Friday, June 22, 2018

We talk about Veterans – and hold commemorations, but the real needs are not addressed, typical!



Let’s go back to the drawing board. The concerns of veterans and their families have to be administered by people who know the subject. Using one example to make the point, there is enough knowledge today, to diagnose, treat and in some way, alleviate the suffering of Veterans with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We also know that this condition can take varied turns, suicide being one of them, inability to work, alcoholism and drug abuse yet others.

So when you look at our equivalent RSA, the Ranaviru Seva Authority, do they have a plan to manage, handle and assist veterans in this dilemma? A firm NO. Upon the end of hostilities on 19th May 2009, the previous administration with a lot of fanfare setup facilities to take care of disabled soldiers, paid pensions to widows, and in a rigid, if militaristic way set up formats and amounts of how compensation and pension payments were determined and paid out. They simply did not use Civilian Consultants to devise a fair method to take care of those dependents or veterans themselves, whose plight did not fall into this box they created, due to their Military Mindset of doing things. In short heartless.

For one thing they only take responsibility for prescribed class of servicemen and women who fought during a prescribed period of hostilities. If they died in service even this results in how the death certificate states cause of death. So if it is due to PTSD suicide the pension paid differs to, if it was while he was in the combat zone and got killed to a mine or while fighting. Then if he died from a fall from a coconut tree, to act as look out for his regiment to determine enemy whereabouts, if his death certificate says he fell from a tree, then his dependents will not get a full pension and will be CONSIDERABLY less. So the cause of death is of utmost importance. Even if in the combat zone he died of a heart attack, then if the certificate says that, a lower pension results.

Please remember that 95% of those receiving benefits, namely dependents and ex-service men are from poor rural backgrounds that joined the forces, often out of sheer desperation to put bread on the table. Many are ill-educated and not familiar with the rules that have been made to account for these possibilities.

Some got married to their girl-friends just before leaving in case they lost their lives, knowing at least the wife will get his income upon death as her pension. In some of these deaths, the wife of a few months, would receive the whole pension as that was what was stated in his documents as to who is dependent is, and none will go to sometimes poorer parents who brought him up, leaving them destitute, who had up to now depended on his income for survival, leaving them in US parlance as Gold Star families, but in utter penury. The wife meanwhile upon the husband’s death returns to her village. Then she knows if she re-marries, she will lose ALL her pension. If she lives in sin and has a child, again she is then considered to be cohabiting, and loses all her pension. If she is impregnated as usually happens when one is single, she is similarly assumed to be cohabiting if rape is not alleged. She may illegally abort the child for pension

Then there are cases, where the wife remarries, loses her pension, but the man leaves her within months, leaving her destitute. This is a double whammy of grief for her. Again she is no longer in the radar of the RSA and is forgotten.

Then you have a veteran, who is demobbed, unable to work due to PTSD which is not properly diagnosed and loses pension rights or later kills himself. Again the family is not entitled to anything as it happened post 19th May 2009.

I am touching the surface of this problem here, but I show these as examples so that people who have some basic intelligence can relate to the priorities in our society. In short there are so many people who have fallen through the cracks, who have not been assisted, and for a supposedly grateful nation who wishes to honor its heroes, it is as usual, a case of smoke and mirrors to fool our public that something is done for them, when in fact many have been left out.

Our leaders like to throw Veteran’s Tamashas that are showy. They perform annual commemoration ceremonies and have TV and press plaster the pages showing that it is in the memory of those who died. Unfortunately with these examples, it is clear that those in real need of help do not get it. They are not even on the radar and don’t even surface in these ceremonies. When they see these events televised live, they must feel BETRAYED by the very society that purports to help them.

My proposal is to have a small team of specialists, say 10 including counselors and those able to identify PTSD. They need to go to each district, beginning with those districts that have the most number of veteran families to interview a statistically valid sample in each district and prepare a report of the level of assistance needed. In this way, the priorities and those who have fallen through the cracks can be assessed. The level of incidence and size of the problem.

