CONCLUSION: MISSIONS OF A GLOBAL PROFESSOR : CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY
Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil
President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada
Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum
Struggling with Doctoral Studies
By 1998, I was struggling with my doctoral research. By then I realized that doing a Ph.D. in the midst of a busy hotel career, at times demanding 16-hour work days, was nearly impossible. I was thinking of a way to find the time to continue my doctoral research, but could not figure out a practical way to manage my busy schedule in order to do all the things I loved doing.
Every Wednesday, I hosted a carefully selected dozen VIPs from Jamaica for an informal cocktail reception at the General Manager’s apartment at Le Meridien Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. That type of PR with a personal touch, worked well in Jamaica. One day, an invitee for a such reception was an old friend of mine from my time in Guyana, Professor Dr. Kenneth Hall. He had been recently appointed as the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of West Indies (UWI), and the Principal of its main campus. Later he became the Governor General of Jamaica and was knighted by the Queen of the United Kingdom, as Sir Kenneth.
During that reception in 1998, having accidentally noticed the five books I had co-authored or edited up to that time, Professor Hall was amazed. “Chandi, I did not know that you, in addition to being a busy hotelier, also had been an academic, researcher and writer!” I casually mentioned to him about my post-secondary full-time and part-time teaching in Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom (UK), Switzerland and Guyana. He also asked questions about my time in four European countries, 16 years prior, on an UNDP/ILO Fellowship on Pedagogical Teaching and Training Methodology.
The very next day, Professor Hall sent one of UWI Deans with an excellent offer for me to join them as Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Tourism Management. They offered me an excellent salary and benefit package including a four-bedroom bungalow near the main campus, and lot of free time to finish my doctoral studies in UK. I negotiated two years of sabbatical leave from Forte PLC in England, and accepted the offer from UWI.
In addition to doctoral research in England, I also enrolled for a second Ph.D. in Sustainable Tourism Development at UWI. With that, I became a full-time educator and doctoral researcher, at the first regional university of the world – UWI, which had been established by University of London, UK, as an affiliated institution in 1948. Professor Hall became my new mentor and helped me to progress rapidly in the academic world. I co-authored two significant articles on ‘Caribbean Tourism’ with Professor Hall and the Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) – Dr. Jean Holder.
Developing the first Master’s Degree in Tourism in the Caribbean
Within three months of joining UWI, I was given an exciting additional job – to develop the first Master’s degree in Tourism & Hospitality Management in the Caribbean. It was funded by the European Union, and required me to travel around the Caribbean. I was able to do research and interview leaders of tourism in most of the 32 countries in the Caribbean. Within a year I launched the master’s degree as the founding Programme Leader/Academic Director. In addition, I also worked as the Coordinator of the Tourism Stream of their MBA Program, and the Marketing Course Coordinator for the School of Management, which had 2,000 students.
Through my new research focus, I gradually became an expert on Caribbean Tourism. In 2000, soon after I completed my doctoral studies in UK, UWI awarded me a prestigious post-doctoral research fellowship on ‘Caribbean Tourism’. After that, I resigned from Forte PLC, in spite of an attractive offer to become the General Manager of a 750 roomed Le Meridien Hotel by the Red Sea in Egypt.
To improve my teaching, I did further studies in 2000, and became a Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE) in USA. I firmly believed that, “those who dare to teach should never cease to learn.” I also spent time studying visual art at the University of Guyana, and Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica. Finally, I gained two qualifications in fine art and painting from George Brown College in Canada. I thoroughly enjoyed those study programs.
During my five years at UWI, I edited six books on ‘Caribbean Tourism’, while presenting regularly at Caribbean academic conferences. UWI was pleased with my contributions to the body of knowledge in Caribbean Tourism, the main industry of this most tourism-depended region in the world. I became very active in scholarly publications, with over 100 journal articles, and in 2022, I published my 23rd book in the UK.
Moving to Canada as a Professor
The academic world opened many new doors for me. In 2001, I went to Canada on an UWI-Ryerson University one-year faculty exchange special agreement, as a Visiting Professor of Ryerson University. There, apart from teaching, my key contribution was to create a research and publication culture within the university’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (established in 1946 as the first hotel school in Canada). I organized a couple of round tables with the tourism industry and education leaders of Canada, and focused on publishing articles and journal issues dedicated to tourism and hospitality management in Canada.
