Friday, April 25, 2014

Using the Mathematics introduced by the Govt. they only had a majority of ONE! for the Casino Bill

You will remember that the Maths as taught by GOSL arising from the HRC resolution, was one that all those who do not vote for the resolution are implied to have voted against. Therefore the UNHRC resolution was passed with a majority of JUST ONE! In the same method of calculation, today there was a vote taken on the Controversial Special Projects Bill setting up skipping resorts by James Packer whose Crown Resorts in all other countries is centered around Casinos, but if you believe the august President of Sri Lanka, James Packer will have the only resort in the world that specializes in skipping. (skipping over the truth so that you end up with lies!)

In a parliament of 225 members only 113 were counted as voting in favor and therefore 112 MPS are assumed to have disagreed with that position, giving the Govt. a majority of JUST ONE! Isn’t it ironic that inside of a month, (UNHRC vote was on March 27th) the Govt. received a dose of their own medicine? This time they cannot blame foreign pressures or NGO or DIASPORA. They had a three line whip and all MPs were summoned and those overseas were also asked to return, and what do we have? Their ministers such as Champika Ranawaka, Rishard Badiudeen, Rauf Hakeem, Wimal Weerawansa among them, DID NOT TURN UP.

This is clearly an insult to the Govt. and shows the level of dissent inherent in the passing of the bill. I just hope the media in the morning have the guts to challenge the unity in the Govt. and call a spade, what it is and not a shovel!

I have maintained in my previous blog entries that if there was an auction for a Casino license giving exclusivity, there would be a minimum bid of US$1.5B which will be sufficient to provide electricity for the entire population of Sri Lanka with renewable energy, for all time! So in addition to this revenue being handed on a plate to both the investors and the Govt. stooges and leaders as spoils, it was made worse by 10 year tax concessions of over US$1B on top of the earlier figure giving unprecedented favoritism to a gambling, whilst taxing basic foodstuffs of poor people unconscionably.

Once it sinks in to the people, and the media have the courage to explain it to the masses, we are probably witnessing the beginning of the end of this nepotistic and corrupt regime, and in time their desperation to hold on to power will ensure further self inflicted wounds, handing over chances on a plate for the opposition. It is important that these chances of corrective action are NOT wasted but usefully parlayed into providing an alternative Government that better serves the interests of its Citizens.   

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Allied Health Sciences Students – what are your thoughts after the foregoing?

My previous blog entries discussed the rights and privileges of education at Tertiary level especially as it relates to the Free Education concept.

If one enters a free education program, then should one accept what is on offer, or agitate for more, as is the current case with the Allied Health Sciences students? Those of us who look at it from the outside, believe that if a student partakes in a course that is free, they are by right denying another person that privilege, but they get in only due to their being “better’ as in Z score or fortunate as in District quota, where a better qualified student is denied entry from say Colombo.

So in this era of NO free education for all, but a few scholarships for some (22,000 who enter the State University system) , if you are not happy with the 3 year scholarship of a degree, then leave, and give it to a student who will gladly accept it. Your Z score only entitles you for that. If you say that external forces, have led to the forced reduction in your syllabus to three years and that you demand four years, what rights do you really have to say so, except point to an anomaly?

You cannot compare with a private sector education as market forces completely determine who enters, along with minimum qualifications. So you cannot demand, only make a rational case for your degree being worthless, or would leave you in an unemployable state within the State Health Sector. If the State offers a job at a reasonable remuneration, then you have less cause to complain, and if you wish to improve your skills by getting a higher degree, then you may have to pay for it.

It is these points that ought to be considered in your campaign as IUSF is also outdated, when they agitate for free education for all who pass A levels, an impossible demand for any country, especially Sri Lanka to even contemplate.

It is time you understand your privileged position within the hierarchy of undergraduates, and determine what the best course of action is given the alternatives. I do agree though that the GMOA is out of line in making demands, now they are interfering in the levels of qualifications that specialists posses in the Private Health Sector. They have NO say in this matter and it is for the UGC to work with the Health department to determine how best the shortage of Health Service workers are filled and at what income and qualification level.

The bottom line is, the reality that an Undergraduate in the State University system must really agitate for a good education in their chosen field and nothing else.

Is a free education at University a right? Or a Privilege we must be thankful for!

If the previous two blog entries are anything to take a cue from, we must think hard of how many Sri Lanka can educate free at the tertiary level, and what their responsibilities are to the state that gives them that education. Can they fulfill it?

It is best to imagine those who enter a State University in Sri Lanka are akin to those who win a scholarship owing to their marks. (Z score) Provincial barriers are now breaking, so it is time to rethink the District Quota system as it is now open to abuse, as shown in previous blog entries and should be scrapped in favor of merit.

It is therefore ONLY a pipe dream that we in Sri Lanka can educate ALL those who pass their A levels at state expense. That said, let us then conclude that those who get a scholarship to a state university, have a responsibility to the Country that educates them free of charge! How is that debt repaid to society as a whole?

If one uses doctors as the classic example, the best students in terms of A level results of their respective subjects get into the state medical colleges, with an intake now estimated at 1,000 a year, with 750 qualifying, the others dropping out.

They qualify with little or NO debt, unlike doctors anywhere else in the world who are burdened by heavy loans, which in the US amount to around $350,000. 250 doctors per annum, emigrate overseas not to return, who stand to most benefit from this Education. It is unfair, and NOW accepted as such, that the Country pay their education, just so that a host country enjoys the benefit of our Cost. Further successful doctors in Private Practice in Sri Lanka also have a chance of a good income, and even state doctors are permitted to moonlight outside normal hours, (many also do during normal hours, referring patients to their clinics to see them privately, once consulted in the state hospital making use of the catchment!)

Is it fair that they receive a totally free education? I know they say they have sacrificed 7 years to study, and do 5 years of internship in rural areas, maintaining that they give back that way, but is that really enough? Or should market forces prevail where they are charged for at least 50% of the cost of their education. The huge burden on the state in training a doctor, if it only benefits the doctor to earn a high remuneration, is not economically justifiable. I know of doctors who are excellent specialists, who if they had to pay for their education, would not have been able to enter medical school, and therefore will be denied this chance.

It is not easy to select just a few for this privilege, whilst the majority don’t benefit, except if you refer to them as scholars who have won a privileged scholarship.

As a comment in my prior blog entry suggested, a free education distorts market forces in an open economy such as ours where labor is free to offer their services to the highest bidder anywhere in the world, and therefore must be market based, with a few exceptions for scholars, which any country would like to treat specially!   

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In the 21st Century a world class University cannot be free – a few Scholarships however can be provided for the truly gifted!

The Sri Lankan legislators are as usual dreaming in Technicolor in wishing to have world class Universities under the Free Education system

If we have a world class University or two what are the implications? Firstly more resources will have to be spent on that, at the expense of fewer resources for other Universities. It is a zero sum game!! If that is a free University (tuition largely free) then those who go there have both a heavily subsidized education, AND they are able to command a higher income both at home and overseas.

Even if one presumes the BEST OF THE BEST will enter this institution, they are unfairly favored over other less gifted students, and as with gifted students, their intention is to get further education overseas to specialize in their fields, they will NOT have employment in Sri Lanka with their foreign scholarship PhDs. They will therefore only work overseas, with little benefit accruing to Sri Lanka of a world class University, except as an aid giving organization to the host Country of the emigrant.

It is therefore NONSENSE for the Minister of Higher Education to even make these nonsensical statements that are meaningless, and designed to mislead aspirants to a world class education for free!

Bearing in mind the interconnected world we live in, it must be understood that a quality education can only be had for money, except in the exceptional circumstances of gifted students who can somehow scholarship their way to the top anywhere in the world, and have only themselves to blame if they are unable to achieve their personal life goals.

The death knell of free Tertiary Education is upon us, as even the UK where I had a free Tertiary Education, has now become a very expensive place to study, and one finds it hard to find any country, possibly with the exception of Cuba that demands its emigrants send back their income to the Government, where there is free education.

What is clear is that the Private Universities in Sri Lanka MAY actually become world class if they are able to attract better academics, and relevant courses.    

The Allied Health Sciences Conundrum – a different perspective!

I have been personally involved in the currently raging controversy, where the powers who can effect change are unwilling to listen to the grievances of the students who have had their 4 year special degree course reduced to a general three year degree course! It is not as simple as that, but I just want to present an alternative view to the reader who may not have such strong opinions on the matter as the students who are directly involved in the encampment in front of the UGC.

What in essence is the problem? It is put simply the fault of the warped education system that has put these bright kids in this soup. I believe it is ONLY in Sri Lanka that most of the students due to their Z scores take the best!!! option offered to them, which in reality is NOT the best option for them.

To explain, a very good Z score and high district rank, could make you eligible to do Medicine. However a good doctor is the last thing you may turn out to be, but you go through it anyway, as that is what the society chooses for you, and NOT what you choose for yourself. You are doing yourself and your Country a disservice by taking advantage of a Rs9Million investment by the state in your education. There may be others who are or would be better doctors, who never enter Medical school because of the Z score they achieve, not being sufficient for a place in the state sector.

Those who fall into the latter category MAY with money get into either the Private Medical School, or the Sir John Kotelawala Medical school as the entry requirements are different. Some of them may be better than some of the same state medical school products.

In this vein, the those who do NOT get into Med School are then offered the Allied Health Sciences Courses, like Physiotherapy, and similar Health related fields. Are they those who would have preferred to be doctors and could not make it? I don’t know, just ask yourself that if you are one of them.

So these students feel that the 4 year course confers on them a better level of employability than the 3 year one. In fact NO ONE who has graduated from the 4 year course have been offered places in the State Hospitals as there is NO grade for them to enter, and they are still fighting for parity with doctors, when they are now treated like the diploma holders of the same field. So they are fighting for the rights that PRIVATE students who pay and get a degree get, so they are on a par with them, and can compete for the same jobs as them in the Private Sector.
If any of you fall into this category and disagree with my statements, please come out with your own honest interpretation of the story, as I am merely an outsider looking in and may misunderstand your point of view.

I heard one student say that KDA has a 4 year course, but I believe it is not free. Then there is a issue where to do the 4th year one has to have a high GPA. Either way there are very few students in this course in each University that offers the course, something like 40 students to the batch.

There is ALSO the allegation that the GMOA don’t want 4 year degree students competing with them in these fields. I don’t want to get into that argument here, as I believe that the GMOA don’t represent the interests of Sri Lanka and they only represents the interests of the members who belong to them and therefore we must always choose what is best for Sri Lanka, as they have had a lottery of Rs9M to start with that no others enjoy. With the lottery goes with it responsibilities that many of them don’t fulfill to their country nor do few work in rural areas that are desperately short of medical practitioners.

