Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In a Tax Haven like Sri Lanka, why should there be corruption?

Sri Lanka is a rich man’s paradise. There is NO capital gains tax, no inheritance taxes, very low property taxes if any, and best of all to those who choose to declare their income ( a small minority of those who are in this high income bracket ) low income tax rates to boot.

No wonder therefore that with high consumption taxes, on essential food, and VAT, it is the poor and middle class who singularly bear the burden of taxation in Sri Lanka.

In this context why can’t we encourage fare play, where in business there is transparency, and therefore competition, so that the most efficient method is used in investment decisions to benefit the economy, and not as is the case at present, where projects on which high commissions, and no tenders are undertaken are those permitted, outside all business norms, costing the economy dearly.

Just imagine if we had this transparency, where would our economy be? We would not have wasted the massive borrowings on unproductive investments, but have engaged in investments of benefit to the economy, and therefore could have increased the National Income to much higher levels at a more equitable level of distribution than at present.

In my earlier blog I alluded to the fact that those who were with the Govt. got to cherry pick, even they would in the end have benefitted more, in an economy where the spending power of the people would be much higher than now, where only a few have the wherewithal to engage in conspicuous consumption. 

Lower taxes means that this is NOT a disincentive to investment, and outflow of money to other safe havens, and we can, not just be a Singapore, but a country enjoying a far higher quality of life to Singapore, where we do not have to engage in comparison, but in our own home grown development, where all the people enjoy greater benefits.

I would therefore see greater investment in public transport, access to better education, healthcare and a more efficient public service, all of which will benefit the majority of the citizens, not just a select few. The govt. would not get involved in wasteful expenditure on running airlines, refining oil and with Mahaweli still supplying 50% of our electricity needs, as of yesterday, shows in real light, what investments have provided a return and which have NOT. 

Sri Lankan Business Heads – It is your ‘Heads’ that need to be examined

The recent ‘momentum business forum’, where there were simultaneous simulcast of proceedings in 4 locations, which if they, the invitees did not know, was just a Political Meeting of the President in support of his candidature.

At this event, in one of the panel discussions, the likes of Dian Gomes of MAS, Hiran Cooray of Jetwing, Ranjit Page of Cargills and CT and Kishu  Gomes of Chevron, were extolling the virtues of this Administration that has overseen, a time free of incidents of Terrorism, and unparalleled  growth.

If they were true business leaders, they would know that for an economy to prosper, not just themselves, there has to be both the rule of law, and transparency in the ability to prosper in a relatively level playing field, neither of which is in existence in Sri Lanka today, and is the reason for the traction that the Common Candidate is gaining ground, and imminent downfall of the hosts, within days of this forum.

In that context it shows how woefully out of touch with reality, these supposedly esteemed businessman have been with the pulse of the nation, and to curry favor with one candidate over the opponent at this time, means they have chosen the side, that benefitted them personally as far as their personal wealth was concerned, no matter what may have transpired in the meantime to the majority of citizens of this country who have been led an unrealistic dream, that is soon unravelling right in front of their faces.

These business leaders, if they had any sense, should have at least stayed away from publicly endorsing this regime, as inherently they were merely propping up a morally unjustifiable cabal. If they had the vision, and strength of character to stand up to this Peter Pan syndrome they engaged in, they would find succor with their fellow citizens to bat with the new boys.

Now they sound like, sick sycophants, with nowhere to hide, who have lost all credibility, and who certainly cannot ask for any special treatment from a new administration, until they have paid their dues and done their mea culpas for long enough, to regain some backbone. I am not singling the above out specifically, but they represent the cross section of the 5000 or so people in Sri Lanka that have plundered the coffers of the state, either knowingly or unknowingly to further their nests at the expense of the nation and thereby contributed to the Rajapaksa longevity, which could have been checked if not for their culpability in propping up an inherently rotten bunch of opportunists.   

Monday, December 29, 2014

Pondering on what might have been if not for the need for omnipotence!

A president who had two more years under the constitution to govern with all his powers, appears to have thrown caution in the wind, and without reading and learning from history, has attempted to change the course of history and met his Waterloo!

It is a lesson we must all learn, and it is simply this. When one is a servant of the Public, it is an onerous task to serve. Human beings seem to forget that whilst there is a level of public acknowledgement of power, a sense of duty to one’s own people comes with it, and that cannot be denied.

It is therefore important to understand proportionality. When one exceeds that level of proportionality, a sense of entitlement sinks in, and insanity kicks in. It is in all forms of activity, not merely consigned to politics, but especially relevant in it .

It is significant and apparent in politics, as the reasons for getting into this vocation SHOULD be to improve the quality of life of those who we serve, and they should never forget that. As a public servant, we are paid by the public who we serve, and by no other master. It seems that most public servants in Sri Lanka seem to forget it. It is time we are again reminded of it, so that from the top, the examples that are made will flow back all the way down. Only then will public service result in an improvement of the quality of life of those we profess to serve.

