August 30, 1964– Harsha de Silva is born in Colombo, to Haris de Silva and Hema Warnakulasuirya de Silva; both hailing from Southern Buddhist families, employed as Public Servants, since graduating from the University of Peradeniya.
- Haris de Silva hails from Ambalangoda-Hikkaduwa, and is Director of the National Archives.
- Hema Warnakulasuirya de Silva hails from Matara-Dehiwela, and is founding Vice Principal of Ananda Balika Kotte.
Harsha begins his education at Royal College Colombo. He is a keen student, a dedicated Scout, excels in sports and is always among the top of his class. Together with his younger sister Nalika, Harsha enjoys a happy childhood, amidst books and intellectual discussion.
1976 – 1983
Harsha’s mother Hema de Silva becomes ill with cancer and later succumbs to the disease. He is devastated and faces a disturbing adolescent phase when he needed his mother the most. He almost loses his way. His dream of becoming a doctor falls apart but does well enough to pursue higher education overseas. His father continues to believe in him. It takes a while and with a great deal of effort he gets back on his feet.
Harsha changes course and secures a place at Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri, USA, to pursue his studies in Business Management and Economics. It is a hard life, studying and working part time.
Harsha graduates with Honors- Bachelor of Science (BS) from Truman State University. Truman is currently ranked the No.1 public liberal arts university in the Midwestern United States. In the process he becomes fascinated with the subject of economics.
Harsha wins a highly competitive full tuition scholarship and a hard-to-come-by teaching assistantship, at the University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri, USA; a highly ranked national university. He is appointed Instructor (Lecturer) and Teaching Assistant (Assistant Lecturer), at the University in January 1989. As Instructor during summer sessions of he teaches Macroeconomics to undergraduates. As Teaching Assistant he independently teaches Monetary Economics to third year undergraduates.
Harsha joins the Sri Lanka Economic Association (SLEA) while on a three month summer study program at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and other places of academic interest. Later he is elected its Treasurer. Upon return to Sri Lanka he participates actively in the analyses of the Sri Lanka economy and promotes the discussion of matters of interest to the general public about the economy organizing seminars and workshops.
At age twenty-eight, Harsha is awarded a PhD in Economics and completes his Dissertation: ‘An Investigation of a Financial Liberalization Policy in a Financially Repressed Economy: Case of Sri Lanka’. His adviser is Professor W Whitney Hicks. He also receives his MA in Economics at the same time since he was selected to what is referred to as a telescope program designed for the top performers in the program.
Instead of taking up a lecturer job in the US Harsha returns to Sri Lanka and begins his professional career at the Development Finance Corporation of Ceylon (DFCC); the premier development Bank of the nation, and the largest long-term lender to the private sector. As Chief Economist of the Bank, he advises the board on investment and funding decisions, and supervises all research and analysis. As its Founding Treasurer, he is responsible for sourcing best possible funding through a wide array of instruments for the Bank’s investment activities; manages a multi-billion-rupee fund. He structured the first tradable bond program and other innovative funding mechanisms.
Harsha is awarded a scholarship to the International Center for Monetary & Banking Studies, Geneva, Switzerland.
He cofounds Survey and Market Research Team, SMART, as one of two partners in a one-roomed office. He manages his professional work as well as the research work, invariable working late in to the night.
Harsha agrees to a Visiting Lecturer appointment at the Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) of the University of Sri Jayawardenepura. He teaches Theory and Practice of Economics and Dynamics of Financial Markets of Sri Lanka. This course analyzes issues relating to theoretical models of financial markets and the practical reality, given the specific financial deepening problems in Sri Lanka.
As part of his academic responsibilities he supervises a number of MBA theses focusing on developing financial markets. Development of a Derivatives Market in Sri Lanka, An Action Plan for the Colombo Stock Exchange to Increase the Number of Listings, and Recommendations for the Development of a Listed Debt Securities Market in Sri Lanka are just a few of them.
He is awarded a scholarship to Singapore, to study Emerging Instruments in Global Financing.
Harsha becomes a Member of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Subcommittee on Economic Affairs and Taxation, as well as the Power and Energy Subcommittee. As a member of these two important subcommittees of the leading Chamber, he participates in the formulation of private-public strategies on economic issues in general, and on energy issues in particular.
He is awarded a scholarship to the National Institute of Bank Management, India, to study Treasury Management Techniques.