Developing ‘In-company’ Graduate Programs for Senior Managers
I also did part-time concurrent work for an amazing consortium of leading business schools around the world – International Management Centres Association (IMCA), headquartered in UK. Their non-doctoral degree granting hub was set up in Boulder, Colorado, USA. It was an early virtual university. As doctoral programs were accredited by the British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education, those were awarded in UK.
I learned a lot about the business of higher education from IMCA, and from two of their subsidiaries – IMCA Socrates Limited in UK and the Canadian School of Management. I commenced with them in 1998 as an Associate Professor and by 2001 was promoted as a professor. In addition, by 2003, I was promoted as a Vice President of both organizations. I was responsible mainly for market development and setting up ‘in-company’ graduate programs for managers in large organizations and trade associations in the Tourism and Hotel Industry in Jamaica, Barbados, Canada etc. I also did some part-time on-line teaching for University of Surrey in UK. The icing on the cake was a few prestigious awards in recognition of my contributions.
Elected President of HCIMA, UK
From 2001, for five years I was elected, through an international vote, to the executive council of the world’s largest, professional body for hospitality managers – Hotel Catering International Management Association (HCIMA) in UK. HCIMA was also the largest accrediting body for education programs in hospitality management in the Commonwealth. The Leadership team of HCIMA was responsible for 15,000 members (Hospitality Managers) from 104 Countries. Towards the end of my five years in the executive council, we initiated a re-branding of HCIMA to the Institute of Hospitality, UK. Throughout an 85-year history, I was the only non-European to be elected as the President of HCIMA. I was also the Chairman of the company – HCIMA Ltd., UK.
Joining Ontario Community College system
In 2005, I joined the Ontario Community College system which has 24 colleges as degree granting institutions. Initially I worked as a Professor and Program Coordinator at Niagara College. As teaching at colleges is much different from teaching at universities, I completed a ‘College Educator’ training program over three summers.
During my time at Niagara College, I was released for a short period to undertake a high-level consulting assignment offered by the government of Guyana. In this assignment, my main contribution was opening the largest hotel in Guyana – Buddy’s International (today, Ramada Georgetown Princess) as the General Manager in 2007.
Becoming a College Dean
In 2007, I was recruited as a Dean to George Brown College in Toronto. There, for five years from 2007 to 2012, as Associate Dean, I was responsible for all academic aspects of the largest faculty of Tourism, Events, Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts in Canada. I was trained as a Dean by an experienced and highly innovative Dean – John Walker.
My responsibilities included leading three schools with three Academic Chairs, 60 full-time Professors (and 200 part-time Instructors) and an academic budget of $30 million. Within five-years we increased our student enrolments from 2,400 to 3,300 full-time students and 8,500 continuing education registrants (equivalent to another 1,700 full-time students) in our centre. At George Brown College I improved my knowledge about innovation in post-secondary education. I was responsible for applied funded research and publishing.
In addition, I also held responsibility for the centre’s enrolment plans, business plans, academic strategies, key performance indicators, student success programs, 17 program advisory committees (with over 155 industry partners), program portfolio analysis, program development, program reviews, program pathways, faculty development, and editing annual innovation reports. I was also involved in some aspects of 10 academic partnerships in China, India, Brazil, Panama, Italy and France.
Visions of a Global Citizen – Consulting
In 2012, I was recruited as the Dean for Business and Hospitality at the Vancouver Community College, British Columbia. Due to family commitments, however, we decided not to move from Ontario to British Columbia. I decided to set up my consulting firm in the same year, while spending more time with the family and on my hobbies of academic publishing and visual art. I held a large number of solo art exhibitions and took part in many group art shows.
Since 2012, my consulting firm has handled over 40 assignments. Including the consulting assignments I did prior to that, I was fortunate enough to have contracts with over 50 organizational clients. These clients included the European Union, USAID, Caribbean Tourism Organization, Amazon Corporate Treaty Organization, Government of Guyana, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association, Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Heads of Hospitality & Tourism Ontario, Canada, Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management, Forte Hotels, UK, Sandals Resorts, Jamaica, Sandy Lane Hotel, Barbados, and a few community colleges in Canada and many hotels in Sri Lanka.
Since 2014, I have co-chaired a highly successful, annual event – The International Conference on Hospitality and Tourism Management (ICOHT). I continue to write and publish and to also serve on the editorial advisory boards for two British and South American academic journals. I also teach the masters’ degree students of the Tourism Economics and Hospitality Management program at the University of Colombo. These activities help me to keep busy and do work that will benefit many others.
Team Building Through Art and Keynoting
Some of the seminars I conducted, commenced with my new concept of ‘Team Building Through Art’. I used this as the ice-breaker, and encouraged the participants to create group art work using the talents of team members. This concept has been very popular and useful.
I also learnt to play bridge nine years ago, and progressed rapidly in this Olympic-recognized sport. I managed to earn four North American qualifications in bridge – Certified Club Director, Accredited Bridge Teacher, Diploma in Duplicate Bridge, and Silver Life Master. I regularly run bridge courses for beginners and intermediate players. I also organize various Bridge events and act as a Tournament Chair. I direct two games a week and compete at bridge clubs three times a week. As the old saying goes: “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy”.
Learning, playing, winning, directing, teaching and leading in my new hobby – Bridge
Change of Life’s Purpose
From early 2020, due to the pandemic, my consulting business activities were drastically reduced. While the world was struggling to comprehend the danger of COVID-19, my wife Mélaine was rushed to the hospital. She had never been sick in her life before that. A few hours later we heard the results of the CT scan at the emergency room. The doctor who came into Mélaine’s hospital room knelt down before giving us the shockingly bad news. Mélaine had pancreatic cancer and would have a maximum of eighteen months to live. That changed my attitude about life and priorities. During the next one and half years, I realized that my new role as the key caregiver to my dear wife would be the most important job I have ever done. Everything else were dropped or placed on a back burner.
I have realized that life should not be about working in a rat race, but doing things you love. I now lead a simple life doing what I like, when I feel like doing it. These include painting, writing, poetry, coaching, teaching, cooking and playing Bridge. I re-commenced my global travels in December 2022. This year I am hoping to reach my long-time goal of visiting 100 countries. I plan to visit two more countries, to tick that item off my bucket list.
Last week’s 90th episode and this final 91st episode of the ‘CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY’ column, provided the concluding narration. In addition, during the last 27 months, I also published nine other special feature articles on Sunday Island. I thank you for reading those 100 articles. I enjoyed sharing my personal stories with you.
“The World continues to be my Oyster…”
Teach geometry to sharpen mind
By Prof.Kirthi Tennakone
Decades ago, language, classics, science, and mathematics emphasiing geometry stood as the cornerstones of the high school curriculum, shaping students’ minds. These disciplines inculcate learning aptitude, creativity, abstract thinking, and empathy. Many who followed the theme in schools and colleges became professionals excelled in their art, businessmen and intellectually motivated laypeople.
In learning mathematics, geometry stands out as particularly important because the subject invigorates the mind to think deductively and imaginatively in understanding spatial relationships. Unlike in arithmetic and elementary algebra, where the problem-solving strategy proceeds with a set of operations, in geometry the student concentrates deeply looking at a sketch drawn on paper – a different kind of brain stimulating exercise.
The book Elements of Geometry by S Barnard and J M Child, widely used in Britain and our schools since the early 1900s, states geometry is the science of space and deals with shapes, sizes and positions of things. The definition agrees with the more modern view that geometry, though abstract, is essentially a study of the nature of physical space and has cosmological implications.
Virtues of learning geometry
Whatever you plan to do, geometry is invaluably relevant, directly or indirectly. Exposure to the subject influences the mindset beneficially to tackle problems beyond mathematics. So many renowned men and women have commented on the virtues of geometry.
Plato said, “Experience proves anyone who has studied geometry is infinitely quicker at grasping difficult subjects than one who has not. He attached so much importance to geometry, inscribing on the entrance to his academy the phrase “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter”.
Ibn Khaldun, 14th century Arab historian and philosopher, said “Geometry enlightens the mind and sets the mind right. All proofs are very clear and orderly and errors would not enter into geometrical reasoning. Thus, a mind that constantly applies itself to geometry is unlikely to fall into error. In this way, a person who knows geometry acquires intelligence.”
American poetess Rita Dove wrote, “I prove a theorem, house expands”.