In this point in our Country’s history, if all are reminded of this basic point, we will be less likely to repeat this mistake. It is in that context that I appeal to those who have changed colors or sides, to put aside their personal ambitions for remaining in power, and remember those who have been fighting this administration for justice for a long time. They MUST NOT be forgotten, and they have a place of recognition and duty by those who have power, to reward that loyalty, dedication, battling the odds and sacrificing what little they have for principles to be recognized and compensated adequately. 

There will be a sickening desire to grab, hold and retain power, especially by those who have held on to power. It is time they recognize their contribution, and admit their compliance with the regime that has abused this power, and ask for the people’s forgiveness for not renaging their positions earlier. Otherwise this bad example of the same old people doing the same thing under a different guise is NOT one that will change the behavior of the system. It is the system that needs transformation, not the initial cast of characters. Put that to the fore and the Country will prosper.         

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tsunami ten years on – and families still remember never to forget

The poignancy of the Tsunami  of 26th December 2004 came back to me when a mother who had lost her son, wanted me to help her publish a tribute to him, in the Daily Mirror of 26th December 2014, which I after quite a struggle was able to do.

I was in my farm that fateful day, having only returned to Sri Lanka barely 3 weeks previously after a lifetime overseas, and was entertaining an Uncle and Aunt for lunch when horrific news started trickling in. As many as 35,000 Sri Lankans along with a number of holidaying foreigners died in those few hours of devastation, and in all, over 270,000 are known to have perished in the whole belt that was affected, making it one of if not the most devastating documented human tragedy of all.

I note below some links to some stories that appeared in the internet today, about this tragedy so that we will not forget its implications, and the positives that resulted from it.

Let this be a reminder to all of us of the fragility of life, and the loss of those who are near and dear to us, especially when it is wholly unexpected.

We must appreciate the time we pass on this planet, and try and make it fulfilling and satisfactory in all its ups and downs, and live by example so that we are able to appreciate what we have deal with unexpected tragedy, stoically.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How about some relief for female headed households? MR & MS take heed!

I don’t know the numbers involved, but it crosses all racial and religious lines, and in all honesty are a population mass that MUST receive a promise by both camps in this impending presidential election, if one is to have faith in any of their promises being fulfilled.

I know this blog is read by policy makers in both camps so before the Manifestos of both sides are published, I would argue there is a significant vote bank of people who would be part of these immediate families and their relatives who will no doubt see the need for assistance of their kith and kin, heading these one parent households.

It is common knowledge that there are women lead households in the north, who are at the bottom of the economic pile, whilst war widows and their families have at least for the most part received the pensions of their deceased husbands and are not in the most dire of financial circumstances.

Despite that there are many many more women in the Southern areas at the bottom of the economic pile, whose husbands have either left them with their children, and NO support, and in some cases who have gone overseas, but who have not remitted the needed funds to their families, as they have found other concubines in their journeys.

The 12,500 or so Grama Niladari divisions in the Country and possibly even the Census data, will be able to pin point which these families are and what their financial circumstances are to give them the needed assistance to get them out of the proverbial classic rut, where due to small children who need care, mothers are unable to find or go to full time work that is available to fulfil the needs of the families. Every year all voter registrations forms are signed by the head of household.          

One does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the children of such households are MORE likely to fall through the cracks and become a burden on the state, be it involved in crime, and need incarceration or otherwise remain unproductive and unemployable as their parents were unable to give them the basics, and some even don’t finish school due to these problems, even though if given a chance they could become extremely productive citizens of the country.

Of course the form of assistance needs to be explained simply in a manifesto, but it must make clear that they will be relief to female headed households over and above their current entitlements if any, depending on family circumstances.    


Sunday, November 16, 2014

“Possibility Thinking”

Anna Craft the co-founder of the journal ‘Thinking skills and creativity’ passed away prematurely of cancer

She was at the forefront of new thinking on education, coining the phrase possibility thinking to move from WHAT IS to WHAT MIGHT BE.

This in essence is what ‘Kalpanakaranna’ is all about. One must think of tomorrow and no longer of today. The speed of innovation and new means to tackle today’s issues both of the mind and the body, its time we explore what might be, and not what is, and accordingly permit out imagination to run riot in thinking of the unthinkable.

In our relatively mundane lives where there are so many things we just have to get through every day, and take a break in front of the TV just to relax, if we for a moment took time out of that relaxing time to relax in another way, by allowing our imagination to get the better of us, we may come out with some simple suggestions, to improve the quality of life, which we otherwise would not have been able to come up with.

The need to balance the physical and mental in life, is something we don’t think about. However that is the only way to get through the competing demands on our time, that others place on us, often due to their own inadequacies that are thrust on us as our own. This thinking of what might be, is a way to deflect some of that inward  stress on our lives, that are caused more by others, due to their problems, and the power they have over our lives, either as a parent, a schoolteacher, a priest, or your employer or the person who is your immediate supervisor.