There may be some prior deaths that have to be further looked into as well. This is not a military or forces matter, as they are the last people who will know how to tackle this exercise in the professional manner that is required. Of course in order that they become notified of people who have fallen through the cracks, the appropriate publicity needs to be given. Once the extent of the problem is determined, the State can allocate the resources appropriate to the need.
Today, when the OMP, or Office of Missing Persons is established, and functioning, we have the Pohottuwa Johnnies who due to lack of brain cells, forgetting, they created this problem in the first place, making asinine comments about rejecting its need in our society. Wouldn’t this project proposal, running concurrently, counter any negative fake news that presently exists, at a stroke informing the people that a LONG HELD NEED within our society is FINALLY being addressed?

All they have to do is to get a few examples of who they are now assisting to get maximum media mileage to put in the shade any one-upmanship of the Mahinda Rajapakse Camp who claim they have helped the Veterans and their families, to show the NAKEDNESS LAID BARE of their claim in full public view.

My contention is that there is suffering in villages that can be significantly alleviated if informed intelligent people in authority, understand that there is in fact a problem, and then take the action as proposed to identify the weak areas that need to addressed first, as a matter of priority and then implement a plan, beginning with what society considers the most urgent for resolution.

PS. Not directly related but EXTREMELY important nevertheless, to point out that the professional killers who exited the war from the forces, many from the Special Forces, have either gone AWOL or being recruited by thugs and their patrons, many in high places in business and politics in Sri Lanka, as professional hitmen. To them killing is a pastime and will obey orders, as that is how they have been trained, and that mindset, has not been removed from their heads, prior to their discharge/exit from active service.

They are today’s criminals, gang leaders and responsible for much of the shootings. So it is most disingenuous of Mahinda Rajapakse to lay the blame squarely at this Government, as it was him who let them loose on the public in the first place, without debriefing them properly. There should have been a specialized team to do the needful to reprogram their brains to civilian life. Unfortunately we don’t have anyone in our present Administration with the needed brain cells to even identify that this in fact is the reason for the mayhem we face every day, with ex-servicemen. This inevitably is the debris of war, and we have not addressed one significant part of it, and our media and pundits have missed this point completely. The police should take cognizance of this fact.

In order to complete the picture, we must have a database of these trained killers, from the Security Forces, to ensure they are all accounted for, so that those who have gone underground can be identified and compromised. This then will help reduce the murder rate and crime rate attributed to professional killers, that is effectively the underworld in Sri Lanka.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Migrant workers who come to the City for employment face a host of challenges - here are some


I was approached by a lady today 20th June 2018, who came to my office in Biyagama to seek help in finding a place to meet with young women who have come from far off parts for jobs in the Biyagama Export Processing Zone (this would be common to many other BOI zones too,) and I implore the Government to set up a room in the plush offices that they have their administration at the entrance to each of these zones, to at least have a team of counselors to listen to their grievances and assist them. After all they are the backbone, lowest earning labor that is in short supply today, and it is only if we make their lives a little more bearable will others come to take employment. You cannot say there are no workers, when they have to live in Chicken Cages!!

There is a severe shortage of workers in the BOI zones, and common sense dictates that people don't want to be treated like animals, so the better the working and living conditions, the higher the likelihood of people offering themselves into the workforce. 

The lady who came to seek my help had lost the use of the office she had where people would come for assistance with their peculiar problem, and now that house had been sold and she has NO place to work from. 

The major points we discussed.

We must have a secure location where women can come and talk one on one about their problems, and have a knowledgable counselor type person to be able to help them with their own unique problem.

These are rural women, who for a myriad of reasons come to Biyagama (and other zones) for employment, mainly between 14 and 30, and usually single, and needing money, some with little education, but instances where degree holders have also come are frequent, due to the particular pressure they face at home.

The list of the grouses are as follows:

1                   Accommodation is very poor and expensive, with some like chicken coops. Landlords sometime only come once a month on the 10th pay day to pick the rent and don’t sight the rooms anyother time, where taps run dry, there is little water for cooking or bathing. The toilets are much to be desired and shared by many. Effectively you pay for what you get as the good ones are Rs10K a month, hardly affordable by those on Rs25K a month, and the bad ones are around Rs3K including sharing of common facilities including the rooms.

2                   Landlords turn a blind eye to harassment faced by women from men in close proximity, citing it is not their job to police the tenants. Some women who are extremely naiive fall into traps from which they cannot extricate themselves.

