Thursday, December 7, 2017

A call to arms to shoot to kill on sight - Poachers in National Parks - the only deterrent to unabashed destruction

Press Conference – Hosted by Wildlife and Nature Protection Society

If a call to arms was needed then the headline should read as follows:

The President of the WNPS pleads for all DWC (Department of Wildlife Conservation) personnel trained in the use of weaponry and passing standard fitness and competence tests, to be allowed to carry fire arms openly, and SHOOT TO KILL any poacher they apprehend with a weapon of any sort, whether it is a gun that is a fire arm, or another that may not be a fire arm, but which is intended for use in killing animals, within the precincts of protected areas under the management of the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Further that they are protected and defended adequately through the resources of the DWC if brought to court as the defendants will have the resources to use the most expensive lawyers to state their case, and so should have adequate protection, to ensure that those doing their job, can in fact safely do it, without fear of being harmed in any way!

In short, “Rukshan Jayawardena of the WNPS, demands that, when poachers are identified with a weapon, DWC staff can shoot to kill, unless they surrender with hands held up, when found within the premises of National Parks.”

The objective of the press conference was to bring to the public’s attention the concern, hinged upon the recent killing of the crossed Tusker of Galgamuwa (Galgamuwa’s Dala Pootuwa) of the ravages taking place against the Wildlife and the Environment of Sri Lanka, often tacitly supported by the powers who rule over us, sometimes assisted by the DWC, in not following their true remit, which is not understood by those in charge.

We were informed that the present situation is such that the onus is on the DWC employee to justify his action, and no assistance is forthcoming from the DWC in this regard, and weapons are not issued except for a special purpose upon receiving information of a crime about to be committed, with poachers having the upper hand both of arms, and defense lawyers who can defend them, and no one to protect the DWC staff, least of all the DWC.

It goes without saying that there is NO real attempt of the DWC staff to protect any animal in their care, as if they bring to attention any misdemeanor, it is more upon their heads to prove this without the benefit of any support from the DWC in doing so. If one does not see the irony in all this one has to be blind, deaf and dumb, not to speak out at this basic IMPOSSIBILITY of the Staffers to their job!
It was pointed out at the briefing that when the only known instance of a Game Ranger who apprehended and arrested a poacher who was then prosecuted and imprisoned, that later it was the ranger who died in mysterious circumstances that has yet not been solved, and the suspects are still at large, and the evidence points out to a hit by the Mafia don who was behind the initial poaching cabal itself.

If proof of the above allegations are needed, it suffices to say there is NO incentive therefore on the part of the Wildlife Rangers to do their job to protect wildlife, when they themselves feel vulnerable in light of bigger fish behind the initial poacher, who has tentacles to the highest in politics to ensure that their rights are upheld in precedence to the hapless Department.


This has been the rallying cry from conservationists for decades, why has this not been heeded? Is it simply because the politicians who are answerable to their vote base do not care about the animals that don’t have a vote? And the vote base will only be concerned about that once they have completely disappeared when their lives will also be at risk?

Rukshan Jayawardena said in his opening remarks that elephants have been here for a million years. I believe he is a paleontologist by training so he knows what he is talking about. So what he said is that we must be aware of the thinking of elephants who have memories of their range and where they can and should go, and if humans prevent that passage by force he will not meekly submit!

This is key to understanding why mass translocations do not work, and why many animals trans located die on their way back to place of origin. So it was important to respect elephants and the people around need better education in terms of CO-EXISTENCE and not treat elephants as interlopers, pointing out how much this elephant must have suffered, due to injuries, and both eyes being affected due to man’s shooting. He further went on to say that in the end the elephant died with 40kg of buckshot or spent ammunition in its body, and so would have suffered for its life, let alone be killed for its tusks.

Whether the gathered reporters were covering this merely as part of the job, of if they attempted to understand the message to convey the gravity of the issue to their readers is beyond my level of intuition. His remarks were made to try and bring back to the front burner, how vital the Elephant Maximus is to the whole survival of all species in Sri Lanka, as the umbrella species survival will only guarantee all the other species down the food chain who can survive only if their habitat is intact   
There were three other speakers. A lady who is an environmental lawyer noted all the legal remedies and said as much, that we have to tighten them further so the punishment fits the crime and the current fines and imprisonment for elephant deaths are hardly worth pondering on and should be treated equivalent to killing a human being, as the elephant requires to be raised to that status.

An environmentalist was of the opinion that the DWC was not sufficiently interested in conservation, that which it is specifically asked to do, especially as the idea of preserving tusks of elephants that have been killed by others or the fault of the DWC are preserved even in the main office in Battaramulla, when they should have been treated as blood ivory and burnt in public with all the publicity it deserves in order to reduce the value of tusks in people’s view.

Further action in reducing the worth of ivory, by changing customs and myths was also discussed in order to change the myth if gajamuthu which was a complete con to fool people as there is NO such thing but manufactured products, sometimes from the bones of cattle to fool people on what it really is, and if there is no value attached to it after publicizing what a con it is, people will finally stop desiring which automatically results in the drop in demand for this, which will then reduce the incidence of killing.

Another environmental activist also spoke about the absurd local customs around elephants that only had traction in myth and not with any ounce of truth in them. Therefore if we can explode many myths to what they are we can change the public perception in the value of the products of dead animals and instead value and enjoy the sight of seeing the living in the flesh in its own natural habitat.