They are now fighting with the nurses over some other silly midwifery thing that they feel will affect them. Wait till the Nurse Practitioner comes into being because the doctors are too self important, and they will fight that tooth and nail, but it is inevitable that in rural areas that are badly served, trained Nurses will be the first person a patient sees who will determine how the case will be handled. Hey doctors you cannot have everything, if you refuse to see patients in rural areas then allow someone else to do your job, by your own inability.

Similarly with the Allied Health Sciences issue, we as a nation MUST decide who we want in our health services sector. Incumbent upon that we must train the people to fill the need NOT the want of the student that MAY NOT BE THE NEED OF SOCIETY. After it is the job of the Government to protect its citizens, and in the health care field it is simply to maximize the benefit of Health Care to the majority of the citizens who cannot afford to go private! If that means we only need 3 year graduates we must take the numbers needed for the services who are desperately short of the staff in these fields.

You choose your country in a 3 year course and fill the vacancies in the Public Health Sector, as currently you don’t fill that void, or you pay and go for the 4 year degree so you can go overseas and work. Isn’t that fair? Why should the state pay Rs1M for your course so you can leave and work overseas where you degree is recognized? I know the doctors do that and that is also wrong.
I know those of you on the course will not agree with what I am writing. I am taking the side of Sri Lanka first. It is not the course length you need, it is GOOD TEACHERS, who you don’t have now. If you have good teachers for a 3 year course, and it is known that you are well trained, then you can get to work a year earlier, as we need you much earlier than at 25 years of age. We want you to start working in hospitals at age 21.

Hospitals MUST give you the grade for your qualification, which must be on a starting income of a minimum of Rs20,000 a month, after proper experience as an intern. We need good physiotherapists in the state sector it is not funny. We need people rehabilitated and back to work as soon as possible without wasting their time in hospitals or at home. That is patients who undergo physiotherapy.

I can tell you how hard it is to find a good physio for my leg, and know how important GOOD TEACHERS are more than the length of the course. So don’t get stuck on a 4 year course, change your demands for GOOD TEACHERS then you will be richer, better trained, and YOU WILL BE IN DEMAND. Just think of the private work you can get if you are GOOD. Even while working in the Govt. sector. You must think outside of the box you have put yourself in.

Sri Lanka is DESPERATE for the skills you will have after your degree, if properly taught. Currently the private sector gets the cream of the teachers, and therefore the students get the cream of the jobs in the private sector.

So here is a check list to ask yourself:

1                   Do I really like the course I am doing, and will I really enjoy that field of employment?
2                   Can I agitate for the best teachers that the state can afford?
3                   Is my syllabus GOOD or can it be improved further?
4                   Is the health dept. offering me a post as soon as I graduate at a salary level that is adequate?
5                   Will I be able to pursue high education after a period of training to specialize in a chosen area within my field of knowledge, so that I can become an expert, and rise up the ladder either in Sri Lanka or abroad after a period of service in Sri Lanka?  

Once you are able to answer these you will look at your agitation in better light, and then make the better choices in your discussions with the UGC. Until then you will not be given the due respect as you are only agitating for selfish reasons. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Should we pity the beleaguered Police Force of Sri Lanka or despise them?

The incontrovertible scenes of the past few days, where the Police Force in the Hambantota District, were clearly impotent, watching crimes being committed in their presence without so much as lifting a finger to defend the rights of the citizens, (let alone 5 Opposition MPs) who they have sworn to protect, leaves the independent observer aghast as to the “State of Law and Order” there in!

Worse a Police Officer was seen videoing the whole scuffle quite unperturbed, just as he would any other daily event. Tell me I am hallucinating at these images, or am I the only one shocked that in the heart of the ruling family’s stomping ground, there is NO law and order practiced, as it is being ruled by thugs who have been devolved the responsibility of calling the shots there, and NOT the police, even when it comes to breaking the law.

As if the Khuram Shaikh murder case is not isolated, and the Akuressa (in the Matara District) Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman who is accused of raping hundreds of under-age girls, now we have the Mayor of Hambantota, a self-confessed Casino holic using public’s funds, (his wealth at the time of appointment does not even allow him entry into a casino!) is now seen rushing in to the fray with a pistol in his hands ready for anything unsavory, who then says it was a toy pistol used to scare off goons who were threatening the Opposition. As if these were not enough there are other allegations too numerous to mention, to consign Hambantota into a NO GO zone for law abiding citizens.

The politicians of the area appear to have sole control, in organizing any activity, legitimate or not, with no permission needed, or Police involvement to prevent any violations of the Law. My contention therefore is that due to the power of the patronage of the President, that these so called henchmen have, the Police are NOT able to perform their duties according to the law, even if they are genuinely interested in so doing. So where does the IGP and the respective DIGs of the areas concerned stand in this regard?

The fear of the all powerful, omnipotent President is a barrier in itself, as one word from him, through any one of these henchmen taking umbrage to the Law being correctly enforced, can result in demotion, transfer, and lack of promotion, none of which is worth the effort of the Police Officer to contend with in his career as a Policeman. Is it a ‘Catch 22’ situation for the Police Force? Or is it in connivance that they act in concert to allow a MOB to rule Hambantota, so that both the Mobsters and their protectors, the Police can have a better life and profit?  

I seriously think that Hambantota is a less safe place to go to than the Jaffna District, and would probably merit a foreign, and local travel advisory where we go at our own risk. If insurance companies refuse to cover people going there, that would start the authorities to think that they are really out of control, and either the President takes a stand in cleaning up his own backyard from this excrement, or confirm our worst fears that he is unable to control the Frankenstein’s monster he has created. 

