Monday, November 20, 2017

Why wait for a crisis when we can foresee and make sure it does not happen? POWER CRISIS


In my recent review of budget proposals, I realized the canard of the Environmental Budget that it claimed it was, BLUE AND GREEN, Oceans and Environment, we are ruining both and have no intention of reversing the irreversible!

That is there is NO substance in the well meaning words, 50 Electric Buses was a joke to start with, 2,000 may at least be a serious attempt at reducing the pollution.

So I suggested that the quickest means of alleviating the likelihood of a power crisis in Sri Lanka is to come up with measures that will immediately take hold to delay the inevitable and buy time for a longer term solution.

The powerful CEB lobby, don’t find renewables attractive, as there is no gravy train for them to live on at the expense of the people of Sri Lanka. Be it coal that has to power the Norochcholai station and their opposition to the cancelling of Sampur was proof that they wish to profit from the need to purchase coal and any contract to purchase anything involves a sharing of the spoils.

Similarly with the Kerawalpitiya Oil Fired Plant, where again this same lobby will profit handsomely from the purchase of oil, and again the Sri Lankan public has to foot the bill.


The link above refers to the warning yesterday of an impending power crisis, as there is no contingency plan, and no one has taken the inevitable decision of getting renewable energy plants into operation in the short term (let me remind you that private sector in the US like Elon Musk was able to get a solar renewable power station in operation within months. You only have to Google to find the places and time frames) We have the sea around us and wave energy also goes abegging, and ANY OTHER country would have used what God has given to better use, than what we have done to date with this opportunity. Its GREED on the part of the CEB that has let the company down. Before we cut the whole of he CEB loose, and tell the Engineers to run it and charge the consumer, we must have alternatives to stand them up from their pompous pedestal.

So my suggestion of purchasing a good quality set of solar panels, the more the merrier, depending on available credit and funding, as these are currently going cheap due to overcapacity in China, which will soon consolidate, and possibly result in a price rise, the time is NOW to purchase US$10M or more at once, and distribute it amongst individuals and companies who are able to have an operational Solar Generation within a stipulated period, say between 6 months and I year, to receive a subsidy of 50% or more of the cost, and here the cost too is 50% of the price the Solar Energy Companies are selling these at, for a HUGE reduction in cost of converting to Solar, about half the present cost of the systems if one were to go out and get one from the Companies referred to above.

This is a win win situation both for the Person or Persons investing in this venture, it does not involve any government expense other than the one of cost of the Panels, and if it means a subsidy of 50% then the other 50% they receive could go immediately to purchase more panels to do the same, making it even more successful in reducing the pressure on the GRID.


Of course a PUNDIT in the CEB will say that is not enough as this is releasing excess power during the day, and what happens at night when we need the power, all you do is to use the excess energy you have unutilized during the day, to pump water back into the hydro reservoirs once discharged and run them at night at full strength! Why is it beyond the average intelligence of people to think of simple solutions to complicated problems? Because they are too simple for PhDs!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Is this the reason for Sri Lanka's state? Mothers - Read and decide and comment - a real case study of three years

Liya Diriya Mothers – This is for you – why have you failed to grow with us?

Below is a description of a purely voluntary program with NO ulterior motives aimed at enhancing the quality of life of women in Sri Lanka on program that nominally encompassed approximately 2,500 women in 40 societies in the Biyagama Divisional Secretariat Area

We have spent over three years in attempting to establish women’s societies in your community, solely for your benefit, to raise your potential as a mother, wife, grandmother and maybe even a daughter. The mother is the key to the family and its success in all areas. Experience has shown that strong mothers with a vision and commitment can turn any difficult or challenging situation to their advantage and succeed. It is with this ambition that we have set up programs to assist you achieve your true potential.

We have committed a lot of resources to improve your knowledge, give you training in skills, prove to all of you the advantages of English and IT skills for you and your daughters so you all can take advantage of the opportunities available. For those who are interested, we have sports where you can take time out of your home enjoy a little fun exercise and interact with others whom you may not know but how have the same desires and hopes as you, and come from similar backgrounds so you can make friends. Participation sports create camaraderie.

We have provided a chance to showcase any hidden cultural talents that you may have which since your schooldays you may not have had a chance to take part in. Our Cultural Show proved that even though untrained the latent talent is of a professional standard as the quality of the performance far exceeded expectations.

There are chances for you or your children to get some training in dancing, singing and playing musical instruments, that will improve the overall knowledge and talent you and your children have. This education makes for a well-rounded person and leaders are created from persons, who are versatile, and not limited to just one subject, profession or field of knowledge. Now with the political landscape demanding 25% female participation, we have provided you with the opportunity three years running to show your capabilities of leadership, the ability to inspire others, and to understand the importance of citizenship and responsibility for your friends and neighbors in order to achieve success in your community.

