Friday, September 12, 2014

The Institute of Chartered Accountants Sri Lanka – Leading students astray


It is VERY regrettable that the Accountancy Profession in Sri Lanka, much to my disappointment,  and all the pompous words emanating from their senior decision making body is going the way of the Rabid Dogs, like the Legal Profession and the Medical Professions before them.

The Institute has just put out a series of half page ads costing millions, especially after the recently concluded A level exams, firstly showing with photos and names that the top 10 in the Island in the Commerce Stream at the 2013 August A levels have ALL consented to study for the chartered accountancy qualification carried out by the said Institute! This is an invitation if ever there was one, that this is the preferred mode for the newly minted lot too!

A powerful ad like that will persuade any parent to direct their kids to that, by getting them first to enroll them in, first as students, then into a related tutory to follow the study course, and thirdly to sit for the first CAB exam the start in this long road to impending doom for the many.


Let us start with the enrollment of the students. There is an annual fee as a student who is enrolled, as without it one cannot sit the exams, and if one is late one is charged a punitive late fee too! To keep them in check and ensnared by force, and indirect threat of expulsion. The Starting fee is Rs7,400 see the attached and click on the registration and initial course fee.

In a recent document from the profession they said that there were 45,000 students enrolled and at most 450 qualify a year. So we have 100 years of students enrolled! With at most 10% of students, who will be able to be employed either as part of fully qualified accountants the institute is  fooling at least 40,000 of those students!     

They have lost what they are here for, and have put petty personal and greedy goals infront of, and I have now come to the conclusion instead of the noble goal to create a product of excellence that can hold its own anywhere in the world with pride. It is them who can contribute directly by unparalleled professionalism to the rapid growth of the Sri Lankan Economy to achieve the targets that the State has set and an economy that is both equitably fair, and will be on course for a GNP per capita of US$7,000 by 2020.

While I believe this goal is possible and do able, I don’t believe the profession by their action, is contributing to that target AT ALL.

I am speaking as one who is a Chartered Accountant and mercifully from the Institute in England and Wales and did not seek reciprocity with the local one, who qualified 33 years ago. I wish to add that I am not currently seeking to make it more difficult for qualified accountants to obtain employment in Sri Lanka, by presenting myself to the employment pool, and remind every applicant I meet for employment in accounting of this fact, as they struggle desperately to find a job.

I am writing in my capacity as an unpaid adviser to desperate job seekers, in tears due to their inability to obtain employment in the accountancy field. I have to firstly explain the plight the Institute has wronged them into, and secondly trying to get them to accept the current predicament they are in, and MORE importantly in doing my utmost into mentally transforming them into an optimistic person in their employment search, where they are willing to explore the possibility of other avenues to achieve their personal goals in life.

I have helped those at various stages of qualification get jobs, (all without a fee, I might add, and as our culture has it, NO thanks from the person who gets the job once they are able to secure the position either!) In preparation for their job, I first have to get them to prepare a Resume at least worthy of getting an interview as most CV even from qualified accountants would not even get a look in if sent!

The gulf between expectation and disappointment, once they realize what the real world for accountants is like is mind bogglingly disheartening.


MY RECOMMENDATION – Stop being indecently greedy, as the entry requirement is just too lax. Have an entrance exam that restricts the annual student numbers to only 2,000, but the exam must test analytical skills and NOT ability to pass exams. Take these 2,000 and give them the training to run any company on the face of the earth. 

You will then have an Institute that is respected worldwide and alumni that are likewise employable globally. The insinuation that the current syllabus has been upgraded to fit with the times and therefore will answer my allegations is just hogwash. That in itself is NOT enough, until you have people who are designated trainers who know how to get the most of the students under their tutelage. Let us hope those preening peacock primadonnas of the Institute read this, and  act to save the profession from disgrace, and possible agitation against their unethical policies and misleading claims. 

No wonder accountants are NOT permitted to advertise. See what a mess the Institute has made by trying to do it themselves! One of the most misleading ads in Sri Lankan print media of late!  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Embracing unsolicited foreign projects by way of high interest loans


A country must have a plan for the future, and it is generally the responsibility of a government to publish short and long term plans on how they expect the economy and society to perform. This can also be related to micro level projects such as road widening schemes, where people know well in advance, even 10 years ahead of roadways marked for widening, so that unnecessary buildings and parking reservations are made well in advance.