Remember elephants spend most of their time outside of protected areas, and so must necessarily live with the local community in harmony, and so it is the community which should surround itself by novel means of prevention of incursion, not just electric fences, so that elephant corridors are left intact and their transitory patterns appreciated and permitted that can only result in less incidence.

Remember that most of the HEC is with lone elephants NOT herds who tend to avoid confrontation due to the babies within their fold. So stopping migratory paths and not allowing free movement is not what we should do, identify problem specimens and have means to identify by new technology, collaring and such as to their range and reach and keep tabs on their presence when they come too close to human habitation.

Finally questions were asked of the reasons why law enforcement is not taking action on the known big time patrons of poaching by questioning them, searching their ample premises for contraband and ensuring the law is equal. That is the only way that we can stop, this terrible tragedy from spreading like a virus.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Wasgamuwa National Park – Observations from a brief 4 day visit

The 100,000 acre Wasgamuwa National Park, is without question the Hidden Gem in the Crown of the Department of Wildlife Conservation. Sadly though, those in charge of this nation’s future, one part of the Environmental Conservation Battle, the PROTECTION OF SRI LANKA’S WILD LIFE FOR THE FUTURE GENERATIONS, have NO clue how to preserve it, nor enhance it and develop it. This can easily be done, in the interests of generating the needed income, while at the same time advancing the knowledge of our wildlife, with the aim of preserving the status of endangered flora and fauna in keeping with our Biodiversity value.

Just to point out one fact that horrified me, and I don’t think this made it to the Media, was the granting of 12,000 acres of PARKLAND to the displaced villagers of the  Moragahakanda Project, as their lands went under water when that project was begun. Surely it is a bad enough task of preserving what we got, but having to give so much land from the park for Agriculture in a Country where much of the Agricultural land is VERY POORLY UTILIZED smacks of POLITICAL EXPEDIANCY and not of the preservation of the future of the Country which in any case requires one third of its landmass protected from exploitation to be kept for future generations. It should be preserved as forest lands, which could be used for timber and for revenue earning means in an extremely sustainable manner preserving the ethos of regeneration of new forests, not cutting down existing ones!

Please do not forget, the Wildlife Parks act both as protectors of fauna and flora as the latter too is severely endangered, and there is NOT plan in place to document, preserve, and educate the public on unique flora that is also to be seen in this and other national parks. Why is Wasgamuwa so special?

What makes this park so special is that its climate, bordering the Riverston Range of the Knuckles Mountain Range on one side, offering spectacular scenery, and bordering on the Kalu Ganga and Mahaweli on its eastern and western flanks permits year round water, lush vegetation and ideal conditions for many species of flora and fauna to thrive. Our National Bird the Jungle Fowl thrives here.

Without a fully funded research station at Wasgamuwa, is a reason for its selection as an ideal location for the study of many species in their natural habitat covering a few different CLIMATIC HABITATS, being in the middle of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka with its unique status as a world famous BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOT (few of the elected politicians are even aware of this status) does not even have a University, PhD program of international repute that studies this subject. We have the ideal location for such an Academic Institution, and so should at least have a minimal research establishment created for a specific goal of preserving DNA, collecting a database and enhancing knowledge for the future.

When one has leaders who are so busy fighting daily fires set by themselves, they don’t have the vision to identify this need. Their education level is merely to hang on to power, a task they fail miserably at anyway. If they have any love for Country, they must at least realize the potential of being a center of international research which could be completely funded from foreign University Research Programs, without the need to dip into the national coffers for anything. To say nothing of the foreign earnings of a world class research establishment located in Sri Lanka.

How idiotic are we when we catch foreigners attempting to take species out of this country for study, and confiscate and throw those items away, when they are merely taking it to study the genetic patterns to enhance human knowledge anyway. If we had an institution with experts in their fields, people will come here to do that research anyway! So to put it simply we don’t study our own nor do we want anyone else to study, and for all you know we may be losing endemic species we have yet to identify due to this utter foolishness on our part.

Only altruistic people would think about these possibilities, whereas nationalists, have an island mentality of a frog in a well, don’t want anyone interfering who is at a higher educational level than themselves. This has been the crux of why we have not had an outward looking educational foundation that attracts the best to Sri Lanka, a country that yearly loses its best to foreign universities never to return due to the lack of such world class establishments capable of retaining talent. There is NO place for graduates with first class honors in programs, so they go overseas and enhance the knowledge of the host countries. This is a means to reduce the loss of this catch 22 dilemma faced everyday by our best and brightest.

For a system that just cannot ascertain the most appropriate location for placing a practical Electric Fence, and have it maintained regularly to protect the animals and thereby the locals, how can they have foresight for anything more?

We have experts in Elephant behavior, why is their input not taken into account in making fool proof fencing, rather than leave it to a contractor who is tasked with a fence where his interest is merely the profit he can make out of building a fence that will NOT serve the purpose anyway, due to substandard material and longevity.

The Park Bungalows need extensive renovation, as they are simply not conducive to reasonable stays, and those in power simply don’t stay in such bungalows preferring luxurious alternatives, that result in step-motherly treatment, and the exploitation of this weakness by the private sector that is grabbing all the land outside the park to build their establishments to cater for this absence. Current design and solar technology is in place to permit suitable upgrades, without extravagant costs, if the tendering is done not for profit in mind only.