My advice is to take some time out, first to identify the problem, (that is only if you feel there is a problem!) and then use your imagination, as to how to solve it by unconventional means. A problem of the day is the word much ill used, the common opposition candidate! If your really think about it, it does not matter a hoot who that can be, even a dog, so there is NO NEED TO waste time speculating who that might be, but be sure to vote for that symbol whatever it is to, get rid of the present, as a dog would do better than the present set of leaders, who have squandered our future, and that of the future of the unborn to such a degree, that few fail to use their imagination to measure, as it is immeasurable!!! Just think about it.      

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Voting Rights – A sensible suggestion by the BBS – Why have the main political parties not signed on?

The BBS has urged the Govt. to give voting rights to SL expatriates working and living overseas. This is something I have advocated in this blog previously, as it is quite common amongst many countries including the USA so to do.

Of course it cannot be done overnight, and some planning has to take place, with the foreign missions which will be tasked with carrying this out, having to put in procedures, to ensure transparency and minimize fraud, something with a foreign service staffed by friends, family, and fraudsters will be hard-pressed to do presently.

Estimates vary, but I believe there are approximately 2Million eligible voters over 18 who are Sri Lankan citizens overseas. Their vote can make a significant impact on the result of the elections, and at present it is difficult to gauge who will benefit from their enfranchisement.

I suspect it will affect the large scale vote buying, where no end of goodies are offered just prior to elections, as that is something that cannot be done with the expatriates. The added importance of the expatriates, is that they directly contribute US$10B in remittances annually to the economy, which then with the multiplier effect is completely responsible for all the non-borrowed development that has taken place in Sri Lanka. Put simply, if the economy was allowed to have made market decisions, with NO Govt. interference, and corruption, the economy would have grown at a much higher rate, and the peace dividend accruing to the people would have spread much more equitably.

It is only when the Govt. taxes this money, gives the remitters a low exchange rate (another hidden tax to them) and then borrows at high interest rate also, and take all this money, and divide the spoils amongst a few greedy sycophants, the gains to the economy are merely shared amongst a few as is, without any doubt the case in Sri Lanka today.

If the reader has followed my train of thought carefully, it is pretty obvious that had this suggested change been policy for sometime,  the Country would definitely have been a much better place, in better condition, and both the rule of law, and the level of governance would have ensured a better foundation from which this economy could grow. There are plenty of international examples of the benefit of this massive inflow of free money into the economy, and so we must make it POLICY    

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Pre- Budget gimmicks, so the Budget is poised to read like a giveaway.

First there were the election gimmicks of fuel price reductions, and electricity tariff reductions. Then there was the gas price reduction, as mentioned in my previous blog entry. Now we have the cigarette and alcohol price increases, items normally announced in Budget speeches, but this time craftily reserved for pre-budget releases, so the Budget speech will just seem like a list of goodies for people including the much delayed pay rise for the Govt. servants who have been waiting since the last Presidential Election for this promise, that will be given partly just prior to the Next presidential Election, timed to hopefully fool enough people to think that Santa Claus has come to town.

We must understand that the budget is a zero sum game, where to keep the budget deficit at IMF agreed levels, of a percentage say 4% of GDP, when one reduces tazes of increases subsidies, then they have to be covered by increases in taxes in other areas. Of course the Govt. hopes the zero sum game will actually work as they expect. That is just to be seen. As we are unsure how the people who are hardpressed will react to the increase in alcohol duties by purchasing less, which will reduce the Govt. tax take. Then the action taken will back fire. I do not have the answer to that yet.

With impending Presidential Election the Pres is mindful of his precarious stock value, and wishes to give sizeable breaks and relief to people he considers his key constituency. Whether they buy this carrot is a wholly different thing. Let us hope that this time gimmickry for the gullible will be a ricochet rocket to the regime!

To be fair thanks to the remittances of the people and no thanks to any action on the part of the Regime, the inward remittances will top US$10B, and with the slowing down of the economy, imports will slow down, resulting in positive improvements to the balance of payments, this will enable the Govt. to keep the Rupee strong, and keep the relative costs of imports down.

Therefore the comparative advantage is with the Govt. and they have the upper hand. The fact that they are in addition using unseemly tactics to fool the people into believing they are due more than their fair share is what irks me, and if they so do, then it is up to us to show them that it is wrong and explain to the people that these are merely window dressing gimmicks that we can point out as of not being of any benefit to the people in fact.

Let this be an eye opener to the advance tactics and await more with the budget. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Presidential Rule dictates’ into every reduction in price does not seem to be a smart move anymore!

The latest instance where President demands a reduction of Rs250 from the normal 12.5kg Gas Cylinder, was met with guffaws! It is as if he wants to show the people that he is in charge of every price reduction, when in this case it was already mandated under the usual formula for negotiating increases and reductions in this product, as the world market prices fluctuate from time to time. It is important to realize that, in Sri Lanka, this does not happen each time for the price of petrol as it will just make it administratively cumbersome to enact. However with the future reduction in the price of oil on the cards due to fuel surpluses, this was an inevitable reduction that should have been announced by the Consumer Authority, and instead the President grabbed it to take credit. Tell me if the President would hijack it if they were to increase the price! Hell no it would be blamed on the Minister and the President would take credit by saying despite his imploring him NOT to raise the price he did it. What kind of stupid society do we live in?

