Gamini Wimalasuriya’s above titled story in The Island of 24 August reminds me of childhood days at my home town Nawalapitiya. Our house was a mile away from the town—a place called Karahandungala, where lived a woman called Abraham Achchi. Whenever she happened to be around, our mother asked us to remain indoors without being seen by her as she had an evil eye and an evil mouth. One morning, while going past our house, she saw a tree full of fruits in our neighbour’s garden and said, “Hamine, me pepol gahe hondata gedi evilla [Madam, this papaw tree has lot of papaw]. Believe me, by evening, the tree withered and all the fruits fell. The owner of the opposite house was a woman called Beebi. She was also puzzled and inquired from my mother whether Abraham Achchi had been in the area.
We had a jak tree which bore sweet waraka. One day, Abraham Achchi, told my mother how sweet waraka from that tree was. The following morning all the jak fruits turned black and fell. Thereafter, it bore no fruits at all. My mother, a devout Buddhist recited pirith and tied a pirith noola around the tree, which started bearing fruits again.
I have not read or heard such incidents recently.
What I cannot understand is Abraham Archchi’s husband had a very successful business.
G. A. D. Sirimal
Reduce number of vehicles on our roads
Please allow me a short comment on the perceptive article by George Braine, in The Island ( 4th September, page 6), on renationalizing the private bus service. I hope it catches the eye of our President.
Firstly, his observation about how in Hong Kong and (Singapore too), buses are washed every day, and trains are comfortable and clean. Let alone comfort, couldn’t the “higher powers” provide us AT LEAST with CLEAN public transport, despite the now ingrained lack of hygiene in Sri Lankan society (it’s now part of Sri Lankan culture!). We have become an unhygienic people immune to uncleanliness – if you doubt this, tell me the name of ONE South Asian country which is as filthy as us. (Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong …?). Habits such as spitting betel leaf in public, onto the pavement, throwing “Buth Parcels” on to it for the purported purpose of obtaining “merit”, by feeding the disease- infected stray dogs and cats (I almost forgot to include the rats) – this is us!. If you still doubt, go have a look at the state of our Public Toilets ANYWHERE, including the “international” Airport. Our children should be taught at an early age, how to use a toilet correctly – obviously most parents don’t know this skill.
Forty years ago, the belching buses with people hanging onto the footboard for dear life, were a common sight. It remains so today – in what aspects did we lopsidedly “Develop”? Highways – for whom?
Recently I travelled from Colombo to Galle, and last week, from Colombo to Nuwara-Eliya by car. On the Galle trip, I saw private buses tearing along, racing each other on the wrong side of the Galle Road. It was reported the following day that three had died in a head-on collision. On the Nuwara-Eliya trip, even up in the dangerous winding hills, private buses were engaged in a permanent roadrace to gather passengers.
In the very same newspaper (September 4th), on page 3, headlines read – “Three persons killed, three others seriously injured in car mishap”. It goes on to say that due to speeding, two young men sent themselves to a premature death. At least three die every day in fatal road accidents. The country’s Traffic Police are out of touch with reality. Dishing out parking fines (for the ulterior motive of collecting revenue!), watching idly as trishaws (a law unto themselves), cut across the line of traffic, allowing motorcycles to “short-cut” along the pavement, Mr Braine’s suggestion that vehicle imports should be BANNED (including Duty Free ) for five years is absolutely right! I hope the President will firmly refuse to bow to pressures in this regard, in the public interest.
He will receive fervent thanks from the public at large if he can reduce the number of vehicles on our already clogged roads. By prohibiting vehicle imports he also creates jobs for the numerous vehicle repair shops needed to keep existing vehicles in good order.
A true People’s Company for a People-Centered Economy
By JUSTIN KEPPETIYAGAMA
As per the policy manifesto of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ (‘Rata Hadana Saubhagyaye Dekma’), the main objective of the government is creating a people-centered economy through rural development.
In achieving these expectations, Sapiri Gamak, a community-based development programme is being implemented, anticipating to convert the entire country to one development zone, by building a people-centric economy that will be fully owned by the people of the country, and strengthen the local entrepreneurs; instead of selling and mortgaging national resources and financial assets of the country to foreigners.
The objectives of this programme are, improving employment and livelihoods through development of rural facilities, and thereby uplifting the socio-economic condition of the rural economy. These development projects should facilitate the income pathways of villagers and generate self-employment opportunities.
Under the guidance of the Prime Minister through this programme, projects for development of roads, infrastructure facilities required by the agriculture sector, facilities required to uplift the economy at rural levels, facilities required for development and upgrading of rural health, development of education by providing electricity, water and sanitary facilities for schools and other priority physical infrastructure facilities that are directly attributed to development of rural economy will be implemented.
Under this programme, Rs. 2 M. will be spent to implement development programs at each Grama Niladhari Division, covering 14,021 Grama Niladhari divisions of the country. At present, under this program, 37,862 development projects worth of Rs. 27,920 M. are being implemented island-wide by the Divisional Secretaries under the supervision of District Secretaries.
Divisional Secretaries and District Secretaries are not the stakeholders of these projects. To implement this project there should be a mechanism that should include all villagers as the stakeholders of this project. It should not be a mechanism, operated by bureaucrats, or one dependent on budgetary funding. It should be a mechanism, funded by the people, entrepreneurs, farmers, producers, consumers, living within the G.N. division and supplemented by the Government. It should be a mechanism, owned by the villagers and operated by the villagers and for the benefits of the villagers. This should be a self-financing mechanism; a legal entity having its own identity. It should be a village-based mechanism to address the problems faced by the villagers. It should be a mechanism that leads to a self-sufficient economy.