Frankly for a such a world class site (Wasgamuwa Park) the fact that even far thinking hoteliers are prevented from establishing luxurious accommodation, including helicopter landing facilities, by the existing hotels, who have selfishly prevented new entrants with better quality is a testament again to the frog in the well mentality that does not allow others to come in. At least if they renovate thier own establishments to an international acceptable standard for high end wildlife viewing this may mitigate the void created.

The big spending wildlife lover, is denied the conditions upon which to satisfy his demands preferring to spend millions on a holiday in South Africa that merely has game parks that are fenced in, in a canned tourism product that ensures animals are always there to be seen, with no surprises that our parks offer the viewer. Purists don’t like that kind of luxury that is so artificial that it is like going to the safari park to view wildlife and not to a National Park!

I know some of my own friends do not wish anything to be said or done at Wasgamuwa as they have been horrified by the destruction of Yala, Udawalawe, Horton Plains and Minneriya, that they don’t want a repeat of that here. I am not for a moment even pointing in that direction, merely on preserving this for exclusive very high end international tourism amounting to say a regulated 50 groups of a maximum of 10 individuals a month, yielding foreign exchange from their park visits of about US$500,000 a month. Not too bad he!(US$10K a group)

Leaving the development for organic growth as was permitted in Yala, where every person who was able to get a lease on a Jeep became a jeep owner or driver meant that it became a right for them to be allowed to take tourists into the park, even if they had NO love for the wildlife, and only for the money they hoped to earn from that.

It is precisely to prevent a repeat of that scenario, that I am pointing out an alternative means that auctions a slot into the park each month, which will prevent the unfettered exploitation that goes on. We are all free to as members of the public to bid for an entrance, and then we choose the jeep which takes us there, our own vehicle maybe or one from the pool of drivers who offer services, based on their knowledge and capability, not just their ability to race at speed, which appears to be the only qualification needed for Yala, a qualification designed to ruin one National Heritage unless it has not already been ruined. 

This is made possible due to the ruinous action of a senior Minister, who has NO love for wildlife, or for those who observe the rules of the park, and honor and respect other wildlife lovers from peacefully observing the beauty of nature, and enjoying a peaceful setting.

In Conclusion it is clear that we could use this park as a pilot project to be the world standard in Research and invite only those who are really interested in the biodiversity to enjoy and learn from this Wasgamuwa Experience.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why wait for a crisis when we can foresee and make sure it does not happen? POWER CRISIS

In my recent review of budget proposals, I realized the canard of the Environmental Budget that it claimed it was, BLUE AND GREEN, Oceans and Environment, we are ruining both and have no intention of reversing the irreversible!

That is there is NO substance in the well meaning words, 50 Electric Buses was a joke to start with, 2,000 may at least be a serious attempt at reducing the pollution.

So I suggested that the quickest means of alleviating the likelihood of a power crisis in Sri Lanka is to come up with measures that will immediately take hold to delay the inevitable and buy time for a longer term solution.

The powerful CEB lobby, don’t find renewables attractive, as there is no gravy train for them to live on at the expense of the people of Sri Lanka. Be it coal that has to power the Norochcholai station and their opposition to the cancelling of Sampur was proof that they wish to profit from the need to purchase coal and any contract to purchase anything involves a sharing of the spoils.

Similarly with the Kerawalpitiya Oil Fired Plant, where again this same lobby will profit handsomely from the purchase of oil, and again the Sri Lankan public has to foot the bill.

The link above refers to the warning yesterday of an impending power crisis, as there is no contingency plan, and no one has taken the inevitable decision of getting renewable energy plants into operation in the short term (let me remind you that private sector in the US like Elon Musk was able to get a solar renewable power station in operation within months. You only have to Google to find the places and time frames) We have the sea around us and wave energy also goes abegging, and ANY OTHER country would have used what God has given to better use, than what we have done to date with this opportunity. Its GREED on the part of the CEB that has let the company down. Before we cut the whole of he CEB loose, and tell the Engineers to run it and charge the consumer, we must have alternatives to stand them up from their pompous pedestal.

So my suggestion of purchasing a good quality set of solar panels, the more the merrier, depending on available credit and funding, as these are currently going cheap due to overcapacity in China, which will soon consolidate, and possibly result in a price rise, the time is NOW to purchase US$10M or more at once, and distribute it amongst individuals and companies who are able to have an operational Solar Generation within a stipulated period, say between 6 months and I year, to receive a subsidy of 50% or more of the cost, and here the cost too is 50% of the price the Solar Energy Companies are selling these at, for a HUGE reduction in cost of converting to Solar, about half the present cost of the systems if one were to go out and get one from the Companies referred to above.

This is a win win situation both for the Person or Persons investing in this venture, it does not involve any government expense other than the one of cost of the Panels, and if it means a subsidy of 50% then the other 50% they receive could go immediately to purchase more panels to do the same, making it even more successful in reducing the pressure on the GRID.

