Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 25th 2013 – 330,000 8 and 9 year olds are sitting for a National Exam now that will affect their future. Is that a right of passage or a gross violation of their Human Rights?

Personally I have long felt that these youngsters requiring a pass mark of 150+ out of 200, are unjustly pressurized (more like forced) at too young an age to compete in a national exam, the results of which will determine if they can go to a better school, and if the marks are high enough, and there are sufficient places to Royal and Visakha, the all boys, and all girls school that requires the highest marks.

One must remember that tuition and coaching for this exam start two years earlier, that is at about age 7, where they are sent to special classes to help them achieve a high mark at these exams.

Firstly I question the need for such a competitive exam at too young an age.
Secondly I question segregation of students into different schools arising from this.
Thirdly I question that as people mature at different ages many gifted students who fail to qualify may unfairly underestimate their capabilities as they may be led to believe that they failed.
Fourthly, the pressure put on by parents may permanently scar the under achievers, who are at the most vulnerable and impressionable stage into a mental breakdown of sorts.
Fifthly, focused study at this early age stifles children’s creative talents, and prevents the establishment of a creative, thinking, and energetic class of intelligentsia essential to compete in the global workplace.
Finally can one give one advantage of this exam to this country where we believe it has resulted in a highly educated, visionary competitive workforce!

Some schools have prevented students who are clearly not up to the mark to sit this exam so that their individual performance percentages look good, and thereby falsify their true value. Students are asked, and remember till their deathbed what their mark at the year 5 scholarship exam was till their dying day even though they may not remember their O level and A level grades! That shows the indelible impact this exam has on the individual psyche.   

Let us just drop this exam once and for all, and not change it from a memory test to an aptitude, IQ or intelligence test that may pick future stars most likely to succeed than this exam. It has been proved that the mark here IS NOT an indicator of those who will get into the University system, as the chance of those below the pass mark getting into University is no different from those who pass!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The lack of confidence in the Colombo Stock Exchange is highlighted by what happened yesterday!

The tragedy of the Sri Lankan situation where even financial journalists are either too ignorant, or in fear of their jobs, and are unable to report salient facts to the public, were further highlighted this morning in the Financial Pages of the Newspapers! In short the paucity of interpretation of the facts, rather than merely report facts as they occur.

The Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) became the Company with the highest market capitalization in the CSE yesterday. It accounts for 9.41% of the Market Cap of the CSE at the share price of Rs1200. John Keells the long time leader is down to second at 9.34%. A huge morale loss for JKH, at a time it is at a loss to explain to the intelligent investor the logic of the US$850M investment in a resort, when they will not receive the same tax concessions as James Packer’s Gambling Casino Resort.

What is significant is that 84.13% of CTC shares are owned by BAT, and 8.32% is owned by Phillip Morris the two largest Tobacco Giants of the world. (Total of 92.45%) If one logically assumes that the top twenty shareholders rarely sell, then only 3.78% (the balance) are considered liquid in this No1 market value company.

It is a horrible indictment of the CSE to include this stock in their market capitalization at full value as it is meaningless in determining the size of the Sri Lankan Stock Market. Worse still to note that the highest capitalized stock in the CSE has only 3.78% of its shares liquid at best!!

This is just the tip of the Iceburg! Nestle the third highest stock is barely different and so the story goes on. Sri Lanka CSE shares are NOT liquid. A few hundred million rupees can make a huge difference to the market cap by way of manipulation in a market that few shares trade. IT IS SIMPLY NOT SATISFACTORY for the CSE to exist in this present form, as small investors cannot make sound justifiable investment decisions on shares which are so thinly traded, and so closely held.  

In reality when new frontiers are opened and new markets are formed, there are problems such as those mentioned above. However to draw sufficient foreign investors or for that matter local small investors, one has to make a concerted effort in increasing liquidity of the shares. It is a chicken and egg situation here, where until more shares are offered for sale, there is little chance to purchase at fair prices. It is also inevitable that when more shares are on offer the share prices are likely to dip, which the large investor is NOT going to like.

THE CSE MUST TAKE THIS HIT NOW if they wish the market to mature and grow. If they do not there is NO chance of it happening in the near future, and the fooling of the small investor is the result. The CSE is pissing around with various other technical issues of payment for settlements etc. maintaining that it is required for a mature a market, forgetting the basics of investment in a stock market.

In a country such as Sri Lanka where a few individuals (100 at most) have proved to be in cahoots in market manipulation at the expense of the small shareholder, and NOTHING has been done about it by either the CSE or the SEC, it is a bit rich of the goons that run the CSE to think there is any chance of them being able to attract small investors without fooling them. The Road shows therefore in the provinces are further evidence of this deception on the part of the CSE to show the Govt. that they mean business, where in fact they continue to cultivate their cosy club on behalf of a few members and brokers.

There is no small investor lobby, and Unit Trusts that are the alternative for small investors to get in on the long term stock investments, for their future personal portfolio growth, have been simply unable to get the numbers remotely needed to pretend that they mean business, and are able to make a dent against the club.

Just to drive home the incestuous nature of the club, the Chairman of both CTC and JKH is one and the same person. How coincidental is that? It simply is WRONG for this to happen, and to tolerate such nonsense in any country but a banana republic. If we wish to remove ourselves from the Banana Republic status we must grow up, and make basic changes to business practice and rules, and force companies to divest over at least the medium term, of say 5 years. There is NO point talking about more liquidity without doing something positive. I suggest a minimum of 25% with a 3 year term to do so, as they have had enough time in which they did not do a thing in this regard.

Don’t pass the buck and wait for the SEC to impose rules that will become unpalatable. It looks like the SEC waits for the CSE to make the first move and vice versa, without either having the nerve to do so!

CSE Board, get out of your comfort zone if you wish to survive, and have some value for you to retain with demutualization before even that becomes another damp squib!