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Focus more on developing tea,rubber,coconut and minor export crop plantation sector

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By Jayampathy Molligoda

According to generally accepted economic theories and their practical application, boosting economic growth has been seen as the best way to create job opportunities and raise living standards of people.

However, the growth is decelerating in Europe, the United States, China, Japan, and other leading economies, as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank recently highlighted by revising their global forecasts for this year substantially downward. Sri Lanka is no exception. Development economists and social scientists know that economic growth alone is not enough to reduce the increased inequality and insecurity accompanying the transformation of work. Moreover, high debt levels, low ratio of exports to GDP, less dependence on traditional export of textile and garments and foreign exchange from travel and tourism revenue, etc., have left policymakers with fewer traditional tools to stimulate the economy in the event of another recession.

 

Inclusive growth models and labour-intensive industries:

Since we have to live with the Covid-19 pandemic, the government would now look at it slightly different and focus more on livelihood development and better equipping their employable work force and its people. We need to navigate the world of work, in an age of rising automation, stagnant wages, and greater part-time, temporary employment, thereby we could effectively boost the inclusive growth and economic development to improve purchasing power of the working population.

The International Labour commission recommended three practical steps – all of which involve investing more in people – that countries can take to improve social inclusion and economic growth simultaneously. Investing more in people is not only essential to strengthen countries’ social contracts with citizens at a time of rapid technological change. It can also form the basis of a new, more ‘people centric’ growth and development model that may be the best hope for sustaining the economic development and improve economic welfare of the people.

First, countries should increase public and private investment in their peoples’ capabilities, which is the most important way they can durably lift their rate of productivity growth. Sri Lanka must take a bold decision in order to reverse the negative trend of underinvesting in access to quality education and skills development. The commission called on countries to build a universal framework to support lifelong learning – including stronger and better-financed labour-market training and a universal social-protection floor.

Second, governments, together with employers’ and workers’ organizations, should upgrade national rules and institutions relating to work. These influence the quantity and distribution of job opportunities and compensation, and thus the level of purchasing power and aggregate demand within the economy. All workers, regardless of their contractual arrangement or employment status, would enjoy an “adequate living wage” as defined in the ILO’s founding constitution 100 years ago, and health and safety protection at work.

Third, countries should increase public and private investment in labour-intensive economic sectors that generate wider benefits for society. As for Sri Lankan situation, these include tea, rubber and coconut plantation sector, the rural economy, and education and training.

 

Developing the plantation sector

Sri Lankan plantation sector has a tremendous potential in contributing to the national economic growth and enhancing the purchasing power of the people.

Due to concerns on declining tea and rubber production, we need to focus more on sustainable agricultural practices and other development programmes of estates through infusion of increased investments/management inputs in order to implement an accelerated programme: to increase raising planting materials, to establish nurseries, model tea gardening with drip irrigation, mechanization and appropriate technology, undertake re-planting, crop diversification, agro- forestry, etc.

It appears that the plantation industry presently owned and managed by state owned institutions, RPCs, and tea and rubber small holders have not been able to adapt mitigating strategies for resilience to climate change effects to practice integrated total quality management and productivity enhancement. The writer is of the view that the potential to earn higher foreign exchange and net financial returns through optimum utilization of resources – environmental resources including human resources – has not been harnessed properly. Consequently, the role of the ‘conventional large plantations’ is gradually becoming insignificant – other players thus becoming major contributors to foreign exchange earnings and employment creation. There is a need to migrate into a new economic and business model aligning with national economic and social well-being priorities, whilst making reasonable financial returns for the businesses.

It has become necessary to promote ‘high quality’ plantations, improve sustainable agricultural practices such as use of precision agriculture technology, reducing chemical fertilizers, protecting biodiversity and technological advancements in manufacture.

The government could provide necessary incentives and encouragement in the following two important areas of developmental activities:

1. Move up in the global value chain in core crops such as tea and rubber and/or diversification into other crops such as cinnamon, coconut, coffee, commercial forestry, Other fruit and vegetable must be encouraged by the authorities.

2. Youth/worker empowerment through skill development and career development to mitigate labour shortage,

As for the last point, it is important to ensure ‘dignity’ for the estate youth and small holder. This could be done by empowering them through providing opportunities and many facilities such as;

* creating additional monthly income sources for estate youth in areas such as dairy farming, fruit and vegetable, horticulture, compost manufacturing plants, tree planting, many other vocations and interesting jobs to earn money, provide vocational training for land scaping and gardening, chefs, drivers, security, sales reps, etc.

* government could provide qualified teachers for science and computer studies and schools to have science labs and technical and vocational training classes, standard library facilities, knowledge and interest of ‘scout services’. This will even eliminate use of ‘drugs’ among the school children and increase of alcoholism’ in estates.

