Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tourism – we have simply missed the bus on building a planned tourism hub at selected destinations, a way to manage growth and infrastructure

A Concept Paper

The end of hostilities in May of 2009 was the ideal opportunity to identify, the areas of greatest potential for tourism, that could benefit host communities and not just limited to five star hotels. We could then have given guidelines in managing establishments in an organized way so as to provide tourists of all ilk, a safe and enjoyable haven of beauty, tranquility and enjoyment that would NATURALLY, through the grapevine of Social Media, trip advisor and the like bring in more and more people, to grow organically with everyone adhering to rules. It’s nearly ten years later and we have nothing to show. ZILCH!!

I have identified the following that should have been on the list for a planned expansion, which by today, would draw people from all over the world to these places in a limited number so that all can enjoy its benefits, without being fleeced, or disappointed in other ways as they are today.

Let us begin with by choosing the following 12 areas, which have high concentration of tourist establishments of differing quality, to which significant infrastructural development must be introduced to make the experience one that is worthy of its unique positioning. The collective below has over 1,000 Hotels of various sizes where people can stay in addition to the air B&B rooms, but with little investment on the part of the State to add value to that destination.

Arugam Bay

Each area would have been developed by an in situ Tourism Development Authority, which reviews all prospective projects and considers it as part of the large overall plan, so that the infrastructure is in place to ensure that tourists have a sense of something for all, without being tacky or soul less.

The infrastructure that these places will definitely have had would be adequate Rail or Bus transport facilities as well as Stations. Currently the transport of luggage for tourists coming to Sri Lanka is a nightmare STILL NOT ADDRESSED BY ANYONE!

Others would be to categorize all Hotels and Restaurants with a star rating, having a tourism information office in each of these locations with all the information one would want at hand.

I would have a hall of some sort for evening entertainment that can have local, traditional activities as well as international dance or drama as well for entertainment. No one seems to have understood that tourists to Sri Lanka have NO night entertainment except for a few night clubs that are seedy at best!

Shops and Banks would sprout up normally, and locations for shopping centers and local polas for small produce sellers could have been set up under the auspices of the Government to permit craft and talent to be able to find economic and livelihood opportunities.

Then the sights that those particular locations have should involve Policing, Toilets, Garbage disposal and proper signage, NONE OF WHICH exist today in any of the aforementioned places. Nothing is regulated and is therefore open for exploitation, which simply results in disgust on the part of the visitor who says never again and so will not recommend to their friends.

Sri Lanka has not recognized the importance of word of mouth recommendation which usually the cheapest and most valuable marketing a place can get, and will without fail benefit that location if a person has a really good experience.

We’ve forgotten the reason people travel on holiday. It’s called EXPERIENCE THE LOCAL CULTURE AND BEAUTY of which Sri Lanka has more than OODDLES of, but not able to show it in proper light due to poor infrastructure, lack of planning and poor maintenance of places of tourism value. For crying out loud, we don’t have a sea shore clean-up process, in this age where each night the tide washes in garbage in all our 1250KM of coast line, both our garbage that flows into the seas from our rivers and that of India’s to boot.

I would go so far as also blame the tourist establishments of NOT DOING ENOUGH in the absence of Government Policy to at least do the basics in their areas to improve the tourism experience.

To summarize what I have noted above, it is a matter of common sense that does not prevail amongst the Public and Private sector tasked with improving the image of Sri Lanka, improving the experience of visitors who come to Sri Lanka, the importance of basic infrastructure as referred to above, and ensuring the safety and security of our tourists from exploitation, by unscrupulous opportunities who see a chance to make a quick buck by deception.

There is sufficient gravy to be shared by all, and we should not try to hold on to a good thing without sharing, knowing what goes around comes around, and it is better to work for the common good, than greed as eventually the former is the more profitable in the long run.

In Summary, our various state Tourism Development Organizations are simply impotent in being able to truly understand what it is that makes a true experience one of lasting value and ensures repeat business of high value. It is the private sector left to BAG whatever opportunity is available that has been allowed to develop them with scant regard to basic needs, that only the state can provide as they are Public Amenities that the private sector does not normally engage in providing. So if each of these areas has a master plan that encompasses the missing links to ensure a greater tourism value, each of he establishments in these areas will also benefit immensely.