It is an indication of the lack of such, when we see some roads have sliced houses and shops in two, and as a result of the shops now on the roads, there is NO place for people to park, so customers are unable to come to the shops.

In a more serious development, Sri Lanka has permitted China to take the upper hand and recommend projects to the Sri Lankan Govt. outside of the Govt’s plans.

The President of China will grace Sri Lanka with an official visit on the 16th and we are pulling out all the stops to give him everything he has asked for including the Free Trade Agreement that is in their favor as well as the whole “Kitchen Sink”!!


It is obviously very tempting to take on projects that seem to offer the sun, moon and stars, to someone still in the dark, having not seen either of the above. However their inclusion in and part of development policy is rather dubious. I do agree that when private foreign investment projects are presented for approval they also in some form are unsolicited, or to the extent they are solicited, is through a local agent, being rounded up to present a project but remember that is private with NO public money changing hands, except for legitimate BOI concessions within the law of the land.

The argument of whether Tax concessions in the form of tax holidays should be granted is a totally different subject that requires a separate set of guidelines, and apply both for private and public foreign investment.  

The true measure of the economic benefit of unsolicited projects should be analyzed completely independently of the promoters, and question their relevance in current Sri Lankan investment and need climate. We don’t want empty islands in the Dubai World complex at Govt. expense in Sri Lanka when it comes to filling up the sea and building tropical villages and cities out of reclaimed land.

It is further beyond ironic that the money spent on this investment is included in as foreign inward investment, when the whole project start to finish has no local component except for few construction contacts that are fractions of the value of the investment proper. The Revenue from the sale of property or buildings does not accrue to Sri Lanka, and neither does the investment in plant. It may  as well be a Chinese project that is actually done in an offshore island in Sri Lanka, where we have given permission for them to come and use our resources, like power, water, construction labor and climate, as well as land or sea for their activity, because they DON’T have such agreeable climate and positioning in their country sans pollution!

Just think about it, what better way to colonize the world, than using one’s wealth to woo suckers to hand over their country, with nebulous promises of immeasurable benefits, so the one’s own Countrymen are able to enjoy the pleasures, one’s own Country does not have in some far off land.

People could argue that this is sure to benefit Sri Lanka, when Chinese come in tens of thousands to live in Sri Lanka, so they would be able to spend their money here. I would argue, is it really what we want when we are already making it uncomfortable, for those who do not fit into the Sinhala Buddhist mould to live here.

Granted we many not give them citizenship rights, but merely residency rights to live in their homes in Sri Lanka in port city or any other place they may wish to buy property in. The Bill in parliament yesterday preventing foreigners buying property will not apply to the Chinese as the concessions granted them, include giving them free hold rights in islands or land they have reclaimed from the SEA!!

ONE MUST understand that 1 ½ Billion Chinese live in China. They are engaged in choosing poorer countries to find the most lucrative investments, as the Confucian ideology is to maximize one’s wealth, so one can do what one wants with it! Something which is quite alien to Buddhist Culture, which is to attempt to forgo all earthly desires, especially material wealth. It appears that our planners have forgotten that simple concept. They are also engaged in investing and buying property in rich countries too, but are willing to pay top dollar for that privilege which the host country does not mind. Here in Sri Lanka greed has taken over and we are permitting them to make sweetheart deals that benefit them more than us, as we are not capable of planning in the long term interests of Sri Lanka.


It is time to take a grip on unsolicited proposals, and first plan what we want for a prosperous and serene future for Sri Lanka, and see if these projects will add to it.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

HOW MUCH MORE NONSENSE FROM GOSL?

CKDU the silent killer !!

People are dying like flies in so many Districts due to CKDU and the Govt. of Mahinda Rajapakse continues to fart about it!

Time for action, even though it is about 10 years too late, exactly the time this Govt. has been in power. Since the day they came into power promising the subsidized artificial and highly toxic fertilizer, at 10% of the real cost to the state, the farmers had the extra money they would have had to carefully husband fertilizer to buy even MORE TOXIC GLYPHOSATE to kill the weeds and now we know themselves too.