We have committed our time and effort in holding training sessions for you to better understand the management of finance and to run your society funds for the benefit of your members, to fundraise for a cause that is noble and directly identifiable as being of assistance to the community. This is in order to uplift the community to a level that commitment and responsibility are part and parcel of that spirit. We created local lotteries to help raise funds for Liya Diriya from the community showing the importance of the work in the community to uplift the community itself, and even here your effort in selling tickets locally to the numerous businesses in your area, where they benefit from your custom, you have come up short, not making an effort in showing that you are committed to this cause, not half as much as we have been dedicated in the effort on your behalf.

We have attempted to wean you from the Nanny state mentality where you expect the state to provide everything for you without you giving something in return, which will never improve your family circumstances automatically, but you have NOT risen to the challenge. We even attempted at providing you leadership development and empowerment programs, including how to improve your physical appearance and feeling about yourself, but you have not improved your attitudes about yourself and you let petty disputes affect the rest of the society.

We have reminded you of the trap of getting into debt, just because money is freely available and explained what guarantees are for taking loans, but you have persisted in taking these loans that you are unable to repay and find yourself in the classic debt trap, of borrowing to pay your capital and interest on prior loans.

We have even provided your both Mental Health Counseling facilities to improve your attitudes and to advise you how to face seemingly insurmountable challenges, and few who really need this support have taken advantage of this. We have also offered and conducted Health Clinics in your areas sponsored by Liya Diriya in conjunction with local medical practices, both public and private to support your physical health issues. Even in the areas of Spiritual Guidance, we have assisted in religious activities to enhance your spiritual beliefs in the hope that your personal lives will improve, and your faith in life and prospects are positive for the future.

We have informed you all about the fact that we are willing to fund your societies with money for the society to lend on behalf of members in a way that will benefit members to improve their income, and stated basic conditions of membership, to ensure that you avail yourselves of this opportunity. Even here, you have NOT kept to the minimum rules of engagement in order to qualify for the maximum payment and the rules are not onerous at all, simply keeping records and holding monthly meetings with the proper documentation, as a matter of discipline which is required if you are managing an organization on behalf of your members.

We recently even helped find a Market for products that you can make using your creative skills in design, to produce cards and bags and similar items, but the uptake and interest was found wanting with only a handful of members taking advantage and participating in that program, despite the substantial commitments of experts to help you, funds, and raw materials we put into it.

What more can we do? We have exhausted our mental and physical capacity in trying to help you help yourselves and STILL you are waiting with outstretched arms to receive some useless item FREE, from which you will never improve your life or future! In short your personal commitment had been very poor, and we have made this commitment with nothing in return, so is it fair that we continue to help those who do not appreciate the value of this help? Perhaps we should go to help others who may make better use of this opportunity than you have!

The above is just touching the surface, as we have had various pola’s to market your produce, and avurudu festivities with your participation and your children’s involvement.

We have held numerous children’s art competitions three years running, to bring out the talent of your children, and remind them of the importance of Environment and its importance in sustainable life. Your participation was poor and it is your children who lose the opportunity afforded to them through Liya Diriya. Is it not correct to accuse you then that you don’t even think of your children and the benefit they may get from such activity?

To the young ladies who have been helped by career counseling programs by us to help them choose what is good for them, and how they can achieve their personal goals, we have had some limited success in enlightening them on on the possibilities that a society such as Sri Lanka offers them to become independent and win out. Even here the Public Sector mentality that is etched in their personality, reinforced by their mothers is a hard battle to fight, for them to see the pros and cons of their perceived wish list.

To be frank we sponsored at considerable expense one of Sri Lanka’s foremost professionals in the personality development field hiring a hall for your participation and sending over 1,000 circulars to all 40 societies to attend and to bring their daughters who will benefit from this once in a lifetime chance for your community, a full half day session, and your complete lack of interest was an indication of being blind when a gift horse is placed in front of you.

There is no point quoting case after case of our well intentioned services being provided, and our utter astonishment of seeing crowds, when a book or two is given free to people, indicating an enslaved state of mind, incapable of making a simple judgment of values of society that benefit themselves and their families.

We seem NOT to be sufficiently educated to understand what is important, and what can give us the greatest satisfaction and improvement in the quality of our lives. Our education system has treated our minds and cleaned them clear of any ability to rationalize, prioritize and intellectualize a situation, to determine what is best for us.

This enables other people to use us as pawns in their games of personal enhancement, the classic example being the political landscape in Sri Lanka where even our women have allowed themselves to be used by Politicians of all ilks to continue to profit from their foolish thinking and continue a circle of profiteering at the public’s expense, as the public continue not to be able to rise up first to understand that which is good for them and second, how to choose how to get that which will improve their lives for the better.


Actually even a dog knows what it wants to improve their lives for the better, our own women in Sri Lanka, those who nurture generation after generation don’t, and so we are stuck in a perpetual cycle of missed opportunities, moving backwards while the world moves forwards, and those who understand this and have learned from this, have taken advantage of this opportunity have fled this Country and those who remain are either blind to this reality, or are like us hitting a brick wall attempting to change this society, where no one will make an effort to change.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The budget revisited for the umpteenth time!


So much good and bad has been said about the Mangala Budget of Mangala Samaraweera delivered on the 9th of November 2017, both positive and negative.