It is time we concerned Citizens not get duped by what these defenders of the Regime continue to spew out, in the face of reality, that is counter to these assertions. We must take a stand, before all the Districts learn by the example of the lead taken by the thugs of Hambantota, together with their benefactors, and turn this country into one of MOB rule whereby dissent or even investigative rights of MPs of the Country are prevented, thereby making Parliament all but inconsequential.

Why is it so hard for Sri Lankans fed on a diet of lies and hoodwinking to realize that what they see and hear and read is sometimes the opposite of reality? This then results in a false sense of security, that breeds apathy, and worse the thought that the ordinary citizen is powerless to make a change, either by taking to the streets or the ballot box, as there are sufficient people still under the influence of a brainwashed mode of existence who don’t live in the real world, believing falsehoods to be true, and thereby propping up this traitorous regime.

This challenge has to be met face to face. We owe it to the future of our Country and those who come after us to bequeath a country with basic laws and freedoms, none of which seem to be in place presently, so that it will be a place safe for mere mortals like us to live in. We don’t want an Iraq, Libya or Syria do we?

It obvious that in order to prop up a lie, it is incumbent upon the representatives of the fraudsters to prevent those investigating the waste of public money, so that the people of Sri Lanka can be informed of the cost they are made to bear for these follies of a warped regime. Whether it is MR Cricket stadium where cricket is rarely played, and elephants prevented from their corridor, or MR Conference Hall that has just hosted one event, or the MR Airport, where hardly a plane flies into, or the MR port that struggles to justify its existence and all those empty roads to nowhere, where most of the citizens of Hambantota are still as badly off as before.

The development has only accrued to people, most of whom have NO connection to Hambantota, except for the first family, have to be exposed to full accountability. If there is no wrong doing then what is there to fear?         

Monday, April 7, 2014

With open season on “unsolicited investments” there is NO limit on Foreign Direct Investment! (FDI)

The investment by the CHEC Port City Co (Pvt) Ltd is the largest single FDI project in Sri Lanka at US$1.3B. I have noted in my previous blog entry about this method of foreign direct investment, and why I do not believe it comes under the normal rules of FDI. CHEC is a subsidiary of CCCC (China Communication Construction Company Ltd) which is listed in the HK and Shanghai Stock Exchanges. The GOVT of China is the majority owner of the company.

Firstly the amount invested is NOT subject to audit, but it is easy to see the US$1.3B investment coming through the banking system. The  money will be spent on development and reclaiming 233 hectares of land, and 125 hectares will belong to the Govt. a further 88 hectares will be leased on 99 year lease to CHEC and 20 hectares will be given to CHEC on a FREEHOLD basis as part of the investment benefit.

It is this 125 hectare carrot that the GOSL is drunk with that it was signed off, without any real evaluation of what is it in for SL and what is the true benefit to China in this investment. I have highlighted in the previous post why it is a no brainer for China as they expect to make windfall profits. What Sri Lanka will do with their 125 acres is as usual open to question, and it is the Govt. of the day that will determine how this is divvied up.

Further there is a policy that under Chinese law, it is a crime to make payment to non PRC (People’s Republic of China) Govt. officials and to officials of International Public Organizations, for any ILLEGITMATE commercial benefits.

The word illegitimate being the operative word. So the money paid to fixers who promise that the deal will be rubber stamped by the GOSL is part of normal commercial transactions and therefore perfectly above board.

From the above case it can be clearly seen what constitutes foreign investment. It is not necessary to provide employment, but some spurious benefit like the GOSL getting 125 hectares is sufficient reason to allow this. There is NO evaluation mechanism to work out how beneficial it is to the Country and in what manner.

It is time there are more people with common sense to evaluate the public benefit if any of these investments, and what public cost. It cannot be undone once approvals are given and therefore it is important that this takes place prior to approval.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bust the Chinese plot – Mega bucks at stake – Port City here we come!

So what brings the Chinese here to Sri Lanka, to put in a bid for the Port City? Unsolicited, but a carrot that seems to the GOSL too good to be true.

A 99 yr lease, at a minimal price and as part of the 250 hectare landfill development the GOSL will be given about 50 hectares at no extra charge! With land, filling and construction they expect it to cost US$1.3B. We in SL have NO idea what their game plan is or how it is going to work. We have given them free reign.  Many who fear it say that it will lead to a property crash in Colombo with all this excess land available for sale and 10,000 plus apartments into Colombo.

Well here goes, as at a minimum of US$500,000 per apartment, they will pre - sell it to the Chinese for US$5B. A quick way to make a cool US$3.5B with eyes closed.

See link for the logic as it is a no brainer.

The question now really becomes, whether the terms were fair or if we were sold down the tubes for our ignorance at the games the Chinese now play.

In fact the profit could be a lot more. With offices and such like the gain on sales greater, so I am merely noting a minimum return to the investor for that risk, in a deal our GOSL negotiators thought was “too good to be true.” How wrong can they be?

The risk is that China will go belly up before they are sold, and even if that were the case, the investors will wish to take their money out, so what is wrong in investing in a property on the SL waterfront, in a tropical paradise one flight away from the unbearably smog laden Beijing. At worst they can escape to the sunny climes of Sri Lanka, who will then play host to this city of Chinamen.

This dovetails neatly with my previous blog entry, on the Chinese invasion, that we are not sufficiently smart in cashing in on

So lift up the Champagne glasses to yet another Chinese coup at our expense!    

Déjà vu

I was reading an interesting article about Charlie Chaplin, about his life and loves, and no doubt his background had something to do with his behavior.

Taking a particular section from the article,

One of these children was Charlie — born in April 1889 to a part-Romany music-hall singer called Hannah Chaplin. She’d already had one son out of wedlock and, although she was married to a successful music-hall artist called Charles Chaplin, it’s unlikely that he was Charlie’s real father. 

Whatever the truth, Chaplin senior gave the infant his name. But a year after the birth, he walked out — probably because he suspected Hannah of infidelity — leaving her and the boys to lead an impoverished existence.

Charlie later confessed that his mother had many subsequent affairs. It’s likely that, in times of extreme poverty, she also took to the streets. This was not unusual in working-class South London, where women drifted in and out of prostitution to save their families.

As Charlie once said: ‘To gauge the morals of our family by commonplace standards would be as erroneous as putting a thermometer in boiling water.’

So here I am today dealing with a similar situation in 2014. This girl has had a child in marriage, and the father has left him. Then the mother gets involved with an unsuitable man, whom she already has known intimately and suffered violence in his hands, and becomes pregnant, whilst temporarily abandoning her first son to her father. Now she has left this man, and is in limbo wanting to have an abortion, for which when I was asked for help, point blank refused and said she will have to see the baby to full term, and we will discuss what we do with the child afterwards.

She says he or she (the unborn baby)  will not have a father and therefore she must do this, to which I tell her, there are so many successful people in this world, who have been born out of wedlock and there is nothing really wrong in this day and age, as long as we can make some arrangements to ensure the child grows up in a loving and caring family. She has already had an abortion and in my book, after the second time it just becomes a means of birth control, like the pill, and therefore subject to repeated liaisons leading to this tragic outcome.

She has a few options, go back to her first born, bring him up with the second born, children of two fathers, but at least the mother will do what is needed to bring them up in a one parent household. Second would be to abandon her first born which her second liaison is pressing her to do, leaving him at the mercy of grandparents, who will always remind him he was abandoned by both his parents!!! And return to the abusive man to give the baby a child, only to have to leave him when she cannot tolerate the beatings anymore!   

The outcome she favors, and wants my approval for, is to abandon the first born, have an abortion, lie she has NO children and take flight abroad to a maid job in the Middle East, running away from her responsibilities, into a life of independence, or so she assumes, only to be taken advantage of by some foreigner who abandons her when pregnant, to continue a life of a loose woman, to make ends meet and survival, perhaps getting involved in drugs and destroying what is left of her life.

This seems a pattern followed by her mother who abandoned her at about the same age of her son who she is about to abandon.

I am unrelated with no vested interest, and can just wash my hands of the case, and tell her to do as she pleases, or do I get involved and inform her of the options available and the consequences of those options being taken, which I have, but to which she seems deaf at present.

The problem is I am not sure of what she says, namely between truth and fiction of her stories, as she is still in contact with her current partner who she maintains she has left, and which he maintains is just a visit to a relative and she will be back once she gets her ID number so she can attend the ante natal clinics provided for pregnant mothers in this country, which help them through this period!

These matters have existed throughout history and the ignorance of these mothers who continue to make the same mistake, despite being informed of the available options, boggles the mind. The irrational streak in humans defies gravity, logic and time. So shall we hope that we are fortunate in bringing a future Charlie Chaplin, warts and all or we think it better that that potential is snuffed out literally. These are hard choices people make every day; to some hard, to others, run of the mill.   

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Migrant Remittances – struck a chord amongst my readership overseas

Overseas Sri Lankans form the bulk of my blog readership. So it was not surprising that my entry earlier in the day about remittances from the Sri Lankans working overseas led to a huge increase in hits in the past few hours.

So let me elaborate on this topic, so that many of you can reflect on your contribution or lack of it to the overall improvement in the quality of life of us living in Sri Lanka, and the various arguments as to how you can really help.

I have some knowledge in the area, after a 33 year stint living and working overseas in the UK and USA, and how ‘looking in from out’ has changed from ‘looking in from in!’ There are many very curious aspects, where one cannot generalize at all.

Many of the Sri Lankans who emigrated to the Western Countries have established roots there, and therefore merely come to Sri Lanka on vacation, and don’t as a practice send money back for investments or to family. There are of course exceptions to this, with a notable amount of people who now feel it is safe to return for longer periods in retirement, where they have purchased apartments that they can keep closed when not in use. Some have purchased them by investing inherited assets which they sold, for a more manageable asset, namely a flat in Colombo.

This keeps the market for expensive flats buoyant when one wondered who would buy them. Then there are those who send money to help poorer relatives, such as parents’ care, and for study or other reasons. They are also from the Western Diaspora. There was the famous recent speech by Vigneswaran who said this money going to youth in Jaffna has resulted in a number of spoiled lazy young Jaffna Tamils, when the old impression of them was anything but!!!

It is the responsibility of us in Sri Lanka to inculcate an attitude of a productive worth ethic, when many are so fortunate as to be helped from overseas without strings. It is the fault of our education system that has instilled a culture of entitlement that makes us ungrateful for anything we receive without effort!!!

I would therefore request the giver to consider how the recipient intends spending this largesse, in a land of lotus eaters, as I can assure them that some recipients have a quality of life that is far superior to that of the giver, as his needs and wants are less, and technically subject to food costs, US$100 can buy a US$10,000 life style when the home is paid for and one has a servant to do everything for one.
I am a pauper in income terms now, as compared to the heady days when I had a great income in Santa Barbara, California in the early 1990s, a place where Billionaires and old money Americans call their home, and I attended Gatsby parties in true Gatsby style. However, I have a better a quality of life measured by the services I receive, respect and regard, the inner feelings of contentment from my surroundings. I live on an estate, with few western luxuries, but as I have people to do what I want, it is some daily grind that I don’t have to contend with.