This same game was played when the Electricity Tariff was reduced by 25%, it was a political gimmick that was expected in the middle of the campaign, when the 3rd stage of Norochcholai was switched on. The Dispute with the Electricity Board is still raging, as to who is going to plug the deficit created by the President? It certainly wont be from the President’s fund. So now there is a search to tax other items to pay for the reduction in the Electricity tariff. Yesterday saw the increase in Excise Duty on a pack of Cigarettes, very soon in the Budget coming shortly we will see a hike in the Alcohol duties and taxes to pay for this profligacy.

The recent reduction in the price of fuel was in the same light, and the extra reduction on Kerosene was merely an Election sop to the estate Tamil vote, that uses Kerosene still for a myriad of tasks, and was a bait to catch their vote!

What is so sad is that the people of Sri Lanka are being completely fooled by these antics into a wrong sense of belief of the person of the President, and as the Opposition does not field someone so crafty and make similarly outrageous “seeni bola katha” to tap into the mass ignorance that pervades some Professors of Economics to simple folk who are not given the tools to use their common sense by the devious mental misleading games of the present regime.

Start with the Premise that this is a very rich country, that has been ruined by politicians for personal gain, and therein you may find the answers you have been looking for in securing the future of this truly great country.    

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Catholics of Sri Lanka – Time for ‘soul’ searching and drawing a line!

There are a million votes at stake here, and it is time each and every Catholic understands what it is to be a Catholic!

Sri Lanka has had 10 years of Dynastic rule, and as in all dynastic examples, power corrupts absolutely, when it is given to the same people for an extended period of time. This is true with the Presidential rule in Sri Lanka, and so it is with all the Catholic Politicians of the Government, who have been the real enemies of the Catholic Church. They have been unable to separate what it is to be a Catholic from what it is to be a yes man of a Despot. They have continued to reinforce the illegitimacy of unbridled corruption, by being corrupt themselves. 

Remember there were Catholic Popes who were despots too, and it is high time the flock realize and hopefully be reminded from the pulpit, that it is easier for a poor man to reach the gates of heaven than for a rich man, who tries to hold on to wealth and power.

It is even worse when the Ruler is completely oblivious to righteousness and sinks to the gutter like a guttersnipe to protect his sycophants. The latest example being just this week.  The President of Sri Lanka was unable to reprimand one of his own, for reasons to be discussed elsewhere, and worse he brought him along in his hijacked plane to Rome to meet the Pope. (hijacked from the people of Sri Lanka who own Sri Lankan Airlines, and the citizens do not authorize unnecessary junkets with junkies in tow).

After the bashing that Chris Nonis got from Sajin de Vass whatever the merits of (as in when you lie with dogs you catch fleas), he should have been asked to lie low for a while until the dust had settled. It was most uncouth of the President to call him to join him with his band to Rome, which left the Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith No Option but to prevent this convicted criminal being presented to the Pope, (though alas there were a majority in that party who were unconvicted rogues.) 

However, in trying to appease a dodgy President, Malcolm Ranjith had to be persuaded by a close family friend Chris Nonis, from a well-known Catholic family, that it was indeed wrong, and disrespectful for this man to be introduced to the Pope.

What is most disconcerting, and this MUST BE FULLY EXPLAINED to the Catholic flock, the President incapable of seeing the justice in this step, had the audacity to call Chris Nonis who has gone beyond the call of duty to be sycophantic to his patron, and tell him, why is he trying to create a rift with him and the Catholics, by asking the Cardinal NOT to permit Sajin de Vaas to have an audience with the Pope. Durrrrrrrrrrrr! 

It is one thing in politics to introduce criminal Heads of State to the Pope, as he has to suffer that in silence and be polite, but completely another when known criminals also are presented to associate with him. It is time we pointed this flaw in our Presidency to the Catholic flock.

Now that the shit has really hit the fan, and all of Sajin de Vaas’s improprieties and amassing wealth have come to light, and the President is unequivocally siding with him, it means he has drawn a line in the sand to protect his friend at all costs, even at the expense of the people of Sri Lanka. It is not at all difficult to explain this argument logically, and it is the duty of the Church, and if they are frightened as they fear repression, then up to the elders of the Catholic Church, especially from the opposition to point this out in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS to the people without delay. If not the choices they make may go against their FAITH!

It is no use citing the fact that the President’s wife is a Catholic, and that all his three children have been baptized as Catholics, that is not one for deflecting his true colors. When one is determined to hold on to power at all costs, they do not behave in a logical and humane manner, and all is for political expediency.

What do you call a President going on an unsolicited visit at great public c expense? A sheer waste of the people’s resources, meant to fool the people into a false sense of importance of their leader. He simply GATE CRASHED THE VATICAN, and the Pope was just too humble to shoo him off like an uninvited crow.

When Religion is misused and abused for personal gain, and NO OTHER REASON, then we must call a spade a spade and protest about it. We have two previous visits by Pope’s but in neither case, did the Head of State have to venture out to invite him. In any case the Cardinal has already issued the itinerary, so it is NO longer an invitation.

