Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Let me elaborate on the plight of Rural Youth – Mind & Mindset

Much has been said about the prospects of Rural Youth in the new Sri Lanka! I will try and explore some of the prejudices and ideas that people have. I will use some real examples to try and illustrate some of the points, to make it easier to compehend.

Prasadi Nishanthi – She is about 28 having worked for 7 years at the Brandix at Giritale, and because her supervisor shouted at her, she stopped going to work, despite earning over Rs25,000 a month, for a 6 day work week, where the company provided bus picks her up from outside her front door in the mornings and drops her off in the evenings after the shift. She has bought a scooter for what purpose I know not!

She is pestering me to get her a job in the Anuradhapura Hospital, as a Hospital Attendent, the job that her qualification would entitle her to. A nurse position requires A levels which she does not have. It is perceived as a Govt. Job in the health department, and she could ask for a transfer nearer home later, and may improve her marriage prospects also, as garment workers have a low value! Despite the fact that her income maybe less as an attendent. It is considered easier, and she does not have to work so hard, and she will have more free time, and the working hours less.

Susantha – he is about 30 years old. He worked in the CDF or Civil Defence Force for a few years, before he had the opportunity to go to the Middle East for a few years. On his return, he asked me to see if he could get his job back. He has already paid over Rs200,000 to a broker who has offered to find him a Govt. job in some capacity. Depending on the job that is promised there is a price. He has not delivered yet, and I have a nasty feeling he has been taken for a ride. He is currently driving a tractor for a village businessman of questionable repute, and being paid on a daily basis. As you can see there is a type of person promising to find Govt. jobs for money. Do they pay politicians for these appointments?

Three boys in their twenties, have managed to get jobs in the Wildlife Dept, as rangers and are earning well, and appear to be the most settled. Two work away from home and come home on their days off. I was asked to find a job there for the BIL of one of them, as his current job in farming is NOT earning the required peace and comfort. 

None of the youth (except the BIL) are involved in farming or an activity using village raw material to weave for lack of a marketplace and lack of a secure income. It appears they are all looking for security of income and permanence of job. The wives of all of the above males are living at home bringing up kids.

The pull to a govt. job is irresistible, and due to the fact their parents are farmers, and find eking out an existence not to their liking, the village will shortly have No One to plough the fields, unless it is mechanized and given to one team to do, as being the most efficient so the profit, or proceeds could be divided amongst the owners of the land in some equitable way.   

All of the above in the village live in Ranchettes thanks to their parents inherited and grabbed land, so have home gardens that grow food, and all homes are built with bricks and motar and have good roofs and all have electricity. Way better than the homes I see in Biyagama in the suburbs of Colombo that just went under due to floods and where I work in a Printing Plant.

Let me elaborate on the plight of Rural Youth – Nutrition & Growth

In my extensive dealing with rural youth I have come to some conclusions on what happened and what can be done to change their outlook on life! This is due to the fact that I live part of my month in Ratmale, Minneriya, a puranagama, that existed before Polonnaruwa was rediscovered during the British Rule, and regenerated and revived by DS Senanayake under the Minneriya Colony Resettlements after the Tanks were restored and rebuilt along with the rebuilding of gravity driven, irrigation canals.

From the discussions with the elderly, Malaria was NOT a big problem then, perhaps because the people having lived here for generations, were immune, but life was fulfilling with agriculture and animal husbandry being he thriving sources of income, along with collecting bees honey to exchange for other items not available locally. The adjoining village was Rotawewa who were hunters!

The quality of life was good, and the village was clustered in such a way, that the intrusion of wild elephants could be minimized. Only, when the village was abandoned when the new roads were built and electricity supplied there, did the people move out of their traditional abode near the wewa and dagaba (pansala) by squatting on land on either side of the road, and building their homes.

Thus when I acquired this property, it was covered in thick forest, and there were hardly traces of the Coconut, Mango, and Jack Trees there were supposedly here abundantly, in the past, along with the clustered houses in a semicircle to protect internal land from Elephants! People were apparently taller, and stronger, and more healthy living longer, all of which I find hard to believe but in hindsight know it was possible.

There were herds of cattle then, and both fresh milk, meat and hunting of animals resulted in strong people, well fed on protein. Now the youth don’t have fresh milk, there are NO cattle to speak of, and they don’t eat meat and occasionally some game is caught and eaten, most of it being sold due to the demand by local hotels instead. This is called progress in the era of education.

The turn off to my house was called the Goma Handiya due to the fact that at that point, it was knee deep in cow manure, due to the cattle, and this was used in the paddy fields, that supposedly gave higher yields, and the paddy was of organic varieties of high nutrition. This added to the Kurakkan (Millet) which was also a staple, gave a level of nutrition that none of today’s diet can match.

This then is the tragedy of our unhealthy diet of refined foods and sugars, and lack of protein in all its forms, that have stunted both the brain and brawn of our youth. Now let’s go and look into their minds and mindsets in the next entry!

What is the point of school? People were better educated before schools were established!

I was pleasantly surprised that I had the highest hits for a very long time, for my last blog entry http://kalpanakaranna.blogspot.com/2016/05/education-lets-challenge-existence-of.html

While I challenged the need for schools, I don’t know if it was because of the face in the entry that the reader was drawn to, rather than the topic I have raised!

I wish to elaborate further on this topic, especially with regard to the comparisons in my area of Ratmale, Minneriya, which was a thriving farming community over 100 years ago, with the whole village scattered around the Ratmale Tank, and people were prosperous with livestock and agriculture, and some village elders even had horses that they rode in, and by all accounts a far more prosperous place than it is TODAY!