In February 1997 Harsha leaves DFCC and structures a joint venture between SMART and India’s ORG-Marg and becomes Joint Managing Director of new entity ORG-MARG Smart (OMS); and with dedication and sleepless nights builds it to the largest privately owned market and socioeconomic research agency in Sri Lanka. Besides building the firm, he leads bulk of the research assignments spanning the South Asia region, for clients including multinationals, multilateral donor agencies, governments and corporate entities.
He also starts the country’s first retail store audit; develops the country’s first business confidence index LMD-BCI; together with the World Economic Forum, Harvard University, and the Institute of Policy Studies, incorporating Sri Lanka into the Global Competitiveness Report.
2000 – 2001
Harsha sells his stake in OMS to Dutch owners of global research giant US based AC Nielsen at the height of the dot.com and information business boom. The company is renamed Nielsen Lanka. This entrepreneurial success brings him financial independence fairly early in life, and gives him the freedom to pursue his real Economics. At the age of thirty-six he leaves his 9-5 job never to return to a rigid work environment!
He becomes a Member of the Royal Asiatic Society, Sri Lanka Branch.
He dabbles in a few startups and ends up creating a unique ICT enabled prototype for auctioning tea which he calls ‘Electronic Open Outcry Spot Auction Platform for Tea.’ He bids for an open global tender along with a his IT partners and wins over a dozen global competitors by the Colombo Tea Traders Association, to be implemented at the world’s largest auction centre for tea in Colombo. However, its implementation is (still) delayed.
Harsha also becomes an International Consultant Economist, for many multilateral agencies, including
- Asian Development Bank (ADB)
- World Bank
- International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
- United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
- LIRNEasia; a regional ICT policy, and regulation think tank.
He works mainly on Economics of Infrastructure; primarily in electricity, water and ICT, in many countries in emerging Asia, West Africa and Latin America. He finds his work here, most enjoyable.
2002 – 2010
Harsha becomes Charter Member of the Rotary Club of Colombo Regency, Rotary International and later is Honored with a Paul Harris Fellow. Under his leadership, an entire community of fifteen homes and a civic centre for Tsunami victims of Kalutara, is established in 2005.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe appoints Harsha to the Prime Minister’s Committee on Globalization, Trade Development and International Economic Policy on a voluntary basis. He contributes to the preparation of the policy document to make Sri Lanka a country of competitive value addition, while making her a hub for commercial activities in the South Asian region.
Harsha is appointed Advisor to the Rural Knowledge Centre Project and Regional Telecommunications Network Project (rural telecom infrastructure program) of the eSri Lanka project. He spends an enormous amount of time with the newly formed ICT Agency of Sri Lanka developing eSriLanka on a pro-bono basis. He is also the principal contributor to the original design of ‘Vishwa Gnana Kendra’ now renamed as ‘Nenasela’.
Harsha becomes Senior Consultant Economist to the Public Interest Program Unit (PIPU), of the Ministry of Economic Reform of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL). As PIPU’s senior most economist, he plays a key role in the liberalization of the telecom and petroleum sectors, and in establishing the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka, PUCSL.
Harsha becomes Lead International Consultant with the Asian Development Bank to the Department of Power, Royal Government of Bhutan, on rural electrification infrastructure and network expansion, as a part of the liberalization of the country’s energy sector.
As Lead Strategy Specialist (International basis) to USAID consultancy, Harsha is called upon to design a National Operations Room (NOR) for GoSL; funded by the World Bank.
The World Bank funded Sri Lanka Development Gateway (LkDG) appoints Harsha, as Lead Conceptualizer and Designer to create a platform, as the centerpiece for exchange of knowledge among virtual communities, in support of sustainable development in Sri Lanka.
Harsha creates Govi Gnana Seva (GGS); a non-profit venture and a service, to deliver spot agricultural commodity price information electronically, via a number of large display screens, located at the country’s largest wholesale market in Dambulla. This service increases the bargaining power of farmers bringing their produce to the market, and is later fully integrated through Dialog Telecom’s TradeNet platform on mobile phones.
The Minister of Trade and Consumer Affair appoints Harsha, to the Board of Directors of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) as a Board Member; the apex agency with wide powers, to regulate all consumer related activity in the country.
Harsha is Lead Economic Consultant with Pricewaterhouse-Coopers (International basis), to the UNDP funded thematic monitoring system, to be built into the National Operations Room.
The World Bank funded Renewable Energy for Rural Economic Development Project appoints Harsha to the Panel of Consultants, on providing rural citizens access to electricity.