3                   The women DON’T KNOW their rights, or the law and are therefore exploited, when in fact they don’t have to be in a tight labor market. So employers pay less than they should, don’t deduct EPF/ETF and give minimal labor rights, and they just don’t know who to ask, coming from rural areas, ignorant of labor rights.

4                   They are unaware of the tight labor market and I explained that good jobs are available with some kind of accommodation guarantee in good establishments and it was the duty of the lady to meet these HR managers to find out if they have vacancies and send girls there. The girls themselves are unaware as was this lady today, about the fact that there are so many vacancies and no people to fill them. So present employers are holding on to them with lies, implying that if they lose their job they will be on the road, unable to pay their bills.

5                   There is a quadruple whammy, not just employers and landlords, and sometimes even shops that completely remove them of their income on the 10th when they are paid, there is a whole colony of men who live on these women by conning these innocent ones, they also effectively use them for sex and with lies keep them on a string, and then throw them out when not needed.

6                   The pressure from families for money, to help parents, and pressure to send money home, further reduces them to destitution by coming here.

There is a poverty trap they get into and I advised the whole aspect of counseling MUST be get them out of the trap they have got themselves into. There is no point coming to an EPZ to work, if they are at least unable to save a minimum of Rs5K a month, to send home or put into their savings account. It makes no sense to sacrifice, comforts, of familiar sorroundings for anything less than that. It is therefore our duty to point that out to them and get them to change their habits, or behavior to achieve this or at least change their jobs for one that allows them this minimal saving.

This is to get these people to reach a personal goal they set themselves and I suggested finding some winners who have conqured all these problems as stated above and are now fine. I wanted to get them, at least 5 to talk to these girls that to those in despair that there is light at the end of the tunnel if they change their behavior a little and to give examples of this change required to get to the goals set, as it is not impossible, especially in 2018.

In Conclusion

Once those in need know of a place they can obtain help with complete confidentiality, it is the duty of the center to provide them with a blue print of how to extricate themselves from the problem they have come to the center with. There is no point helping them if that is not the objective, and can be clearly even presented to them in a step by step manner, depending on their level of intelligencec and ability to grasp simple concepts, that some find hard. There is also the possibility to show alternatives available to them for them to improve their lives and to offer to help if they indeed ask for it only.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Professor Razeen Sally’s advice at the Advocata Lecture – Sri Lanka still needs to get the basics right before trying to leapfrog!



In speaking to a packed audience at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Professor Sally who is also the Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka’s Premier think tank on Public Policy, said that until the basics are in order, there is little possibility of growing an economy to benefit from the latest advances in technology.

The lecture was titled “Capitalism in Asia and what it means for Sri Lanka.”

He explained the present day scenario of the various nations in Asia and Australasia, and which category of development they fell into and attempted to explain their various attributes and rationale for how they got to where they are at. I will not go into that which will shortly be covered in more detail in the Media in the next few days.

I will concentrate just on ONE aspect of the Basics that he mentioned. He did give credit to the present Governor of the Central Bank, in steadying the ship and balance, Monetary Policy, Exchange Rate and Balance of Payments, with some Fiscal Policy improvements taking place in the Treasury to complement.

However Labor productivity is the key to growth whichever way you look at it and if Sri Lanka just concentrated in improving the quality of its labor force, we can let all other factors just fall into place almost automatically.

What needs to be done to improve the quality of labor’s ability to grow the Economy, so that we achieve the expectations of the Citizens of Sri Lanka?

The points below are all mine, and repeated ad nauseam for 10 years in different sections in this blog, of over 1,000 entries, and if only policy makers read what I wrote 10 years ago and implemented just a few recommendations, we will not be where we are presently wondering, floating in space unable to reach firm ground.

It’s EDUCATION STUPID!

1                      I have blogged - our pre-school education hundred years ago was the best in the world, but now is asinine. I have recommended that special emphasis be placed in this area, so we empower our children, to retain the creativity they are born with throughout their primary and secondary education to make the right choices thereafter in their lives.

2                      In order to attain 1 above, we must retrain, and train pre-school teaching to a much higher level, even compensate at a higher rate than even University Lecturers, so that our MOST precious resource our Children get the right start in life.