I have farmed in the North Central Province for 10 years now, and know the mentality of the farmers, given a financial incentive or break,  and ineptitude of the Agricultural Advisors and incompetence of the Agricultural Department, combined to create an explosive situation where more and more Districts of Sri Lanka are afflicted by CKDU, and the problem is making Ebola look like a walk in the park!

This is a silent killer, I have reported extensively about it, and why is this Govt. passing the buck? Simply because there are 120 Ministers who don’t know what they are doing, and a donkey at the helm. We have a PM who is past his sell by date only because of indecision on the part of the GOSL hoping he will disappear or unwilling to replace!

The fact that this is the single most important killer, that is going to kill people for the next 30 years even if pesticides and artificial fertilizer is banned completely today, leaves NO option but to use its massive Army of 400 thousand people who are just nothing more than pavement and lawn sweepers with Ekel Brooms today, thanks to the lack of vision of the Rulers, to fight the most important battle the Country faces.

Why is everyone waiting for the next shock to hit the big screen, namely that of the fact that the use of pesticides will kill every live sperm that the SL male carries, so that we will have to artificially inseminate our women, to have children with foreign blood like the rulers, throwing this Sinhala Buddhist concept on its head, into a hollow cry from a dead race!


Look no further than to the leaders of Sri Lanka who are doing a perfect job in destroying its population, so that they can rule forever in a land devoid of human beings. Don’t tell me I am right when it is too late. Challenge me today, and tell me I am wrong, and why. Everything we are arguing about now will be just hot air soon!    

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

CEOs let alone Managers – It’s a problem finding dynamic people! REALLY?

What do you think? 

I was reading an article that alluded to the possibility of Sri Lanka requiring to fill CEO positions using expatriate’s due to the lack of locally produced talent in the marketplace, due to a variety of reasons.

Let us go back a little in recent history. All the well managed foreign Multinationals are run by 30 or 40 something foreigners, rising up the corporate ladder in their Groups. This has been the case all along, for Ceylon Tobacco, Nestle Unilever, Holcim, Standard Chartered and now the heads of the Chinese Corporations which are doing the Construction of Highways, and Ports. For example Nestle has over a 100% return on capital employed, a dream for Sri Lankan companies.

  
The comment from this consultancy, is just an opinion from one who makes their money from talent search amongst other things, and we MUST be vary of self-appointed pontificators, who make claims. Nevertheless WE MUST address this issue carefully. I know of Sri Lankans, some now retired in Sri Lanka, who have held important positions in multinationals overseas, and therefore it is more about retaining talent to apply for the positions in Sri Lanka and less about hiring people from abroad.

We in Sri Lanka are saddled with the white man knows best concept whilst the rhetoric is the opposite. In this instance, the same job is done better by the foreigner merely because the subordinates are MORE willing to take orders from a non-National in preference to a local. Some mental block of our people, both at the executive level and at the unskilled laborer level. 

To illustrate the latter issue, the Local planters were never able to have the same perfection and discipline from the Estate Labor in the plantation that the Britisher was able to instill and I have heard this lament from senior planters. It may be due to the Britisher being a stickler to discipline and timing. Have you forgotten about the how the hot bath was run at 7.25pm sharp every day, so that he would get into it at 7.35 sharp at the right temperature everyday as five minutes later and the bath would have got colder!

That precision is not wired in our brains, and the Appu’s view of the sahib drops more than a few notches!! It is therefore this management practice that has to be fine turned, so that the workers know EXACTLY what standards to expect, devoid of unfair favoritism that varies from day to day, rather than being etched in stone!   
Lets then get back to the main point of the entry, which is finding the right caliber for the top job.

There is NO question that Sri Lankans are capable. Overseas they shine in their work as compared with the same person in their home country! Why is that? As someone who has worked overseas and at one time in my early 30s managed a staff of around 100 in Santa Barbara, California in the US, it is simply that one knows what to expect from the people who work for you there and are generally not people who say one thing and do the opposite.

It then makes the task of managing easier. Here the foreigner devolves that task to a local, and stays ABOVE the fray, looking at the KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS of his job, and improving only on them, and delegating the subsidiary tasks to local managers! That I believe is one reason for this discrepancy I alluded to above. So when it comes to firing it is done through someone else, and done for an objective reason of poor performance and NOT a personal issue.

