“We want to create an economy where citizens are able to take their economic destiny into their own hands, without relying on the state for jobs and handouts. This entails the development of entrepreneurship and small business, which is supported by our recently launched Enterprise Sri Lanka scheme. At the heart of empowerment is education. It is education at all levels that endows people with the necessary skills to actively participate in the economy. Sri Lanka has long taken pride in its strong human development outcomes, particularly in education,” he said.The Minister said that several decades of extensive state investment in education has yielded good results in terms of access to education and near universal literacy.However, he said there is much more that needs to be done to keep up with global educational standards. The Government is to include a set of proposals from a UNICEF-led meeting on early childhood development in the 2019 budget, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said today.Speaking at the ‘Building Brains – Building Futures’ high-level meeting held today on early childhood development in Sri Lanka, Samaraweera said that he had received a set of proposals related to the subject and it will be considered in the next budget. In a landmark event, marking Policy Makers Day of National Early Childhood Care Week 2018, Building Brains, Building Futures, the Sri Lanka Early Childhood Development (ECD) High-Level Meeting presented early childhood-centric budget proposals to Samaraweera for his consideration in the 2019 National Budget. “One such important area of focus is Early Childhood Development. Early Childhood Development (ECD) is of great importance to Sri Lanka as it has the potential to improve school learning outcomes, which can have long lasting effects on the well-being of the population. As Sri Lanka positions itself as a highly competitive knowledge-based economy, robust cognitive development from an early stage becomes essential,” he said. Investing in health, nutrition, education and protection from birth through to age five – known as Early Childhood Development – enables all children to reach their full brain capacity, and is one of the most effective and proven drivers of sustainable economic growth. Budget proposals focussed on Health and Nutrition, Protection and Early Childhood Education were presented by the Ministries of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Women and Child Affairs and Education, to the Minister of Finance and Mass Media for his consideration in the National Budget for 2019.Samaraweera said that a fundamental principle of this Government’s economic development policy is the economic empowerment of Sri Lanka’s citizens. The Minister said that given the huge benefits that improving learning outcomes can have on promoting human development and boosting economic growth, the Government is committed to increase investment in enhancing education quality.Samaraweera also said that in 2014, the previous Government spent only 1.46% of its GDP for education but today, the current Government has increased this percentage to 3.5%.“Our aspiration is to allocate 6% of the country’s GDP for education by 2025. I would like to reiterate this Government’s commitment to investment in education, with renewed focus on Early Childhood Development. We will commit the necessary resources to support such programmes,” he said. (Colombo Gazette)
An on-the-run fraudster was able to escape the country by taking a flying lesson and persuading the instructor to drop him off in France, a court heard. Fugitive Jamie Colwell had been convicted of a £1m VAT scam alongside his father, Brian, and both men faced lengthy prison sentences.But while on bail, Jamie Colwell, 51, came up with an elaborate plan to flee the country. He first hired a third party to drive his 74-year-old father to France via Dover in his new Porsche Cayenne.The driver then returned bringing back with him Brian Colwell’s passport for his son to use as his had been confiscated as part of his bail conditions.He then booked a flying lesson in south east Kent in his father’s name. When the light aircraft entered French airspace he convinced the instructor to land at an airfield in the Pas-de-Calais region and let him out, the court heard.He met up with his father and the pair fled to Malaga in Spain. A court heard the two men hired the same person to drive a rental van with their furniture to the Costa del Sol.Officials from the HMRC launched an investigation after the defendants failed to re-appear at Bournemouth Crown Court in January for sentencing. They were able to track the rental van’s journey to an address in southern Spain, where the father and son were arrested in May. They were extradited back to the UK where Jamie Colwell was jailed for five years and three months and his father imprisoned for two years and eight months for fraud.The pair also admitted offences of breaching court bail conditions and were each given an extra six months on top of their original sentences.Judge Jonathan Fuller added: “You were at large for five months. You deliberately flouted bail conditions in the way that’s been described.” Colwell’s father, Brian, was first to flee the countryCredit:HMR&C/BNPS The Colwells were bogus property developers involved in a house building scam.They had raked in almost £1m in VAT repayments to which they were not entitled by lying about building £14m of new properties.The pair told the HMRC they had spent £14m building new properties. Such homes are zero-rated, which means developers can claim back VAT. In total, the Colwells claimed some £965,421 over six years through companies Belgravia Construction Services South Ltd and Robert Lloyd Property Ltd. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.