Dr Sunanda Madduma Bandara, a one time Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and now the Director General(Development and Communication) of the Ministry of Economic Development has written an article in Today's "Irida Lankadeepa" (page 6 of the Nimthera section) on "Subsidized Fertilizer Bundle that has improved the living conditions of the nations Farmers"
I must also add that his credentials and his comments have come under scrutiny as being merely a mouthpiece of government propaganda by an expose by the Sunday Times on December 26th 2010 with reference for anyone to read http://sundaytimes.lk/101226/News/nws_06.html
The article does not refer to his position anywhere which is essential for the reader to understand the bias he puts into his essay. It is also important to mention that he is not an agriculturist and only a sociologist, like the many in this quasi arts field, pretending to be scientists and therefore his knowledge is based on spurious facts and not his field of specialization.
In essence it was a purely political exercise where he was a proponent justifying the Governments Fertilizer subsidy as being of great benefit to the farmers, because the rice yields and total area under paddy increased between the years 2004 to 2010 in reaching self sufficiency. He also used the government guaranteed price mechanism as an additional method of helping the farmer achieve a fair price for his produce. While I agree with the latter point, it hardly needs a man of his stature to state this simple fact.
I am questioning the former, as the opportunity cost of the Fertilizer Subsidy must be taken into account in determining how it has benefited the farmer. I have expounded at length how this subsidy has enslaved the farmer to his land where he has not been able to explore more lucrative employment opportunities available to him in other sectors.
The yields in agriculture is a complex subject, not left merely to imported inorganic fertilizer. The debate has not closed on the overuse of such fertilizer in as far as it affects the quality of the soil in the long term and therefore the yields. It is a no brainer that the more fertilizer of this nature (imported inorganic chemical base) that is used on the soil it deteriorates the soil to such an extent that yields actually drop. It is only due to larger land extents coming under cultivation that the overall harvests have increased. This increase in land cultivated is not merely due to the subsidy being continued at Rs 350 unchanged during this whole period.
The current cost of the Fertilzer subsidy of Rs50B can in no way be justified by the farmers being better off. It is just encouraging subsistence farmers to continue subsisting in poverty instead of weaning them into more productive fields in a country that is desperately short of skilled labor. Farming in the long term must be done by professionals and not by those who for lack of any education fall into this because they are provided with an acre or two of land to force them into unproductive agriculture and hence permanent poverty.
I am willing to challenge the paper that published his article to say that they have been duped into publishing it because the individual has not presented his proper credentials. We are so gullible as to believe that if a phD person says something it must be right. We must always first question his or her motives for writing what they do. It is clear that as the communications czar to his boss who makes a habit of misinforming the public, this information also needs to be treated with that same bent.
I am ashamed that our University Dons seem to think that kowtowing to the rulers is the way for advancement in their careers and their principles and education just go to the dogs!!
I would like to believe that a newspaper of such a stature would print a counter argument to Professor Madduma Bandara's hypothesis (as it is only a hypothesis based on hearsay) so the reader can appreciate a balanced view of the subject, which is a very important weapon in the propaganda armor of the Government.