I happen to have my house, where the old village stood, right by the Tank.
http://ratmale.blogspot.com/ where the well I have dug, has water almost to the ground level in June 2016, at the beginning of the very dry season. I can truly understand why it was so prosperous, and when I look at its state of decay now, a soulless place where the young have deserted and the old wander and wonder!

None of the youth (Educated) know how to recognize the birds that live here, the trees that grow here, and the medicinal plants that can be picked up in the forest. Even worse NONE of the youth know how to weave, a product of the village in the past, where one grandmother gave me an exquisite mat about 10 years ago, the last mat she wove, before she passed away.

We have educated our youth out of their surroundings, to leave in search of employment, or remain addicted to ganja, (grown in these parts) and worse, KG, the new version called Kerala Ganja (that is imported in quantity from across the pond) , and education to them seems meaningless as it is do with concepts that are alien to them, and not relevant to how they want to earn a living. They become misfits in their own villages, where their parents can do things they cannot, and know much more than them, but have hardly been to school.

Due to the poor quality of the schools in these areas, the education they get at schools here do NOT assist them in their employment prospects, and so they are caught between a rock and a hard place, as they don’t know how to survive in their own surroundings. This is a real life situation, where neither are the kids given a taste of being able to live and work in their own environment knowing their environment, neither can they survive out side, and so become dropouts!  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Education - Let’s challenge the existence of schools – do we actually need them?

The Subject - The Photograph - The Photographer - The Rose

To my knowledge, if a parent gives a 3 year old a smart phone, they self teach to navigate through it better than the parent. What does that mean? A child who has NOT been to school, knows how to use a smart phone for the purposes he wants, whether it is to play videos, or listen to music or play games. The parent on the other hand uses it only for the apps and phone use and maybe for video calls, but that is about it! He has actually gone to school!

Why do we send our kids to school? Is it because we have to, otherwise the law will be on our case for child neglect? Can we teach our children to read and write at home, and if we can afford it get a teacher for the subjects we want to teach one on one.

Due to others pressures at home, the school is only a glorified crèche to look after our offspring, when we don’t have the time to do so ourselves, in short out of convenience only. What if we just let our child wander about until the child chooses out of his or her own need to learn, because that is the only way they can advance their knowledge they need to know.

After all in this internet age, with explosion of knowledge there is NO way, that we can or will learn everything there is to know. All we need to know is how to access the information. With spell check, we don’t even need to learn to spell, as it is done automatically for us, when we type.

SHOULD WE LEARN TO TYPE BEFORE LEARNING TO WRITE? Seriously though, as a child when the creative spirit is at its highest, the child may be able to type poetry before he can write words by hand. Has that not been tested yet? I am sure it has and I am sure we can be blown away by the findings.

What do our children really know when they reach 16? Can they know all that without going to school, and sometimes have already started a business, and be earning money, if they never went to school.

Should we administer other means to determine our children’s strengths and weaknesses, and take steps to hone the skills the child has been born with. Some people have a ear for music, others for painting, that come naturally due to their particular skill. Others maybe able graphic design on the computers if they are taught how to use the software.

Put to the test, should we teach PHOTOSHOP to a 5 year old that hardly knows how to read so the child can express his talents on computer, by designing whatever he or she wants to? YESSSSSSSS said a knowledgeable colleague!

The reality is that his highest earning as a creative designer can be between ages 5 and 10, by which time others would have surpassed his talent! He can then return to school to do whatever he wants, now that he has earned enough to live for the rest of is life!


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Work life balance of the future – It’s called flexibility, to minimize the carbon footprint

You the reader, how would you prefer to live? If you don’t have inherited wealth where you don’t have to work, but have to earn an income to live the way you want, what would you ideally like to do?

In this globalized world, we may have to leave the locations we are comfortable with, in order to pursue the vocation or career of our choice, and so we will have to adapt to the surroundings, and make certain compromises to our lifestyle.

What is our priority? How can we achieve it? These are very personal questions, whose answer may differ from one person to the next. How can we then compromise our lifestyle so we can balance all of these, in order to lead a life we are want, bearing in mind, the income we can optimally earn for our skill set, and the expenses we have to incur, due to the lifestyle we have chosen? How we manage those expenses in the best way possible, in order that we obtain a level of satisfaction we want is the challenge.

Very few people think of these questions, when they plan what they want to do, and then after years of surviving, according to others norms, wake up one day, and bemoan their lives, and the choices they made, and regret, with “what might have been had I done this or that!”.

It is impossible to predict the future. However we can make certain lifestyle choices to improve it. What we believe is essential, may in fact be only optional. This is particularly true in consumption of non essentials, like, alcohol and cigarettes, as well as the daily bet on the horses on the way home. Many don’t realize how much is spent on such, and how much their families suffer or are denied owing to this.

In the rapidly changing world and the era of smart phones, social media, constantly evolving markets and products, employment flexibility is the rule and norm, and not the exception, and unless we are able to adapt to the fast changing environment, we may both be left behind, and also be bereft of skills needed, leaving us in a very precarious position to even survive!

We must understand that retirement may not be an option for many in future, the job skills may be more personal services and not factory work. Home workers like carers for the elderly may be in demand, and skilled production workers laid off by technology. Accordingly personal prejudices will have to be put aside, in favor of taking jobs that are available, even though we may believe it is not socially desirable!


The state has been singularly unable to have a vision for the future, so they have NOT been able to inform the people, where jobs will be, what they will be and what kind of education and training they should be thinking of when making these tough choices as Youth.

These think tanks and seminars, such as the recently concluded, FORESIGHT and INNOVATION summit just did not get the best out of the people attending, as they have NOT been able to envisage a future different to their own short term perspectives, that they can think about. It was very poor in execution.