3                      We then at primary school be completely trilingual, which is now proven as the best means to attain the most from our intelligence, making it easier to learn concepts like Mathematics and Logic, while being introduced to the extracurricular activity that currently obtains step motherly treatment at schools to develop interests in ability outside of the strict school syllabi.

4                      This will include, singing, dancing, musical instruments, and art, a well-rounded primary pupil who enjoys his first 5 years in school. This obviously means that the Grade 5 exam is done away with as being unnecessary, as there are easy to implement attitude tests to sort out different levels of intelligence if that is what is needed for directing some gifted children to perform at their best.

5                      Secondary School with a broad base of multi-disciplinary subjects, that with group participation in projects automatically points students to the subjects and specialties of their choosing. With the only public exam they will sit together being the equivalent of O levels. I will not go into the list, but I certainly DISAPPROVE of the Government attempt to bring it down from 8 to 6, when I would rather have at least 10 if not 12, but to a more commonsense understanding of subject matter, not facts to memorize.

6                      From age 16 (formal schooling then is 2 years pre-school and 11 years 5 primary and 6 secondary) the student chooses their calling. Into a vocational training school, further education in subjects if they wish to be University Educated Scientists, Engineers or Medical Professionals, the Social Sciences that include Business, Accountancy and Law, Hospitality and finally the Fine and Performing Arts, as in future this is an area (service sector) which will form part of civilized society, and income generating professions.

            I have not forgotten the three A's, Agriculture, Architecture and Advertising! they all need good people, interested in that field, who love the subject and we need to encourage that love equally.

7                      If we are able to leverage our unique Biodiversity Beauty to be valued worldwide, we will need 2Million workers in the Hospitality Trade and to get people interested in that field, true service standards, languages, map reading, trekking, history, archeology, zoology, sport recreation, guiding are all sub specialties of this, so students can be directed to their particular calling.

We must somehow send out to pasture the 10,000 staff in the Education Department who are the problem, warming their seats, drawing higher salaries than school principals, doing nothing, and preventing new ideas from being implemented, and spend that money directly in training the teachers to teach properly. That is most needed, without which this Human Resource cannot be developed to reach the standard necessary.

Just ask the chair warmers in the Education Department what has happened to the audio visual project of 10 years ago, to have distance learning in every school? Except for private and international schools that are in the forefront of education, does one Govt. school have a working distance learning center?


Why MUST we change our education system from that which has not worked to date? 

Surely will anyone dispute what I have laid out above? Is that not the best blue print? Only then will we have qualified, electricians, carpenters, masons, builders, and all manner of specialties in the travel industry, even the dancers and singers are part of the entertainment industry allied to the travel industry. All of the above will have the dignity of labor that is lacking today. We will concurrently have to, through the medium of TV change the mindset of the parents, that these professions are those of tomorrow that their children should pursue and not of yesterday, that has no future.

With the changing population age structure, especially in Sri Lanka, we need trained youth at 19 to join the workforce with the equivalent of a diploma. A degree if they are 21 and post graduate if they are 22. We JUST CANNOT AFFORD our graduates to enter the workforce at 27 as at present. They are too old, to join a productive labor force. The Prime Minister's 13 years of compulsory schooling at 5 is wrong, it should be at 3, as by 5 your brain is fully developed, and there is little you can do to change that.

Much job training and learning and possibly post graduate qualifications are obtained while in employment. This means is the only way we can ensure a productive society that all work from 19 to 70, as with advances of medicine and nutrition, we expect all humans to live to about 100, but the population to decline due to poor reproduction rates.

As can be seen from the above, it is service industries that have the future in employment growth, while agriculture and industry will have robotics and automation and innovation replace, but unlike the west we will be fortunate at not having a net loss in employment, as we would have a thriving hospitality industry to which we are geared taking the slack.

JUST THINK ABOUT THIS!!