I am now convinced that even the FM and his deputy the State Minister of Finance had no clue about what they were on about, as conceptually they are completely out of touch with the ground situation, and so delivered a budget not in keeping with reality, but in keeping with their imagination, severely tampered by the Prime Minister’s notion of the state of the Economy.

So let us debunk most of the myths on which this budget is based. The biggest myth is the fact that we need to create a million jobs. That is a canard that is now so out of date as to be a joke. With a million vacancies, there is NO point talking about creating even better paid jobs, as it is well known now that FDI will not come to SL because the investor is all too aware that the economy has NO slack, and does not have ANY labor to carry on their investment.

FDI will NOT create any new jobs, as all they will do is poach the best with even higher salaries, and leave companies from which they arrive, in a holy mess, unable to fill the vacancies created by the loss of key personnel, to whom they could not match the offer that they received.

Then what do you do? Well the idea in the budget was to spend a lot of money in retraining and vocational training to make a new generation ready and able to fill the vacancies coming on stream. Here is the second canard. There are NO takers for these places in the Vocational Schools or Universities. There simply is NOT enough people who aspire to get the jobs created, even if it is paying well, due to mindset problem that has been drilled into them that the Public Service is the way to go, despite everyone knowing that this sector is far too overstaffed, under utilized and inherently inefficient.

With both the job creation opportunities debunked here, there is NO way to grow except by incentivizing the highly protected private sector to invest more, and spend more on capital goods rather than consumer goods, like cars, which all extra funds seem to go into, as even entrepreneurs have identified few opportunities for growth and invest surplus cash NOT in the business, but in buying a property, condominiums to be more precise, which have just received a slap with a 15%VAT imposed on their sales as new apartments.


The budget has NOT changed the dynamics of this, and only tinkered on the obvious like getting rid of para tariffs. So a little liberalization does NOT spur growth unless the investor believes all the other risks are neutralized. For example power cuts to the business, inflation, corruption. We are still waiting for change! 

Despite all this criticism, this is still the best budget for decades, except for the fact that there is NO growth in the horizon as all expenditure is matched by taxes from April 1st to suck up any chance of growth this year at least.

It goes to show how much further we have to go, and I wont belabor this point as it would bore the reader, Till next time then

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Take on the Post Budget Seminar – "A vision today, A reality tomorrow?" @ Cinnamon Grand on the 13th Nov


The highly anticipated Post Budget Seminar, on Monday, 13th November at the Oak Room of the Cinnamon Grand @ 2pm featured both, the Finance Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, who gave the keynote address and the State Minister of Finance Eran Wickremaratne, who was on the panels to whom many questions were addressed.

“You know we are part of a coalition, and we have to reach consensus” was Eran’s answer to why nothing has been done! In short it was an exercise in futility trying to put icing on a cake that has yet to be baked, so sure to send a lot of tummies rumbling if they ate the cake!

The whole thing was a farce of the top order. The minister laid a spin on his thinking in this budget for the long term, an environmentally friendly budget, that tried to accommodate all needs and in the end made more enemies than friends, as the good proposals like liberalization, cutting 1,200 para tariffs only reflects a long needed cleanup of dust that has settled, and NOTHING that will lead to a WOW factor that will energize the gathered into any sort of action to grow the Economy.

Mangala mumbled about the opportunities now being opened to those who don’t go into State Universities. Actually the real issue is those who go into the state universities ARE the PROBLEM, they are the unemployable. Not the others who have enough opportunities, as is to get ahead, and if they don’t take advantage of the zillion opportunities available to today’s youth (other than state universities, which I don’t recommend anyone go to) it is only for lack of effort, as the openings are there everywhere in an Economy with a million vacancies. No more money need be wasted here, as the teachers who are supposed to empower are just not there. Having a German Tec everywhere is wonderful, but what is the practicality of establishing it? NOT EASY AT ALL.

Don’t forget the FM read the budget speech, we don’t want a regurgitation of it, we want his honest belief on how it is a true vision, and paradigm shift, which will turn into a reality tomorrow. To that extent there was NOTHING in his speech other than a lot of hot air, interspersed with a few after dinner type jokes! The gist is good, and will take years and years to sink in, but no instant jump start that is needed to get to $5,000 of GNP per capita.

Then came the Lady from PWC, which was another joke, merely pandering to a small class who are worried about the duty on cars, and alcohol. She really knew the selfishness of the audience that she addressed and NOT the nation’s need about how GROWTH FRIENDLY it is or not! Without growth the Youth Aspirations will not be met.

So that was a waste of a speech. Then there was the HSBC Country head who plugged HSBC’s green initiative running into Billions of Dollars, which was only a plug for that bank as to how much emphasis they are placing on Renwable Energy, and sustainable development, completely at odds with the budget in Sri Lanka, just buying a peanut 50 electric buses, that will come under a corrupt deal and result in buses that are not roadworthy in days.

The Welcome and vote of thanks speeches were merely formalities with no substance, and so what of the panel discussions?