The columnist Marlin Savant, once hailed as the world’s smartest woman, having the highest recorded IQ, wrote, “Geometry is beautifully logical, and teaches you how to think and prove things step by step. Proofs are excellent lessons in reasoning. Without logical reasoning, you are dependent on jumping to conclusions – or – worse, having empty opinions”.
The British entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dill Faulkes, describes geometry as the surest and clearest way of thinking available to us.
History of Geometry
The history of geometry tells how profoundly the discipline influenced human thinking. Geometrical ideas originated in Egypt and Babylonia as methods of measuring the extents of agricultural land. Perhaps independently in Sri Lanka as well, after initial Indian influence. Our ancient irrigation systems, monuments of rich architecture, and stupas could not be built without a practical knowledge of geometry.
Greeks looked at the subject in the spirit of abstractness, revolutionising the line of human inquiry. If they also continued to adopt geometry in the same way as Egyptians, Babylonians and Sri Lankans did, confining it only to practical uses, there wouldn’t be a modern technology.
Early Greek philosophers indulged in geometry, believing it is divine and inherent. Plato, having noted that perfect geometrical figures cannot be drawn, said they exist in a higher spiritual realm, and a man can retrieve their properties instinctively. In one of his discourses, Plato states, Socrates did an experiment to prove the point by telling an ignorant slave boy to draw a square double in area compared to one he sketched on muddy ground with a stick. The boy did it wrong in the first instance, but with a little help from Socrates, he instinctively recollected the Pythagoras theorem (both Plato and Socrates were followers of Pythagoras who lived earlier) and solved the problem. Plato’s bias to his opinion is obvious, and the experiment he attributes to Socrates may be fictitious. Nevertheless, the story shows how deep were the European philosophers, in their endeavors to fathom abstract fundamentals, paving the way for the West to dominate the world scientifically, technologically, and therefore economically.
The next bold step that enlightened geometry, radically influencing all branches of mathematics and philosophical contemplation, was the work of the Greek geometer and logician Euclid, who lived in Alexandria. He did not attribute geometry to the realm of spirituality or an inherent instinct of humans, but built its theory on the basis of a few axioms written below, taken as self-evident truths.
1. Two points are connectable by a straight line.
2. A straight-line can be extended indefinitely.
3. A circle may be drawn with any radius and an arbitrary center.
4. All right angles are equal.
5. If a straight-line intersect two other straight-lines in such a way the sum of inner angles of on one side is less than two right angles, two lines will inevitably intersect when extended in that direction.
Using the above axioms, Euclid logically deduced important properties of triangles, circles and other geometrical figures as theorems. The fifth axiom, the so-called parallel postulate, remained controversial for more than 2000 years. Mathematicians tried hard to prove it using other axioms. Finally, the impossibility of proving the assertion was understood. Many important theorems in geometry, such as the equality of the sum of three angles in a triangle to two right angles and the Pythagoras theorem, are consequences of the parallel postulate. Mathematicians in India and China knew the property of right-angled triangles attributed to Pythagoras. However, Euclid’s proof of the theorem using the parallel postulate shocked mathematicians of antiquity.
A new chapter in geometry was opened after realizing the independence of the fifth axiom. German mathematicians, Friedrich Gauss and Bernhard Riemann showed other consistent geometries exist, corresponding to figures drawn on curved surfaces. And Pythagoras Theorem is not an absolute truth but a consequence of the parallel postulate. These developments motivated Albert Einstein to formulate the general theory of relativity.
Euclid’s art of argument, making few assumptions identified as self-evident truths and logical reasoning based upon them, finds applicability and validity in affairs beyond mathematics and science. Many things you and I do depend on certain assumptions.
Examine assumptions carefully to see whether they are consistent, deduce consequences logically, and then proceed.
Abraham Lincoln, in his speeches, clearly identified assumptions, justified them as natural truths and argued logically to validate a point. After listening to a speech by Abraham Lincoln, a man asked him how he acquired such an amazing oratorical skill in presenting ideas and arguing consistently. Lincoln said, when other lawyers were sleeping and snoring, he lit a candle near the pillow and read six volumes of Euclid.
Mahatma Gandhi frequently made references to geometry in clarifying arguments. In one of his writings, Mahatma says, Euclid’s straight-line exists only in imagination, never capable of being drawn. Nevertheless, it is an important definition in geometry, yielding great results. So may a perfect bramachari exist only in imagination? But if we did not keep him constantly before the mind’s eye, we would be like a rudderless ship. The nearer the approach to the imaginary state, greater the perfection.
Teaching Geometry: Education and Science Policy Reforms
Since the time of Plato, geometry has been an integral part of academic instruction. Before Christian schools were started in the 1800s, geometry was taught only in universities. Later, these institutions demanded higher qualifications in mathematics with geometry for enrollment. Thereafter, the educationists’ world-wide emphasized formal exposure to geometry, an essential prerequisite in completing secondary level education.
Until the Education Department’s curriculum reforms were implemented in the late 1980s, Sri Lanka followed the same concept, teaching geometry as a separate subject in the 8th grade and after – largely a continuation of the school mathematics curriculum introduced by the British in the early 1900s. In those days, the Ordinary Level (OL) Mathematics, students had to sit for a separate geometry paper. Later, the geometry component in our high school mathematics syllabus was reduced, perhaps to accommodate things considered being more important in commerce and technological studies. Today, teachers and students pay less attention to geometry and concentrate on areas more straightforward in learning.
Recently, Sri Lanka, Department of Education reported that in the OL Mathematics Examination, the majority of students do not select geometry questions, and those who attempt them often give erroneous answers. Sometimes teachers advise their students to omit geometry, telling them, questions in the area are hard. Now we have a generation of mathematics teachers who neglected geometry in their school days.
The repercussions of the deficiency in teaching geometry during the past three decades have probably gone beyond OL exam performance and may account for our weaknesses in intellectual pursuits, technological innovations, and the inability to adopt an evidence-based approach in solving problems.
The poor performance in geometry can be rectified by adding more explanatory material to the OL syllabus and devoting more time to teaching. Unless the subject is made compulsory by revising the examination structure, the tendency of the teachers and students to neglect the section will continue. Furthermore, the subject should be made interesting to the students, highlighting its importance and history. Isaac Newton’s assistant has said that he witnessed the great man laugh only once when, someone asked him whether geometry has any use. Why not tell this to the students? The teachers should also tell the students, mastering geometry requires sustained mental concentration. Swami Vivekananda, a vocal advocate of the powers of concentration, said, “Just two or three days before the entrance examination, I found that I hardly knew anything of geometry. So I began to study the subject, keeping awake the whole night, and in twenty-four hours I mastered four chapters in the geometry book”.
At a time when Sri Lanka plans to propose educational reforms, to divert the human resource towards technological innovations and commercial ventures, it is prudent to note what the Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, said when he visited the 11th grade mathematics class in a science oriented college in Moscow 2021. Having noted that the students were attempting to answer a problem in business, he asked, “Why do you guys work on business projects in school?” Here you need to gain fundamental knowledge, and gave them a stunning problem in geometry to solve.
The message the Russian Prime Minister conveyed is clear. In schools and universities, students have to be exposed to the fundamentals to sharpen the mind and nurture creativity. With that experience, they are better equipped to specialize and deliver innovations. If fundamentals are omitted to accommodate more technological and business courses, the outcome will be counterproductive. We jump into technological fashions that emerge from time to time – biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology and now artificial intelligence – believing they would deliver marketable products immediately. Yet the fruits of these efforts originate elsewhere, mostly in Europe and the United States of America, where schools and universities emphasize fundamental science. Teach geometry to boost the natural intelligence of our children, before embarking on artificial intelligence! For a student to enter the field of artificial intelligence and compete, he or she needs to acquire in-depth knowledge in several branches of mathematics. It is true that just like in information technology, the subject of artificial intelligence can be pursued without extra brilliance and advanced mathematical preparation. However, to make a mark and compete, those qualities are essential.
Shyness to undertake fundamental studies
The neglect of geometry is one example of our shyness to undertake intellectually challenging fundamental areas of inquiry. What the Russian Prime Minister told the mathematics class, giving a problem in geometry, is also a reminder to research institutions devoted to fundamental research. They should pursue the mandated theme without gross deviations, adulteration, or engaging in commercialization trivialities. All major innovations that pushed the West to the forefront had been curiosity driven investigations. Intellectual fantasy and dreaming and working on challenging problems, not necessarily yielding immediate results, is more important than writing papers for the purpose of getting them printed in journals.
We need policies that will qualify our students to enter ‘Plato’s Academy’.