Sri Lanka has the highest number of barbers per head of population. Our youth, and within them, male more than female use the salons MORE frequently. They are all private sector. YOU CANNOT GET A ROBOT TO REPLACE THE BARBER and with increasing vanity of males to preen for females, and not the other way around, this demand is still not adequately satiated. Each 14,000 villages in Sri Lanka has a barber salon, for men even though it does not have a motor bike repair shop. I live in a village so I know, that the men even go there for a shave. The average earnings of a Hairdresser, is Rs30,000 a month, with no traveling expense to work.

TO CONCLUDE

The key to success is a LABOR FORCE of a different in mindset, encouraging a work ethic from a young age, weaning children from parental overindulgence, with govt. jobs not even on their radar, to find a satisfying livelihood in a field of their choosing as the opportunities are endless, and they have to be shown what they are to gauge interest. If we succeed in this, the sky is the limit.

The Government just needs to do just one thing. Grow this economy. So how can they do that? Simple – read on:



The economy can grow ONLY when Companies can increase their production.

It is NOT by giving jobs to more Government Servants, where you have to tax people more to pay for them, or borrow money to pay their salaries, which we are doing, and not supplying the labor for the companies so desperate for them to grow their businesses. More jobs and income means more growth.

So what should they do for the next year? We are all agreed that the Govt. is currently non-performing, in the sense that nothing is happening till the next election in 2020. We are in short on a stationary state, in a stupor.

So how about giving the 100 Ministers just one job, find more people to fill the vacancies, that is all. They are after all the people’s representatives who know everyone in the Country, or at least they say they do. So send them all around the Country to find the bodies to fill the vacancies. Able and willing that is.

Just ask any HR manager, the trouble they go to find good people. If the Ministers and MPs take this task to heart, we can at least fill the shortages, get the economy spurring along and hopefully on election day, say “they have found jobs for everyone who wants to work, for the first time in our history”, and then get the people to vote for them.

Thus there is a slim chance of redeeming themselves before the next election or face a humiliating loss, which they are preparing themselves for in the back of their minds. It does not have to be so, if they put all their energies into doing something positive for the people, and they automatically do something positive for the businesses, and so it is a win win scenario. INSTEAD MOST OF THE SELF SAME CULPRITS HAVE BEGUN THE FULL TIME JOB OF COLLECTING MONEY, BY FAIR MEANS OR FOUL TO FUND THEIR INEVITABLY LOSING ELECTION CAMPAIGN. So isn't this a more productive way to spend your time, which has a greater likelihood of yielding a better result?

If they fail to heed this advice, it is sheer pig headedness at play here, where they believe they know what is right, they don’t listen to anyone’s advice, as they believe everyone is flawed and all have an agenda, just because they too have an agenda. They don’t believe that there are people in this Country who only have one agenda, that is the wellbeing of the people who live in this Island, and who want to retain the best people here, instead of chasing them out as fast as they can leave, for pastures anew. Every government is guilty of chasing the best Sri Lankans out of this Country due to their Island mentality thinking that has stymied any progress and development, that allows people to improve their lives with their own hard work, in short a meritocracy.

We must retain the entrepreneurial spirit, not chase it and if we don’t fill the skill shortages that exist as a top priority there is no future worth discussing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

As we damn Trump for his removal of infants from mothers’ arms at the border, have we honestly considered what we will do when the inevitable happens here!



It is only a matter of time, when poverty, hunger, rising sea levels, force the South Asian Poor living on the coasts of the Indian Ocean, onto boats of questionable quality. Where do they drift into? Sri Lanka of course. Hundreds of thousands of people will land on our shores, in around 20 years, and no one is even making plans for that.

How will our citizens react? Will they be welcoming? Or will they chase the boats away? What if the people start swimming ashore? Will we shoot them on arrival? If the furor of 30 Rohingyas, who were temporarily given sanctuary until their paperwork was processed for onward resettlement, was anything to go by, in today’s context I can be sure it is the gun that these people face.

They are fleeing for survival, so they will be prepared to face the gun, as they have no alternative but to land on our shores, when rising sea levels displace them. We are the last outpost before the Antarctic, and by that time the Maldives would have disappeared. Their people being absorbed by?

So unlike Trump, who is using this threat and example to prevent the hoardes of Central Americans lined up in the Mexican border from entering the US, our actually shooting them dead will not prevent a million or two coming to Sri Lanka, with no other country willing to give them refuge.

