Monday, July 2, 2018

Gamperaliya – needs a rational basis! - Restoring village tanks has to be looked at very carefully

Irrational behavior is now rife, and politicians in pacifying the electorate, should STOP making statements/promises, without AT LEAST doing a back of the envelope calculation of the ROI in that public spending allocation.

Govt. Expenditure allocated for an investment, while theoretically better than spending that same amount on recurrent expenditure, MUST nevertheless yield a return. We don’t need to talk about Chinese White Elephants when we have ours, overflowing wherever you look.

I have come across in my walks in remote parts of the Country, the request of villagers, for their local tanks to be restored, so they can deal with climate change, as well as cultivate land that now lies fallow for at least one season.

The back of the envelope calculation should look at cultivated land extent.. The crop that will be cultivated and number of seasons this will also be cultivated for and the expected yield after the reconstruction of the local tank, as compared with the yield before. If the net increase in value, (not even profit) is less than 10% of the cost of the investment, which inevitably it is. Increasingly, requests are now made on marginal lands, with incompetent farmers, whose livelihood is primarily from sources other than farming, so the needed increase in agricultural output is not there. Productivity increases in other ways have to looked at also!

We must be more efficient and productive, and that can ONLY be achieved when the whole tract is farmed as one, and not into the20 different plots that it has now become, due to division of farmlands to each of the offspring. Our land distribution has been the bane of agricultural productivity.

In my village, the cry is for a massive expense to cut a canal to get Mahaweli Water, so that 2 seasons can be cultivated. It is a rain-fed tank at present and the weather is unpredictable. The problem is that the village paddy field, is now controlled by about 5 families, who have been able to buy up the land of the poor farmers, when they fall into debt. This means that the investment by the Government for the canal, could be Rs20M at least, but it will merely make already better off owners of the land even better off, at the expense of the govt. which is all of us. So we the people are subsidizing rich farmers.

I say that if they wish to get water, then they should pay at least 50% of the cost of the restoration. The problem in practice is, that the cost estimate to restore is usually at least double the real cost, as everyone along the way beginning with the government servant who authorizes it, is on the take looking at any project as a means to enrich themselves personally. SO what is the answer? I recently helped a poor farmer to get water, at a cost of Rs200K. The State est. was Rs5M

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