Today, I had my clothes washed, shirts ironed, house completely cleaned and mopped, fridge de frosted and cleaned, 4 dogs fed, and today’s and a few more day’s food cooked. Limes picked from my trees and squeezed and left for me to make fresh lime juice on tap, with even the fresh milk from the cows heated and refrigerated, all for a wage of Rs 1000 (less than US$8) for the day, twice what I really need to pay her, how can I complain. As I am not home for most of the time, I don’t need a full time person, and this once a week help is sufficient.

Whilst my only problem is political, seeing this country ruined by a bunch of thugs some of whom are supported by our misguided overseas sycophants who are unable to appreciate the shortcomings in government, bearing in mind the true potential of the Country and its hardworking people who see little benefit when the lotus eaters in Govt. share the spoils amongst themselves at great public cost, as detailed in most of my blog entries here.

Diaspora don’t be taken in by the rhetoric, as the temporary guest workers in Middle Eastern and other Countries from Italy, Cyprus, to Singapore and Korea pump this economy with US$10B a year, that props up the wasteful spending of the regime, and little accrues to those who actually earn the money.

These 2million plus workers don’t have a vote, and if they had, they would change the face of this leadership at a whisker, which makes it all the more galling that the disenfranchised actually permit the lie to take hold and all our efforts at pointing this out to the gullible voter comes to naught.

However that is another subject, so in conclusion all our sins are covered by the dedication and hard work of our most productive citizens who feel their labor is more appreciated from without than from within, we must never forget their notable contribution in winning the civil war, and propping up a regime that is saying one thing to their audience that includes you whilst doing something completely different. We, who labor after much sacrifice to speak the truth, as we have no other financial stake in this, need your support as well in this venture.           

Migrant Remittances back home as a source of income inequality

and one that is rising in Sri Lanka and therefore regretful!

In regards to a comment in my last blog post, where it was stated that migrant remittances were a source of inequality, and therefore bad for those who have no chance to immigrate, whilst having a ring of truth, has NO basis in trying to prevent it as a policy directive and an inevitability of the freedom to travel.

All civilizations have benefited from remittances. Half the large estates and country houses in the UK came about as a result of the British going overseas to make their fortunes. Even in Roman times, the money sent from say, Roman Britain by the Romans sustained and gave wealth to their families back home.

The economic policies, laws as well as taxation policies that countries enact to reduce inequality should be directed more at equitable distribution of wealth, once earned rather than the prevention of people from legitimately earning as much as they can if they wish.

This is a big topic, so I will restrict it to remittances of Sri Lankan workers, and the pros and cons to the local economy. We must remember that the US$50B of remittances Sri Lanka has received in the past 11 years has had a huge impact on the Sri Lankan economy in that period, and the Governments of the day have taken all the credit. I have consistently maintained, that but for the Government interference in the economy in this period, the growth would have been that much greater had the private sector been allowed to determine the best mode of investment for the funds these remittances have created.

It is purely laws properly enforced and economic policy that can make use of this source of revenue in the best interests of the citizens of Sri Lanka, the main theme of this blog. Much of the remittances have been wasted by the state and misspent, when it could have been directed at productive investment by the private sector. Only people who directly remit to a productive business will benefit, much like the foreign investment in Sri Lanka, but better as the profits here will remain in SL.

Let us walk through a theoretical example to illustrate my point. I remit US$100,000 of my earnings to my NSB account in 2013 to be used by me when I return in 3 years. The exchange rate I receive is at Rs130, so there is Rs13M which after a year I get an interest of 5%. With inflation at 10%, the rupee purchasing power has reduced by 5% after a year. If I sent it to a NRFC account in $, I would be worse off because the interest received will be 2%, and US $ has appreciated in the meantime by Rs2. Leaving me even worse off.

The GOSL (Govt) borrows this money from NSB at 6% and invests it on a road project, which due to the commission payments and lack of transparency in awarding the tender is 25% more expensive. The graft engaged in by the contractor, getting quality control engineers to sign off on shoddy work, results in a badly constructed road, with pot holes affecting fuel consumption on vehicles, higher maintenance costs on vehicles etc. The contractor funds his new Porsche with the excessive profits made from shoddy workmanship and the fixer engaged in the graft does likewise because their opportunity cost of money easily earned is low so no return is necessary.

The point is that it is more important to utilize remittances more productively, by first giving a better rate of interest to the saver, and directing the lending of that money, with a lower spread to a private project with a higher rate of return, which would increase the multiplier effect of the benefit.

If I have little faith in lending to the bank believing I will lose value, and instead I buy a house, in the belief that it will appreciate in value, then I am adding to house price inflation, making homes less affordable to local income earners, pushing them out of the chance to buy property even to live!

The latter has NO DOUBT contributed to the increase in property values and by the same token also pumped money into the construction industry, that has helped grow the economy and give more opportunities to Electricians, Plumbers and Masons adding to the Growth rate of the economy.

I don’t think there is ANY doubt of the net benefit of remittances to the economy, and the social cost of family consternation and creation of lazy sons sitting in their three wheelers in every corner of Sri Lanka is a problem that can be addressed by proper social engineering within Sri Lanka to take steps to reduce the incidence of these social ills. The richer the country gets the more problems caused by drugs, and spending and that is a cost of wealth and rich kids all over with less onerous tasks to occupy their time!