Nisthar Cassim moderated the sessions, as always asking stupid questions of the panelists. Either, the answer was the obvious, or he was being facetious with his questioning, that had NO direction or ultimate objective on why he questioned them. Nothing earth shattering coming out of them, except when the industry players came on stream to explain how the budget will affect them, and how they should react to the future. The Ansell guy was fixated on wanting a tax holiday, as otherwise he will switch his growth to Vietnam that will give him the benefit.

When Eran said that business decision making is only concerned in small part on tax holidays, while most of it is how each working person manages his whole operation and looks at all the benefits. Then the water of the BOI Zone in Biyagama which has never been upgraded since its inception in 1982 was quoted as an example of lack of vision on the part of the state in providing the infrastructure for a growing business! Ansell had to build their own water treatment plant to handle their internal expansion.

The person from the fishing industry, while crediting the GSP plus for reinvigorating the export of fish to Europe, wanted some clarity in import, process. He requested, re-export of fish based products, with value addition done in Sri Lanka, without the need to pay duties etc on import of the raw materials for export.

Sriyan from TJ a apparel company, wanted to see a more attractive climate for business in SL, as even they are finding better opportunities to set up business in Vietnam in preference to expansion in SL for a whole host of reasons.

Even the schizophrenia in the IT industry was commented on by Eran, who said that what he had said at a previous forum had been taken out of context, about importing skills not available, and reiterated that none of the FTAs have any commitments to open the doors for people to come and work in SL. 

The reality is IT has to be made more competitive by opening the doors to all comers, as in the end the ability to pay determines who you can attract, and our people go overseas for higher wages, and if we are to retain, we also have to offer higher remuneration, and if we have shortages then we may only fill them from imported labor anyway, IF THE BUSINESS IS TO GROW. Competition with foreigners within SL, will improve the competitive standard of the workforce in SL, rather than the reverse, if they are protected. They will not get the exposure they otherwise would have got. It will raise the mediocrity of protection to the excellence of free labor movement.

The guy from Siam Cement a Frenchman was new to SL, but nevertheless, understood the enormous profits they make from having restricted access to imports of cheap cement, which can be sold in SL at 40% below that which Siam sell their main product, which means we in SL are paying a huge premium for cement, which in reality should be shifted from cement to higher real wages for the construction workers as our cost of raw materials in construction is the highest of all in South Asia and South East Asia due to the protection of industries. The government is NOT considering the liberalization of Cement Imports, as it will bring down construction costs by a substantial amount.

The Government by making noises about liberalization, has a long way to go to make it real, and for the cost of many inputs to come down, as the PAL of 7.5% of almost all imports is effectively an import duty, whatever it is named as. So protecting Siam Cement is unconscionable as it is effectively a monopoly charging monopoly pricing, as it allows a few entrants also NOT to rock the boat and make big profits, and any reduction in price is called dumping, requiring bogus anti-dumping legislation.

IN CONCLUSION

NO intelligent person left this seminar with a good feeling, that the Govt knew what they were on about. After all even the deputy secretary to the Treasury Atygalle agreed that some items missed will be put in next time, and the exemption from VAT of Sale of Condos has been lifted which could have a devastating effect on the already overpriced housing sector. After all there is NO lower limit to help the poor, so any apartment purchase will carry vat, and I am presuming it is only on the first sale, and construction companies will be able to claim input VAT on their vat paid purchases.

The concept of greater liberalization, DOES NOT RESULT IN GROWTH per se, and if it does the lag is years, not days or months. What we in SL need is growth NOW not tomorrow. How do you get growth when you balance the budget, in effect in a high debt scenario you have NO choices except one in SL. We only have a two year window before international interest rates skyrocket! After that is stagflation and redundancy.

Sell ONE state Bank and get US$5B. Use the money to stimulate the economy in areas that will not result in inflation, but instead aid in achieving double digit growth without being trapped in debt. This stimulus will encourage business, reduce interest rates, (put a break on import of consumption goods in this scenario as that will just add to Balance of Payments woes without resulting in real growth!) Reduction of interest rates should be tied to investment in plant and machinery for growth.

It will raise wages in the economy and hopefully transfer workforce from unproductive three wheeler drivers, and government servants to the private sector, merely by market forces of supply and demand, where this enormous need is ever present. No mention was made of making the public service more efficient, as that is also a key to growth, by shedding excess staff to join the private sector that is struggling to fill vacancies.


So instead of plaudits that donkeys in the various press articles, have given the Budget, it is high time to really admit that we have a problem. Growth will slow and turn negative, as the IRD act bites in April 2018, and RAMIS will suck a lot of excess liquidity of people in the black economy, the consequences of which will only be really felt in the latter half of 2018. The top brass in the Treasury and CBSL are in denial of the consequences. Added to this the Medamulana Tax will give a good excuse to banks as to why they will not reduce their interest rates, bearing in mind the spread is unconscionable. 

The whole Country has MISSED ANOTHER GOLDEN/DREAM/ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY TO GROW THE ECONOMY BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.

What a damn shame!

APPEAL: Prey tell me what in the budget is going to stimulate growth of the economy? NOTHING - case closed.