Of course a PUNDIT in the CEB will say that is not enough as this is releasing excess power during the day, and what happens at night when we need the power, all you do is to use the excess energy you have unutilized during the day, to pump water back into the hydro reservoirs once discharged and run them at night at full strength! Why is it beyond the average intelligence of people to think of simple solutions to complicated problems? Because they are too simple for PhDs!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Is this the reason for Sri Lanka's state? Mothers - Read and decide and comment - a real case study of three years

Liya Diriya Mothers – This is for you – why have you failed to grow with us?

Below is a description of a purely voluntary program with NO ulterior motives aimed at enhancing the quality of life of women in Sri Lanka on program that nominally encompassed approximately 2,500 women in 40 societies in the Biyagama Divisional Secretariat Area

We have spent over three years in attempting to establish women’s societies in your community, solely for your benefit, to raise your potential as a mother, wife, grandmother and maybe even a daughter. The mother is the key to the family and its success in all areas. Experience has shown that strong mothers with a vision and commitment can turn any difficult or challenging situation to their advantage and succeed. It is with this ambition that we have set up programs to assist you achieve your true potential.

We have committed a lot of resources to improve your knowledge, give you training in skills, prove to all of you the advantages of English and IT skills for you and your daughters so you all can take advantage of the opportunities available. For those who are interested, we have sports where you can take time out of your home enjoy a little fun exercise and interact with others whom you may not know but how have the same desires and hopes as you, and come from similar backgrounds so you can make friends. Participation sports create camaraderie.

We have provided a chance to showcase any hidden cultural talents that you may have which since your schooldays you may not have had a chance to take part in. Our Cultural Show proved that even though untrained the latent talent is of a professional standard as the quality of the performance far exceeded expectations.

There are chances for you or your children to get some training in dancing, singing and playing musical instruments, that will improve the overall knowledge and talent you and your children have. This education makes for a well-rounded person and leaders are created from persons, who are versatile, and not limited to just one subject, profession or field of knowledge. Now with the political landscape demanding 25% female participation, we have provided you with the opportunity three years running to show your capabilities of leadership, the ability to inspire others, and to understand the importance of citizenship and responsibility for your friends and neighbors in order to achieve success in your community.

We have committed our time and effort in holding training sessions for you to better understand the management of finance and to run your society funds for the benefit of your members, to fundraise for a cause that is noble and directly identifiable as being of assistance to the community. This is in order to uplift the community to a level that commitment and responsibility are part and parcel of that spirit. We created local lotteries to help raise funds for Liya Diriya from the community showing the importance of the work in the community to uplift the community itself, and even here your effort in selling tickets locally to the numerous businesses in your area, where they benefit from your custom, you have come up short, not making an effort in showing that you are committed to this cause, not half as much as we have been dedicated in the effort on your behalf.

We have attempted to wean you from the Nanny state mentality where you expect the state to provide everything for you without you giving something in return, which will never improve your family circumstances automatically, but you have NOT risen to the challenge. We even attempted at providing you leadership development and empowerment programs, including how to improve your physical appearance and feeling about yourself, but you have not improved your attitudes about yourself and you let petty disputes affect the rest of the society.

We have reminded you of the trap of getting into debt, just because money is freely available and explained what guarantees are for taking loans, but you have persisted in taking these loans that you are unable to repay and find yourself in the classic debt trap, of borrowing to pay your capital and interest on prior loans.

We have even provided your both Mental Health Counseling facilities to improve your attitudes and to advise you how to face seemingly insurmountable challenges, and few who really need this support have taken advantage of this. We have also offered and conducted Health Clinics in your areas sponsored by Liya Diriya in conjunction with local medical practices, both public and private to support your physical health issues. Even in the areas of Spiritual Guidance, we have assisted in religious activities to enhance your spiritual beliefs in the hope that your personal lives will improve, and your faith in life and prospects are positive for the future.

We have informed you all about the fact that we are willing to fund your societies with money for the society to lend on behalf of members in a way that will benefit members to improve their income, and stated basic conditions of membership, to ensure that you avail yourselves of this opportunity. Even here, you have NOT kept to the minimum rules of engagement in order to qualify for the maximum payment and the rules are not onerous at all, simply keeping records and holding monthly meetings with the proper documentation, as a matter of discipline which is required if you are managing an organization on behalf of your members.

We recently even helped find a Market for products that you can make using your creative skills in design, to produce cards and bags and similar items, but the uptake and interest was found wanting with only a handful of members taking advantage and participating in that program, despite the substantial commitments of experts to help you, funds, and raw materials we put into it.

What more can we do? We have exhausted our mental and physical capacity in trying to help you help yourselves and STILL you are waiting with outstretched arms to receive some useless item FREE, from which you will never improve your life or future! In short your personal commitment had been very poor, and we have made this commitment with nothing in return, so is it fair that we continue to help those who do not appreciate the value of this help? Perhaps we should go to help others who may make better use of this opportunity than you have!

The above is just touching the surface, as we have had various pola’s to market your produce, and avurudu festivities with your participation and your children’s involvement.

We have held numerous children’s art competitions three years running, to bring out the talent of your children, and remind them of the importance of Environment and its importance in sustainable life. Your participation was poor and it is your children who lose the opportunity afforded to them through Liya Diriya. Is it not correct to accuse you then that you don’t even think of your children and the benefit they may get from such activity?