It is for the earner overseas to understand these pitfalls of how his or her benefaction is used. It is called psychological counseling, where the guilt of an absent relative is extinguished by money, that holds true even within the economy when parents are busy earning money, and substitute money for love. I know I have covered a lot of ground, and created more discussion points, but hey it is an important fact of Sri Lanka, and it is time we addressed all the pros and cons and come up with a balanced approach to this subject to benefit all.   

Following on from the Gamani Corea Legacy

My last blog entry was on the Seminar yesterday which I attended and following on from a comment in that blog entry, it was apparent what is wrong with our education in Sri Lanka that is merely reflective of the inability to grasp concepts at our universities.

Students who by and large study courses such as Economics in the English language, but many are still not fluent in the language. This then restricts them to reading required texts from which to answer their questions whilst their command and lack of fluency restricts them in appreciating the nuances of concepts such as those discussed at the seminar.

It is interesting to note for example that in the 1970s the discussion was about rich and poor countries and the exploitation of the poor by the rich. That debate has gradually transformed into one of unequal distribution of wealth in both rich and poor countries and poverty alleviation theories have replaced them as topics for discussion and implementation.

With the higher growth rates of the BRIC nations, when compared with the OECD, the focus in world development and growth has shifted to the newly developing nations and the arising inequalities in those countries that are the need of the hour.

Further as emphasized by the various panels, the huge leap in technology have meant that the whole world is wired with the same technology, with the telecommunications in smaller nations being superior to the larger ones, due to the ease with which to cover the nation with broadband, giving them an edge in being a technology hub, to compete in providing both BPO services and cutting edge software development services to clients worldwide.

Changing demographic patterns and Ecological concerns have brought conservation of rapidly declining resources into the forefront. The use of renewable energy and the economics of the development of renewable resources has turned on its head, the whole area of the diversification of resources to energy savings schemes from export or other terms of trade related economic theories.

The transition and emphasis of new areas of growth is better understood with reference to the Gamini Corea legacy of the 70s and 80s of international programs and how they dovetail into matters of state in 2014, where an unheard of aspect, such as remittances from workers in the Middle East, have transformed economies.            

Friday, April 4, 2014

THE CENTRAL BANK – ABSENT – GAMANI COREA LECTURE! What a discourtesy to a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank!

I was privileged to be invited to the Seminar “Gamani Corea’s contribution to Domestic and International Economic Policy” sponsored by the Gamani Corea Foundation, held at the Institute of Policy Studies Auditorium, at Independence Square that started at 2pm and when I left having being walked to my car by Dr.Saman Kelegama, the current Executive Director/ CEO it was 9pm. 

For one to truly understand the contribution Gamani Corea had to both Domestic Economic and Development Policy planning and execution and International Appreciation of some of the particular concerns of the poor nations one would either have had to attend this seminar, or be a student of this eminent son of Sri Lanka.

I will not go into detail or summarize each of the speakers’ major points as it pertains to the above, as it will be shortly documented and possibly printed for future study and appreciation by students interested in some of the history of Economic and Development policy to better understand why we are at this state of development today.

I will instead provide some personal insights into the event and observations I made there from.

The illustrious line up of participants in the seminar had some indirect or direct contact with Gamani Corea, and accordingly illustrated by way of anecdote, or explained by way of historical context as to characters of the day, his contribution and thinking that had an impact on world and Sri Lankan affairs.

A little known tale of how he was less than two years old when Mahatma Gandhi came to stay at his Grandparents home “Sigiriya” in Chilaw, on his only visit to the island, in 1927 and made an impression on the great man, must have rubbed off on him as Manmohan Singh the present Indian Prime Minister and great friend of Gamani Corea, has also extolled his greatness.  

NONE of the speakers, possibly reflecting their elder status, put in context his age at which some of these thought provoking and cutting edge economic theories and ideas were put forward and implemented. It is important for today’s student to put that in context, as well as the knowledge and technology since that have made forecasting, planning, and sensitivity analysis that much easier to perform.
Being born on November 4th 1925, he was at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge in 1945, when England was in shambles, starving, rationing, and he had money! More than most of the English even at Cambridge. It was US money that bailed out England in those days!

When in 1952, he worked as an Economist for Dudley Senanayake, his relative, He was only 27, and already had two BAs, two MAs from both Cambridge and Oxford, and DPhil (PhD) from Oxford!

Though not mentioned at the seminar, Dudley was in and out of his mother’s house, Horton Lodge as he was quite infatuated (also madly in love with) with Gamani’s mother Freda, (Sir John Kotelawala’s sister) and some say, that was why Dudley never married.

He drafted the 6 year plan for Sir John, when he was PM in 1956 at the mere age of 30 and the 10 year plan for SWRD Bandaranayake in 1959 at 33 before his34th Birthday.

No wonder that he had served his country well when he was made the EU Ambassador in 1973 by Mrs B at 48 and UNCTAD Sec Gen before he reached 50.

The long list of participants in discussions and moderation included contemporaries who worked closely with him, such as Godfrey Goonetilleke, Lloyd Fernando, Usvatte Arachchi, Dr Nimal Sanderatne, Mr Lakdasa Hulugalle, Jayantha Dhanapala, and those who interacted with him later, such as Hilarian Codipilly, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, WA Wijewardena, Harsha Aturupana, WD Lakshman, Saman Kelegama, A de VDS Indraratne. I was also pleased to see some familiar faces such as Chandi Chanmugam, Bradman Weerakoon, VK Wickremasinghe as well as many other of Gamani’s contemporaries from the Central Bank and other Ministries that he worked at.