If he indulges in any more political gimmicks, I am sure the Pope will just overfly the Country, and make no bones about it that MR will be held responsible, however vehemently he will try to blame the opposition yet again for his own downfall and shame!

Time to be Christian, to let go of greed and avarice, and firstly invite all citizens of Sri Lanka to feel fully part of this great Country, and tell the BBS interlopers that they are living in a hallucinatory world that does not exist in reality, and it would be best for them to get a dose of real life, come out of their cocoons and engage with real people casting out the craving for publicity, the only real reason for their growth. It is clear that wiser counsel demands a new order of people’s power, not one person’s!       

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Institute of Chartered Accountants Sri Lanka – Leading students astray

It is VERY regrettable that the Accountancy Profession in Sri Lanka, much to my disappointment,  and all the pompous words emanating from their senior decision making body is going the way of the Rabid Dogs, like the Legal Profession and the Medical Professions before them.

The Institute has just put out a series of half page ads costing millions, especially after the recently concluded A level exams, firstly showing with photos and names that the top 10 in the Island in the Commerce Stream at the 2013 August A levels have ALL consented to study for the chartered accountancy qualification carried out by the said Institute! This is an invitation if ever there was one, that this is the preferred mode for the newly minted lot too!

A powerful ad like that will persuade any parent to direct their kids to that, by getting them first to enroll them in, first as students, then into a related tutory to follow the study course, and thirdly to sit for the first CAB exam the start in this long road to impending doom for the many.

Let us start with the enrollment of the students. There is an annual fee as a student who is enrolled, as without it one cannot sit the exams, and if one is late one is charged a punitive late fee too! To keep them in check and ensnared by force, and indirect threat of expulsion. The Starting fee is Rs7,400 see the attached and click on the registration and initial course fee.

In a recent document from the profession they said that there were 45,000 students enrolled and at most 450 qualify a year. So we have 100 years of students enrolled! With at most 10% of students, who will be able to be employed either as part of fully qualified accountants the institute is  fooling at least 40,000 of those students!     

They have lost what they are here for, and have put petty personal and greedy goals infront of, and I have now come to the conclusion instead of the noble goal to create a product of excellence that can hold its own anywhere in the world with pride. It is them who can contribute directly by unparalleled professionalism to the rapid growth of the Sri Lankan Economy to achieve the targets that the State has set and an economy that is both equitably fair, and will be on course for a GNP per capita of US$7,000 by 2020.

While I believe this goal is possible and do able, I don’t believe the profession by their action, is contributing to that target AT ALL.

I am speaking as one who is a Chartered Accountant and mercifully from the Institute in England and Wales and did not seek reciprocity with the local one, who qualified 33 years ago. I wish to add that I am not currently seeking to make it more difficult for qualified accountants to obtain employment in Sri Lanka, by presenting myself to the employment pool, and remind every applicant I meet for employment in accounting of this fact, as they struggle desperately to find a job.

I am writing in my capacity as an unpaid adviser to desperate job seekers, in tears due to their inability to obtain employment in the accountancy field. I have to firstly explain the plight the Institute has wronged them into, and secondly trying to get them to accept the current predicament they are in, and MORE importantly in doing my utmost into mentally transforming them into an optimistic person in their employment search, where they are willing to explore the possibility of other avenues to achieve their personal goals in life.

I have helped those at various stages of qualification get jobs, (all without a fee, I might add, and as our culture has it, NO thanks from the person who gets the job once they are able to secure the position either!) In preparation for their job, I first have to get them to prepare a Resume at least worthy of getting an interview as most CV even from qualified accountants would not even get a look in if sent!

The gulf between expectation and disappointment, once they realize what the real world for accountants is like is mind bogglingly disheartening.

MY RECOMMENDATION – Stop being indecently greedy, as the entry requirement is just too lax. Have an entrance exam that restricts the annual student numbers to only 2,000, but the exam must test analytical skills and NOT ability to pass exams. Take these 2,000 and give them the training to run any company on the face of the earth. 

You will then have an Institute that is respected worldwide and alumni that are likewise employable globally. The insinuation that the current syllabus has been upgraded to fit with the times and therefore will answer my allegations is just hogwash. That in itself is NOT enough, until you have people who are designated trainers who know how to get the most of the students under their tutelage. Let us hope those preening peacock primadonnas of the Institute read this, and  act to save the profession from disgrace, and possible agitation against their unethical policies and misleading claims. 

No wonder accountants are NOT permitted to advertise. See what a mess the Institute has made by trying to do it themselves! One of the most misleading ads in Sri Lankan print media of late!  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Embracing unsolicited foreign projects by way of high interest loans

A country must have a plan for the future, and it is generally the responsibility of a government to publish short and long term plans on how they expect the economy and society to perform. This can also be related to micro level projects such as road widening schemes, where people know well in advance, even 10 years ahead of roadways marked for widening, so that unnecessary buildings and parking reservations are made well in advance.

It is an indication of the lack of such, when we see some roads have sliced houses and shops in two, and as a result of the shops now on the roads, there is NO place for people to park, so customers are unable to come to the shops.