To the young ladies who have been helped by career counseling programs by us to help them choose what is good for them, and how they can achieve their personal goals, we have had some limited success in enlightening them on on the possibilities that a society such as Sri Lanka offers them to become independent and win out. Even here the Public Sector mentality that is etched in their personality, reinforced by their mothers is a hard battle to fight, for them to see the pros and cons of their perceived wish list.

To be frank we sponsored at considerable expense one of Sri Lanka’s foremost professionals in the personality development field hiring a hall for your participation and sending over 1,000 circulars to all 40 societies to attend and to bring their daughters who will benefit from this once in a lifetime chance for your community, a full half day session, and your complete lack of interest was an indication of being blind when a gift horse is placed in front of you.

There is no point quoting case after case of our well intentioned services being provided, and our utter astonishment of seeing crowds, when a book or two is given free to people, indicating an enslaved state of mind, incapable of making a simple judgment of values of society that benefit themselves and their families.

We seem NOT to be sufficiently educated to understand what is important, and what can give us the greatest satisfaction and improvement in the quality of our lives. Our education system has treated our minds and cleaned them clear of any ability to rationalize, prioritize and intellectualize a situation, to determine what is best for us.

This enables other people to use us as pawns in their games of personal enhancement, the classic example being the political landscape in Sri Lanka where even our women have allowed themselves to be used by Politicians of all ilks to continue to profit from their foolish thinking and continue a circle of profiteering at the public’s expense, as the public continue not to be able to rise up first to understand that which is good for them and second, how to choose how to get that which will improve their lives for the better.

Actually even a dog knows what it wants to improve their lives for the better, our own women in Sri Lanka, those who nurture generation after generation don’t, and so we are stuck in a perpetual cycle of missed opportunities, moving backwards while the world moves forwards, and those who understand this and have learned from this, have taken advantage of this opportunity have fled this Country and those who remain are either blind to this reality, or are like us hitting a brick wall attempting to change this society, where no one will make an effort to change.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The budget revisited for the umpteenth time!

So much good and bad has been said about the Mangala Budget of Mangala Samaraweera delivered on the 9th of November 2017, both positive and negative.

I am now convinced that even the FM and his deputy the State Minister of Finance had no clue about what they were on about, as conceptually they are completely out of touch with the ground situation, and so delivered a budget not in keeping with reality, but in keeping with their imagination, severely tampered by the Prime Minister’s notion of the state of the Economy.

So let us debunk most of the myths on which this budget is based. The biggest myth is the fact that we need to create a million jobs. That is a canard that is now so out of date as to be a joke. With a million vacancies, there is NO point talking about creating even better paid jobs, as it is well known now that FDI will not come to SL because the investor is all too aware that the economy has NO slack, and does not have ANY labor to carry on their investment.

FDI will NOT create any new jobs, as all they will do is poach the best with even higher salaries, and leave companies from which they arrive, in a holy mess, unable to fill the vacancies created by the loss of key personnel, to whom they could not match the offer that they received.

Then what do you do? Well the idea in the budget was to spend a lot of money in retraining and vocational training to make a new generation ready and able to fill the vacancies coming on stream. Here is the second canard. There are NO takers for these places in the Vocational Schools or Universities. There simply is NOT enough people who aspire to get the jobs created, even if it is paying well, due to mindset problem that has been drilled into them that the Public Service is the way to go, despite everyone knowing that this sector is far too overstaffed, under utilized and inherently inefficient.

With both the job creation opportunities debunked here, there is NO way to grow except by incentivizing the highly protected private sector to invest more, and spend more on capital goods rather than consumer goods, like cars, which all extra funds seem to go into, as even entrepreneurs have identified few opportunities for growth and invest surplus cash NOT in the business, but in buying a property, condominiums to be more precise, which have just received a slap with a 15%VAT imposed on their sales as new apartments.

The budget has NOT changed the dynamics of this, and only tinkered on the obvious like getting rid of para tariffs. So a little liberalization does NOT spur growth unless the investor believes all the other risks are neutralized. For example power cuts to the business, inflation, corruption. We are still waiting for change! 

Despite all this criticism, this is still the best budget for decades, except for the fact that there is NO growth in the horizon as all expenditure is matched by taxes from April 1st to suck up any chance of growth this year at least.

It goes to show how much further we have to go, and I wont belabor this point as it would bore the reader, Till next time then

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Take on the Post Budget Seminar – "A vision today, A reality tomorrow?" @ Cinnamon Grand on the 13th Nov

The highly anticipated Post Budget Seminar, on Monday, 13th November at the Oak Room of the Cinnamon Grand @ 2pm featured both, the Finance Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, who gave the keynote address and the State Minister of Finance Eran Wickremaratne, who was on the panels to whom many questions were addressed.

“You know we are part of a coalition, and we have to reach consensus” was Eran’s answer to why nothing has been done! In short it was an exercise in futility trying to put icing on a cake that has yet to be baked, so sure to send a lot of tummies rumbling if they ate the cake!

The whole thing was a farce of the top order. The minister laid a spin on his thinking in this budget for the long term, an environmentally friendly budget, that tried to accommodate all needs and in the end made more enemies than friends, as the good proposals like liberalization, cutting 1,200 para tariffs only reflects a long needed cleanup of dust that has settled, and NOTHING that will lead to a WOW factor that will energize the gathered into any sort of action to grow the Economy.