Link the budget speech in English (available in Sinhala and Tamil also in the Ministry of Finance Website)

http://www.treasury.gov.lk/documents/10181/470884/budgetspeech2018E.pdf/9a9b081b-a709-418f-88ee-64f397db6ab4

OPPORTUNITIES MISSED IN THE BUDGET

1           Reducing the spread in the Banking Sector was not announced, but that is also a barrier to growth, just like non-tariff barriers. It can only come about by privatizing the State Banks to become more efficient and not lend to loss making SOE’s.

2         Improving Education is a long term solution to growth with a better educated workforce. However the new thinking is to promote pre-school education with highly trained staff. That will take 20 years and a lot of money but that is at least a sure return, and nothing is allocated here.

3               Changing the land ownership and tenure laws is a must to boost agricultural productivity. We must allow owners to never lose their land, even though they allow people to farm their land for a rent, and tenants have to leave after the term expires, and you can leave it at a minimum 2 year tenancy.

4                   Monopolies that make super profits in Sri Lanka must not be protected, however if they make super profits, they are either told to reduce the prices or face overseas competition. Insee Cement will reduce cement by Rs250 for a 50kg bag which will allow construction to pay more and hire locals, if that threat is carried out.

5                   Impose a loan scheme for all university students that are payable on employment or by 30 at the latest, you will be surprised how quickly people will only go into education with a career at the other end.

6                   Sell off the state banks and reduce the interest rates immediately, to stimulate growth. Until this high interest scenario is 15% no one will invest in plant and machinery and expand or build new businesses.

7                   One stop shop for FDI is imperative for particular industries where SL holds a comparative advantage and value addition can also occur on site.

8                   Have a team of overseas educators to come to Sri Lanka for 3 months to train our trainers to hold workshops with youth to empower them to take vocational training, not merely provide vocational training that has NO takers, even if they pay people to attend schools! TO cap there are NO takers today for courses, whoever has them. To empower youth is the challenge from the State Job mentality to the needed careers of tomorrow. So many jobs going abegging, but youth don’t even know what they are, what is needed to get them, how much they pay etc. they need to know that first before they pursue any vocational courses to get them. It shows that the policy makers have not realized the problem is not the lack of vocational courses, it is the lack people interested in following ANY OF THEM.

9                   There is NOTHING in the budget about Public Sector Efficiency, or holding them to account and improve productivity. Neither is there anything on SOE’s and what the Govt intends to do about them. That sector was conveniently ignored in the budget.


10              Of course there has to be at least one WOW factor in the budget and what better place than in the renewable energy industry, where a US$20M give away of Solar Panels on a contingency basis based on speed of implementation of Net Metering will add 200MW directly to the grid!

Monday, November 13, 2017

The media has bypassed another significant historic event for Sri Lanka


The impending local government elections have not had the proper analysis it deserves by the Media, as I suspect there is no one in the media who is sufficiently knowledgeable in the subject to even comment on the effectiveness, sense and unique set of circumstances that is being created that requires critical analysis.

Here I am referring to the impending ballot, where for the first time in over 20 years other than at a General or Presidential Election, the whole country, votes at the same time for their local representatives in their area. In that sense we will have results at WARD level of the breakdown, OFFICIALLY, rather than in previous elections where this breakdown was not available and subject to some form of inside shenanigans that changed the result in favor of a local heavyweight.

I have previously noted my opposition to the holding of these elections, most importantly due to the format that prevents, individual persons, of high standing and reputation, who do not and do not wish to belong to a political party from contesting. That to me is a violation of one’s right to put one’s hat in the ring for one’s own local community and for the voter to have a choice other than a party.


This link is to a previous entry about it, and it was well received with many comments and suggestions of how we should conduct it in the interests of the public, who have a right to vote for people of their choice. So NOT people chosen for them by some leader of a political party, as those people have been chosen for reasons, other than their integrity, often because they are the local godfather involved in some racket or other.

This unique election will give an indication of the pulse of the people, and while at the same time provide the first indication of the level of support for the joint opposition, led by a former president notorious for his dictatorial style of rule and family bandyism, that kept others out of sharing the spoils, which to date has not been found and retrieved and given back to the nation.

It will show the strength exercised by the minorities in Sri Lanka, who traditionally vote along their ethnic and religious lines, much to the chagrin of people like me who are looking for a Sri Lankan Identity devoid of ethnic bias, for the greater good and to generate a sense of loyalty to motherland first, instead of their ethnic subgroup which in any case is a recent concept, as gene testing will prove we are all from one stock, intermarried and inter related, and religion and language we have chosen are only of recent origin, that bears little resemblance to our origins in the first place.

It is time that this unique event is immortalized, analyzed and reported upon carefully, not being incendiary, but being inclusive to highlight the ridiculous.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Blue Green Budget that is neither! Is this the best the new team can come up with?


What a load of hot air, in a fiscally conservative budget that has NO GROWTH written all over it. In the international environment, when we have at most two more years left before world interest rates rise by 400 basis points, and we as a country will go bankrupt unless we renegotiate for the long term before that, we will have to tighten our belts and face recessions. 