In a more serious development, Sri Lanka has permitted China to take the upper hand and recommend projects to the Sri Lankan Govt. outside of the Govt’s plans.

The President of China will grace Sri Lanka with an official visit on the 16th and we are pulling out all the stops to give him everything he has asked for including the Free Trade Agreement that is in their favor as well as the whole “Kitchen Sink”!!

It is obviously very tempting to take on projects that seem to offer the sun, moon and stars, to someone still in the dark, having not seen either of the above. However their inclusion in and part of development policy is rather dubious. I do agree that when private foreign investment projects are presented for approval they also in some form are unsolicited, or to the extent they are solicited, is through a local agent, being rounded up to present a project but remember that is private with NO public money changing hands, except for legitimate BOI concessions within the law of the land.

The argument of whether Tax concessions in the form of tax holidays should be granted is a totally different subject that requires a separate set of guidelines, and apply both for private and public foreign investment.  

The true measure of the economic benefit of unsolicited projects should be analyzed completely independently of the promoters, and question their relevance in current Sri Lankan investment and need climate. We don’t want empty islands in the Dubai World complex at Govt. expense in Sri Lanka when it comes to filling up the sea and building tropical villages and cities out of reclaimed land.

It is further beyond ironic that the money spent on this investment is included in as foreign inward investment, when the whole project start to finish has no local component except for few construction contacts that are fractions of the value of the investment proper. The Revenue from the sale of property or buildings does not accrue to Sri Lanka, and neither does the investment in plant. It may  as well be a Chinese project that is actually done in an offshore island in Sri Lanka, where we have given permission for them to come and use our resources, like power, water, construction labor and climate, as well as land or sea for their activity, because they DON’T have such agreeable climate and positioning in their country sans pollution!

Just think about it, what better way to colonize the world, than using one’s wealth to woo suckers to hand over their country, with nebulous promises of immeasurable benefits, so the one’s own Countrymen are able to enjoy the pleasures, one’s own Country does not have in some far off land.

People could argue that this is sure to benefit Sri Lanka, when Chinese come in tens of thousands to live in Sri Lanka, so they would be able to spend their money here. I would argue, is it really what we want when we are already making it uncomfortable, for those who do not fit into the Sinhala Buddhist mould to live here.

Granted we many not give them citizenship rights, but merely residency rights to live in their homes in Sri Lanka in port city or any other place they may wish to buy property in. The Bill in parliament yesterday preventing foreigners buying property will not apply to the Chinese as the concessions granted them, include giving them free hold rights in islands or land they have reclaimed from the SEA!!

ONE MUST understand that 1 ½ Billion Chinese live in China. They are engaged in choosing poorer countries to find the most lucrative investments, as the Confucian ideology is to maximize one’s wealth, so one can do what one wants with it! Something which is quite alien to Buddhist Culture, which is to attempt to forgo all earthly desires, especially material wealth. It appears that our planners have forgotten that simple concept. They are also engaged in investing and buying property in rich countries too, but are willing to pay top dollar for that privilege which the host country does not mind. Here in Sri Lanka greed has taken over and we are permitting them to make sweetheart deals that benefit them more than us, as we are not capable of planning in the long term interests of Sri Lanka.

It is time to take a grip on unsolicited proposals, and first plan what we want for a prosperous and serene future for Sri Lanka, and see if these projects will add to it.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


CKDU the silent killer !!

People are dying like flies in so many Districts due to CKDU and the Govt. of Mahinda Rajapakse continues to fart about it!

Time for action, even though it is about 10 years too late, exactly the time this Govt. has been in power. Since the day they came into power promising the subsidized artificial and highly toxic fertilizer, at 10% of the real cost to the state, the farmers had the extra money they would have had to carefully husband fertilizer to buy even MORE TOXIC GLYPHOSATE to kill the weeds and now we know themselves too.

I have farmed in the North Central Province for 10 years now, and know the mentality of the farmers, given a financial incentive or break,  and ineptitude of the Agricultural Advisors and incompetence of the Agricultural Department, combined to create an explosive situation where more and more Districts of Sri Lanka are afflicted by CKDU, and the problem is making Ebola look like a walk in the park!

This is a silent killer, I have reported extensively about it, and why is this Govt. passing the buck? Simply because there are 120 Ministers who don’t know what they are doing, and a donkey at the helm. We have a PM who is past his sell by date only because of indecision on the part of the GOSL hoping he will disappear or unwilling to replace!

The fact that this is the single most important killer, that is going to kill people for the next 30 years even if pesticides and artificial fertilizer is banned completely today, leaves NO option but to use its massive Army of 400 thousand people who are just nothing more than pavement and lawn sweepers with Ekel Brooms today, thanks to the lack of vision of the Rulers, to fight the most important battle the Country faces.

Why is everyone waiting for the next shock to hit the big screen, namely that of the fact that the use of pesticides will kill every live sperm that the SL male carries, so that we will have to artificially inseminate our women, to have children with foreign blood like the rulers, throwing this Sinhala Buddhist concept on its head, into a hollow cry from a dead race!