A long term horizon involves, a HUGE change in behavior. JUST THINK in the short period since the end of the LTTE insurrection, 7 years now, could we have envisaged the traffic chaos that has increased the average commute by a WHOLE HOUR EACH DAY! That is a colossal waste of human satisfaction lost in a BUS! So much for the PEACE DIVIDEND!

If our planners had a vision that this would be the case, unless certain steps were taken, they should have taken remedial steps. If you ask some, they will say that they in fact took steps. What were they? They said the road construction and widening in Colombo was done to take into account the extra traffic expected over 10 years, but the traffic we expected 10 years hence came in just two years.

The fundamental flaw here was that NO PROPER PLAN had been made for expanding, modernizing, and making speedier public transport. That should have been the priority, NOT THE ROAD BUILDING AND WIDENING CONTRACTS that any urban planner would say was countreproductive.

Why was there a public policy flaw? We gave the onus to the Road Construction Lobby, led by wealthy construction giants to make the call, and drive policy, as they had the money to influence the politicians to behave NOT in a way that was good for the PUBLIC, but ONLY GOOD FOR THE POCKETS of the Road Builders. This is a clear example of flawed priorities from which many, perhaps 500,000 people are paying the price daily, without realizing that their respective governments have caused this misery on them.

That is why it is so important to think about the future in a logical and rational manner, DEVOID OF PERSONAL AGENDAS, for the public good. It is the responsibility of a well run state to make these decisions. Just look at the world’s longest 55km Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland that was planned in 1947 and work started in 1994 and will be opened in a few days, with full commercial use in 2017, cutting journey times by over an hour.

In Sri Lanka we have been fooled by contracts that are merely gimmicks to win Elections, and in the end lead to bad policy. We the citizens are just as much to blame because we believe that the promise of short term gain, is sufficient carrot to vote a party into power, only to find that, we were misled.

I am afraid that the Good Governance promise which was the ULTIMATE social contract of the Government with the people who elected them, has NOT been kept, and there is no satisfactory reason given by the elected Government as to why they have NOT been able to keep to the terms of this contract.


In order to have a personal quality of life that improves, the state MUST play a distinct role, as otherwise without it, we come into conflict. The state therefore has a right to provide us with clean water, clean air, and make necessary steps that we consume food free from harmful toxins. For them to provide those, they have to provide, good sanitation, waste disposal, electric public transport, and recyclability of all disposable products, and environmental conservation.

The citizen then must undertake to help the state in its endeavors to provide this, by standards of conduct, where they do not litter, dispose of waste, not pollute, reduce carbon footprint and most of all, have a community spirit that takes everyone’s best interest above that of personal interest. They must pay their taxes, without which the state cannot provide the required services, and to this end the civic mindedness of the individual is paramount, especially the wealthy.

There are models we can emulate, and whilst we can have our own unique behavioral model, we can learn from Bhutan, and from Scandinavian Countries, on how we go about doing this in practice.

PPP or public private partnerships are the rage now. However as I have explained above the real Private Public partnership, is the one defined here, where the State and the people work towards achieving the one goal, of doing all that is necessary to improve the quality of lives of the people, along with the equal corporation of the people themselves as they are one and the same thing!

We must understand that when we say the state it is made up of US. Not someone else, so we are talking about US, doing things in concert, for the common good. That must include behavior, courtesy, discipline and above all civic mindedness, for the State and the People to prosper together.  

Friday, May 27, 2016

If Japanese millennials think they will never retire, why are Sri Lankan millennials looking for a job with a retirement package as their first job?

It is merely my supposition, but Sri Lanka’s millennials, that is roughly those born between 1980 and 2000, or those between 16 and 36, who are looking for employment seem to be thinking about retirement benefits at the time of looking for their first job! I find this a truly strange phenomenon, which I can only blame their parents for, for giving them false ideas of employment and what they should be looking for.

If you check the link above you will see that in Japan, a developed country, and I would say with a disciplined labor force, almost 37% believe they will never be able to retire. Amazingly they are in touch with reality, whilst in Sri Lanka our youth are completely living an Alice in Wonderland existence, with false hopes, and expectations, that MUST have come from their parents, who are also not in touch with reality, due to successive Governments pandering to their psyche with the virtues of Govt. employment not only with a good pay check but also with a pension and be doled out by the politician they support!

Anyone with any knowledge of public finance will know that the Sri Lankan government HAS NOT made any provision anywhere for the unfunded pension liability of the state sector workers, which it is under obligation to pay. Why? We in the private company I am at, have to provide an estimate of superannuation payable to staff when they leave, in advance of the fact, (this is NOT tax deductible but affects profits) and more than that we pay 20% of the workers wages to EPF so that when they leave, they have a pot that builds up which they may use as a retirement fund if they so wish.

SO WHEN WE SAY UNFUNDED, we mean that the Government has made NO provision anywhere for future pension obligations. If in a few years the Govt. is unable to pay its way, the first thing they will be forced to do is to increase the retirement age so they can delay this pension liability. In reality they will have to raise it so high, say till 80, so in the end all workers will be dead and the Govt. will NOT be forced to make any pension payment at ALL.

That then is the reality. So it is best to advise all those millennials who seek employment in the state sector to do so at their peril, as the Govt. will NOT be able to afford to pay you a pension at any age, and so you will have to work till you die in the Govt. service. That is the reality, no matter how you want to coat it to the Millennials. It is better to be truthful, so this parents’ misconception of a Govt. job can be truly put to rest sooner rather than later for the sake of the Millenials.  

Donald Trump – Accepting the Republican Nomination in Bismark, North Dakota!

I am not usually one who watches any TV, but just wanted to see if our President was shown on International TV News at the G7 summit and so switched between the usual three international channels I have, namely, Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN last night (May 26th 2016) Only Obama was shown!