We should have gone all out for a growth budget, not throwing caution to the wind. Unlike much of Rajapakse policies that did not contribute to sustainable growth based public investments, for which we are dearly paying a HUGE price today, we could do something more to stimulate demand and achieve sustainable development. SDGs.

So instead of wasting Rs500M on 50 electric buses, because China would have given 100 free anyway, we should have invested US$10M immediately in getting down some solar panels from China, at knockdown rates, (before prices rise again, when the glut clears up) and told people that they would be given a subsidy of 50% of the cost (no NBT, PAL, VAT please on import) as soon as their solar plants using these panels are operational. Of course this figure is peanuts, and can be increased, with demand, as the payback is a no brainer, because we will not have to build power stations that urgently. 

Just a thought, why are we talking about an oil refinery in Hambantota, when by 2040 we expect to be all electric? We should direct this US$2B investment in renewable instead (I know the CEB lobby wont allow it, but to hell with them, they are part of the problem!)

You can bet your house that within 6 months all these solar panels will be put to good use, with a saving of 200MW daily on the National Grid, because of private investment in Solar. This AMAZINGLY QUICK return on investment will win an international award for far sighted policies. NO BRIBES, NO CORRUPTION IN SOURCING, as the prices at which they are imported will be publicized in detail!

With the improvement in Battery technology, just ask Elon Musk, in time, this solar energy can be stored and used at night to balance the power needs too.

This will stimulate the Solar Energy business so fast, that others will immediately see the benefit of converting, and stimulate the Economy AUTOMATICALLY as this investment will be the catalyst that people need. Now why is a Government with advisers like Deshal de Mel, and Anushka Wijesinghe, not making these decisions? This alone, a simple investment of US$10M, which in 6months will have a payback of US$5M for a true cost of only US$5M, spur the economy by 2% to growth due to the knock – on effects, is the cheapest way to spend that money and worth 2000 Electric Buses. This money is PEANUT compared to the spend!

So who are the intellectually challenged people deciding what a budget should have? Shame shame shame for coming up with such a lame and pathetic budget, and worse that our pundits living in Colombo have even commended it, which shows the level of knowledge they have and concern they have for the Country.


We have a HUGE aspirational problem of YOUTH. They want jobs that pay more than on offer. You cannot have a lame slow growth budget & expect everything will be hunky dory, it WONT. You don’t have to lose your pants by borrowing, invest money that is wasted, like cutting down on the Ministers perks, President’s Office allocation, just to finance this growth. This is just one of a hundred such ideas I have that can easily lead to the needed 10% growth we as yet never had, and we need it before the time runs out in two years when world rates rise. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Local Government Elections, presents the voter with a Hobson’s Choice, meaning no real choice at all – so should anyone go and cast their ballot?


YES GO AND SHOW YOUR DISGUST BY SPOILING YOUR VOTE

THAT IS THE ONLY LEGAL AND DEMOCRATIC MEANS WE HAVE LEFT TO EXPRESS OUR DISGUST AT THE CHOICE BEFORE US – ALL OF QUESTIONABLE INTEGRITY!

As if this point has not been enunciated sufficiently, “For successful Local Government Decision Making, Politics should not enter into it, as it is local matters that affect everyone who lives there are decided, and that should not take a political overtone, just common sense decision making for the greater good. This form of Government is best served by elected Independents, representing their communities, who CAN join and make decision for the greater good and not for a personal agenda like beginning one’s career in politics.

It is quite clear that law makers when passing the recent Local Government Amendment ACT, deliberately scuppered the rights of individuals to contest as Independents.

Many very upstanding people in the community, with the public interest at heart, do not wish to have any party allegiances. They cannot put their hat in the ring, unless they come up with a party of sorts, slate of names, for the whole Municipality, an impractical choice, as you cannot contest independently in your ward only!

In any language what parliament passed was both a violation of our Human Rights, and Fundamental Rights, except when they pass the Act we cannot file under the FR process.

Therefore this Act of Parliament, fundamentally violates an individual’s human rights, in that he has lost the opportunity of being represented by one who is truly capable of ensuring that the wheels of the law, work in accordance with fairness, and so is left with NO choice. One must understand that all Political Parties have been discredited, and so no one other than a few die hard supporters, wish to elect a person from one of these parties.


It is obvious that individuals have NO say in who is nominated by their respective party. Often it is NOT the most suitable person who is given the ticket even when the party had more honorable people applying. There is NO real vetting process where the application is looked at independently to determine the suitability and community standing of the nominee. It usually goes to a nominee of a local thug!

Monday, October 30, 2017

There is no one in Government who understands the PROPOSED LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTION FORMAT


Let’s have a simple local government election system so that at least all the electors understand it PLEASE, as it is crazy to force a system no one really comprehends.

The essence of Democracy is true “people’s representation in how their affairs are managed for the greater public good.” Being simple must be part of it too.

This is especially so, where people in a local area, wish to have a say and then determine how their local affairs are run and managed. The proposed system that has passed in parliament, is anything BUT!

If no one understands the Act that has been passed, it is a direct indictment against all in parliament. The system is flawed and we must all resist its implementation at ALL COSTS.