Don’t forget by then 10% of the population of Europe would be African Migrants, so they will have taken about 40Million people, absorbing them into their countries that have a declining population anyway.

We must plan for this now, forget about preserving the pure race, and get organized to absorb these people, into productive livelihoods the moment they arrive. I know people reading this must either think I am mad, living in dreamland or simply seeking attention. That’s OK, because when someone comes across this blog 20 years from now, and sees this, that is (THEN) when they will curse us for not planning for it in advance.

We in Sri Lanka need at least a 20 year lead time to plan, as we are very slow off the mark in anything, as we don’t see what is ahead of us or in front of us. So it is better to organize ourselves for the inevitable. After all what is wrong? We will have at least 4 million Sri Lankan born or their first generation living in other countries by then, as they have voted with their feet and left this Country, because they don’t see a future here. Any guesses why?
Why not absorb 2 million boat people into our society, and make them useful citizens on day one, instead of putting them in prisons, to rot and feed and die and wait for a third country to take them if there are any willing to do so? A fleeing human is the most productive person on earth, you better believe it.

By this time Port City will be full with buildings, and desperately short of workers to work in the companies that are established there. If Tata India decide to put their world HQ in the Port City, they need qualified people. SO, we need to have trained people to take those roles, but our best have deserted us.

Immigration is the key to a Country’s survival, not its destruction. The US was built on immigration, so was Australia, Canada and to a large extent even today’s UK & Germany (with highest immigrant populations in Europe proportionatly) have been the engine of Growth, because of immigration.

First step, is to immediately beef up the Coast Guard and the SL Navy. In fact the Navy should have 80% of DEFENCE SPENDING. Yes 80% and the army reduced to nothing, releasing all the able bodied people to contribute to the economy. We need good ships, and sailors. The defence of the Country, internally does not need an army, the drone techonology can do that very easily, but it is more difficult to protect our fishing rights, (100 times the surface area of the Country in the Indian Ocean) and to protect smuggling mainly of drugs, and then be able to orderly handle the boat people in 20 years time.

We do not catch even 5% of our fish, and we are still dependent on poor fisherman for high fish prices (protein) and so are importing 20 Containers a day of tinned fish, some of it fished from our own waters. We don’t have efficient large trawlers to catch fish that others are fishing. Why? Because many in the Government have sold fishing rights to foreign countries or companies to fatten their belts and pockets, so that they can safely spirit their families in luxury to Australia or any other country of their imagination.

It is clear that our Leaders do not have the vision of seeing that which is inevitable, as they are worried about lining their pockets for the next election, and to send their kids to settle abroad, first by givin them an education and then buying their life with homes and businesses from ill gotten gains in Sri Lanka.

I want to repeat, this projection is INEVITABLE. If 3 million citizens have said good bye to Sri Lanka and left our shores, then what is the problem in saying welcome to Sri Lanka for two million more? Our GDP is dropping because of it

We can no longer think Nationally as many have taken everything from here and left us. We must think globally to welcome those who want to live here.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Foreign Investors want land for agri – industry based projects – instead of forests, give them existing cleared land – here's how:



Rogues in high places are presently trying hard to land grab from areas of biodiversity and forest, to join with foreign investors in projects where they see financial gains for themselves. This has caused all sorts of problems, such as in the the sensitive Knuckles Reserves, where there are allegations and denials by people in high places.

The answer is simple, a complete prohibition if any government land being alienated for this UNLESS the land is already cleared and previously distributed. One may ask, how can that be, as it is already  utilized?

MY CONTENTION is to the contrary – It is NOT utilized. We have over a million hectares in Sri Lanka that is scrubland that had at some time being given on a lease to people to do agricultural projects, but due to many reasons of inability to farm or put to productive use, is not currently used. 

I personally, have seen so many Mahaweli blocks of 50 acres each that were leased at almost peppercorn rents per annum, in which the lessees  cut the trees, took the timber and disappeared and nothing has happened to them since. Neither is the lease being paid, nor is the land vested in the relevant department due to a PUBLIC OFFICIAL found wanting.