I must say I was in for a treat. This had comedy, and theatrics that no movie or soap could conjure up in a million years! Oozing cockiness and arrogance!

I had NOT watched the US presidential race nor kept abreast of what was going on, and so it was a novel experience. CNN Wolf was waiting for the grand entrance of the “The Donald”. They were playing to a simultaneous live broadcast of the Democratic presumptive nominee, Hilary Clinton, in Las Vegas surrounded by Union workers who were backing her in the backdrop in their yellow T shirts. She was so staid and boring and so forgettable, you wondered if she had any policies that anyone could even listen to. She was just a tried and tested Washington Hand. Maybe when Bill came to town in 1992 you could argue they were Arkansan, and Hilly Billy types, but hell no, she was just a Washington Insider behaving like one, and there is nothing more of a turn off!

Then after many of the pundits had marveled on the fact, two months ago, no one would have said that on May 26th Trump would have the delegates in the bag for the nomination, today he had when the pledged delegates reached the magic figure of 1237. Funnily the pundits did a dis- service to viewing pleasure.

So in walks Trump, as in your face and arrogant as ever, and within minutes of the first question, where it was pointed out that Obama in Japan a few hours ago, had said that the G7 leaders were rattled by his nomination, and that he was completely unaware of International Diplomacy. The way Trump blew Obama away was mind boggling. He just trashed him as the worst President ever, and that he would reverse ALL of Obama’s Executive orders, immediately on taking office. 

On the “RATTLE” a classically arrogant retort, saying he likes that, because if any friendly country is rattled, then it is a good thing, because they fear his policies will put them on notice! He said he is a businessman, and knows that when competitors are RATTLED that means he is doing something GOOD! 


That was sheer grandstanding behavior, full of “Chutzpah” (insolence, cheek or audacity, and I say all of them!)

If I was President Obama, I would have felt it better not to have made those comments, as Trump has a way of drawing the Hill Billy American in a way that no one else can and turn every allegation round to his benefit.

Of course I cannot remember all the questions asked, but the challenge to debate Bernie Sanders as a way of getting at Hilary was the next most amusing part, as he, as a SHOWMAN, knows the value of prime time TV, and as ratings are the key, he cockily knows it will break all records of viewership. So he said if a TV station comes up with say US$15M on the table, he will relish it, and use the money for “women’s health”, a slap in the face of Hilary again! He is having a vicarious thrill at these insinuations.

He said he has already raised US$6M to give to the Veterans in a public handover in a few days at TRUMP TOWER, so he will pass this on to a charity that is connected with improving women’s health issues.

The way he trashed Elizabeth Warren a senator from Massachusettes, was cringe worthy. He said if EW was a Native American then he was as much Native American. He even called her Pocahontas, which if anyone else but the Donald said it would have been like calling someone a Nigger, but he simply got away with that comment putting her down as a fraud! So she as a possible running mate for Hilary is already minced and spewed!

One other thing about his running mate from female or minority, he just left it completely open, not saying that only WASP need apply, as it was rumored that female and minority were not even in the running. He let that slip by so slickly, that no one can say he ruled it out!

Then when he said he is a businessman turned politician and so does not know the insides of political shenanigans, he will in his first 100 days, CUT RED TAPE AND REGULATIONS AND TAXES. The other being; USA will be ENERGY INDEPENDENT AND AN EXPORTER, but with not much kudos given to solar or wind, but he did say he will consider those alternatives as well!

He was about to give a major speech soon after the Press Conference at the Hall adjacent to 7,000+ supporters about the US Energy industry, his plans for it, and his policy to provide jobs and make AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

He was also going to beef up the expenditure on the Military by huge chunks, citing the fact that some airman had complained that they were cannibalizing F16 in museums for parts, to keep the planes running! These comments go right to the heart of the natural fears of the highly insular American psyche, which obviously he understands perfectly.

The New Mexico Governor had just been trashed a few days ago, and he had defended that, but had the cheek to say that she will join his campaign later, saying he is now collecting funds for other Republican candidates in November 8th 2016.


How can we progress from the recent floods? We have already regressed!

There are lessons we must learn from every cataclysmic event. Our priority MUST be to lessen, minimize or eliminate such tragedies in future. We have also had to contend with Global Warming, El Nino and La Nina effects, and they also add to unusual weather patterns that result in human devastation and suffering. Through it all we have all been shown time and time again, that the respect for our Environment is paramount, if we are to plan for a sustainable future effectively.

So with all of the above, why have we NOT changed our behavior patterns? There have been distribution of hundreds and thousands of water bottles (non-biodegradable plastic) to people as an act of Charity by individuals and organizations. We know drinking contaminated water is a sure start to a waterborne disease spread, and as the shelf life is long, drinking water is a human essential, gifting this and thinking nothing of it is the best urgent flood aid.

Let me leave aside the measures to be taken to reduce the likelihood of floods in future by removing illegal structures, removing people from flood prone areas, and providing them with alternative housing, and such like, and concentrate here merely on changing householder behavior to improve their own individual contribution to reducing flood damage. This needs the support of course of the local authorities, like the local Pradeshiya Sabha in the removal of waste in an ecologically friendly manner.

I shall call it behavior modification, and awareness of our own culpability in aiding and abetting floods.


As I mentioned earlier let us begin with knowing how best to dispose of the empty water bottles. Improper disposal of these by just throwing them in heaps will ADD TO A FLOOD SITUATION, and is ironic if that happens due to the relief given in a flood, being the reason for an even greater disaster in future.