The situation prevalent today must be changed. The course of development followed so far must be reversed totally. It must be village-based. All modes of production must be village based. The villagers must be given the knowledge to improve all their economic activities. Any industries facilitating all economic activities of villagers should be commenced in the village itself and by the villagers themselves. All technological knowledge we get must reach the villagers. This mechanism should transform all villagers to stakeholders in the village economy.
1. To create a people-centered rural economy I propose to promote one co-operative society per G.N area under the Co-operative Societies Act. It should be an enterprise of villagers, by the villagers for the benefit of the villagers. There should be 14,021 co-operative societies covering the entire island. The objectives of these co-operative societies should include:
a. Buying, stocking, selling and supplying all forms of industrial, agricultural and trading inputs and consumables and livestock required for raising the living standard of villagers.
b. Accepting deposits from members and providing venture capital or debenture capital to them to carry on their business activities. It should be the Rural Bank.
c. Providing credit, in cash, or in kind, to members to meet their other needs.
d. Undertaking the promotion, management, control and supervision of any enterprise or scheme using identified deposits of members for the benefits and advancement of such members or a group of members, and charging a fee, commission or a share of profits for such services.
e. Making investment of identified deposits of members in stock, shares or securities, on behalf of such identified members
f. Carrying out survey and research, issuing publications, and maintaining a database helpful for improvement of economic conditions of its members.
g. Providing professional services to the members regarding investment in income generating activities.
h. Promoting all types of business entities as sole proprietorships, partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability companies, or cooperative societies among or between members and be a partner, shareholder as the case may be, of such business.
i. Consulting, promoting, issuing, organizing, managing and administering mutual funds of any type or character for the benefit of their members.
j. Rendering managerial, marketing, technical and administrative advice to members to carry on any form of commercial or economic activity.
All government development projects relevant to a particular G.N. area should be contracted to the relevant co-operative society. They also should be agents for state owned enterprises such as Paddy Marketing Board, Sathosa, Milk Board, Fisheries Co-operation and State Banks.
2. To create a people-centered national economy the government should promote one Peoples Company making all 14,021 G.N level co-operative societies and all State Owned Enterprises as its shareholders. Government’s all national level development projects should be contracted to this company.
Restructure e-banking systems for transactional efficiency
It is a widely known fact that many citizens relying on government funds such as Samurdi, Covid-19, pension and other payments are subjected to needlessly excruciating barriers coloured with corruption and red tape, and given the extensive amount spent securing these payments come at a huge personal cost to the individuals, a very vulnerable group of citizens.
On the flip side, the government too encountered many difficulties with regard to managing the transfer of various social payments to the public, due to many of them not having bank accounts. The current system in place to process and deliver these payments is outdated, relying on physical record keeping and transactions. People receiving social benefits, rely on cheques being delivered via post, or having to personally make the trip to collect the monies issued by such payment orders by visiting relevant government offices. In an era where electronic payments are increasingly becoming the norm, as well as a preference for its many benefits, measures to move away from physical transactions to safer and efficient systems should be taken.
Our government has a clear opportunity to better manage this by first making it mandatory by law for citizens to register with a bank for a savings account. This would minimise systematic errors and maximise resources and process efficiencies.
Sri Lanka has proven its potential to be a very technically affluent demographic, as such if the Central Bank were to work along with the current government to take active steps to shift the existing processes to a digital more cost effective and manageable process, the many issues that are encountered could not only be avoided but also controlled in a more profitable manner.
In an effort to plot a path in the right direction for the future, the government should also consider designing and launching an initiative to encourage every person, in the demographic of 16+, to open a personal bank account by the time they are issued with their National Identity Card. There is a good opportunity to capitalise on this market by offering savings account options with good interest rates and current account options such as Mahapola payments, scholarships, medical insurance coverage, educational benefits and with good external incentives and without any annual bank service charges. Youth engagement plays a huge part in the future of economic development, and by enabling this group to become active members in the community and our industries from a young age it would produce a breed of young professionals in the country.
Another point of interest to consider would be to offer private and government sector employees special banking packages, benchmarking the ones offered in countries like the UK, where banks liaise with external businesses to issue value-added services such as mobile insurance, car insurance, life insurance, Spotify/music, hospitality, mortgage benefits to first time buyers, and would serve as incentives to encourage savings. This of course could be locally customised.
The right implementation of such efficient systems with an affordable interest rate, would not only encourage savings account holders to save on their monthly income, but having such support would also enable the individuals to set life-goals seen as achievable. Furthermore moving towards a digital platform will create awareness and behavioural advancement in personal financial handling that would ultimately allow people to enjoy life without any unnecessary external disruptions or barriers. Improving the chances of having a better quality of life in would ultimately lead to an ambitious and a productive workforce.
This brief proposal is to invite our government officials to embrace innovation and outside-the-box-thinking, to provide a much-needed change in our existing outdated banking packages, to be more in line with the new generation and embrace the digital age. Such systems would work to capitalise on the market to bring revenue to the government coffers , as well as protect people’s lives by training them to have positive financial goals. Such stringent systems would be a beacon and deter any illegal activities and corruption.
H. H.S ARATH
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