How can we then manage our diverse businesses which are now getting to a size they are large enterprises that MUST be well managed to compete in a global marketplace. I know of personal friends who have struggled with this same issue, of hiring professionals to do the job, and found them wanting thereby taking the risk of getting an untested person from overseas to carry out the task, even at the obstacle of not knowing the language.

I was involved in a case where the Bank of Ceylon 15 years ago hired a Britisher as CEO and so did the People’s Bank and I had dealings with both of them, and I did not think much of them at the time, but they were able to implement the changes the local people would have found hard to do. Why is that? They are removed from the daily politics. They are hired for a specific purpose, and their incentive or bonus depends on certain parameters being achieved.

If we replicate that sort of discipline commensurate with a remuneration, hidden from the staff (remuneration that is) then I believe we will have able and willing young managers with some overseas exposure who are fit for the task. Hell we have over 25,000 students at any one time physically studying for degrees and masters programs in foreign universities. Can’t we find about 50 at the top end to manage some large companies that are growing by the day? We can of course.


So it is time the pontificating HR & Management consultancy gets a grip on the reality, identify why they make the statement and do something to correct this! Not just find a reason to earn fees in recruiting from overseas as there is a surfeit of foreign job hunters currently that need placing somewhere at some suckers establishment!      

Monday, September 8, 2014

Is the US struggling with the Sri Lankan disease for a change?


As the caption headline in today’s Huffington Post showed “Unsustainable Wealth Gap Undermining the US” it is clear that the renewed vigor with which the US economy is growing does not reflect in an increase in real wages of the working Americans.      

According to this study of 2000 Harvard University Alumni, it illustrates the importance of an improvement in real wages of the workers in an economy, for an economy to be truly successful.

I took this example from the US to remind the reader that other economies also suffer from disequilibrium, and we must do our utmost to ensure that our growth prospects actually share the newly created wealth far more equitably than at present.

It is clear when one talks to the people of the Country, the huge gains of the past few years have made billionaires out of a few donkeys, who seem to have some political connection, but that has not made a person who earns Rs50K a month feel any richer, and instead is struggling to survive.

The explosion in the price of property now on course to hitting Rs 10M a perch even when converted to US dollars makes Colombo 7 land more expensive than Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

The average Executive who works in Colombo, who earns Rs 100,000 and gets a car thrown in on top for his package, can now only buy some land to build on at least 30km away from his workplace in the heart of Colombo, and that amounts to a commute of a minimum of three hours a day both ways.

That is clearly unsustainable, and results in extremely low productivity, let alone a low quality of life for that family. No wonder then that he takes flight to Doha with is family as he is on a US$4000 a month package there, but which both allows him more productive work, and also the chance to save some money in the process, though still a low wage there. Worse still is if he gets a chance to migrate to Canada or Australia, never to return! Sri Lanka is the loser, and Australia the gainer of a Au$ 1M + asset gratis from SL!


It is possible to retain these people if their package is double that at present, and this can be achieved by the robber barons, sharing some of their tax free gains!            

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Scottish Independence – time Polonnaruwa also secedes from the UNION!

The vote of those resident in Scotland on independence from the UK will be held shortly and the latest reports put the Yes for Independence as a majority over the NO for the first time! I earlier thought they were nuts to want to secede, but then I began to wonder, as I have always felt that if Polonnaruwa District were to run as an Independent Country, we would be far better off than NOW. Of course the rotten traitorous politicians who rule the place making slaves of the people will be the first to be ousted and imprisoned with hard labor, but I had a super plan to make it work.

In my plan we were going to have an International Airport in Hingurakgoda and I had all the Foreign Investment also well organized. After all it is the land of the thousand lakes, that can be marketed more exclusively than Bhutan, and we were bent on making it the worlds NO 1 in the Happiness Index, a tall order from the present decrepit state of the District. I was even going to pay for any water we were going to buy from the irrigations schemes that came from outside the District.

So much for Polonnaruwa and back to Scotland. Isn’t it ironic that most of the land in Scotland is owned by people who live outside Scotland, mainly in England, by once Scottish Aristocrats who now live in England, but also by Americans and Middle Easterners. After all the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed owns a 65,000 acre Scottish Estate too!