The City of San Francisco has BANNED the use of disposable water bottles due to the environmental impact it causes. So let us begin by asking our local council (Pradeshiya Sabha) of implementing a return system of this plastic to a central location with a payment of say 25cents per empty bottle, returned!
They will have a system of immediately crushing it within their premises, prior to disposal to an accredited purchaser, who would use it for some other purpose that is carbon neutral and a profitable business venture.

Let us then do the same for plastic bags, another huge menace being distributed with flood relief, also about to fill up drains and clogg up waterflow adding to future flood situations.

We talk about generosity of our people when tragedy occurs to help out those us in need, as was shown recently. Can we not use this same theme to appeal to the recipients of that generosity to dispose of non- biodegradable waste in a manner that is prescribed? Local councils MUST be complicit in this contract, by supplying receptacles, arranging for pick-ups, preventing fly-tipping which is another consequence of flood damaged goods being disposed of.

You can see from the above, that NOT ONLY FLOOD RELIEF but also, disposal of waste from the flood are matters of equal importance both to build awareness of why floods are caused, and how we can alleviate man’s contribution to worsening of the floods.

There is STILL a distance from who or what causes the flood to who or what is damaged as a result of the floods. Somehow it is NOT the same people they believe. No one at this stage who is suffering the effects of flood damage, would accept they had any hand in it AT ALL.

It then all boils down to AWARENESS, EDUCATION, BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION TO INCLUDE LESS USE OF NON BIODEGRADABLE PRODUCTS, PROVISION OF RECEPTICLES FOR DISPOSAL OF NON RECYCLABLE WASTE, and a community spirit to help each other out on these matters, as benefitting the whole community.(eg. no one will fly tip at their neighbor’s empty property, creating a health and other hazard later)

In my case, if I know where I can safely dispose of within 5 km of my home,  used LED bulbs, broken glass, empty plastic containers, used tins, used batteries, electronic and computer parts, plastic wrappers, unwearable used clothes, I will save them up and go at least once a month to dispose of them cleanly there. I will NOT expect a pick up. However for those without the transport capability, the local council MUST arrange a once a month pick up of such separately sorted, to make recycling and disposal more convenient for all parties.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Media Exploitation of the Flood to publicize their role is unconscionable

In an excellent article in today’s Daily Mirror, a former MP, Keseralal Gunesekera, succinctly elaborated on the destructive publicity given by media institutions, promoting their flood relief delivery systems with voice cuts from hapless recipients, who no doubt were not even paid to give free advertising to the Media Institutions, that one would easily imply were exploited and used by them in their desperation! A truly cringe worthy if not reprehensible act, that MUST have consequences if they are to improve their image to a truly independent Media institution, which at this stage is questionable.

I will recommend that one reads the article in the link in full to truly understand what damage the Media institutions, (if you can call them even that) have done to the cause of flood relief and rehabilitation. Where are they now that the floods have ceased? What are they doing to locate people truly in need and assisting them in the best way they MUST?

As the article implied, we don’t have a true take on the extent of the damage. When people live at ground level in low lying areas, their whole home goes under water and they lose all they have. There is going to be a huge debate on whether to allow them to return, especially as the land they live on should be reserved as a flood plain, and they should never have been given Electricity in the first place, done by politicians seeking votes, but in the end giving them false sense of security, by assuming now that they pay water bills, and electricity bills, they somehow, have some legitimate right of abode, and also legitimate right to be re-housed, NONE OF WHICH is the case.

In all the world, people migrating to the city for employment sometimes can only find accommodation in such areas, as other places are too expensive to rent. This pressure on accommodation is given legitimacy by certain people for personal gain, and the hapless migrants are none the wiser that they are living on a time bomb that could go off like it did. Then they seek state intervention to save their bacon.

We must have a mechanism, of enforcing certain laws of squatting on reservations, without legitimizing people, and also a system of public housing that charges some monthly fee, and reduce the favoritism that is rife in allocation, that supersedes need.

The need of the hour is assisting ALL state institutions to get the affected people to as normal a life as possible without delay, and asses the most practical method of long term settlement.

145,000 Blocks of land for displaced people! Is this the best use for this land

The Government has identified 145,000 blocks of land to settle people who are in areas that are prone to landslides. I ask if that land should be given to them, as it is all in areas of low employment opportunities in the same districts that are prone to landslides, and instead give this opportunity, as mentioned in my prior blog entry, to give them a choice of an urban dwelling, a multifamily dwelling, with the head of household and for that matter the other householders, even the wife, who has a better chance of employment, and hopefully improve their economic condition.

There is COMPLETE ABSENCE OF THINKING on this aspect, and our love affair with the terra firma, leaves people living in way off slums with no hope of work, and if work is available a nightmare commute of hours to and from work, and a huge carbon footprint to use various modes of transport, time and effort for employment.

We MUST back to basics and educate those affected people first to think and prioritize about their lives. What is it that they want in life. What it is that the state can practically do for them, and what the state’s responsibility is for them.

They will then make a rational decision, if there are alternatives to chose from. People NOT displaced will NOT MOVE. It is displaced people who are the best chance the State has of moving people to where the jobs are from places where jobs are hard to find. Why is there NO DEBATE on this topic at all? Are our planners so ignorant, that they are unable to make even a suggestion? Are they hamstrung, or is it merely that they are still fixated in the home is where the heart is concept that is so outdated, especially in Sri Lanka, where millions now commute to work and millions more live far away from their homes, due to their employment and ONLY GO HOME AT MOST ONCE A MONTH!

Surely if given the chance to live relatively close to work with your whole family, must be the first choice of a family! Tell me I am wrong and the more irrational approach is the preferred one. These are discussions that must take place immediately. It is not that we don’t want to move.

In most cases I know, the marriage is the catalyst for one member (wife or husband) to move halfway round the Country to live with the new spouse, so we are traditionally mobile at marriage anyway, so why can’t we be in this situation, when prospects offered are better? 