That is because we have VESTED political interests who don’t wish to see people’s representation because their very permanent existence and justification for their continuance is THREATENED. Put simply they don’t want new comers, and fresh faces with new ideas to upset their established modus operandi, that has NOT resulted in any positive change for the better.

The simple truth is that ALL political parties have determined that individuals who are community leaders CANNOT seek election as independents in the areas they live. They are people of stature and integrity. Why shouldn’t these individuals who along with the majority of the people of this Country have forsaken political parties, be allowed to contest on their own, even if it means a high forfeitable deposit of even Rs100,000?

The simple answer is that if this is permitted, then NO ONE from an established political party will be elected, as people are fed up of the current bunch of free loaders and would prefer to elect an independent person of repute who would not sully him or herself by joining with one of the established political parties. Surely you the reader accepts that point.

If that is so, Why can’t we go back to basics and at least ensure that for Local Government representation, we can stick to this principle of democracy I have referred to above, and so be the envy of the world JUST FOR ONCE!

What more reason do you want to change the system? Let us all as citizens attempt the impossible, by demanding OUR SAY FOR ONCE and say NO to vested interests in how our local affairs, at least, are handled. Once this system is proven, taking it nationwide and changing the political culture would be a doddle!

After all everyone in Sri Lanka agrees that changing the system is what is needed. No one now is happy with the state of affairs and the consensus is that we MUST get rid of the present system. However the average JOE is hamstrung, NOT knowing how to go about exercising his franchise when no one he likes is seeking election. They simply resort to the lesser of two evils! They vote for a party they dislike just so that the party they dislike even more, is not given a chance. How simply warped can that thinking be?

We should therefore agitate for local individuals to singly seek election (not put a whole slate of candidates for whom they will not only have to pay their deposits, but also be choked by organizational nightmares in fielding numerous candidates.)

CONCLUSION

So what do I propose as an amendment, as we are unable to completely throw the recently passed ACT out of the window? Simply to permit a person, if he or she wishes, to seek election, only from the local area in which he or she LIVES.

It is then up to the public to either vote for this ONE person or others representing political parties (many independent people can put their hat in the ring, and like I said earlier, a deposit of Rs100,000 will deter time wasters)

Let us just see what the outcome is. If the political parties’ representatives win, then their fear in preventing this opportunity was mis-understood. If only independent candidates are in the majority, it will be a timely warning that politics as we know it, is HISTORY and a more reliable and democratic outcome has replaced it, and we must bow to the public demands and revert to a non-party stance.

In this set up it would be advisable to also add that one can only be elected once, so not only will it give other suitable candidates a stab at representing their constituents, but politics will not turn into a career. It is only practical for one to serve  their community for one term, a sea change from the present. Further it will attract professionals of the highest caliber knowing their maximum commitment to their fellow citizens is just for  5 years.

It is the duty of the citizen to agitate for this change, galvanizing the public to pressurize the lawmakers, to change the law to reflect this more democratic alternative.


Surprisingly, the biggest reason given by naysayers is that “no one will be able to put a council together of independents, as no one will have a majority in the Council”, will be proved wrong, as the proposed system too does not guarantee ANY party to have a majority and would lead to bribery to join the largest party in order to govern. It is therefore easier for a council full of individual worthies and altruists to govern in the public good, by consensus.

I welcome my readers to offer alternatives as we need to begin a debate to settle on some core requirements which we can pressure the Government with.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sri Lankan village children of the past century had the best education in the world, now we have even forgotten why it was so cool to boot!


Oh ye who have short memories, understand that a pre-schooler’s place is NOT in a classroom, but in the great outdoors from where the poor child was yanked by the parent and thrown into a pre-school, with an untrained teacher, who just has decided to have a day care center, to earn some money at her home and call it a pre-school.

The link below which is to the pre-school which won UK’s pre-school of the year encourages the children to play outside in ALL WEATHER and in England it is COLD, and by this they both improve their immune systems that will help them for a lifetime and also as they make their own toys, they become creative at an early age, in an era we are desperately searching for means to make our kids more creative.


We have obviously forgotten our basics, when we had NO toys to play and made all our toys from whatever we could grab from outside, from shells, to seeds to anything that looked interesting that we found or picked up on our daily outings with our elder, usually sisters, keepers, or nannies or mothers, depending on your caregivers. No wonder then that large families have tended to perform better despite all the odds than small ones in becoming successful by their own efforts.

Don’t we ever learn? It is not too late to start again, to remind ourselves that we can learn from the past and also from practices of the past. This link above is a very important eye opener to the doubters, that the systems we had in the past were actually quite state of the art and contemporary. It makes a lot of sense. Today, all creativity has been removed from all types of schools.

How easy is it to encourage people to go outside. It costs less, it makes it easier and when the children who are children after all enjoy playing in the rain, the hot sun, in all weathers, we only have to do what is needed to make sure they don’t get hurt badly, as getting hurt is also part of toughening up.