The majority of the people of Scotland are concentrated in a few cities, living rather mundane lives, and only the Scots who left the shores during the Colonial period returned with their fortunes, and I knew of many in Sri Lanka and my grandfather’s friend George Gordon who owned Hunters at one time comes to mind.                        

Give the Scots the chance to manage themselves and as they are intelligent people and very practical, they will be able to do a super job. Like the EC there will be a common currency, open borders and free movement of goods, (don’t get carried away with the photos of border crossings done by the English to frighten the Scots to voting NO. Forget the North Sea OIL it is almost over, so it is other unique areas that will make the very large land mass, as compared to the people who are concentrated in 5% of it, a wonderful Mecca of exclusive high end tourism, that could bring in revenue 100 times that of now if properly marketed, managed and developed with exclusivity in mind.


So hears to Scottish Independence after 300 years of rule from England, and we could see a very different picture emerging of the small population becoming rich!   

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

An Active Virile and Effective Opposition is an Absolute Necessity

For a thriving democracy – so says the respected elder statesman of Journalism Gamini Weerakoon in his weekly column last Sunday.

What he has missed out is that there is such a thing BUT IT DOES NOT GET AN AIRING ANYWHERE!

It is due to the FEAR of the PEOPLE to publish and permit the opposition space. I was informing a Lawyer this morning, that the Nil Balakaya or Namal Rajapaksa’s personal Youth Wing, had put a half page ad in the papers today, Congratulating the SLFP on its 63rd anniversary and giving the logos of the Mobile Phone Companies, where the youth could download the Nil Balakaya theme song as a ring tone.

When I was involved in dong the same thing for the Youth Front of the UNP some time ago, to have their theme as a ring tone the Mobile Phone companies refused to have it done.

Gamini there has to be the same level playing field for both sides, and so if the Mobile Phone companies were FRIGHTENED OF THEM, and not us then our opposition is suppressed.

What are the lawyers doing to fight this? NOTHING. They just pay lip service, and should be ashamed of themselves as a profession in Sri Lanka, where they are also acting in fear and NOT in the interests of their clients, completely at odds with their OATH. The profession just like the journalists should just be consigned to the dustbin of Sri Lankan professions, as completely under the spell of their ruling masters.

They have a simple choice, just withdraw their services, and the State will come to heal, but they are not willing for a moment to destroy their gravy train in the Public’s Interest as it appears from their action or more like INACTION that they subscribe to the current status quo for the sake of personal gratification, pecuniary LY!


My whole blog has one goal, and that is namely to point out oddities in our thinking, lifestyle and double standards, that bar this Country from being the true Paradise on earth, and point fingers at all those people who are complicit in this prevention, appealing to them to set personal greed aside for the National Good, or at least compromise a little so that we can all participate in God’s Gift To Mankind – Sri Lanka!  and not just a favoured few who want to keep it to themselves alone!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Power Crisis – I thought it was a thing of the past!

I am sure most of the readers of my blog in Sri Lanka would have read some time ago, about the Govt. saying that now there will never be a need for power cuts, now that Norochcholai was up and running.

Well all the turbines of N are NOT functioning and the Country has had rolling power cuts everywhere except for Colombo. The Govt. is clever in not subjecting Colombo to cuts because it will reach the news! They don’t want this to be news, as provincial reporters just think it was some tree falling on a power line!  So they don’t get agitated and so the people of Sri Lanka have been fooled yet again by this deception.

I had a friend call me from Kurunegala today, saying his export factory was closed, as there was NO electricity and he was losing a lot of orders or delays!

I know my place on the outskirts of Homagama suffered a long power cut on Saturday, and I checked with Kegalle on Saturday, and they suffered a power cut from 8.30 am to 1.30 pm on Saturday. So this is NOT isolated, and is part of the rolling power cuts to manage the existing power stations as only about 30 % is filled by Hydro due to the drought.

You can go to CEB.lk and check out how the power is supplied any day in SL and see that the Coal Power station is out of service. The Chinese President is coming to open the third turbine that will increase capacity to 900MW which will be about 50% of the Country’s need, but if that one power station is off, then we have to get power from Private stations at Huge cost to the Country and people.