Mangala mumbled about the opportunities now being opened to those who don’t go into State Universities. Actually the real issue is those who go into the state universities ARE the PROBLEM, they are the unemployable. Not the others who have enough opportunities, as is to get ahead, and if they don’t take advantage of the zillion opportunities available to today’s youth (other than state universities, which I don’t recommend anyone go to) it is only for lack of effort, as the openings are there everywhere in an Economy with a million vacancies. No more money need be wasted here, as the teachers who are supposed to empower are just not there. Having a German Tec everywhere is wonderful, but what is the practicality of establishing it? NOT EASY AT ALL.

Don’t forget the FM read the budget speech, we don’t want a regurgitation of it, we want his honest belief on how it is a true vision, and paradigm shift, which will turn into a reality tomorrow. To that extent there was NOTHING in his speech other than a lot of hot air, interspersed with a few after dinner type jokes! The gist is good, and will take years and years to sink in, but no instant jump start that is needed to get to $5,000 of GNP per capita.

Then came the Lady from PWC, which was another joke, merely pandering to a small class who are worried about the duty on cars, and alcohol. She really knew the selfishness of the audience that she addressed and NOT the nation’s need about how GROWTH FRIENDLY it is or not! Without growth the Youth Aspirations will not be met.

So that was a waste of a speech. Then there was the HSBC Country head who plugged HSBC’s green initiative running into Billions of Dollars, which was only a plug for that bank as to how much emphasis they are placing on Renwable Energy, and sustainable development, completely at odds with the budget in Sri Lanka, just buying a peanut 50 electric buses, that will come under a corrupt deal and result in buses that are not roadworthy in days.

The Welcome and vote of thanks speeches were merely formalities with no substance, and so what of the panel discussions?

Nisthar Cassim moderated the sessions, as always asking stupid questions of the panelists. Either, the answer was the obvious, or he was being facetious with his questioning, that had NO direction or ultimate objective on why he questioned them. Nothing earth shattering coming out of them, except when the industry players came on stream to explain how the budget will affect them, and how they should react to the future. The Ansell guy was fixated on wanting a tax holiday, as otherwise he will switch his growth to Vietnam that will give him the benefit.

When Eran said that business decision making is only concerned in small part on tax holidays, while most of it is how each working person manages his whole operation and looks at all the benefits. Then the water of the BOI Zone in Biyagama which has never been upgraded since its inception in 1982 was quoted as an example of lack of vision on the part of the state in providing the infrastructure for a growing business! Ansell had to build their own water treatment plant to handle their internal expansion.

The person from the fishing industry, while crediting the GSP plus for reinvigorating the export of fish to Europe, wanted some clarity in import, process. He requested, re-export of fish based products, with value addition done in Sri Lanka, without the need to pay duties etc on import of the raw materials for export.

Sriyan from TJ a apparel company, wanted to see a more attractive climate for business in SL, as even they are finding better opportunities to set up business in Vietnam in preference to expansion in SL for a whole host of reasons.

Even the schizophrenia in the IT industry was commented on by Eran, who said that what he had said at a previous forum had been taken out of context, about importing skills not available, and reiterated that none of the FTAs have any commitments to open the doors for people to come and work in SL. 

The reality is IT has to be made more competitive by opening the doors to all comers, as in the end the ability to pay determines who you can attract, and our people go overseas for higher wages, and if we are to retain, we also have to offer higher remuneration, and if we have shortages then we may only fill them from imported labor anyway, IF THE BUSINESS IS TO GROW. Competition with foreigners within SL, will improve the competitive standard of the workforce in SL, rather than the reverse, if they are protected. They will not get the exposure they otherwise would have got. It will raise the mediocrity of protection to the excellence of free labor movement.

The guy from Siam Cement a Frenchman was new to SL, but nevertheless, understood the enormous profits they make from having restricted access to imports of cheap cement, which can be sold in SL at 40% below that which Siam sell their main product, which means we in SL are paying a huge premium for cement, which in reality should be shifted from cement to higher real wages for the construction workers as our cost of raw materials in construction is the highest of all in South Asia and South East Asia due to the protection of industries. The government is NOT considering the liberalization of Cement Imports, as it will bring down construction costs by a substantial amount.

The Government by making noises about liberalization, has a long way to go to make it real, and for the cost of many inputs to come down, as the PAL of 7.5% of almost all imports is effectively an import duty, whatever it is named as. So protecting Siam Cement is unconscionable as it is effectively a monopoly charging monopoly pricing, as it allows a few entrants also NOT to rock the boat and make big profits, and any reduction in price is called dumping, requiring bogus anti-dumping legislation.


NO intelligent person left this seminar with a good feeling, that the Govt knew what they were on about. After all even the deputy secretary to the Treasury Atygalle agreed that some items missed will be put in next time, and the exemption from VAT of Sale of Condos has been lifted which could have a devastating effect on the already overpriced housing sector. After all there is NO lower limit to help the poor, so any apartment purchase will carry vat, and I am presuming it is only on the first sale, and construction companies will be able to claim input VAT on their vat paid purchases.

The concept of greater liberalization, DOES NOT RESULT IN GROWTH per se, and if it does the lag is years, not days or months. What we in SL need is growth NOW not tomorrow. How do you get growth when you balance the budget, in effect in a high debt scenario you have NO choices except one in SL. We only have a two year window before international interest rates skyrocket! After that is stagflation and redundancy.