The State has a poor record of implementing proper public infrastructure anyway, so the higher standard needed in these 12 hubs require a greater degree of management, coordinated by resident team, that looks at security/policing/public order, regulated management of sights to prevent overcrowding and hence a let down, public conveniences (toilets), tourist information kiosks, communication facilities and ATMs for cash withdrawals, regulation of the quality of establishments to an acceptable standard, reducing the harassment tourists are regularly subjected to by over eager salesmen of products of dubious value, evening entertainment centers (halls for shows) and most IMPORTANT a transport hub that connects these 12 sights with public transport of an acceptable standard that permits tourists and their luggage to safely make the journeys between these places in a sensible combination,

PS - I have much experience in listening to the last of the complaints, where there is no reasonable means for tourists, (short of hiring expensive private transport) of going from one to another of the above, which if there is a link luxury bus service, (permission for private operators to have a schedule with a printed schedule and price list, and on line booking of tickets for travel) which will I KNOW FOR CERTAIN result in a higher occupancy level and greater tourist numbers in Sri Lanka. In this tourist does not just mean foreign, it means local as well, and I will even avail myself of this facility to travel to these destinations, to enjoy the beauty of my country, if these conveniences are in place.

Everything I have suggested is a win win scenario for all stakeholders, the traveller, the transport owners, the hotels and restaurants, and the those working in tourist friendly sightseeing work, to say nothing of the additional foreign exchange for Sri Lanka

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The removal of illegal structures – its AARSIK of a Minister who is a Lawyer to recommend that they should NOT obey the law and let sleeping dogs lie~

The link above is a reference to Minister Faizer Mustapha, a reputable lawyer in Sri Lanka, who after having discussions with affected businesses who have made representations against the proposed removal, who then as a true Sri Lankan Style politician, to curry favor and who knows even get kickbacks as that is the price to be paid (everything has a price after all in Sri Lanka) to say that illegal structures should NOT be removed.

This puts the Coastal Conservation Department, (CCD) which has the legal authority to demand removal of illegal structures, in greatest of difficulties in enforcing the law.

I agree that the law is broken throughout our Island with many 5 star hotels also culpable in erecting illegal structures, but that is NO excuse to say they cannot start with Mirissa, and then gradually work their way around. It is known that the CCD does not have the resources to enforce the laws, as there are too many politically interested people who interfere in their work and prevent them from carrying out the law of the land. However there is no point of a CCD with no teeth and either a greedy or power hungry minister to add to the bunch of rogues who have a stake in fleecing either the people or the businessmen who have a stake in the status quo of illegality.

If you read the article you will notice the touch of irony of “people will lose jobs if the structures were removed”. It goes to show the state of mind or lack of it of this man, who doesn’t understand the ground situation. There is no lack of employment opportunities in tourism. It is galling that people who abide by the law are adversely affected by those breaking it, and therefore benefiting from this illegal activity to profit, who are NOW CROWING that employment will be lost, as that is a word our sorry ass Ministers understand, but as they wear their brains in their backsides, think we are all fools to accept as a fact.

Has anyone with integrity told him about a level playing field being necessary in order to be fair in business and not give law breakers an advantage, as that imbalances the equilibrium needed to do business? Well we cannot expect any better from people who live a life of law breaking, so they cannot insist that others obey the law. Until we eviscerate such scum from positions of power we have no hope in Sri Lanka to develop our economy to benefit all fairly.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Education Quandary of successful parents from underprivileged backgrounds

An Education Quandary – 

An observation of what happens when gifted parents who have made good from  rural/underprivileged settings, want/give what is best for their children

I have had many instances in my experience in meeting parents who one would consider to be the success stories of our free education system, where they have gone to rural schools, some born to poor parents, but somehow through their hard work, either progressed to the State University System, or managed to get ahead in life through other efforts like taking advantage of Fee based tertiary education, where they were able to fund themselves and achieve their goals.

They then become the financially successful people, from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. So what do they wish for their children?

The people who made good, even Ministry Secretaries, Government Agents, Doctors, Small Businessmen, I refer to as PRORUBACK parents, who I have met, have sent their children to private, international schools and some have been able to fund their children in foreign universities to. This next generation I will refer to as PRORUBACK kids.

There is an identity crisis, where they forsake their parents backgrounds as they have simply left it far behind, not having being exposed to the hardships that brought their parents to afford the education and benefits they have received. They effectively have a different culture to their parents, due to their parents’ indulgence and are now part of the Columbian English Educated Elite with different values.