Educational curricula and science policy reformers should keep in mind that downgrading or elimination of topics engendering qualities of abstract thinking, imagination, and empathy will lead to disastrous consequences, now beginning to be seen above Sri Lanka’s societal horizon. Bringing in reforms to accommodate technologically oriented programs curtailing the fundamentals would be ineffective. We are not competitive in technology and continue to be poor in innovations. We don’t engage in advanced frontier research, once confined to the West, but now pursued eagerly elsewhere in our region. The country doesn’t produce sufficient numbers of original thinkers, productive scientists, entrepreneurs, and knowledgeable administrators. In many situations, myth overtakes rationality, and social values are on the decline.
Our students are clever and talented. Their weakness in geometry and generating innovations is not their fault, but our wrong policies continuing for decades.We need policies that will qualify our students to enter ‘Plato’s Academy’ and our teachers and researchers to be men and women of the caliber to engage ‘there’ as philosopher mentors.
The author can be reached via email:email@example.com
Sri Lanka’s economic crisis: Finding peaceful, equitable and sustainable way out
By Siri Hettige,
Emeritus Professor of Sociology,
University of Colombo
I wish to begin this article with a very broad assertion, namely, Sri Lanka’s present economic crisis is the result of a series of deliberate and short- sighted policy measures taken by post-liberalisation regimes since 1977. These policy measures led to not only structural changes in the economy but also far reaching changes in many other sectors such as education, health, transport and social welfare. As regards the economic changes, the trends have been quite clear. To understand this, one only has to follow the changes in the macroeconomic indicators over the last four decades.
If we first look at the structural changes brought about by liberalisation policies, it was quite clear that the service sector expanded rapidly, often at the expense of industrial and agricultural sectors leading to a widening trade gap as imports of industrial and even agricultural commodities increased steadily, far exceeding the value of exports. But, instead of addressing the emergent structural distortions of the economy, successive governments promoted export of labor and tourism as a way of earning foreign income to pay for rapidly increasing industrial and other goods Imported to the country.
Increasing availability of foreign exchange from worker remittances and tourism not only helped bridge the otherwise widening trade gap but also pay for all sorts of consumer goods demanded buy the increasingly affluent sections of the population. The expansion of this class was facilitated by low tax regimes maintained by successive governments. Increasing disposable incomes of a sizable segment of the population also increased the demand for private services in health, transport and education. And this led to the opening up of these sectors for private investment resulting in the proliferation of private health care providers, international schools in and around Colombo and Importation of hundreds of thousands of private vehicles.
The above developments contributed to unprecedented inequalities in the areas of health, education and passenger transport, all of which hitherto remained mostly publicly provided services. Inequality became clearly evident in all these sectors but post- liberalisation regimes failed to do anything significant to contain increasingly visible inequalities not only in household income but also the widening gap between urban and rural/estate sectors.
The failure of the post-1977 regimes to contain growing income inequality by implementing a progressive taxation policy led to decreasing state revenue, making it impossible to allocate adequate resources to publicly provided health, education and transport services. Poor quality of these services in turn created highly unequal life chances for lower income groups in society. For instance, poor educational facilities in rural and estate areas forced parents to pay for private tuition that emerged as a thriving business in all parts of the country. Poorly funded and crowded public transport services forced even many low-income people to buy transport equipment like imported motor cycles and three-wheelers to have more convenient modes of local transport, not to mention hundreds of thousands of all sorts of motor cars imported for the use of higher income groups. The same sort of development was also evident in the health sector when private provision of health care became an integral part of the health sector in Sri Lanka.
increasing cost of living as a consequence of the above developments encouraged more and more people including young men and women to migrate overseas for extended periods of employment and this helped many families to earn supplementary incomes not only to cover their day to day consumption but also to save money for children’s education, buy land, build houses, etc. But such economic gains came with considerable social costs such as the neglect of small children, break up of families and even the spread of alcohol abuse by men. Yet, increasing remittances soon became the biggest single foreign exchange earner for the country, often over 7 billion USD per year. On the other hand, increasing outflow of labor from rural and estate areas for overseas employment led to increasing costs of agricultural labor making small scale agriculture unviable, often resulting in the abandonment of many small parcels of agricultural land by farmers resulting in a decline in agriculture production and related livelihoods.