Do remember that pre-school education is more important that University Education and it encompasses all kids not just the bright and the fortunate. It is time our leaders and educators understand it, (or go back to school to learn it is so) and take action to beef up the quality of the teachers by taking those who are genuinely interested in teaching kids, and giving them a million dollar training on all aspects as well as using creative toy building from the great outdoors. Of course the best pre-school teacher is worth their weight in Gold so they must also be properly compensated and appreciated within the community.

They will then return a billion dollar dividend by laying the ground work for the future of our Country, namely today’s children to actually find their niche and contribute to society without delay.

Trust me if resources are channeled here, we will in 20 years be bringing the most valuable resources of our country, our well educated youth, into the work force to contribute to the economy in ways that we could have only dreamed of before.

The solutions are there, it just has to be implemented. Now Minister of Education and leaders of our tiny Island the ball is in your court.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What is a fairer and more appropriate electoral system for Local Bodies?


While I have never been a fan of this tier and layer of public representation (I prefer the village council for each village on an equitable basis instead), if we must have this tier of elected officials, whose job surely is to satisfy LOCAL needs of people who live in their areas, and NOT DEFENCE OR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, or even NATIONAL HEALTH, EDUCATION OR TRANSPORT POLICY, then why do we need political parties at this tier of government?

They merely mimic, copy, and fool the people into believing “A political party is right for them to choose and they will always make the right decisions, and so at all tiers of elections, it is to that party they should show allegiance and therefore give their vote.” THAT IS SIMPLY UTTER RUBBISH

Village politics is dominated by life in the village, by what is right and wrong in the village, and of those who have taken advantage of their wealth, using the political power, and state officials in their palm, to break the rules, if not laws, which in turn harm the rest of the village, and in turn harm the community which transfers finally into harming the Country.

This could mean in the areas of Environmental Degradation, which usually directly affects local people, who have to live with that tragedy even before it takes a legal course that could last years for justice, if that ever happens.

This means then that it is better for about 4 to 5 GN divisions, to elect a representative for that area ONLY, who the voters believe will satisfy their immediate needs. Anyone could seek election, from the richest to the poorest, but to make it practical, a refundable deposit of Rs50,000 should be placed, (refundable if the votes received exceed say, 15% of the votes cast) so that only those serious about having a chance will put their hat in the ring.

With 15,000 GN divisions, we will have 3,000 elected representatives in Local Government, still too much, but at least manageable, with a people’s representative for each area, whose task it is to represent their interests as the basic requirement.

In this system it is likely that despite the requirement that the principle abode of the candidate MUST be within their electoral area, a wealthy person could throw money around to buy votes. However, he or she should understand that it is an onerous task, as he is responsible for all the people, those who voted for him and those who did not. So unless money is thrown for personal glory, it still has to follow that people will vote for a plan that is being proposed by that local worthy, that is better than the other candidates, if he wins by receiving the most votes.

Remember there are NO preference votes, so under the present system you are voting for the party nominee. So you don’t have ANY say on the individual. In my proposal it is the INDIVIDUAL you are voting for, no one else, NOT party, he may or may not belong to a party, which is NOT relevant in this case. So there is more trust in the person, something which is more important in local government politics, which even present politicians would attest to than the proposed system of lists and names, none of whom are assured of being liked by the people who elect them. This is a fundamental flaw in the proposed system, which my proposal will definitely overrule, being an improvement.

So effectively we will have a Local Authority made up exclusively of independent candidates. One may say that is IMPOSSIBLE to govern, and favors will have to be traded to ensure some form of compromise. Well that is true and SO IT SHOULD. Just think about it horse-trading happens even now in all forms of government and especially local government.

In fact horse trading by independent elected representatives is BETTER because they are trading needs for their community with needs of others, SO I will vote for you to have public toilets in your town, if you allow me to approve a road cleaning plan for mine. In this way there will be NO political infighting and each elected representative can go back home and tell his people he was able to gain this for them. We merely have to equitably distribute limited resources of our community.

After all politics is in any way about compromise, in this case it is compromise on behalf of electors, and AT PRESENT it is about compromise, to get contracts for oneself, while allowing your colleagues the same as long as you both shut up about it, and don’t make a stink about it! WHAT IS BETTER, I ASK YOU THE READER?

It is clearly obvious, that in the spirit of LG Elections, my proposal will ensure, MORE equity for the voter, have fewer local representatives, have a chance of implementation, less chance of corrupt practices, as there will likely be village elders who have a standing in the community being elected, over merely the wealthy, and the wealthy will only join the fray as an altruist rather than a rogue.

I welcome comments from readers, as to why they think it is worse than what is proposed. If there is on balance a consensus that this is a better method, we can immediately replace this Act with my Act as the public will scream for it, and the elected politicians who are still legitimate, that is only Parliament, will have to listen to the people for once. THAT WOULD BE A CHANGE.


For self-interested, Politicians who see their advantage weakened by this proposal, it is ONLY massive public demand that can change their mind. They don’t understand anything complex anyway, this simple system is easy to communicate both to the voter and to the Members of Parliament, who are intellectually highly challenged. SURELY THIS IS THE BEST FOR THE COUNTRY!