LIRNEasia appoints Harsha as Consultant Lead Economist, to lead projects, on analyzing programmes to extend telecom coverage to the rural households in India, on assessing Asia’s first least-cost subsidy auction designed for rural telecom connectivity in Nepal, and on designing and developing the framework to assess the impact of telecom liberalization and ICT benefits to the poor, across six countries in Asia.
Harsha accepts a Visiting Faculty position at the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa, for its MBA program in Infrastructure. In addition, he accepts positions on the Visiting Faculties of the South Asia Forum for Infrastructure Regulation and the Communication Policy Research South programs in India, Singapore and the Philippines.
Harsha is invited by his friend the late Lasantha Wickramatunga Editor of the Sunday Leader, to appear on a television debate during the Presidential elections. This is Harsha’s first TV debate; it happens in English. Soon thereafter he is invited to appear on a Sinhala language debate with SLFP economic advisor, former MP the late Professor Kamal Karunanayake on Sirasa, Harsha’s first TV debate in Sinhala.
Mahinda Rajapaksa presents the first budget to parliament. Leader of Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe sends Harsha a message requesting him to come to parliament. Harsha is taken by surprise but learns that he is required to present an analysis of the budget to opposition MPs. He is quite pleased with this task and decides to take up Ranil Wickremesinghe’s invitation. Thus begins his relationship with the UNP.
Harsha is awarded a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA, to follow an Executive Program at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), on research techniques using randomized trials, to assess the effectiveness of poverty relief and development programs around the world. J-PAL is at the cutting edge of research techniques, using scientific methods to assess the effectiveness of such programs around the world. His association with the two leading economists there Abjit Banerje and Esther Duflo continues.
As Consultant Lead Economist, at LIRNEasia, Harsha leads an Asian team of researchers, on how reforms in telecom infrastructure are impacting on the use and affordability of mobile services by the poor, across five countries. He also studies ICT contributions, in improving life conditions of those engaged in agriculture.
Harsha is appointed as International Consultant to the USAID-International Resources Group [IRG] for the Government of Nepal, on private sector participation in hydropower infrastructure development.
Harsha begins what subsequently becomes the highest rated weekly prime time TV discussion program on economics and business; Biz 1st In Focus on Channel 1 MTV and on Shakthi TV. Over the next four years he conducts the show out of several capitals of the world with guests including 2006 Nobel Laureate Professor Muhhamad Yunus, Godfather of the free market revolution in Latin America, Professor Arnold Harberger, Ford Foundation Professor of Economics at MIT, Dr Abhijit Banerjee, Foreign Policy Magazine’s top 100 public intellectual in 2008 and Best Young French Economist Dr Esther Duflo; Founder of Transparency International, Peter Eigen, BusinessWeek’s top ranked management guru, and University of Michigan Professor Dave Ulrich, besides a host of other local academics and professionals.
Harsha is appointed as Faculty Member of Communication Policy Research South Philippines and Sri Lanka. He teaches in the first Communication Policy Research South (CPRsouth) event: Improving ICT governance in the Asia-Pacific, held at the Asian Institute of Management, Manila in January 2007 and follows through with several other events later. Courses are on measuring the effects of ICT and basics of infrastructure economics.
As a Faculty Member of the 8th South Asia Forum for Infrastructure Regulation South Asia (SAFIR), Harsha conducts a core Training Course, in March-April 2007. He develops and conducts a panel on Special Aspects of Infrastructure Reforms in Developing Countries, with experts from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
LIRNE.NET Worldwide appoints Harsha as a Faculty Member. He teaches in several LIRNE.NET course on Telecom Reform: Strategies to achieve connectivity and convergence starting in Singapore. Topics are, demand for telecom among the poor in Asia, and how universal services programmes can be made more efficient.
UNESCAP appoints Harsha as International Consultant on public-private partnerships, for provision of ICT infrastructure to rural and disadvantaged communities in developing Asia-Pacific.
Harsha becomes Member of the American Economic Association.
As Consultant Lead Economist, at LIRNEasia Harsha is appointed as Intellectual Lead of a large multi-country research project, on the impact of ICT on economic efficiency among the poor, ongoing ICT in agriculture research in India, with the Institute for Financial Management and Research, and in Eastern Sri Lanka with USAID; Understanding multifaceted issues on emerging mobile-based applications.
Harsha is appointed International Consultant to IDRC, Canada to study the impact of ICT infrastructure and services on rural livelihoods, in seven Asian countries.
