Saturday, May 28, 2016

Work life balance of the future – It’s called flexibility, to minimize the carbon footprint

You the reader, how would you prefer to live? If you don’t have inherited wealth where you don’t have to work, but have to earn an income to live the way you want, what would you ideally like to do?

In this globalized world, we may have to leave the locations we are comfortable with, in order to pursue the vocation or career of our choice, and so we will have to adapt to the surroundings, and make certain compromises to our lifestyle.

What is our priority? How can we achieve it? These are very personal questions, whose answer may differ from one person to the next. How can we then compromise our lifestyle so we can balance all of these, in order to lead a life we are want, bearing in mind, the income we can optimally earn for our skill set, and the expenses we have to incur, due to the lifestyle we have chosen? How we manage those expenses in the best way possible, in order that we obtain a level of satisfaction we want is the challenge.

Very few people think of these questions, when they plan what they want to do, and then after years of surviving, according to others norms, wake up one day, and bemoan their lives, and the choices they made, and regret, with “what might have been had I done this or that!”.

It is impossible to predict the future. However we can make certain lifestyle choices to improve it. What we believe is essential, may in fact be only optional. This is particularly true in consumption of non essentials, like, alcohol and cigarettes, as well as the daily bet on the horses on the way home. Many don’t realize how much is spent on such, and how much their families suffer or are denied owing to this.

In the rapidly changing world and the era of smart phones, social media, constantly evolving markets and products, employment flexibility is the rule and norm, and not the exception, and unless we are able to adapt to the fast changing environment, we may both be left behind, and also be bereft of skills needed, leaving us in a very precarious position to even survive!

We must understand that retirement may not be an option for many in future, the job skills may be more personal services and not factory work. Home workers like carers for the elderly may be in demand, and skilled production workers laid off by technology. Accordingly personal prejudices will have to be put aside, in favor of taking jobs that are available, even though we may believe it is not socially desirable!


The state has been singularly unable to have a vision for the future, so they have NOT been able to inform the people, where jobs will be, what they will be and what kind of education and training they should be thinking of when making these tough choices as Youth.

These think tanks and seminars, such as the recently concluded, FORESIGHT and INNOVATION summit just did not get the best out of the people attending, as they have NOT been able to envisage a future different to their own short term perspectives, that they can think about. It was very poor in execution.

A long term horizon involves, a HUGE change in behavior. JUST THINK in the short period since the end of the LTTE insurrection, 7 years now, could we have envisaged the traffic chaos that has increased the average commute by a WHOLE HOUR EACH DAY! That is a colossal waste of human satisfaction lost in a BUS! So much for the PEACE DIVIDEND!

If our planners had a vision that this would be the case, unless certain steps were taken, they should have taken remedial steps. If you ask some, they will say that they in fact took steps. What were they? They said the road construction and widening in Colombo was done to take into account the extra traffic expected over 10 years, but the traffic we expected 10 years hence came in just two years.

The fundamental flaw here was that NO PROPER PLAN had been made for expanding, modernizing, and making speedier public transport. That should have been the priority, NOT THE ROAD BUILDING AND WIDENING CONTRACTS that any urban planner would say was countreproductive.

Why was there a public policy flaw? We gave the onus to the Road Construction Lobby, led by wealthy construction giants to make the call, and drive policy, as they had the money to influence the politicians to behave NOT in a way that was good for the PUBLIC, but ONLY GOOD FOR THE POCKETS of the Road Builders. This is a clear example of flawed priorities from which many, perhaps 500,000 people are paying the price daily, without realizing that their respective governments have caused this misery on them.

That is why it is so important to think about the future in a logical and rational manner, DEVOID OF PERSONAL AGENDAS, for the public good. It is the responsibility of a well run state to make these decisions. Just look at the world’s longest 55km Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland that was planned in 1947 and work started in 1994 and will be opened in a few days, with full commercial use in 2017, cutting journey times by over an hour.

In Sri Lanka we have been fooled by contracts that are merely gimmicks to win Elections, and in the end lead to bad policy. We the citizens are just as much to blame because we believe that the promise of short term gain, is sufficient carrot to vote a party into power, only to find that, we were misled.

I am afraid that the Good Governance promise which was the ULTIMATE social contract of the Government with the people who elected them, has NOT been kept, and there is no satisfactory reason given by the elected Government as to why they have NOT been able to keep to the terms of this contract.


In order to have a personal quality of life that improves, the state MUST play a distinct role, as otherwise without it, we come into conflict. The state therefore has a right to provide us with clean water, clean air, and make necessary steps that we consume food free from harmful toxins. For them to provide those, they have to provide, good sanitation, waste disposal, electric public transport, and recyclability of all disposable products, and environmental conservation.

The citizen then must undertake to help the state in its endeavors to provide this, by standards of conduct, where they do not litter, dispose of waste, not pollute, reduce carbon footprint and most of all, have a community spirit that takes everyone’s best interest above that of personal interest. They must pay their taxes, without which the state cannot provide the required services, and to this end the civic mindedness of the individual is paramount, especially the wealthy.

There are models we can emulate, and whilst we can have our own unique behavioral model, we can learn from Bhutan, and from Scandinavian Countries, on how we go about doing this in practice.

PPP or public private partnerships are the rage now. However as I have explained above the real Private Public partnership, is the one defined here, where the State and the people work towards achieving the one goal, of doing all that is necessary to improve the quality of lives of the people, along with the equal corporation of the people themselves as they are one and the same thing!

We must understand that when we say the state it is made up of US. Not someone else, so we are talking about US, doing things in concert, for the common good. That must include behavior, courtesy, discipline and above all civic mindedness, for the State and the People to prosper together.  

No comments: