8 Jul 2015
MILE Alumni Profiles: Subhashini Abeysinghe
MILE 10 graduate Subhashini Abeysinghe works for private think tank Verité Research in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. A regular commentator on trade issues in Sri Lankan newspapers and on television, she was recently ranked 15th among young leaders below the age of 40 and 19th most powerful woman in the country.
You have carved out a role as an international trade expert and economic researcher. How did you get to where you are now; what were the steps in your career? After completing my Economics special degree at the University of Colombo, I joined the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), as a management trainee, and later worked there as an economist in the Economic Unit. There I got the opportunity to practise what I studied at university and actually get involved in advocating changes to economic policies. After following a six-week course on the WTO conducted by international experts and organised by the Department of Commerce in 2007, I first realised international trade was an area that I wanted to specialise in. Further, at the Ceylon Chamber, I had the opportunity to participate in stakeholder consultations that the government had with the private sector with regard to regional and multilateral trade negotiations. I attended a number of local and foreign training programmes on various aspects of international trade, both as a participant and a speaker, and also started writing about issues faced by Sri Lanka. After working at the CCC for almost ten years, I wanted to become a full-time researcher in economics and international trade. I joined Verité Research, a private think tank, as head of their economic research section in 2012. It has been a remarkable and an inspiring experience. It opened up new windows of opportunity for me to conduct in-depth research into economic and trade policy and share the research findings with the public. It is a multi-disciplinary think tank, and having inputs from both political and legal teams at Verité has further enriched my research. What role did the MILE programme play in your career development? As a student of economics, I felt not having sound knowledge in international trade law to be a drawback. When a friend of mine informed me of the MILE programme, it seemed exactly the kind of course I had been looking for: combining both the law and economics of international trade. It was a programme which provided me insights into every aspect of international trade from both the economic and legal perspectives. I always tell my friends that the year I spent at WTI was the one where I read the most; I have never read so much in my entire life! The quality of the reading material recommended was so high. The panel of lecturers who came from all parts of the world, with knowledge and experience in their respective fields, was amazing. The wealth of knowledge I gained on the MILE has helped me immensely in my research and analysis. It’s now five years since you completed the MILE. How do you look back on your time at the WTI and in Bern? It was a period in my life where I enjoyed studying the most. It was a very challenging programme, with tight deadlines, demanding exams, strict marking. There were days, after submitting an assignment, I felt all the energy in my body to have been drained out. However, the challenging environment brought out the best in me and made me discover skills that I did not realise I had, especially public speaking and debating skills. As an economist, I found the moot court to be a challenging and, at the same time, rewarding experience. Learning from competent and committed lecturers and studying with equally competent and competitive peers enriched my life in many ways. To what extent do you still maintain ties with the WTI? I value the news WTI shares with its alumni. And I do keep in touch with some of my colleagues and lecturers by email - mainly by sharing news/research that is related to international trade and which I feel they may find interesting. You are ranked among the top young leaders and most powerful women in Sri Lanka. How does this make you feel? To find my work being recognised as playing an important role in shaping policies in Sri Lanka was encouraging. I know some others who are ranked alongside me and I have lot of respect for them. I felt honoured to be ranked among them.