A practical proposal to relocation of families under threat of landslides

The topic is timely, and needs to be debated and settled, in a manner where we recognize reality, rather than history and allow people choices, making sure that they are given reasonable information that is as accurate as possible to make informed choices with regards to their futures.

So let us say that there are 10,000 families in a close area that have to be re-housed. The Government is talking about giving 10,000 plots of land of between 15 and 20 perches with which to build homes in some areas. I believe that is the worst possible solution.

We must first assess the needs of these families, and determine if they should be housed close to Aranayake or elsewhere. Each case has to be evaluated on their own merits. NO common decision should be made. This is the only time to make this decision, as people are displaced and cannot be returned to their previous places of abode and have to go live in what they should consider the best of all possible alternatives.

Remember that in Sri Lanka, unlike in the USA, people do not move from an area they know to a new area, even though in marriage they move so far, that they never see their relatives ever again. That is the unfathomable basis of people and their love affair with their home. Once home is built you can never move the person from there! We are like glued to that place, and in this situation when people are unglued, they must be given choices.

In many places employment is scarce, it is crazy to offer land in places where this is so, and instead, they must be given a choice to live in an area where employment is plentiful. There are areas where there are job vacancies with no one to do them, as people don’t want to move for the job from homes they live in. It is too costly for them to live in rented accommodation on the salaries they are offered.

So give choices to people to live in condominiums in urban areas where employment is plentiful. Make it sweeter by offering them more than the quality offered in land nearby, that may not provide the breadwinner with a job. It is simple commonsense, and downright stupidity for a Country to resettle people in land with NO access to employment.

In this way displaced people will be offered a chance to better themselves economically and shown the possibilities of urban living. This then has a chance of people, families living in close proximity to employment, rather than the breadwinner, having to be boarded, whilst the family live in a rural area.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

No one mentioned that the audience at the Foresight Summit are products of a flawed Education system

Accordingly, the audience was not in a frame of mind to think outside the box, in the Strategic Foresight necessary for a seismic change that is needed for a 50 year plan, not just a 13 year plan that is just too shortsighted. The audience therefore were merely like any audience at a Rs25,000 a pop seminar, just time off approved by their superiors to go and enjoy some out of office time, and network a little but take in nothing, as few are actual policy drafters, or policy makers that can add one iota to the concept.

No one challenged them to dream of the land they would like for their still unborn Children! Without the personal avaricious aspirations they have for themselves. Thinking what is good for the Nation is NOT the same as what is good for you, as you only represent the top 1% of society, and your chasing a dream to have a beautiful holiday home, or a nicer car, or more money at retirement to travel the world, is just not part of this agenda. All those personal goals you now have from your limited education, only adds to the carbon footprint, and is AT THE EXPENSE OF YOUR COUNTRYMEN, and so is the reverse of the Foresight that is intended.

It was telling that the Danish Ambassador, (we have a lot to learn from the Scandinavians in their approach to collective thinking over personal greed) said,

“In a knowledge economy its not enough to invest on infrastructure, to generate demand for the expansion of production, it is ever more critical to direct PUBLIC RESOURCES into capitalizing innovation, to develop technical skills”

This is simply NOT something we know how to do, and must learn that more is NOT always best. So it is NOT about how many more packets of biscuits we must sell as the brand manager, that should drive us, but that the wrapper itself will be collected and recycled, and that is why we buy that brand of biscuit, as the Company itself is socially responsible, and is SUSTAINABLE in everything it does, and educates its labor force in the same thinking that includes NUTRITION, and reducing waste, and taking steps to improve the quality of life of their workforce, from use of staff transport, healthy living, day care of a very high quality, to name but a few.

If anyone of you has seen the garbage that is floating on the waterlogged parts of Colombo, can only wonder, what a problem we have in not being able to dispose of our garbage in a safe and effective method, and do not have a sense of recycling centers and collections points to divide all our garbage into different categories. How can we have any foresight then, if we are unable to begin by taking care of the simple processes of daily survival which we have regressed from the banana leaf to the lunch sheet!

Monday, May 23, 2016


All participants at this summit have not been given a study pack prior to their attendance, so they have NOT been able to prepare adequately for discussion of the policy direction to be taken.

What we need is a FUNDAMENTAL LIFESTYLE CHANGE, if we believe our goal should be to build a nation, where the quality of life of all those who reside in Sri Lanka, is at its practical highest!

In order for the Fundamental Change, in my previous blog entry, I suggested a drastic change in the Education system as the catalyst and the only means. I don’t believe the reader envisaged, the seismic shift demanded there.

To begin with when 3 and 4 year olds are trained in behavior modification, it affects all core areas of development. Namely, Discipline, Conservation, Reduction in waste and disposal correctly of all items after use, including recycling. (I hope you realize that our sea is one of the most polluted in the world, and the muck that goes from all our rivers to the sea, is not just a cause for alarm, but shame, and none here today at the summit will be aware, let alone take steps to combat this menace) 

Let me add Nutrition, that encourages eating habits of wholesome food, and sustainable practices and minimal use of artificial additives, pesticides and non-recyclable containers in fast food. Efficient living units with maximum use of renewable energy will be the result of these choices, not the current desire for single family dwellings on terra firma, that other Countries have determined are outdated, and we are still encouraging, in our housing policy! I pick on the current urge to provide homes on limited land, in areas with no employment as a prime example of idiocy at work, by well-meaning but uneducated politicians.