Despite social costs of labour migration, increasing worker remittances became a blessing in disguise for successive governments. In fact, populist governments began to label migrant workers as “Rata Viruwo” (“Oversees heroes”). following the equally adulatory term “Rana Viruwo” used for security service personnel fighting in the war in the north and east of the country. Availability of foreign currency earned by migrant workers enabled the governments and private companies to pay for all sorts of imports demanded by consumers, in particular those who purchased all kinds of motor cars and electrical appliances.
In spite of largely consumption driven economic growth, state revenue continued to remain low as a proportion of the GDP. In fact, state revenue declined from about 20% of GDP in the mid 1970’s to about 8% to 10% of GDP in recent years. Implications of this became so obvious when university academics asked the government to allocate 6% of the GDP for education alone. While this was obviously an impossible proposition, public investment in education had declined to about 1.5% of the GDP. In fact, this was a small fraction of what many countries, even in the Asian region invested in public education in recent decades.
The result of a very low level of public investment in education has had serious consequences for the education sector. Well to do families began to move their children from government schools to international schools that proliferated in urban areas alongside well-equipped private schools. Poorer families had no choice but rely on poorly endowed schools for their children’s education. In short, providing equal opportunities to all children and youth became an impossibility within a highly unequal education system. The situation in the health and transport sectors has not been any better than in education.
As it is evident from what is outlined above, the economic and social conditions that emerged following the implementation of neoliberal policies over the last several decades have not been equitable, just or sustainable. In fact, the conditions became worse over the last two decades when the populist regimes that came to power did not seem to care about the emerging vulnerabilities of the Sri Lankan economy due to its serious structural distortions and weaknesses. Moreover, when the public funds raised through commercial borrowings were diverted into infrastructure projects that often did not have any prospect of generating an economic return, public debts became a very serious issue that needed urgent attention. Yet, what followed was even worse when authorities began to rely on commercial borrowings to raise public funds to support government expenditure and this eventually led to high inflation imposing a heavy burden on lower income groups in the country.
The developments outlined above eventually prepared the ground for the unprecedented economic crisis when the foreign debts accumulated over several decades could no longer be serviced, resulting in the declaration of bankruptcy in early 2022.
Based on the above discussion, it can be concluded that the path to the present economic crisis was laid by shortsighted policies adopted by successive governments with callous disregard for the serious adverse effects of such policies on a large majority of people. But, what is equally important to note is that there are no political leaders and others to take responsibility for the obvious policy failures. On the other hand, the country cannot move forward, beyond the present crisis, unless a genuine national effort is made to not only agree on what went wrong but also come up with an alternative policy framework to guide desirable policy shifts and necessary institutional reforms at all levels.
Land where ‘boo’ is a crime
On Tuesday March 28, The Island editor as is his way, struck the nail on its damn head and fearlessly made his point. He wrote: “The efficiency of the police is truly amazing,” and then added the damper: “the only problem being that it is selective.” This selectivity seems to be worsening. During the weekend their Brownie points with the government was secured at the expense of a lone person who involuntarily, we are sure, his bitter anger overcoming him, dared boo at the passing Minister Bandula Gunawardana. The many khaki Johnnies escorting the said Minister flashed into action, chased that poor guy and arrested him.
We remember the little girl who, to continue her schooling and save herself from being exposed and taunted as poor, stole three coconuts to sell to get the money she had to take to school; her sensitivity realising her mother was too poor to give her the much-needed amount. She was arrested by the police and remanded in their custody. Fortunately, word got around and the girl was rescued by someone with clout intervening.
This super efficiency in the face of murders being committed under their very noses, who knows with whose help, a harmless sportsman Thajudeen was tortured and then killed; trussed up in the seat adjoining the driver’s seat in his car pushed to crash against a wall and burst into flames, burning him to cinders and all evidence. The fire did not ignite. The case came to the very end of catching the movers and murderers and givers of orders and then poof! The case evaporared as evidence had been made to disappear by, they said, certain police officer/s. Similar with the brutal killing of Lasantha W. In these cases, and many such, the police and armed forces personnel involved are not in the public’s memory; it’s the VVIPs who are suspected of giving orders. This small fry Cassandra with a strong power of remembering may be vapourised, but the People know, remember, and may very well extract retribution since waiting for Fate or Karma to do the job takes too long.
