By Ananda Ariyarathne
Sri Lanka is like a patient who has become the 'guinea-pig' for a set of physicians whose capacities have been proven to be merely academic and therefore have their visions completely shrouded by prejudice. All the remedies that they introduced were ineffective. The 'guinea-pig' has no say. All the medication was prescribed based on the predetermined policies and therefore the actual condition of the patient never mattered. Therefore, the condition could never have become better because the physicians were more concerned about their convictions than the ailments the patient was actually suffering from.
The latest trend is the misconception that the patient can be cured by treating the affected areas separately. The patient is inching closer to the end, in the meantime. Only a few people recall what happened in the 1940s and early 1950s. It becomes necessary to prompt a little here in order to have a proper understanding about the simple economics that have always been linked.
The population that was there was manageable. With the revenue generated, the government could afford to provide food subsidies. People took this for granted. The new government had a smooth run due to the favourable conditions. Ceylon Tea was in demand and therefore the government did not have any issues. However, this situation did not last for long. The first challenge was the stabilization of rubber prices. In order to facilitate this, the government signed the Rubber-Rice Pact with the People's Republic of China.
However, this wasn't a serious issue. The government did not need to keep an eye on foreign exchange reserves. The government somehow managed to raise the funds required to grant subsidies. The Plantation Sector was the backbone of the economy. It did not take long for economists to realise that the foreign companies were making huge profits. The truth started coming out little by little. It didn't take long for economists to realize that the country was losing foreign exchange. The foreign companies stood to gain and they grabbed the lion's share. These companies were called 'sterling companies.'
Sri Lankan politics started heading in a different direction after 1956 and people started becoming overly patriotic. More and more countries from the socialist bloc came to the rescue. Earlier, the UNP had relied on the West in order to strengthen the country's economy. Nationalization became the order of the day.
Can we ever say that the policy makers or the brains behind the show saw what was in store for us? The hidden challenges which did not come into the open, directly linked to the population that had kept on increasing were never understood and nobody bothered to address this issue. The unfavourable prices for primary commodities were studied as a special subject and it was only one out of many. In reality, that caused restrictions in the foreign exchange reserves. Sirimavo Bandaranaike's Government was the only government that bothered to look into this matter.
Symbolic Turning Point
It became a symbolic turning point when more drastic action was taken with the nationalization of the plantation sector. During this time, foreign exchange control became a crucial part of economic development. Import substitution was given prominence.
Local companies produced goods for the local market, and items were exported in order to earn Foreign Exchange.
But can we ever say that we had specifically drawn plans with targets to find solutions for each and every sector where the impact was felt. Development plans were there, of course, but they were never linked or synchronized with the national economy. Those were just sporadic projects. This is the reason why our country is in this state.
We are facing issues because we do not have a national master plan. Let us take a few examples. The country's education sector has dwindled and needs a new lease of life. How many specialists do we require every year? (doctors, engineers, managers, nurses, mechanics, and so on.) In order to get an idea, we need a proper human resource plan. In order to meet the demand, we need to be able to estimate how long a student will take to complete his/her education.
What do we see? There is corruption everywhere. In order to admit a student to a leading school in Colombo, the parents need to prove that they live in Colombo. Parents even go to the extent of preparing and submitting bogus documentation and bribing Principals. Later on, these children apply for examinations from rural areas because the z-score is lower in rural areas.
National development is connected to regional development and regional development in turn is linked with zonal development.
The most valuable resource is the human resource and when people aren't given opportunities they get frustrated and live an aimless life.
The citizens pay for the education of doctors, engineers, and other professionals, but after graduating, none of them have any openings. Due to this reason, most graduates seek employment overseas and never return. This occurs due to lack of planning.
We have agencies specialising in various sectors, but are we trying to identify resources and then link them to be truly symbiotic?
This is why planning is important. The absence of truly realistic economic sense has rendered us helpless.