The President is not only the Minister of the Environment, but he is ALSO the minister of the Mahaweli. It is high time he gets a report on all single tracts of land in excess of 5acres that have not been worked on in the past 6months, that is in 2018. He will TRULY BE SHOCKED at the extent of this land that his own Authority has not properly recorded and investigated and offered to these deep pocketed investors to begin projects in. His own staff are sleeping on the job, as it is more work when the land is worked on, than if it is kept fallow. I know local people always like to agitate when land is given for projects, but that is because they don’t cultivate, nor do they want anyone else to do so, fearing their power would diminish. We as a country cannot afford to leave land fallow, if places like Israel can make deserts bloom. New agricultural ventures use minimal water in their production.

Days of providing land for landless to farm are now over, we now agree that economies of scale where a fair investment is required is the only means of food security that we can rely on to meet out demands, and for export, where there is a large market, for high value added and niche products, none of which small farmers are able to grow, nor have the means to take a risk on. Hitherto the easiest way is to cut a large tract of land clear the forests and begin planting. This is NO LONGER TENABLE as we must increase our forest cover, not reduce it further if we are to mitigate climate change, so it is better to rethink the whole formula on what is and what is not possible when a foreign investor comes knocking on doors with money to invest in agriculture.

Don’t forget our water usage per acre of paddy is the highest in the world and we have not priced this water economically, and are giving a MASSIVE water subsidy to our farmers who then don’t appreciate the value of this FREE water. As a farmer I know my neighboring farmers would waste the water, rather than allow me to use it out of envy. They take 10 times their entitlement and when shown their actions, don’t wish to alter that behavior. We want increased output from limited land, and so the answer is not to clear more forest, but use what we already have, much of it already under Government control.

We don't have to go far. CIC just announced their intention to dispose of their agribusiness where they found it hard to make a return on their investment. If there is a foreign interest in purchasing and building that business, then let them take that over and try and make a go of it.

We have to have an open mind on looking at all options, but we cannot compromise destroying our forest cover, when all other alternatives have not been pursued.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Foreigners should NOT be treated any differently than locals in pricing entrance fees –– read on for an alternative:




Philosophically I am unabashedly opposed to this discrimination, especially because most foreigners appreciate our Scintillating Biodiversity and Archaeology, unparalleled and unique on this earth. 

I have traveled the world, I cannot recall an instance, where I was charged more than locals. However I have had to pay high visa fees as a Sri Lankan citizen!

Now comes the news that New Zealand is expected to introduce a charge on all foreigners entering the Country, except for Australians and Pacific Islanders. The reason for this charge is to help conserve their heritage sites and beauty, in a manner that is appropriate and sustainable, and reduce over visitation.

Well how about it, I WANT TO DO THE SAME IN SRI LANKA

If we charge US$100 per adult and US$50 per child under 18, at entry, with exceptions for Indian and Chinese citizens, we could use this money raised to protect our Heritage. In my view our Heritage, is our Biodiversity and the 250,000 places of Archeological Interest that is fast disappearing never to re-appear!

No one is going to begrudge us that charge, No one. Why exceptions for India and China? Well China lend us most of the money, and India is the Country we import most from, and whose multinational companies we hope will have their world HQs at the Port City once it will be shown to the obvious place for them. For my foreign friends who come to Sri Lanka more than 5 times in a 365 day period if you prove this upon entry you get a special pass with your passport number and validity period to treat you as a special guest. Of course if you want to get the book you still pay the US$100 for the privilege.

We must have a 50 year plan not one that covers tomorrow, which is abandoned the day after when some group shouts loudly.

If I was in charge of administering this scheme, I will provide each payer of US$100 a 250page coffee table book on the 100 sites off the beaten track that draw the least interest, and not ones even more than 100 Sri Lankans of today even know about. I will then have the chance to present them in a way that manages, the beauty, enjoyment of the tourist, using local guides in those obscure villages to show, only permit light vehicles to enter and provide an experience that is unparalleled. This book once digested will feel worth more than the US$100 they pay for the privilege of being told about them, and then not being discriminated when they enter a National Park or some such.

If you readers are open mouthed at this, trust me the US have sites that draw visitors, no one in SL will pay to see! We have 100K sites more pleasurable than that. So the 10 most overvisited sites will not get a mention in this book!

