Friday, February 19, 2016

One Businessman's honest opinion on the state of our Nation from my conversation with him today.

Tasma Nimal as he is known locally, is an owner of a diversified group of companies and recently received an Entrepreneurship Award in the Extra-large sizes business category. He is a self made man who has rapidly grown his business and he told me he even owns the Garment Factory in Medirigiriya with 600 sewing machines, close to my home (10Kms) there.

I, in my capacity as the Director Finance of the ‘Women’s Empowerment Program’ Liya Diriya, currently with 43 societies at village level in the Biyagama, area, went to meet our local businesses to request funds for this program with current fundraising for the Lottery program, and in that context met with Deshamanya KA Nimal Subasinghe.

He is a provider of manpower services, bemoaned the desperate need in our community to empower women to manage their family finances better, as a hugely more important responsibility of Liya Diriya, as that is the key to women’s empowerment over some of the self employment workshops that we sponsor.

He was adamant that in Sri Lanka today, everyone who can work, and wants a job can get employment. Just in his business right now he has over 2,000 vacancies which are not filled due to lack of people. This has nothing to do with skills, but people’s perception of the job, and their preference to ‘wait it out’ until something more rewarding “falls in their lap”!

He has just received requests for thousands of mason's and helpers for construction projects from Contractors, and the interest shown to ads placed only amount to a handful! The Govt. may have NO choice but to import labor if we are to complete these projects on time. There are simply NO takers for the jobs out there.

This is the state of the state today, and I have blogged about this point ad nauseam, and the fact that there will be no takers for the PM 1 million jobs program, (the PM refuses to entertain my opinion, as he counters that the jobs he will find will pay well over Rs50K per month!) as there are NO takers for the 250,000 jobs currently on offer in Sri Lanka that are gong a begging! They can easily be filled from foreign workers, but is not a politically acceptable solution. In short we are country with jobs that people don’t want to do, as the wages offered, and they will not allow others who want to work take them either, if they come from overseas.

In his opinion these are living wages, (Rs30,000 per month) and there are huge demands on skills that people have not learned, but should have as vocational training for those who left at or after O levels. Electrician, Carpenter, Mason and Plumber are jobs most in demand, with no one with suitable knowledge to fill this skills gap, and schools should have offered this in the local area schools to all those who drop out, rather than offer useless 3 month computer courses to kids, as there are no jobs for those with such minimal qualification in that field. While on the one hand we fool people into believing these courses are useful, and they turn out to be anything but. The beauty of the vocations above are that they can be done locally from home as they are skills shortages in one’s backyard, not having to go in search of work.

We then got talking on this topic where we offer women Counseling services to help them manage their lives better. He believes that this is the most important benefit to the family unit, as most women don’t even know what their husband’s income is and in his opinion, the wife is actually better able to manage the home finances, especially if the husbands income goes directly to the wife, there will better management and even a surplus every month that can be socked away.

He has many in his employment whose lives he had helped turn round, purely by better management of the family finances, and quoted half dozen real life examples of how this was done. I asked him to come and speak to our women, as coming from a local man, who has made it and mentored some of his own workforce, no one can challenge that legitimacy!

Many in his example, were men who had an alcohol and smoking habit that left next to nothing for the family, and handing the income to the wife, allowed the wife to give the husband pocket money, for his habits forcing him to crimp his wasteful and extravagant style, while she could manage the household expenses.

People don’t realize how much of a monthly income is spent on such extravagances, and so believe they are either underpaid or need a minimum income to live. He quoted examples of men earning Rs40K a month, being unable to make ends, and once the wife better manages the finances have over a quarter available to save each month.

Another example he uses, is that due to this dependence on alcohol and cigarettes, many men don’t reduce their habit when prices rise such as in the recent past, where the duties were upped substantially. The men don’t reduce consumption, and the family suffer starvation and malnutrition as a result. The implication being that the more taxes the Govt. collects is simply paid by families going with less, taking from the already poor as a hugely regressive tax.

He ventured to suggest that the reduced duties on lower alcohol beers that was recently abandoned would have been better, as many would switch to cheaper, lower alcohol liquor through time, and will save both on expenditure and inebriation. Alcohol satiation will be at lower level of toxicity, and release of funds to family maintenance would result a better quality of life. In short the state also contributes to the chronic poverty within families.

Due to poor financial management families are poor, and have the wrong opinion of the value of money and livable wages on offer. If finances are properly managed, families can live well on salaries currently on offer, then this resistance to work because of the perception of low wages, will disappear.

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