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.