware that there is huge competition out there for everything and all of us are running a rat race. What if people collaborate to achieve their goals? It is a win-win situation for everyone and the world would be a better place. I like to advise the youth to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and work together with others.
Q: If you are to name a movie that you would continue to enjoy what would that be?
A: Without any second thought, I will name the movie I like the most to be A Beautiful Mind by Ron Howard. This inspiring movie is based on the life of Nobel Laureate John Forbes Nash. A Beautiful Mind is one of the few fascinating movies that I have come across in my life which actually taught me many lessons to be motivated.
Q: What inspires you?
A: Reading is what inspires me the most. You have very limited time to spend in this universe. You can't experience most of the phenomena that exist in this very world so reading is the most fabulous thing in the world. It can give you lot of experience that you have not personally come across. More than just that, it gives you the knowledge which enhances the horizons of your thinking power.
Q: Coming up to this level would not have been easy. There must have been many instances of failure, many depressing moments. How did you overcome those?
A: Who would not have failures in life? There were so many instances where I had to endure certain downturns in my life. But Buddhist philosophy gave me the courage to be unstoppable in my life when facing challenges. Buddhism teaches you to embrace both success and failure in a similar manner. I do practice it and it helps me.
Q: As a youth economist, where do you want to see yourself in 10 years?
A: This award is not only my hard work, it was strengthened by so many people who are close to my life and always have been there for me. So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for the trust that they shared with me. I don't have fancy dreams in my life hence I want to live a simple life doing a service to the society. I hope that I would be able to do so by being a policy maker if life permits me.
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