Monday, December 31, 2012

The old year is about to finish and a new one offers hope!



In my opinion, 2012 went by faster than I can remember any year in my memory. This was probably because I found myself pressed for time all year wishing days could be 48 hours instead of 24! I presume if one is busy, time flies as the saying goes.

Of course we set certain goals for the year and many were not completed. Similarly new goals will be set for 2013, and I am hopeful of having better success at achieving a higher proportion. All of them take time, money and commitment, with none able to automatically happen without effort.

Which brings one to the effort vs reward argument! I know many use the rationalist approach if the reward is not worth effort expended, then it is not worth making the effort. I find that argument very common amongst the ‘Lotus Eaters’ in our society, which are surprisingly numerous. In fact they use the rationale as why bother work, when we can just as easily have a stress free life with as much enjoyment, but with less money, but with far more time on our hands! Who could argue with that rationale?

To an old fashioned economist that word is anathema, and to a Government obsessed with high growth rates, it is anathema too. Growth as we know is not the be all and end all of life. There are huge societal costs attached to growth. The most notable being the environmental one. That I believe is one we should seriously reconsider in our pursuit of growth. We in Sri Lanka are today paying a huge cost in terms of environmental degradation, to achieve arguably miniscule growth that is spread to the hinterland, with most of it being for a few, fortunate enough to have received a good education, which opens up vistas of employment and ventures, that in turn leads to a high standard of life, but with questionable quality of life as the measure of that is more intangible, and more an attitude of mind.

I therefore believe we must stress life to be more meaningful, and satisfying. The latter word means different things to different people. Now that Sri Lanka has achieved almost zero population growth, and an aging population, we must change our priorities, to concentrate on social benefits, social capital investments on areas of mutual benefit to all. I would include safer, quieter and speedier public transport and better means of goods delivery, using perhaps the railway network to transport much of our perishable food, overnight from producer areas to consumer markets. This will unlock many current bottlenecks, when mixed with new storage facilities.
The One other area that I wish we could concentrate in 2013 is a National Education Policy. Our Education system in Sri Lanka requires an overhaul of unimaginable proportions. The present Government is incapable of accepting that fact, as it would possibly undermine the foundations in which it wishes to operate. That of an electorate being told what to believe, rather than one which is able to make up their own minds on why they should believe one admonishment over another!

To begin with a good Education Policy requires the training of superb educationalists. So training plans to teach our teachers, of all levels, from Pre School, to Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary that includes vocational, must be undertaken as a matter of priority. That training today, will pay dividends in about 5 years. This lack of vision amongst planners, and politicians about what needs to be done, and how long it will take to do so, is at the heart of why there is no will to implement the most important aspect of the education plan, even before some of the policy items are even written. Everything in improvements in education is down to teaching the latest skills in the overall education of the individual. We have the latest technology available to man at our disposal in Sri Lanka, so we must not ignore what is available and avail our selves of their benefits. Only when we know how to use the latest methods of training and teaching, that we can hope to make the leap into a truly questioning, enquiring and thinking population, devoid of prejudices, conflict, and fear of others, all which tend to diminish the utopian quality of life we so wish to regain in Serendip.

The government has set its sights on improving the bloated public service, and making it more efficient. If the 1.4M people who work there could improve their productivity by say 15% each on average next year, just imagine how much our quality of life will improve. It does not take rocket scientist to realize how easy it is to improve the quality of life index of a country, through a simple project of improving the productivity of Govt. Servants!

So back to my wish list for 2013. Concentrate on a manageable number of goals, and make a greater effort to achieve those goals, by planning the optimum use of scarce resources of time, money and commitment. If one is focused in achieving these objectives, one will definitely be able to look back on a new year with satisfaction. We can only hope the leaders of our country spend a little bit more time thinking of the people they serve, and less on what they can get from the self same people. Anyone who concentrates on the latter, we will wish them adios without shedding a tear, to be replaced by the former. We have enough people who fall within the former category, who need to be identified, and so empowered.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

season's greetings and a happy new year to you and all of your readers and commentators!

i also agree with mostly everything you have written. Let's make massive improvements in public transportation a top priority for 2013. The improvement in public transport will decongest the roads, clear the environment of smoke, and also free us from the incessant horns of rampaging busses!

Along with this, the culture of public transportation should not be ignored. Public transport should be a pleasant experience for commuters not only in infrastructure improvements but also in the way people behave towards each other. Respect and courtesy should be inculcated into the way people behave in society, otherwise only very poor people who have no alternative and perverts will be the primary users of public transport.

However an education policy that ignores the immigration problem is looking past the elephant in the room. the most recent manifestation of the problem was shown when government was not even able to fill the number of engineer positions in the government because everyone is migrating out!! there is a severe skills shortage not due to a poor education system but due to an open border policy of allowing our educated to flee the country that provided the education to them! if there were no migrants, there would be a skills surplus in the country and we could be like Korea, Singapore, or Japan by now!! Those countries have virtually no natural resources but they have a human resource base that delivers all of the value to those economies. If we do not stem the migration problem, we need to attract foreign skilled labor to SL to build up our country and that would require making the country more hospitable to foreign investors -- friendlier business climate and people.

Finally, I hope that the people, particularly in the former war zones, are not forgotten this year. I notice from this blog and other publications that those people are hardly given a second thought in the national discussion now that the war is over. They are people with special needs both from local and national government in terms of sustenance, future development, and integration into society. My personal opinion is that the major newspapers and TV programs should have a column or segment dedicated to developments in the area focusing on the needs of the people to get some attention where it is due. Lest we end up with a disgruntled minority all over again.

Kalpanakaranna for the new year everyone!!

Jack Point said...

Anon, I disagree with this:

"However an education policy that ignores the immigration problem is looking past the elephant in the room. "

Migrants are seeking a better life elsewhere. As long as they have this option they will not feel frustrated.

Immigration is not a problem. It is in fact the only thing that has prevented the country from exploding in another cycle of violence.

The idiotic policies of the government ensures that too few jobs are created and high inflation ensures that what money is earned buys less and less. If people could get a decent life here they would stay, the fact that they are voting with their feet should tell us something.

Youth unemployment and underemployment were the main causes of the JVP uprisings in 1971 and 1987 and contributed significantly to the Tamil problem.

Remember also that it is the monies sent back by workers abroad that keeps the economy afloat.

Want another cycle of war? Stop the boat people, job seekers and permanent migrants from leaving.

Anonymous said...

Jack, immigration is a problem because it is depriving the country of skilled labor that is required to raise the country to a higher level of development. How can the country have highways when there are few good engineers? how can the country have decent medical care when there are few good doctors? how can the country prevent corruption when there are few good accountants? how can new businesses be created and flourish when there are few ambitious and creative people left in the country? so let's not dupe ourselves that this is not a problem.

you are correct in stating that they are voting with their feet and are leaving the country because they can personally enjoy a higher quality of life outside of the country by using their skills towards developing that society and being rewarded accordingly.

there would be two hypothetical options if the migration flow was tightened. 1. war as you have predicted if the needs of the would-be migrants are ignored or 2. political changes if the would-be migrants voted with their ballots rather than their feet.

an economy cannot survive on remittances alone. it's a common misconception that if money keeps coming in everything will be fine. those funds must be used productively if the development process is to unfold.

Anonymous said...

I have run into many immigrants who have at least some interest in returning fully (like the blog's author) or part-time as a contributor. However, there is no incentive been offered for them to do so. Given the many disincentives and inertia, few do. Why not offer them some incentives? After all, since there is a skills shortage here, it's in the interest of the country to do so.
-- PolSambol

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