Starting with the abuse of human resources, we have shown the world that we are clueless. It is said that only 12% of the land in Japan is arable. However, in the 1960s, Japan had the highest yield per land. What are we doing? If you take a good look, you will be able to see that there are a lot of lands that are not being utilised. They give all kinds of lame excuses. No labour, available labour is too expensive, it is cheaper to buy rice from the shop. In order to encourage farmers they give guaranteed prices. Only around 30% of the population are farmers and the rest (70%) have to buy rice from the market. Because the farmers have been promised a guaranteed price, the price of rice in the market has increased and as a result we have to dole out more money. Will they reduce the price now? No! They will definitely charge more. Then the rice farmers who got more money will have to pay more. Now, what will happen to the rice farmers? They will need more income. Back to square one. The government justifies importing rice in order to bring down the market price. As a result, our foreign exchange reserves dwindle once again. This goes on even though our paddy storage facilities are packed to capacity. This paddy is either sold to companies that produce animal feed or thrown away.
Misusing State Resources
People have started misusing state resources. It is not that we don't have the infrastructure, we just need proper management. The great strategists have decided to outsource projects to foreigners. If the foreigners can do it, why can't we do it? We just need proper management.
Joint ventures and leasing are two completely different things. The current situation is pathetic. Our leaders are trying to justify leasing out assets. Is it possible that our leaders do not understand simple arithmetic too?
Leave alone strategic thinking, there is no thinking at all. You don't need to be a Harvard University graduate to understand these things. It is common sense. For example, in a family, if the father is the only one who is earning money and the family is struggling to survive, the mother might consider going to work. Furthermore, they can cut down on the expenses by preparing meals at home.
Foreign Exchange Imbalance
We need to consult officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in order to sort out the foreign exchange imbalance issue. We need to improve productivity. We also need to focus on rural development. We need to start by improving the living conditions of the rural folk. Have we made an effort to make use of Samurdhi type expenditure?
Our people have no sense of direction. The current situation is pathetic. The key decision makers are relying too much on foreign investment. They are of the opinion that foreign investment will sort out all the issues in the country. If the government invests in 'people oriented projects' then our country can make good progress.
The writer is a Management Consultant and Visiting Lecturer ⁄ Examiner of SLIDA. He is also the author of three books.
- Independent Trajectory for India-Israel Ties
- Saudi Arabia’s heir apparent Crown Prince bin Salman and stake to greatness
- Interpreting Germany’s New Grand Coalition Deal: A First Assessment
- India’s IT Minister in SL
- PCoI bond scam report Over 60 MPs could be exposed – SLFP
- Off duty soldier tracks hit-and-run driver Police send letter of appreciation to Army HQ
- Mohammad Shiyam murder case appeal Vass denies threatening CID Director
- 5th Indo-SL Defence Dialogue concludes in Delhi
- Further evidence on Gammanpila- Shaddock case on 26th
- Impressed with Kite Festival Minister promises new fishing harbour for VVT
- Muslim women should enter politics – Dr. Uthumalebbe
- SEUSL VC urges undergrads to focus on education
- LG elections Vote-buying could lead to removal CaFFE warns candidates
- Motorcyclists Association complains to CJ Accuses Mathugama Chief Magistrate of bias
- Singapore PM & Indonesian President due next week
- Justice Surasena appointed President of CoA L.T.B. Dehideniya elevated to SC
- Fmr NFF Member Premalal Fonseka joins MS/SLFP Maheepala Herath supports ‘Pohottuwa’
- Namal’s money laundering case postponed to 6 Feb
- Kuruwita prisoner alleged torture case Complaint to be handed over to UN
- Asia’s largest haul of cocaine destroyed President Sirisena oversees process
- Missing women & PTA detainees Sasitharan urges families to register
- SLMC rally attacked in Palamunai Hakeem blames Bathiudeen’s ACMC
- Tissa gang-rape victim dies Suspects could be tried for murder
- President’s confidants named in PRECIFAC report JVP
- Supreme Court decides President’s term is five years Presidential Election Next Year President’s term ends in December 2019
- Selection of volleyball coaches Law violators to attend Interview?