As an aside the dust from Norochcholai is affecting the people and business and agriculture in the Kalpitiya Peninsula as the Govt. HAS NOT been able to address the problem satisfactorily and it is time that as part of the project this is addressed as a matter of priority before we see too many deaths as a result of the fall out of the power station.


There is also talk about carcinogenic elements being expelled into the air from Norochcholai too. Anyway to come back to the main issue I wished to address, it is that the people are blissfully unaware of rolling power cuts that are actually affecting many people and the Media are NOT doing their duty in informing the public lest they fall foul of the Govt. or more likely due to their singular ignorance of what their job actually entails, namely investigate and inform the public about the facts!!!!   

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Narendra Modi gave one below the belt to Mahinda – It hurts so bad!

It is simply embarrassing to see how easily the Indian Prime Minister was able to bamboozle the Sri Lankan Govt. which prides itself in being able to keep tabs on all those they consider a threat.


DBS in his article above alludes to how easy it was to deceive the Sri Lankan Govt. which if one believes DBS, make them look like village idiots, who are unable to grasp the nettle of Indian Politics!

In either case we tend to give ourselves a sense of importance that is far greater than reality, and if one either looks at the FB page of the Indian PM’s office    https://www.facebook.com/PMOIndia  or the website of the Indian PMs office http://pmindia.gov.in/en/news_updates/pm-arrives-in-japan/  it shows both how effective, and how classy the Indian PM works and schmoozes with world leaders who go to see him and pay homage, and now that he is in Japan on a visit the images put out are very matter of fact and workmanlike in the way he goes about his business.

It will do well to understand from our numerous mistakes over the years with our friends, and neighbors, in order that we do not repeat the same errors, and realize that the Opposition Leader in Sri Lanka actually was able to advise PM Modi when he was in the Chief Minister’s chair in Gujarat, on aspects of bringing that very complicated state into the 21st Century, a little known fact, that endears him to the Leader of the Opposition in Sri Lanka, as compared with its President, and which is kept under wraps, for obvious reasons.

Only once we truly understand the Indian perspective must we try to win them over to our way of thinking by quiet diplomacy and not prima donna like pomposity of puffed puffins, which bursts like ripe puffballs that release the spores that we have to deal with for years to come.


After all for a country of a mere 20M people, about the size of a small metropolitan area in India, surely we can run our affairs, if we were more adult and less childish. It is time we stop posturing for political gain, and settle down to solve a small issue, that will suddenly open up the Country to the world, and permit it to go about its business unhindered from International interference. We must put country before self to achieve this objective. Lets do it!    

Monday, August 25, 2014

Another of the Greats – Richard Attenborough (1923 – 2014)


This Man who has been an actor since before I was born, dies a few days short of his 91st birthday on the 29th so has had a full life, and has spent his last days, having suffered a stroke in a care home that he himself had helped to found for retired actors.

Of course having lived in England since 1971, I was privy to many of his movies in black and white, and only later did I follow the movies he directed including the acclaimed Gandhi which I believe won numerous award, including a clutch of Oscars.

Nevertheless, the reason I chose to write was the fact that at the time of his death he was still living in the same care home with his wife who was suffering from Dementia, who he had married in 1945 and with whom he has had three children, one of whom as an adult died in the Boxing Day tsunami.

In this day and age, where actors make it a point to make headlines with marriages and their divorces and numerous follow up marriages and divorces, it is nice to know some old world actors did not have to succumb to the same temptation to stay popular or crave notice when their popularity for some reason takes a dive!

Unfortunately we live in a world where with TV and digital media, Sportsman and women as well as Actors and Singers are the standards by which our youth seem to judge success or failure.

The resulting social tragedy where divorce as it is seen as common, has put less emphasis on the sanctity of marriage and the untold misery of children who are of divorced parents who count amongst them, numerous grand and step grandparents seem to confuse families to such a degree that there is NO nuclear family anymore.

In the Sri Lankan context it is sadly no different as the tragedy I referred to earlier where a man in his early thirties died in a road accident, was as a result of a row with his wife of a month, who was about 18 and had already been on her second husband, and after the death has not sighted the marital home, either out of guilt or due to another liason!


Whilst there is so much to praise Sir Dickie Boo as I used to call him, I will refer to the longevity of his marital union as the one I respect the most! May his soul rest in peace, and thanks for the entertainment you provided.