Seeing and reading a full-page advertisement titled – Revolutionary Pathways to Prosperity – my thoughts go back to 1960, the year I joined the Public Works Department [PWD] and was assigned the subject of Development and Improvements to Roads. At that time there was provision of a vote in the annual estimates for improvements to Ex-PRC, DRC and minor roads. The area engineers were instructed to select roads and submit estimates.
Later, this became a political issue and members of Parliament rushed to meet the Minister and demanded that the selection of roads be made their responsibility as they knew what was best for their electorates. A conference was called by the then Minister, to see how best to satisfy politicians. It was decided to allocate a certain amount of money to each MP.
As far as I could remember, each MP was granted Rs.10,000 and a Minister Rs.15,000. With that sum, which looks ridiculous now, half a mile of road or more could be metalled and tarred, or a few miles widened, and several culverts constructed
I also remember, the late D. B. Wijetunga, as Minister for Power, Energy and Highways, took a personal interest in upgrading these village roads, some of which were mere foot-paths, to motorable roads. He requested me to visit some roads that had been improved, and see how the life of villagers had improved, where the villagers who carried their produce to the town for sale, now used tractors, and in some areas, there were vans transporting children to schools. Even major highways were periodically improved, and that was the responsibility of the area engineer. The road overseer was responsible for maintaining roads in his area. The carpeting of roads came much later.
It is true that most roads are now carpeted, with contracts given to a Chinese Construction Company, but at what cost? I am not aware who prepares the estimates and I am told, subject to correction, that a kilometer of road to be carpeted, costs nearly Rs 10 million. This is a matter the Road Development Authority should look into, if it has not done so far.
It is the previous governments which should receive praise for initiating action to upgrade these roads, for the later or present government to further improve by carpeting them. The other aspect is that the Chinese have undertaken most of the work on loans provided by them, and engaging their own workers, materials and machinery although competent workers are available locally to perform most of the work.
Although Sri Lanka has materially benefitted, China has benefited financially, and also found employment for its citizens. We are in debt and find it difficult to repay loans with interest. Haven’t these loans made Sri Lanka poorer? Could these improvements await better times?
G. A. D. SIRIMAL
SLAS – Ret. Asst. Secretary,
Ministry for Power and Energy and Highways
Send them back to school!
We are not talking about our children going back to school but about the request made by the Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella to allow parliamentarians to enrol in the Sri Lankan Law College, or any other university, to further their studies. How about the basic qualification to enter university? Talking about the basic qualification we remember there was a talk some time ago about some members who have not got through even their GCE (O)Level, a bare minimum qualification, required even for a peon in a recognised organisation or in government services. We request the Chief Opposition Whip to request, on behalf of these members, to allow them to go back to school, no matter how old they are.
We remember one SAARC member country brought in a regulation saying that all those who come forward to contest a seat in the parliament should possess a university degree and at the submission of nomination the officials detected that nearly 20% of the certificates were fake. Anyway, we are proud that such things are extremely rare in our country.
Finally, I urge Kiriella to include schools, too, for MPs, who need the basic qualifications for university admission.
S. H. MOULANA
Compensate victims of gas explosions
There is no shortage of hot topics for the media these days, the latest being the unusual occurrence of gas related accidents. Any ordinary person would understand that the present series of accidents are certainly due to the release of newly arrived consignment of gas cylinders whose composition ratio of propane and butane has been altered to maximise profits.
The responsible institutions and authorities as well as some ambidextrous politicians are defending the culprits who deny any change in the gas composition. The special committee appointed by the President to investigate into the matter, seem biased. The other day the public saw (through the TV news footages) that these so-called experts were trying to bully the innocent victims of these accidents, accusing them of the use of worn out hoses and regulators as the main reason for the incidents. Why the hell can’t they figure out the fact that these accidents are all due to the use of the newly bought wrongly filled cylinders. A committee of this nature is useless if its aim is to serve the vested interests. Instead of blaming the victims, one compulsory question they should ask is if the cylinder is newly bought or an old one. It is sad that this Kekille committee of experts is also trying to put the blame on the innocent consumer and defend the businessman.
All that the government should do at this critical hour is to introduce a mechanism to collect the data of the victims of these explosions and pay due compensation to them forthwith at the expense of the concerned gas company. The ministry in charge should also issue an urgent order to the company to recall the return of all these defective gas cylinders distributed to all districts and take immediate action for refilling them with the correct prescription of the chemical composition and issue with a new label giving all required instructions. In the meantime, the Consumer Protection Authority must ensure that accessories like the hoses and regulators, conforming to the SLS standards, are available in the market at least from now on for the safety of the consumers.
M. B. Navarathne
Banks make a killing at depositors’ expense
The motive of the government decision to lower the interest rates of deposits was predominantly to engross the banks to lend at lower interest rates for entrepreneurs to boost the economy of the country which is in dire straits. However, would this proposal prove productive?
Owing to this absurd stunt senior citizens and pensioners have been left high and dry high and dry, resulting in unprecedented agony and anguish. Many victims have highlighted their grievances on behalf of the distraught senior citizens and pensioners. This much spoken of government’s harsh decision to lower interest rates has made the lives of senior citizen’s and pensioners miserable with the escalating high cost of living, skyrocketing cost of medical expenses, etc. It is pertinent to mention that monthly interest rates on fixed deposits, which they mostly rely upon, have been reduced to alarmingly low 4% and 5 % which has added to the woes already the senior citizens face.
All senior citizens who are not receiving or entitled for a pension, depend solely on monthly fixed deposit interest as the regular source of income for their living. As a result of lowering interest rates of deposits, their plans have all been shattered causing them to be wondering how to make ends meet.At this dire juncture, the intervention of the President is needed to revoke this unreasonable decision of lowering the interest rates of deposits.
The only redress the senior folk benefits is by the Central Bank’s special scheme of 15% interest for senior citizens. However, in this too the senior citizens have been slapped and battered with a Rs 1.5 million ceiling.
In comparison to the reduction of interest rates of deposits, if one takes into account the number of loans granted to entrepreneurs at lower interest rates the answer would be very negligible, particularly as the bank’s do not take risks to lend to entrepreneurs whom they believe to have projects not viable. The banks of course, would show enhanced profits at the end of the year as they have paid the depositors lower interest rates which reflects as plus mark for their balance sheets. This is a blessing in disguise for the management of banks at the receiving end of impoverished pensioners and senior citizens.
In the above contest the intervention of the President Gotabaya Rajapakse is most needed to bring about redress to ‘distressed” senior citizens and pensioners
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