Sell ONE state Bank and get US$5B. Use the money to stimulate the economy in areas that will not result in inflation, but instead aid in achieving double digit growth without being trapped in debt. This stimulus will encourage business, reduce interest rates, (put a break on import of consumption goods in this scenario as that will just add to Balance of Payments woes without resulting in real growth!) Reduction of interest rates should be tied to investment in plant and machinery for growth.

It will raise wages in the economy and hopefully transfer workforce from unproductive three wheeler drivers, and government servants to the private sector, merely by market forces of supply and demand, where this enormous need is ever present. No mention was made of making the public service more efficient, as that is also a key to growth, by shedding excess staff to join the private sector that is struggling to fill vacancies.

So instead of plaudits that donkeys in the various press articles, have given the Budget, it is high time to really admit that we have a problem. Growth will slow and turn negative, as the IRD act bites in April 2018, and RAMIS will suck a lot of excess liquidity of people in the black economy, the consequences of which will only be really felt in the latter half of 2018. The top brass in the Treasury and CBSL are in denial of the consequences. Added to this the Medamulana Tax will give a good excuse to banks as to why they will not reduce their interest rates, bearing in mind the spread is unconscionable. 


What a damn shame!

APPEAL: Prey tell me what in the budget is going to stimulate growth of the economy? NOTHING - case closed.

Link the budget speech in English (available in Sinhala and Tamil also in the Ministry of Finance Website)


1           Reducing the spread in the Banking Sector was not announced, but that is also a barrier to growth, just like non-tariff barriers. It can only come about by privatizing the State Banks to become more efficient and not lend to loss making SOE’s.

2         Improving Education is a long term solution to growth with a better educated workforce. However the new thinking is to promote pre-school education with highly trained staff. That will take 20 years and a lot of money but that is at least a sure return, and nothing is allocated here.

3               Changing the land ownership and tenure laws is a must to boost agricultural productivity. We must allow owners to never lose their land, even though they allow people to farm their land for a rent, and tenants have to leave after the term expires, and you can leave it at a minimum 2 year tenancy.

4                   Monopolies that make super profits in Sri Lanka must not be protected, however if they make super profits, they are either told to reduce the prices or face overseas competition. Insee Cement will reduce cement by Rs250 for a 50kg bag which will allow construction to pay more and hire locals, if that threat is carried out.

5                   Impose a loan scheme for all university students that are payable on employment or by 30 at the latest, you will be surprised how quickly people will only go into education with a career at the other end.

6                   Sell off the state banks and reduce the interest rates immediately, to stimulate growth. Until this high interest scenario is 15% no one will invest in plant and machinery and expand or build new businesses.

7                   One stop shop for FDI is imperative for particular industries where SL holds a comparative advantage and value addition can also occur on site.

8                   Have a team of overseas educators to come to Sri Lanka for 3 months to train our trainers to hold workshops with youth to empower them to take vocational training, not merely provide vocational training that has NO takers, even if they pay people to attend schools! TO cap there are NO takers today for courses, whoever has them. To empower youth is the challenge from the State Job mentality to the needed careers of tomorrow. So many jobs going abegging, but youth don’t even know what they are, what is needed to get them, how much they pay etc. they need to know that first before they pursue any vocational courses to get them. It shows that the policy makers have not realized the problem is not the lack of vocational courses, it is the lack people interested in following ANY OF THEM.

9                   There is NOTHING in the budget about Public Sector Efficiency, or holding them to account and improve productivity. Neither is there anything on SOE’s and what the Govt intends to do about them. That sector was conveniently ignored in the budget.

10              Of course there has to be at least one WOW factor in the budget and what better place than in the renewable energy industry, where a US$20M give away of Solar Panels on a contingency basis based on speed of implementation of Net Metering will add 200MW directly to the grid!

Monday, November 13, 2017

The media has bypassed another significant historic event for Sri Lanka

The impending local government elections have not had the proper analysis it deserves by the Media, as I suspect there is no one in the media who is sufficiently knowledgeable in the subject to even comment on the effectiveness, sense and unique set of circumstances that is being created that requires critical analysis.

Here I am referring to the impending ballot, where for the first time in over 20 years other than at a General or Presidential Election, the whole country, votes at the same time for their local representatives in their area. In that sense we will have results at WARD level of the breakdown, OFFICIALLY, rather than in previous elections where this breakdown was not available and subject to some form of inside shenanigans that changed the result in favor of a local heavyweight.

I have previously noted my opposition to the holding of these elections, most importantly due to the format that prevents, individual persons, of high standing and reputation, who do not and do not wish to belong to a political party from contesting. That to me is a violation of one’s right to put one’s hat in the ring for one’s own local community and for the voter to have a choice other than a party.

This link is to a previous entry about it, and it was well received with many comments and suggestions of how we should conduct it in the interests of the public, who have a right to vote for people of their choice. So NOT people chosen for them by some leader of a political party, as those people have been chosen for reasons, other than their integrity, often because they are the local godfather involved in some racket or other.

This unique election will give an indication of the pulse of the people, and while at the same time provide the first indication of the level of support for the joint opposition, led by a former president notorious for his dictatorial style of rule and family bandyism, that kept others out of sharing the spoils, which to date has not been found and retrieved and given back to the nation.