Look no further than to the leaders of Sri Lanka who are doing a perfect job in destroying its population, so that they can rule forever in a land devoid of human beings. Don’t tell me I am right when it is too late. Challenge me today, and tell me I am wrong, and why. Everything we are arguing about now will be just hot air soon!    

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

CEOs let alone Managers – It’s a problem finding dynamic people! REALLY?

What do you think? 

I was reading an article that alluded to the possibility of Sri Lanka requiring to fill CEO positions using expatriate’s due to the lack of locally produced talent in the marketplace, due to a variety of reasons.

Let us go back a little in recent history. All the well managed foreign Multinationals are run by 30 or 40 something foreigners, rising up the corporate ladder in their Groups. This has been the case all along, for Ceylon Tobacco, Nestle Unilever, Holcim, Standard Chartered and now the heads of the Chinese Corporations which are doing the Construction of Highways, and Ports. For example Nestle has over a 100% return on capital employed, a dream for Sri Lankan companies.

The comment from this consultancy, is just an opinion from one who makes their money from talent search amongst other things, and we MUST be vary of self-appointed pontificators, who make claims. Nevertheless WE MUST address this issue carefully. I know of Sri Lankans, some now retired in Sri Lanka, who have held important positions in multinationals overseas, and therefore it is more about retaining talent to apply for the positions in Sri Lanka and less about hiring people from abroad.

We in Sri Lanka are saddled with the white man knows best concept whilst the rhetoric is the opposite. In this instance, the same job is done better by the foreigner merely because the subordinates are MORE willing to take orders from a non-National in preference to a local. Some mental block of our people, both at the executive level and at the unskilled laborer level. 

To illustrate the latter issue, the Local planters were never able to have the same perfection and discipline from the Estate Labor in the plantation that the Britisher was able to instill and I have heard this lament from senior planters. It may be due to the Britisher being a stickler to discipline and timing. Have you forgotten about the how the hot bath was run at 7.25pm sharp every day, so that he would get into it at 7.35 sharp at the right temperature everyday as five minutes later and the bath would have got colder!

That precision is not wired in our brains, and the Appu’s view of the sahib drops more than a few notches!! It is therefore this management practice that has to be fine turned, so that the workers know EXACTLY what standards to expect, devoid of unfair favoritism that varies from day to day, rather than being etched in stone!   
Lets then get back to the main point of the entry, which is finding the right caliber for the top job.

There is NO question that Sri Lankans are capable. Overseas they shine in their work as compared with the same person in their home country! Why is that? As someone who has worked overseas and at one time in my early 30s managed a staff of around 100 in Santa Barbara, California in the US, it is simply that one knows what to expect from the people who work for you there and are generally not people who say one thing and do the opposite.

It then makes the task of managing easier. Here the foreigner devolves that task to a local, and stays ABOVE the fray, looking at the KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS of his job, and improving only on them, and delegating the subsidiary tasks to local managers! That I believe is one reason for this discrepancy I alluded to above. So when it comes to firing it is done through someone else, and done for an objective reason of poor performance and NOT a personal issue.

How can we then manage our diverse businesses which are now getting to a size they are large enterprises that MUST be well managed to compete in a global marketplace. I know of personal friends who have struggled with this same issue, of hiring professionals to do the job, and found them wanting thereby taking the risk of getting an untested person from overseas to carry out the task, even at the obstacle of not knowing the language.

I was involved in a case where the Bank of Ceylon 15 years ago hired a Britisher as CEO and so did the People’s Bank and I had dealings with both of them, and I did not think much of them at the time, but they were able to implement the changes the local people would have found hard to do. Why is that? They are removed from the daily politics. They are hired for a specific purpose, and their incentive or bonus depends on certain parameters being achieved.

If we replicate that sort of discipline commensurate with a remuneration, hidden from the staff (remuneration that is) then I believe we will have able and willing young managers with some overseas exposure who are fit for the task. Hell we have over 25,000 students at any one time physically studying for degrees and masters programs in foreign universities. Can’t we find about 50 at the top end to manage some large companies that are growing by the day? We can of course.

So it is time the pontificating HR & Management consultancy gets a grip on the reality, identify why they make the statement and do something to correct this! Not just find a reason to earn fees in recruiting from overseas as there is a surfeit of foreign job hunters currently that need placing somewhere at some suckers establishment!      

Monday, September 8, 2014

Is the US struggling with the Sri Lankan disease for a change?

As the caption headline in today’s Huffington Post showed “Unsustainable Wealth Gap Undermining the US” it is clear that the renewed vigor with which the US economy is growing does not reflect in an increase in real wages of the working Americans.      

According to this study of 2000 Harvard University Alumni, it illustrates the importance of an improvement in real wages of the workers in an economy, for an economy to be truly successful.

I took this example from the US to remind the reader that other economies also suffer from disequilibrium, and we must do our utmost to ensure that our growth prospects actually share the newly created wealth far more equitably than at present.