Only if this Education plan is successfully implemented can areas such as flood prevention, relocation with mobility, return of old growth forests, re- foresting of mountainsides, optimal use of existing fallow lands, water conservation and groundwater regeneration, soil conservation, effluent minimization and treatment, management of public transport with minimal pollution, highway construction and maintenance with minimum carbon footprint, and efficient  traffic management, and expansion of parkland for recreation of the public be envisaged.

The aforementioned areas will ONLY lead to an improvement in the quality of life of all citizens living in Sri Lanka. This must be the ONLY criteria under discussion, above all else, and especially the numbers game being bandied about by people with self-interest over the national interest.

As part of this exercise and in order to understand why the above strategy is preferable to any other, is to look at a prime example of a major strategy gone wrong in Biyagama where I currently work.

Take the development of Biyagama, a newly designated area in 1977, carved out from Kelaniya, and created with the BOI Industrial Zone, the cornerstone of the development model close to Colombo, the port and ALL resources. The PM then as an extremely youthful Minister of Industries was tasked with making it a success. It had all the promising ingredients for success.

What do we have now? Haphazard development without proper designation of industrial and housing zones, so homes and factories sit side by side. On top of it people built, politicians took, and flood plains filled, sand mined, and now NO ONE living in Biyagama wants to work in the Industries created there!

The biggest industry is of people building rooms in their homes, to rent out to workers coming from all parts of the Country to work in the factories. There are more than 25,000 vacancies, with locals not wanting to fill any of them, or are not sufficiently qualified to do so. Due to the lack of respectable residential areas, ALL managers of ALL companies, those earning in excess of Rs75,000 a month commute to Biyagama from outside of the area to work there every morning, the residents of Biyagama go outside to Colombo to work, or sit at home, renting their rooms to workers and prefer to be lotus eaters, and about 75,000 workers from homes around the Country, live and work in factories in the area.

How stupid is this model? Worse the floods of this week brought home, the humongous idiocy in planning permission, to build in areas that should never have resulting in innocent people paying the price of their homes being under water, some for the first time ever, due to the political patronage for money at the expense of the development of the area.

Frankly, being so close to Colombo and with so much potential, people in Polonnaruwa have a better quality of life, than the residents of Biyagama, be they permanently living there, or working there living in boarding houses! In hindsight, designation of zones for different types of development should have been made, as well as quality education for the locals, to take the jobs on offer there, as there too few locals with the relevant qualifications work there!

You just have to drive around, seeing the way the unplanned development has organically taken place, with people in tiny plots, with hardly any road access living any which way he can, and half the BOI Comapnies closed down! some for lack of labor, others being uncompetitive with other Countries where productivity is higher, such as Vietnam. What has the local authority tasked with planned development done? NOTHING – What a wasted opportunity? 


It worth taking a look at this previous strategy in trying to understand how well meaning policies look stupid 40 years on due to improper implementation of all segments for holistic success.

Sri Lanka is at a unique juncture in history, with a National Govt. in place, and a new Constitution in the offing giving it the ONLY chance EVER of going back to basics and coming up with the sustainable plan.

So let us set aside, personal and political agendas, draw up a plan for the Country for the next 50 years,  and begin implementing it, being immune from short term political advantages. We dont have an option, because if current practices continue, there is grave doubt if there will be a habitable country in 50 years, so if we agree on that one point, then we can take the necessary steps to change, seismically! nothing less.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Foresight Summit is missing a key word – Education

Without Education, one cannot have any foresight, nor can one innovate. Isn’t it then not surprising that owing to this lack of Education, the contribution of stakeholders to this important strategizing process, is woefully inadequate?

This word screams out loud at me, when I reflect on the real reason for our National Problem, when as a Country we are blessed in every sense of the word.

If we had educated people, we would never have suffered a series of cataclysmic insurrections of civil strife, especially since Independence, when we have been the masters of our own destiny. So what is this lack of Education?

After all, the 1971 JVP uprising that had a significant impact on my life and the course it took due to local uncertainties, was borne out of frustrations of the so called, educated Youth. No, they were so uneducated, they did not realize the extent of their lack of knowledge, that the Bandaranayake Hela Basha regimen imposed on them, that ironically his widow, Sirima, had to confront the by products of this transition, due her husband’s misunderstood drive to embrace the vernacular, when it failed in delivery. The newly empowered educated, were simply not employable, or there were insufficient employment opportunities for the skills they possessed.

This lesson of 1971 and subsequent insurrections have still NOT been learned. We appear to continue down this same misguided path, where products of this education, fail to achieve their potential. This is because they are NOT sufficiently educated to understand their shortcomings in a Global context, where unless they are able to adapt to changes occurring in other countries, and be flexible, they will NOT be able to achieve their life’s ambitions, despite being graduates of the state University system.

It is this readiness to face reality, is what I refer to here as Education. It is NOT merely a certificate to that one has obtained the minimum marks to get it. What is needed is an Education that satisfies the aspirations of the job seeker. The seeker in this instance, believes himself to be educated, and is therefore under the misunderstanding that they are somehow entitled to a job.

The Sri Lanka Economy is facing many challenges due to the actions of successive Governments, that in hindsight have made very poor decisions, on behalf of its subjects. We can blame no one or acts of God, as we have been spared many of the disasters other are faced with, with the Tsunami being the notable exception. For a Country that is regressing in the era of progress a massive U turn is the only solution to this dilemma.
Education is therefore at the heart and SOUL of this change that we need. I believe the Prime Minister also subscribes to this, but is woefully short of talented people who can deliver on the promises made. If truth be told, the whole concept and execution of Education is in need of a nuclear explosion. This must be a GAME CHANGER if the people’s aspirations for clean Government, Environmental Conservation, Better Education and Healthcare and Nutrition are to be fulfilled.