Apart from Tissa Vitharana, a senior Minister of Science and Technology, and one who was part of the left wing thinkers in Gamani’s planning ministry era,  who gave the keynote speech as the Chief Guest alluding to his greatness in the context of Sri Lanka, there was NO  ONE from Government, reflecting the complete absence of intellectual thought emanating from there, and was please to see my good friend Eran Wickremaratne who will be able to put in context Gamani’s contribution, when understanding some of the political and policymaking challenges he has to grapple with in presenting the Opposition’s Policy to take the Country to the next level. 
Conspicuous by their absence was the CENTRAL BANK contingent, WHO WERE INVITED (I was particularly adamant upon my receiving the invitation, to request that the whole Research Team at the Central Bank was invited considering Gamani’s contribution there, just in case they had overlooked that!

Considering Gamani was the Director of Economic Research in 1965 and Deputy Governor in 1970, it was shameful that the CB think tank were not able to learn from all the greats of yesteryear so that they could perform their tasks better.

I will go as far as publicly accuse the Central Bank hierarchy of intellectual vandalism, in not permitting the best and brightest of our public servants from gathering notable facts of history and how it can be better put in context with the problems they must grapple with today. The blame ultimately MUST rest with Nivaard Cabral, who appears to have politicized a largely apolitical position, so that by muzzling the freedom to associate in intellectual thought, is carrying forward the Government policy of misleading firstly their own policy makers, into making bad choices and decisions that bear NO MERIT in reality.

Just to summarize the event briefly, Gamani’s detailed analysis given by Godfrey Goonetilleke a very close associate and I believe the Chairman of his Foundation, should have left the lengthy document to be read by the attendees and reduced his time to just a few personal observation. The session then would have been more fruitful permitting a greater participation of the audience which was NOT possible due to time constraints.

Gamani’s life was in three parts, his contribution to Sri Lanka’s policy making then his UNCTAD years, and the later years in the NIEO and North South Dialog as well as the South Forum, whilst at the same time setting up the Sri Lanka Economic Association, Marga Institute and the Institute of Policy Studies, that are NOW in a position to carry on the intellectual discussion, with a view to influencing the Governments of the day on major aspects of policy so that Sri Lanka can meet its future challenges.

One notable and contemporary issue that Gamani appears to have sown the seeds was the climate change, environment debate, where we in Sri Lanka owe to Gamani Corea to put forward development policies that will realize sustainable development without environmental degradation, and in fact incorporate environmental regeneration to reverse the drastic environmental damage caused since 2004 that at today’s pace will leave a legacy of waste and desolation for our future, IF WE DO NOT ACT IMMEDIATELY TO ARREST IT.     
There were NO young faces, except for the staff of IPS who also attended. It is a sign of our times, when today’s youth in their quest for learning, miss the basics! I hope the Gamani Corea Foundation understand that their primary job is to improve Economic understanding of the future policy makers, and make a conscious effort to identify, promote, educate and incentivize the best of our young fertile minds into this sphere of policy and decision making, and intellectualize by way of similar seminars so that new ideas can be developed in arriving at truly Sri Lankan solutions to the myriad of self inflicted wounds that afflict our Country.

We can NO LONGER blame, as was the case in Gamani’s time, the Western Developed Nations for the core of our internal problems.

I respectfully commend the leadership of Dr Saman Kelegama and his staff at IPS for making the effort to make the seminar a resounding success and I sincerely hope that the event is well documented for a future student to learn from.

I also hope that the huge endowment that Gamani Corea, bequeathed to “the future Sri Lankan” is put to the use it was intended for, and not frittered away by those who already have served their nation believing it to be a fora a for a few fun days to live through their retirement reminiscing on their glory days!         

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Smoking is bad for your health! So let us ban the sale of cigarettes to all who were born in THIS CENTURY

It is NO April Fool’s joke, when I read this editorial in the Mirror, of an initiative of British doctors to ban the sale of cigarettes to anyone born in this Century!

In my opinion it is an honest and practical way forward, and can easily be enforced, without affecting the rights of those who are already addicted.

In this way we can stop the next generation from getting into this habit, and counter the criticism that Tobacco Companies target the very young and impressionable. With this initiative, we can begin the publicity as to why it is best to avoid, and if this is started in this fashion, there is little chance of people growing up being addicted. Addiction being a very difficult task to kill!

The tobacco lobby worldwide would be the first to counter this proposal that has come from Medical Practitioners seeing patients with smoking related medical problems, and knowing they can EASILY be avoided if there is a gradual ban and a reduction in the smokers, which will eventually result in lower smoking related deaths and illness.

Frankly this issue is a NO BRAINER! Having to argue this anti smoking case is itself ridiculous as it is self evident. So it is time the people and Governments take the initiative and the courage of their convictions to demand this change in status, so that in 50 years we can almost eliminate smoking related casualties “ALL TOGETHER”. Wouldn’t that be nice?

I do realize that the Govt. has now become dependent on the revenue from Tobacco taxes to waste on their extravagant and unproductive investments. However in the long run, a country can count on better health and productivity of its workforce, which will not only overcome the lost revenue, but will be able to  divert scarce resources into other areas of say, Health Care spending, so that the health of the community can be raised and maintained, and all possible emergencies curtailed.

It is incumbent upon us to draw a line in the sand, and say enough is enough, and go ahead with conviction politics, and themes to improve the quality of life of the people who live in this fine Country.