Harsha continues angel funding of Govi Gnana Seva to find viable solutions to the twin problems of farmer poverty, and high cost of agricultural produce in Sri Lanka. He begins the process of creating a virtual forward market for semi-perishable produce.
Harsha joins the Board of Management of the National Council for Mental Health; Sahanaya and later becomes its Vice President. Sahanaya is a leading charitable organization involved in the promotion of mental health in the community. Harsha is instrumental in starting the nation’s first large–scale privately funded residential facility for those with mental health issues in Gorakana along the bank of the Bolgoda lake.
Harsha is appointed by the International Development Resource Centre, Canada, as International Scientific Adviser to the e-Agriculture Research Network, comprising the University of Nairobi, Kenya; University of Malawi; University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin; University of Ghana; and the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Harsha becomes Member of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, USA.
Harsha is profiled as one of seventeen top researchers by the International Development Research Centre, (IDRC) Canada; one of the largest research organization working across the globe
Harsha is appointed to the Reviewer panel, of the Information Technologies and International Development journal, MIT Press.
As Consultant Lead Economist at LIRNEasia, Harsha Consults on a multi-country study on Knowledge Based Economies: ICT innovations to improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of agricultural value chains in India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Sri Lanka and Consultant Intellectual Lead on Teleuse@BOP4: Six-country study on use of ICT by the bottom of the pyramid to enhance livelihoods.
Besides, he is also appointed Consultant to Intelecon, on a multi-country mobile-money user study, to understand the potential of this evolving concept, for the International Finance Corporation.
The International Development Research Centre [IDRC], Canada appoints Harsha as Project Leader and Principal Researcher, of Action Research Pilot on ICT for Livelihood, to understand how rural farmers use mobile phone based information, to make strategic business decisions.
With end of the war Harsha begins to think seriously of taking a major decision to bid adieu to his very successful international consulting career to join politics with the hope of one day having the opportunity to help guide Sri Lanka’s economy.
Harsha wins Gates Foundation Grant through the Institute for Money Technology and Financial Inclusion at the University of California, Irvine as Principal Researcher on a study on m-Finance and Consumption Smoothening among the Poor with Irregular Income Streams. He begins a productive association with faculty at Irvine which remains to date.
Harsha becomes a Member of the Economic Freedom Network Asia (EFN Asia); a growing network of research institutes, practitioners, influential think-tanks and individuals, with the aim of promoting the benefits of civil society, market economy and individual liberty.
Harsha cofounds PepperCube Consulting as a passive investor along with three other professionals. PepperCube is fast emerging as an innovative market research agency with a broad range of clients. He also establishes the Foundation for Economic Freedom in Sri Lanka that focuses on policy relevant research.
Harsha wins the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship in 2010 after a highly competitive process with some of the best young men and women of Sri Lanka from all professions, covering public, private and non-government sectors as well as sports and culture. But he is unable to go with his entry to Parliament. In an unusual move the Fellowship is postponed for 2011 and he takes up the seven-week Fellowship and travels extensively in the US interacting with many leading politicians and academics. At the end of the program the Fellowship is awarded to him by General Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State at a gala ceremony in Philadelphia.
Harsha ends his English language Biz1st in Focus program after 200 episodes and later, in 2012, restarts the program in Sinhala on Sirasa TV and calls it Artha Tharka for ‘economic arguments’.
Leadership of the UNP discusses with Harsha their intention to nominate him on their National List of 29 candidates for the upcoming general elections. Harsha agrees after consulting family and friends even though he is not certain of what awaits him.
Harsha makes his debut as a politician by entering Parliament as a National List MP for the United National Party and becomes its spokesperson on the economy. He is also made a Member of the Committee on Public Accounts, and the Consultative Committees of the Ministries of Finance, State Enterprises and of Research and Development.
2010 – Present (Political Carrer)
Harsha becomes an active Opposition MP. The website Manthri.lk, that assesses the performance of MPs, ranks Harsha as the No. 1 National List MP of the UNP, and only second to Anura Kumara Dissanayake among the all 29 National List MPs. He is ranked 15, of the entire Parliament of 225 MPs. He considers this an achievement given it is his first term in Office.
In 2012 Harsha is appointed the UNP Chief Organizer for the Sri Jayawardenepura-Kotte electorate; the administrative capital of the nation one of the most prestigious for the UNP.
With the change of Government with the ascent of Maithripala Sirisena as President and Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister in January 2015, Harsha is appointed Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs under the PM.