All our elected representatives, live in dreamland, making decisions that have no bearing on a National Plan for development of this Country. This has been true no matter who has been in power, so I am not taking sides here in terms of successive Governments.
So when the Maduru Oya right bank project 2018 has been mooted as another massive agricultural project, I who has extensively traveled in that particular area, am painfully aware that it is the wrong investment for Sri Lanka. While it is currently priced at Rs70B, all being funded by Chinese Loans, few doubt that its true cost will be less than Rs100B. When you add the interest that has to be paid on the principal over 15 years, it amounts to more than Rs200B.
I don’t even want to go into speculating how many families will get land, how many people will benefit, and how many people currently in poverty will be raised out of it. The reality, there is NO ONE in this category that can be honestly helped, in this latest REAWAKENING POLONNARUWA PROJECT.
So let’s please look at the original Maduru Oya Project that opened up 28,000 hectares or 70,000 acres for Agriculture in 1983. I beg the authorities, to look at how many people presently live on that land, how much agricultural land is under cultivation and what crops they presently produce, and the total benefit to the GDP of this Country this has produced.
The results I assure you will be SHOCKING as I have spoken to farmers who have been helped by the scheme, who have ONLY BEEN ENSLAVED on the land, who will not budge for lucrative employment in areas where there is a huge demand, but still have been made dependent on the system, subsidies, price guarantees, free seed paddy, fertilizer shortages and the like.
I don’t have the numbers, the Government SHOULD have it at their fingertips, but we don’t have anyone with any common sense to ask, so that one can actually evaluate that project completed in 1983.
What we MUST face today is, giving people irrigated land to landless, does not make a farmer. Only about 20% of the people who are given land know how to be successful, contribute to their livelihoods and to the GDP of the Country. The others are entrenched in permanent poverty and dependency. Of the 80% of the remainder, half have left agriculture, and have other employment as their main source of income, wasting the land that was given to them as part of the scheme. So what do they do?
They are either Policeman, Security Forces Personnel, including Civil Security, Public Servants, Road Construction workers on temporary daily work, or who have left for employment in Colombo living in boarding rooms all month and coming home for a few days in the month. A few others have left for the Middle East. This is the reality.
Their vote is still in the village, so please get all the details from the local grama niladaris, to verify or deny my contention. Politicians pander to their insecurities by promising the earth in subsidies and samurdhi, and free this and that, for their power! It prevents them from understanding the plight, and providing a framework to improve their own quality of life.
Instead of wasting Rs100B of Capital, on a hair brained scheme that will further denude our forest cover, instead of our goal to increase it back to 33% of the land mass of Sri Lanka, for environmental survival of the island, I say just spend Rs1B to look at the livelihood of each family in the original LEFT BANK SCHEME, and assist those who can help themselves.
So what is the objective of this Rs 1B spend? To increase productivity, output, enable economic output of a sustainable kind to these people. Why? It is simply an exercise to understand where we have gone wrong in our land distribution to landless, the worst decision made by governments in my opinion in the past 70 years, when one looks back at it, and do something to redress the wrong we have done to these innocent people by giving them hope of a better life. Instead our citizens have fallen from the frying pan into the fire, from bad policies.
We talk about new projects every day to improve the economy, but we don’t analyze past errors, to correct them FIRST, before we move on. We continue to make the same mistakes. Trust me on this, we waste money on one project or another, meant to fool people into thinking they are positive and good for them.
It is all in the mind. We don’t have Public Servants who have been tasked into evaluating existing projects, learning from them, so that the successful are further assisted to become entrepreneurs and be more productive, whilst finding alternative avenues for those who have fallen through the cracks.
Surely as part of PIBIDIMU POLONNARUWA this idea is better than the plan to spend 100fold on this destructive useless, megalomaniacal project? Mr President, I will take charge of this, as long as you hand me the human resources to accurately evaluate all who have been settled, many are now their descendants, in the LEFT BANK project that opened 70,000 new acres to agriculture. This was mooted then as some of the most productive land in the Country.
There is NO DOWNSIDE RISK HERE IN THIS PROPOSAL.