PS - I recently went to Bambarakanda Falls, and saw a foreign kid who had with his ruck sack hiked up all the way from the main road (2km climb) look aghast at some jerk at the entrance ask for a fee 8 times that of a local!  DON'T DO IT

Friday, June 15, 2018

Lets go back to basics to increase employment - there are vacancies but there are no takers


In order to grow this economy, it is not just productivity increases that are necessary, we must encourage the population to begin work at a younger age, work for a longer period and increase the female labor participation in the workforce. In short we must have far more people in active productive work than we currently have.

What is the employment priority of the day?

We have 1 million vacancies with people unwilling to relocate do them
We have others who don’t have the skills to take some of the available jobs

We have under employment in rural areas, where both male and females are not gainfully employed and believe it is not economical to work on their land.

Why is it not economical? Some have lost money in agriculture, where even if they had a good harvest this year, due to surplus production around the Country in vegetables, they have not been able to find a market and lost money and so want another type of employment nearer home.

We have 1.5M three wheeler drivers and 500K of them are under 30 years of age, with these young men, having no other ambition, so they will not get a skill in the period humans gain a skill, that is under 30. So what should be the policy? The Govt. should forbid anyone under 30 from driving a three wheeler. They can have a motorbike, but NO three-wheeler hire or any other reason, as we can never be sure of their true intention.

There are so many vocational courses, and even for the hospitality industry, but there are no takers for the courses. The VTA is CRYING out for suitable applicants. There is no shortage of places anymore, contrary to popular perception.

The Western Province has most of the vacancies, but people from other areas DO NOT want to come because of the high cost of living and high food and boarding fees, as they have to live away from home.

There is no shortage of food in Sri Lanka so there is no hunger as a push factor to come to Colombo District to do any of the 500,000 jobs that are available. There is a huge shortage of drivers, housemaids and machine operators, to say nothing of the construction workers where the basic daily unskilled wage is Rs1,500. So why are people not coming to do these jobs? They don’t want to do heavy work. They want office jobs or government jobs.

Ask any farmer over 50 years. He has told his children not to farm, even driving a three-wheeler is better. There are few new entrants into farming. Soon there will be a severe labor shortage. I don’t know why but many women who helped in the fields readying for planting paddy or cutting the paddy now don’t do any agriculture, leaving it all to machines. That is fine for paddy, but at least they can grow vegetables. They may have decided it is not remunerative to do so, and would rather stay at home doing nothing than work in any agriculture!!!

What should be our objective?

1                   To get more agricultural production in existing land

2                   To provide good quality planting material so harvests can yield more

3                   To increase the total number of people who are gainfully employed

4                   To permit those who wish to engage in farming, the means to do so

5         To move people to where the jobs are as it is impossible now to locate employment where people live

6                   To improve Sri Lanka’s labor productivity in all sectors, most especially in agriculture, but also industrial productivity in export industries

7                   To provide the skills needed for vacancies in employment especially those in high demand, such as the hospitality trade
         

What then should be the policies?

1          Immediately introduce labor saving devices in agriculture, that make farming attractive to the young and at least giving them an income of Rs50,000 a month. This does not happen using old technology.

2             Coax with financial incentives, for those who go into training for skills in high demand, hospitality, mason, electrician, baas.

3            Build low cost housing units for families in areas of high vacancies, like BOI Zones that are desperate for workers.

4            Determine methods of getting home based women to work in the rural areas by providing work of planting trees or growing some crops with guaranteed buy backs. As was done with the tobacco cultivation which the government has banned. (we destroy, we don’t introduce new means of income! Bizarre)

5              Change land laws to ensure ownership of all land, so that it can be rented out without the possibility of losing it to the tenant. This will release a lot of land for cultivation to those farmers or potential farmers who show aptitude which who have no access to land.

6            Use the media wisely, to encourage, exhort, and show the possible avenues to improve quality of life. There has to be a path to higher earnings, for career development.

7             Encourage education sector, schools to empower students, before they leave, on all income earning opportunities in the commercial world.

8      Most of all change the parent's mindset that waiting for a government job, using the influence of a politician is treason, when so many vacancies exist in the private sector. The line of applications despite all of the above for government positions is unstoppable.