It is clear when one talks to the people of the Country, the huge gains of the past few years have made billionaires out of a few donkeys, who seem to have some political connection, but that has not made a person who earns Rs50K a month feel any richer, and instead is struggling to survive.

The explosion in the price of property now on course to hitting Rs 10M a perch even when converted to US dollars makes Colombo 7 land more expensive than Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

The average Executive who works in Colombo, who earns Rs 100,000 and gets a car thrown in on top for his package, can now only buy some land to build on at least 30km away from his workplace in the heart of Colombo, and that amounts to a commute of a minimum of three hours a day both ways.

That is clearly unsustainable, and results in extremely low productivity, let alone a low quality of life for that family. No wonder then that he takes flight to Doha with is family as he is on a US$4000 a month package there, but which both allows him more productive work, and also the chance to save some money in the process, though still a low wage there. Worse still is if he gets a chance to migrate to Canada or Australia, never to return! Sri Lanka is the loser, and Australia the gainer of a Au$ 1M + asset gratis from SL!

It is possible to retain these people if their package is double that at present, and this can be achieved by the robber barons, sharing some of their tax free gains!            

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Scottish Independence – time Polonnaruwa also secedes from the UNION!

The vote of those resident in Scotland on independence from the UK will be held shortly and the latest reports put the Yes for Independence as a majority over the NO for the first time! I earlier thought they were nuts to want to secede, but then I began to wonder, as I have always felt that if Polonnaruwa District were to run as an Independent Country, we would be far better off than NOW. Of course the rotten traitorous politicians who rule the place making slaves of the people will be the first to be ousted and imprisoned with hard labor, but I had a super plan to make it work.

In my plan we were going to have an International Airport in Hingurakgoda and I had all the Foreign Investment also well organized. After all it is the land of the thousand lakes, that can be marketed more exclusively than Bhutan, and we were bent on making it the worlds NO 1 in the Happiness Index, a tall order from the present decrepit state of the District. I was even going to pay for any water we were going to buy from the irrigations schemes that came from outside the District.

So much for Polonnaruwa and back to Scotland. Isn’t it ironic that most of the land in Scotland is owned by people who live outside Scotland, mainly in England, by once Scottish Aristocrats who now live in England, but also by Americans and Middle Easterners. After all the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed owns a 65,000 acre Scottish Estate too!

The majority of the people of Scotland are concentrated in a few cities, living rather mundane lives, and only the Scots who left the shores during the Colonial period returned with their fortunes, and I knew of many in Sri Lanka and my grandfather’s friend George Gordon who owned Hunters at one time comes to mind.                        

Give the Scots the chance to manage themselves and as they are intelligent people and very practical, they will be able to do a super job. Like the EC there will be a common currency, open borders and free movement of goods, (don’t get carried away with the photos of border crossings done by the English to frighten the Scots to voting NO. Forget the North Sea OIL it is almost over, so it is other unique areas that will make the very large land mass, as compared to the people who are concentrated in 5% of it, a wonderful Mecca of exclusive high end tourism, that could bring in revenue 100 times that of now if properly marketed, managed and developed with exclusivity in mind.

So hears to Scottish Independence after 300 years of rule from England, and we could see a very different picture emerging of the small population becoming rich!   

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

An Active Virile and Effective Opposition is an Absolute Necessity

For a thriving democracy – so says the respected elder statesman of Journalism Gamini Weerakoon in his weekly column last Sunday.

What he has missed out is that there is such a thing BUT IT DOES NOT GET AN AIRING ANYWHERE!

It is due to the FEAR of the PEOPLE to publish and permit the opposition space. I was informing a Lawyer this morning, that the Nil Balakaya or Namal Rajapaksa’s personal Youth Wing, had put a half page ad in the papers today, Congratulating the SLFP on its 63rd anniversary and giving the logos of the Mobile Phone Companies, where the youth could download the Nil Balakaya theme song as a ring tone.

When I was involved in dong the same thing for the Youth Front of the UNP some time ago, to have their theme as a ring tone the Mobile Phone companies refused to have it done.

Gamini there has to be the same level playing field for both sides, and so if the Mobile Phone companies were FRIGHTENED OF THEM, and not us then our opposition is suppressed.

What are the lawyers doing to fight this? NOTHING. They just pay lip service, and should be ashamed of themselves as a profession in Sri Lanka, where they are also acting in fear and NOT in the interests of their clients, completely at odds with their OATH. The profession just like the journalists should just be consigned to the dustbin of Sri Lankan professions, as completely under the spell of their ruling masters.

They have a simple choice, just withdraw their services, and the State will come to heal, but they are not willing for a moment to destroy their gravy train in the Public’s Interest as it appears from their action or more like INACTION that they subscribe to the current status quo for the sake of personal gratification, pecuniary LY!

My whole blog has one goal, and that is namely to point out oddities in our thinking, lifestyle and double standards, that bar this Country from being the true Paradise on earth, and point fingers at all those people who are complicit in this prevention, appealing to them to set personal greed aside for the National Good, or at least compromise a little so that we can all participate in God’s Gift To Mankind – Sri Lanka!  and not just a favoured few who want to keep it to themselves alone!