What is Education? Who are the stakeholders? What is the objective of the Education we seek? As mentioned earlier we are inextricably part of the Global Electorate. There is NO going back on it, with 2 million+ citizens working temporarily in foreign lands. We now cater to Global markets of people, goods and services, and we are mere bit players, who must turn it to our advantages. Being a bit player has its advantages, especially when we can identify niches we can specialize in as we can never compete on economies of scale in production.

In this game of finding niches, INNOVATION is the key to learning tools of the future in order to create an educated person. The INTERNET has brought home like no other medium, how limited an individual’s knowledge is, and how easy it is to access any information we want, and what it is we want from that information to benefit us. We therefore have NO excuse to be uneducated, as it becomes, merely a means to the goals we set ourselves.

In that context during the child phase of a person, that is up until O level stage, or age 16, the State should take responsibility of providing the basic knowledge needed for a person’s future adult development. After that point the person should be armed with the tools for their own development, with the knowledge of how they can go about acquiring the additional skills for the job, vocation, or income stream they plan to earn from. SO to repeat, till age 16 the STATE KNOWS BEST, and the FORESIGHT here is to determine what our citizens MUST know by that age, and how we can go about giving them that knowledge. It is clear that we have to go back to basics again. The present system has failed in giving what is needed in 2016, and a complete overhaul is sorely needed. NOT sticking plaster for a broken leg, it has just got to be fixed properly.

The FORESIGHT is to realize that the Parents of today, have singularly failed in their parenting, possibly due to their lack of skills, (aka Education) and we must take alternative steps to somehow repair this crack in the basic foundation of a child’s life. The state MUST shoulder this burden through a sophisticated system of pre-schools, with highly trained teachers, to start our students on the right path, because the preparatory disciplining prior to school entry is as vital as all the years in school, and the NEW EDUCATION MUST ENCOMPASS it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The statistics on which much research and policy is decided is misleading!

Sri Lankan policy makers and planners as well as independent researchers are slaves to statistics from the Central Bank and the Department of Census and Statistics which for years have merely collected figures, WITHOUT a thought as to what they meant, or how they could in reality be interpreted.

Let me outline some of them.

1                      All foreign passport holders arriving in Sri Lanka are included in the Tourist arrival numbers. How many of them are of Sri Lankan origin? How many have dual nationality and how many are NOT genuine tourists, who just come to SL 6 times a year to stay in their home!. No one can give an answer to that yet, nor even provide a rough guess, based on empirical evidence.

2                      30% of the people are considered farmers, but less than a tenth of them actually rely on farming for their primary source of income! They may have other jobs, or their wives in the Middle East may be the primary breadwinner, whilst the income they derive from working their land is less than 10% of household income. No one has looked into this issue.

3                      More than three million Sri Lankan citizens live overseas, and the Govt. does not have ANY idea how many, and where they live, and they did not get counted in the ten yearly census last taken. Their details are VITAL for policy planning and decision making.

4                      US$3B come annually to Sri Lanka, by channels outside of the banking system and don’t get recorded in inward remittances, and are completely missed on ALL statistics that the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank use to make assumptions for exchange rate and Balance of Payments policy.

5                      As a result of the above, the daily loss of about US$6Million out of Sri Lanka, be it smuggling currency out or people paying this directly to third parties in foreign countries who then give the rupees in Sri Lanka is also not recorded, as both are lost in transit!

6                      The problem in 5 above is that the massive money laundering in drug money is in this area, where the drugs come in and they are sold to local people who then pay in rupees, which are then sold for foreign currency out side the banking system, and then is smuggled out. Another is that these drug rupees are given to local people whose relatives give the dollars in the Middle East to an intermediary, who then reimburses the drug lords out of that overseas without the cash coming in or out of Sri Lanka.

7                      When the annual household survey is filled out which forms part of the electoral register, one is supposed to fill in the name of the relative overseas and state that person is abroad. However most do not fill them, as they are NOT sure whether they have to, as there is also a question as to which household that overseas dwelling person should be included in or some other issue of not having a home. They are therefore completely lost to the system.

8                      Balance of payments are completely erroneous, because so much of the invoices are not correct due to under or over invoicing for all sorts of purposes be it to pay lower duties on imports, or hide money overseas and so the figures on which policy and exchange rate decisions are made are erroneous and efforts are NOT made to estimate what this leakage might be to be able to take corrective action, or reduce the incidents of such.

9                      There are many payments made for overseas goods and services from Credit cards in Sri Lanka, and some of it is for Education also in overseas countries, and sometimes students use their parents credit cards to draw money, and how this appears in the statistics is also not clear.

10                 Then there are Sri Lankans who travel overseas, and either take exchange from here, and also use ATMs overseas to draw money. The tickets are usually purchased locally which have to be paid for to an overseas agent or airline, and there are funds transferred out. Whether is appears in goods or services is a question, and also in calculating the Trade Balance, whether NON_ TRADE items are included there is also a question.

11                 The Tourist Industry includes, inward currency exchanges in Sri Lanka, and Tour Operators transfer of funds to their Agents in Sri Lanka for payment of bills. Then there is the foreign element of a holiday, such as the airline used, and other foreign payments. Then there is the imports of consumer and capital goods for this industry, be it food for daily consumption or imported kitchenware for the Hotels, these also need to be captured correctly in order to determine the true benefit of tourism to Sri Lanka, if any!

12                 The true investment in Housing Stock when many illgotten gains go into building a house or houses, and don’t get recorded anywhere as the money is not shown as income, but the expense in shown as costs.

The above examples are clear indications of how we use statistics can affect how we make decisions on certain matters, especially when they are matters that affect the long term policy decisions that affect our lives. In short the Black Economy, here I mean the unrecorded one, plays a vital role in the growth and prosperity of our people, but to what extent it helps and harms is unknown.