The state of perplexity or quandary is that the parents have knowingly or unknowingly created a product that they cannot identify with, due to their recognition that they need to give their offspring the chance they wish they had but did not due to financial circumstances.

It creates this hybrid offspring, who values living and working overseas, as meritocracy does not seem to work in Sri Lanka, leaving their aged parents left in Sri Lanka to rue their creation, and their whole life’s sacrifice as being good for the recipient but unsatisfactory for the giver, the parents.

I am not here to opine that parents should not make this ultimate sacrifice, but to inform, or warn the parents, of the likely result of their action, with the most likely favorable outcome, for them to live overseas with their children if they wish to be with them during their retirement on the assumption that the host countries will permit this kind of family union, which many Western Countries do not encourage and make extremely difficult to fulfill.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Agriculture – Still in NO MAN’s Land – means no farmers for the future!

After a crippling accident in 2011, (as a result of a high speed convoy of a Cabinet Minister of Justice in the MR Government skidding into me) I had to give up my full time job as a farmer, and I effectively lost everything I had built up to that point, and had to start again in a series of new ventures, one of which is to update this blog in matters of the day that may lead if recommendations are taken up, to improve the quality of life of the people who live in Sri Lanka.

Knowing the difficulty I faced in growing with first-hand experience, I allowed a neighborhood farmer and his wife, Maddu and Wife Pictured here, to work my land in Raja Ela, Hingurakgoda, while I still work my farm in Godagama, Meegoda, under enormous odds battling the poor human resource I have to contend with.

As a one stop shop, when I was farming, where I personally planted my crops, maintained them and when I had my harvest, I transported personally, and sold direct to the ultimate consumer, driving the pick-up truck around Colombo into my consumers’ homes. This was the only way to ensure some form of financial security. Not surprisingly this back braking work of a unique nature, is not one I have encountered ANYONE following in my footsteps or of anyone who preceded me in this comprehensive activity.

If the reader wants to see the evidence of that era (2004-2011) please check my blogs & for my thoughts, ideas, and frustrations in that task.

NOTHING HAS CHANGED either then (70years ago), or now in 2018, when one would at least hope that our farmers are in a better position than they were in the past! Simply put Governments of the past 70 years have failed the farming community very badly.



The number of people with total livelihood from farming is a fraction of people who receive the fertilizer subsidy, or who receive the Rs5,000 an acre payment. The only way to asses this is to look at each household income, to ascertain need. The Grama Niladari can do this, butthey are not even properly equipped to keep this information on a lap top let alone a TAB. In order to expedite this exercise only this official can practically provide the data without delay.

From a mere look at my neighborhood in Ratmale a farming village, and Raja Ela, Hingurakgoda, a Colony settled village, I will place an educated guess that about 20% of households have 75% or more of their household income from Agriculture. It is these Households which are in need and who MUST be helped immediately. By how much or by what means is up to the powers, but I suggest a subsidy of Rs10K a month per household for one year. (it may have 2 to 8 people per household) These people (sometimes both husband and wife work on the land) have been in farming for at least 20 years full time, if not more, and cannot do anything else at this stage, and so MUST be recognized and appreciated.

The average village or rural household, has a teacher, or postman, or policeman, shop worker, three wheeler driver, forces personnel, government servant, pharmaceutical rep, agricultural pesticide rep, teacher, kasippu distiller, poacher, shop worker etc. no wonder there are NO takers for farming positions anyway!

Please remember that 5 times more people are helped NOW that NEED the help and so the cost is so much higher, but it is POLITICS and NOT NEED that determine today’s spreading of the largesse of fertilizer subsidy or cash payment. The need for votes outweighs the need to do real justice to the needy.

The GN should NOT be told why this information is needed, otherwise, they being political animals, are not concerned about livelihood of the people they are responsible for, and will skew the data, so that only their friends are helped, and others with real need are ignored. Of course the information supplied can be audited to ascertain its reliability, with a degree of statistical accuracy.

Center for Poverty Analysis writes reports ad nauseam about who is poor and malnourished and what is needed, but no blanket short term fix is even suggested as they are unable to specifically identify who the real poor are!

We can go a long way in helping this segment of the population, who I estimate to be at most 8% of Households in Sri Lanka. (By the way I am merely concentrating on farmer families who are the working destitute only and many may be in debt too!)

We can assist the truly needy under this plan, enabling debt repayment, financial counseling of people receiving, while noting this is temporary relief to get them back on their feet and work with them to enable them to make better decisions in order to get them out of their present predicament. IT IS NOT LIKE SAMURDI which has become a PERMANENT ENTITLEMENT, where only 25% of recipients would be categorized as the truly needy.


I will not go into some of the structural changes necessary today, in order to make agriculture more efficient, effectively in ownership and tenant farming to remove marginal farmers from being enslaved, (forced to live on the land for fear of losing it) to take account of modern technology. I have previously blogged about that, and will refine the proposed policy changes I recommend to take account of the labor shortages in the rural areas, as it pertains to youth unwilling to pursue farming as a career, climate change as the new normal that requires a further degree of refinement and insurance.

The proposal concetrates on the immediate relief necessary NOT TO dissuade existing agricultural workers, from giving up, adding to the Food Security Issue.

A recent plaster patch was offered by the state in promising Rs500/50kg fertilizer bag to farmers of Paddy and Rs1500/50kg of other crops, subject to a maximum and with a whole series of form filling and authorization from local worthies in order to receive this subsidy.

This was to replace the Rs5,000 per acre subsidy per Season (two seasons) paid direct to the Bank accounts of these farmers, which was replaced. That was due to the recent shortage of fertilizer caused by the failure of the Public Servants / Politicians to have the required quantity of fertilizer in the stores at the time of need. The Farmer associations therefore AGITATED for its removal and replacement with the subsidized fertilizer.

This was pointed out as being ONE of the reasons for the current government losing support of the voters at the recent elections, but that fact has NOT been substantiated, and if the debate at a recent Cabinet Meeting is anything to go by where there was a bitter division between one faction favoring a cash payment and another favoring a subsidy, illustrates how BANKRUPT the cabinet ministers are as they are merely arguing about whether to put sultanas or raisins in a man’s cake before giving it, when the man is simply eating plain rice, down from three times a day to twice!

They have simply failed to acknowledge the complete breakdown of the food chain where the producer (the farmer) receives a fair shake in the food chain, dominated by traders. This lack of understanding of the basics by those in power, while paying lip service pretending they fully understand the pain farmers undergo, is the pinnacle of this subterfuge that has taken place throughout our history and there is still NO fundamental change to that. It goes without saying that as part of the long term solution is the whole aspect of the power of traders, and minimizing the post-harvest losses.

An additional Jonah in the pack are the Farmers Association Leaders who for want of their personal brand, do not truly represent the farmers’ needs, and only pretend they are truly representative as they are merely pawns of political parties who have a political agenda, and not an immediate agenda to give relief to the farmers in distress. So the Government yet again is simply providing succor to this supposed need, instead of digging deep to the core of the problem.

In short we are dealing with a topic where both the State Participants, as in the Government and the Public Servants in this field, have no direct understanding of the problem. To add to this the Department of Census & Statistics has been unable to properly asses the households in dire need, who are farmers effectively with 75% +  of their income from Agriculture. So without data, no one has been able to opine on this sensitive and critical issue that faces the nation. Food Shortages, mass de camping from Agriculture is imminent, unless a suggestion such as mine is immediately implemented.

This has nothing to do with capitalism, socialism or any other ism. Developed Countries subsidize their farmers far more than we do. WE don’t have unlimited resources to subsidize farmers, who amount to a far higher proportion of people than in developed countries, but we must address the extreme ends of this issue.


This proposal can immediately give relief without busting the Treasury, and could actually reduce the present cost, as those in this payment will not receive Samurdhi, and those outside will not receive a subsidy, as they simply don’t need it to survive, and should carry out practices to become more efficient, by either consolidating holdings or using more efficient means of agriculture, which the segment I have selected to assist will find hard to do out of practice and lack of thinking skills, and mired in the vicious cycle of poverty, who have to sell their produce to anyone who offers, knowing their plight and take advantage of their dilemma and penury to enrich their greed. (aka Money Lenders)

Don’t forget it is this very segment of population that has been forced to take out high interest debt to local money lenders, as they have NO other means to raise funds, adding to their plight. They are the forgotten RANAVIRUS of our society who through thick and thin war and peace have grown the food that has fed the nation and the NATION OWES A DEBT as much as it owes to the soldiers who fought the war, if not more, but who have been singularly ignored.

I know so many in this category and my admiration for their fortitude knows no limits, I just wish I could do more for these people than I do.