Why on earth take notice of a boo, the tooting of a horn, the throwing of a rotten egg or overripe tomato? Such voice users and missile wielders should be thanked since much worse could be shouted out, or thrown. The patience of the masses is most often limitless; justified searing anger and galling resentment are held in check. Politicians should be thankful for this forbearance of the general public.
Across the Palk Strait
Similar to this is an event that unfolded recently in India. Resembles somewhat what happened to Ranjan Ramanayake.Poor Rahul Gandhi, MP and leader of the Congress Party and perchance a future PM of the subcontinent, has been served a two-year term of imprisonment. His crime, which one would think serious, is merely voicing a single sentence which could be taken as harmless, heard now forgotten the next moment. But no, on orders from above, the sentence he proclaimed in 2019, yes as long ago as that, said at a campaign gathering has come home to roost on orders from high up for sure. However, one wonders whether it is the police who are so perturbed with the target of the insult, unconcerned. Maybe India’s security police are also selectively over- efficient as ours is. Gandhi is accused of saying that those with the name Modi are thieves. Heinous? Not at all! Slanderous? No! Defamatory? Could be but also may not be so classified. But his saying it has brought PM Modi to the picture and over there too, it seems to be a case of pleasing, sycophantic loyalty etc.
Gandhi is given time to appeal and may go free or may, if incarcerated, gain sympathy votes for his party. He will not be able to contest the forthcoming Congress leadership election nor national elections. This last mentioned in an article Cass read means that the Lok Sabha in New Delhi does not allow those accused of crimes to enter its portals. So different over here. How many convicted of serious bribe taking, corruption, stealing, drug dealing and even rape and murder are our MPs in the House by the Diyawanne, and living off the little fat left in the land.
No to interference with justice system
Israel is in spasms of mass uprisings against the judicial reforms proposed by the government of recently re-elected PM Benjamin Netanyahu. The Star of David flag waving protests started on January 7 in Tel Aviv, spread to various locations and are masses now. The newly-appointed Justice Minister proposed judicial reforms and curtailing the power of the Supreme Court and also sought more places for govt. in the committees appointing judges. As BBC reported on Tuesday March 28, Netanyahu and his government are reconsidering the reforms.
The Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, disagreed with the move and made known his opposition. Netanyahu promptly dismissed him which caused resignation of Israeli bigwigs like the ambassador to the US.
Cassandra has a purpose in bringing this piece of world news into her chat this Friday. Netanyahu is not the whitest of politicians, not at all. So grey and even black are many of our leaders, stained with crimes of amassing wealth and also eliminating foes and challengers to them. The Israelis attempted interfering with the judiciary and wanting more say in matters judicial. So similar to over here. Remember Chief Justice Dr, Shirani Bandranaike and how she was demeaned and grossly insulted in the Parliament premises by Rajapaksa stooges who still wield power and pontificate endlessly. Recently, wasn’t there a move to summon SC Judges to Parliament? For questioning? Attorney-at –law Prez Ranil W was the mover of this plan, his hand probably puppet-stringed. It could also very well be that he decided on his own. Attorneys at law have been protesting.
Dissimilarities appear in the matter in Israel and how things pertain in SL. They are thinking twice about the reforms and taking due note of protests. Over here strong-arm tactics and the PTA are used. Seen on TV was containing the Israeli protestors by the police with mild water cannoning and no mass temporary blinding and chocking of people, unlike in this paradise gone rotten by the hand of politicians and their vassals. The tear gas used here is not to just temporarily affect the eyes but to harm eyes and nose, lungs and life itself. And we pride ourselves as such a pacifist, democratic country!
The Island editor on Wednesday March 29 reminded his readership that ex-Prez M Sirisena is still hopeful and awaiting answers to his call for help in paying the 100 m fine imposed on him for negligence in preventing the Easter Sunday bombings and mass loss of life and serious injury. MS aka Aiyo Sirisena sure is presumptuously optimistic, stupid and dull-witted to think any Sri Lankan will contribute to save him from imprisonment. He sure must be having plenty lucre as almost all our dubious politicians have amassed. If he was scrupulously honest and has no money to spare, his brother Dudley can bail him out many times over. People were shocked by his – MS’s – changing sides but they hoot now at his SOS and methinks, wait to see him in the place he deserves to be! Bye for now, says Cassandra!
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