- ‘Singer Cup’ Under-19 Schools Cricket Munasinghe scores century
- Tamim steers Bangladesh
- Louis denies creating a stir at meeting
- Jasprit Bumrah wickets follow Kohli century for India
- Houston Marathon in freezing weather Hiruni shatters SL record Qualifies for Commonwealth Games 2018
- “Nidahas Trophy 2018” SLC formally invites Bangladesh
- 12th ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup Bangladesh record second win
- Sri Lanka Rugby Referees Association Jamaldeen unanimously re-elected President
- ‘Singer Cup’ Under-13 Division II Schools Cricket Mahanama, Henegama and Galahitiyawa advance
- Liverpool stun City
- Peterhansel rebounds as Sainz keeps Dakar lead
- Venus and Stephens crash out of Australian Open
- Suarez fires Barcelona nine clear
- I’m too old to be favourite - Federer
- Tri Nation series begins today Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe seek to rebuild
- 12th ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup Sri Lanka triumph by 7 wickets
- Premier League Tier A Milantha scores twin centuries Chilaw Marians register fourth win
- 700 wickets and 7000 runs Dilruwan reaches milestone in first class cricket
- Hathurusinghe savours new challenge
- Sri Lanka worst in Moody’s Asia Pacific ratings
- SL at 66th in WEF’s Manufacturing Index
- Kerawalapitiya-II gets greenlight
- Plans for multi-country trade hub in Sri lanka
- CEB picks swiss firm for vehicle charging network in Sri Lanka
- A tribute to a gentleman par excellence
- Brent crude oil rises to $70 on output cuts
- Airbus says A380 superjumbo production could end
- Asian shares gain as the dollar continues to struggle
- Slowdown in international trade and its impact on globalization
- Ford plans US$ 11 billion investment 40 electrified vehicles by 2022
- Sampath Bank engages with SMEs
- LB Finance crowned No 1 Finance and Leasing Brand in SL
- Hyundai Motor and Grab sign strategic partnership
- Mastercard holds Digital and Innovation Workshop in SL
- Zuckerberg aims to save Facebook from itself
- Is economic struggle driving North Korea to the negotiating table?
- Altair sponsors 146th AGM of Colombo Club
- From challenges to opportunities: The success of DSI Samson Group
- BMICH staff presents Carols
- The March of Folly Dr. Ranjith Atapattu, an exemplary figure
- Liberia’s development at risk
- Politicos’ image plummets to lowest ebb
- UN Agency says Losing US funds could be ‘catastrophic’ for Palestinians
- Central Bank Bond issue Opportunity to reveal true culprits lost
- ‘We don’t want to fool the Sinhalese and get our dues’
- Rohingya insurgents say 10 found in Myanmar grave ‘innocent civilians’
- Thalaivar’s New Avatar
- TNA: How better is ‘better’?
- Wi-Fi but no water: Can smart tech help a city's poor?
- No political solution for Tamil grievances in sight – Ananthy Sasitharan
- Division in SLFP main reason for UNP victory
- We don’t endorse Basil’s leadership
- Rogues in all Govts should be punished- Akila Viraj Kariyawasam
- EPRLF trying to create confusion – Thurairasasingham
- National Prosperity Turning the Tide
- Disposable coffee cups:British lawmakers call for “latte levy”
- If only we could crackdown on the root causes to effect sustainable solutions Herein lies a Nation’s progress
- Planetary combines that foreshadow misfortune for father
- Pirith chants for abundant harvest
- Venus into Capricorn
- Vastu and Domestic Animals
- Yoga for Children and Adults with Disabilities
- Notes on history: The thinkers and the doers
- Reflections on a nation of non-readers
- The Disaster Artist: The (un)making of a movie
- Our children and our cinema
- INTERPRETING ASIAN CINEMA: CHALLENGES AHEAD
- How Sanskrit journalism is slowly hogging headlines
- ice manufacturing in South Asia
- CMSC’s season finale concert
- Kite Surfing Lanka Kalpitiya An experience of a lifetime
- Ella and mini Adam’s Peak
- A cave of history -Ravana Cave
- Trump’s ‘madman’ ACT scared N. Korea to talks
- Calls for ‘revenge’ Israeli settler killed in attack
- Banning of Colombo Journal First English Newspaper
- Sri Lankan author publishes for the world
- Broadway brought to our own shores
- Celebrating the harvest