It will show the strength exercised by the minorities in Sri Lanka, who traditionally vote along their ethnic and religious lines, much to the chagrin of people like me who are looking for a Sri Lankan Identity devoid of ethnic bias, for the greater good and to generate a sense of loyalty to motherland first, instead of their ethnic subgroup which in any case is a recent concept, as gene testing will prove we are all from one stock, intermarried and inter related, and religion and language we have chosen are only of recent origin, that bears little resemblance to our origins in the first place.

It is time that this unique event is immortalized, analyzed and reported upon carefully, not being incendiary, but being inclusive to highlight the ridiculous.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Blue Green Budget that is neither! Is this the best the new team can come up with?

What a load of hot air, in a fiscally conservative budget that has NO GROWTH written all over it. In the international environment, when we have at most two more years left before world interest rates rise by 400 basis points, and we as a country will go bankrupt unless we renegotiate for the long term before that, we will have to tighten our belts and face recessions. 

We should have gone all out for a growth budget, not throwing caution to the wind. Unlike much of Rajapakse policies that did not contribute to sustainable growth based public investments, for which we are dearly paying a HUGE price today, we could do something more to stimulate demand and achieve sustainable development. SDGs.

So instead of wasting Rs500M on 50 electric buses, because China would have given 100 free anyway, we should have invested US$10M immediately in getting down some solar panels from China, at knockdown rates, (before prices rise again, when the glut clears up) and told people that they would be given a subsidy of 50% of the cost (no NBT, PAL, VAT please on import) as soon as their solar plants using these panels are operational. Of course this figure is peanuts, and can be increased, with demand, as the payback is a no brainer, because we will not have to build power stations that urgently. 

Just a thought, why are we talking about an oil refinery in Hambantota, when by 2040 we expect to be all electric? We should direct this US$2B investment in renewable instead (I know the CEB lobby wont allow it, but to hell with them, they are part of the problem!)

You can bet your house that within 6 months all these solar panels will be put to good use, with a saving of 200MW daily on the National Grid, because of private investment in Solar. This AMAZINGLY QUICK return on investment will win an international award for far sighted policies. NO BRIBES, NO CORRUPTION IN SOURCING, as the prices at which they are imported will be publicized in detail!

With the improvement in Battery technology, just ask Elon Musk, in time, this solar energy can be stored and used at night to balance the power needs too.

This will stimulate the Solar Energy business so fast, that others will immediately see the benefit of converting, and stimulate the Economy AUTOMATICALLY as this investment will be the catalyst that people need. Now why is a Government with advisers like Deshal de Mel, and Anushka Wijesinghe, not making these decisions? This alone, a simple investment of US$10M, which in 6months will have a payback of US$5M for a true cost of only US$5M, spur the economy by 2% to growth due to the knock – on effects, is the cheapest way to spend that money and worth 2000 Electric Buses. This money is PEANUT compared to the spend!

So who are the intellectually challenged people deciding what a budget should have? Shame shame shame for coming up with such a lame and pathetic budget, and worse that our pundits living in Colombo have even commended it, which shows the level of knowledge they have and concern they have for the Country.

We have a HUGE aspirational problem of YOUTH. They want jobs that pay more than on offer. You cannot have a lame slow growth budget & expect everything will be hunky dory, it WONT. You don’t have to lose your pants by borrowing, invest money that is wasted, like cutting down on the Ministers perks, President’s Office allocation, just to finance this growth. This is just one of a hundred such ideas I have that can easily lead to the needed 10% growth we as yet never had, and we need it before the time runs out in two years when world rates rise. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Local Government Elections, presents the voter with a Hobson’s Choice, meaning no real choice at all – so should anyone go and cast their ballot?



As if this point has not been enunciated sufficiently, “For successful Local Government Decision Making, Politics should not enter into it, as it is local matters that affect everyone who lives there are decided, and that should not take a political overtone, just common sense decision making for the greater good. This form of Government is best served by elected Independents, representing their communities, who CAN join and make decision for the greater good and not for a personal agenda like beginning one’s career in politics.

It is quite clear that law makers when passing the recent Local Government Amendment ACT, deliberately scuppered the rights of individuals to contest as Independents.

Many very upstanding people in the community, with the public interest at heart, do not wish to have any party allegiances. They cannot put their hat in the ring, unless they come up with a party of sorts, slate of names, for the whole Municipality, an impractical choice, as you cannot contest independently in your ward only!

In any language what parliament passed was both a violation of our Human Rights, and Fundamental Rights, except when they pass the Act we cannot file under the FR process.

Therefore this Act of Parliament, fundamentally violates an individual’s human rights, in that he has lost the opportunity of being represented by one who is truly capable of ensuring that the wheels of the law, work in accordance with fairness, and so is left with NO choice. One must understand that all Political Parties have been discredited, and so no one other than a few die hard supporters, wish to elect a person from one of these parties.

It is obvious that individuals have NO say in who is nominated by their respective party. Often it is NOT the most suitable person who is given the ticket even when the party had more honorable people applying. There is NO real vetting process where the application is looked at independently to determine the suitability and community standing of the nominee. It usually goes to a nominee of a local thug!