* Estate management to provide more opportunities to have access to participate in sports and recreation, social clubs, training centers for cultural activities (Ex: Dance, Yoga, Music and Singing)

* Provide access to banking facilities for continuing higher studies and efficient public service to obtain Identity cards, passports, driving license etc. estate management would arrange providing educational and training facilities for ‘Household cash management system’ in the families.

* Re-designating their jobs; say for an example; Pruning machine operators, mechanized male harvesters, etc., without treating them as a ‘laborer. hold national level ‘Competitions’ to motivate productive employees to recognise their expertise and talent.

By empowering estate youth, we could meet their aspirations, solve their problems including Youths’ habit of purchasing ‘Three Wheelers’ with their parents’ provident fund, gratuity money without thinking about other job opportunities to improve quality of life, etc.

 

Way forward, inclusive growth model:

A decade ago, leaders of G20 countries pledged to build a more balanced and sustainable growth model that embodied lessons from the economic imbalances and policy mistakes of the past. According to ILO study, the world has since made little progress toward realizing this goal. But the path it must take is clear: sustained, increased investment in people’s capabilities, purchasing power, job opportunities and above all we must have ‘inclusive economic institutions. The Chinese success story and the contrast of South and North Korea, and of the United States and Latin America, illustrate a general principle. Inclusive economic institutions foster economic activity and productivity growth. Sustained economic growth is always accompanied by technological improvements that enable people (labour), land, and existing capital to become more productive. Plantation industry in Sri Lanka could also follow this inclusive growth model to raise the living standards of people.

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Opinion

Reminiscences of Colombo University Arts Faculty and Library

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Whilst extending my felicitations to the University of Colombo on the centenary celebrations of the Faculty of Arts and the Library of the University, I would like to record my contribution towards these two units as the Registrar of the University.

It was during Prof. Stanley Wijesundera’s tenure as the Vice-Chancellor (VC) in 1980 that the proposals for the buildings in respect of the Chemistry Department, Physics Department, New Administration, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Arts and the Library were mooted and submitted to the Treasury. At that time it was the National Buildings Consortium that assigned the Consultants and the Contractors for the new buildings to be constructed. Within that year the Treasury allocated sufficient funds for the Chemistry, Physics, Faculty of Law and the New Administration buildings. However, no funds were allocated to the Faculty of Arts and only Rs. 7.5 million was allocated for the Library building.

With the funds allocated the Chemistry, Physics, Law Faculty and the new Administration buildings were able to get off the ground. The construction work in respect of the other two buildings could not commence due to non-allocation of sufficient funds, even though the consultants and the contractors and already been selected.

As the Minister of Finance at that time was from Matara, he was more interested in getting the required buildings for the newly established University of Ruhuna completed, which was in his electorate. This meant that the University of Colombo would not get any funds for new buildings other than those buildings where the construction work had already begun.

The university needed a building for the Faculty of Arts very badly as this Faculty had the largest number of students. The Vice-Chancellor requested me to draft a letter to the Minister of Finance. Accordingly, I drafted a letter and submitted to the VC for his signature. He told it was an excellent letter, and he signed without a single amendment and submitted same to the Minister. The Minister approved the releasing of the funds. Now the consultants to the building project studied the area required for the building and found that a small portion of land was necessary from the land of the Planetarium. My efforts to get the land from the person in charge of the Planetarium, the Senior Assistant Secretary and the Secretary himself were not fruitful. I told the VC of the position and that he would have to speak to the Minister in charge of the Planetarium, Mr. Lionel Jayathilaka. He got the Minister on line and addressing him by his first name and informed the Minister of the problem. The Minister immediately got it attended to. However, when the construction work started, they found that the additional land area was not necessary.

At that time, the payments to the consultants of building projects was 15% of the total value of the cost. So, in designing the building they tried to add various unnecessary items to jack up the cost. When the first phase was completed, the building looked monstrous and it was like a maze, as it was difficult to find your way out once you get in. I requested the architect to add some coloured tiles on the floors and the stairway and a few decorations on the walls. The university had a never ending tussle with the contractor as he was like Shylock asking for more, when everything had been paid. He tried various tactics but did not succeed in getting anything more as I was adamant not to give in.

When the second stage of the building project came up, I told the consultant to drop all the unnecessary items and have a straight forward building. This was done by the new contractor at much less cost to the university.

The Library building was the last of the buildings planned in 1980 that was awaiting construction. When Mr. Richard Pathirana became the Minister of Higher Education, I spoke to the two engineers who were assigned the task of supervising the building projects of the universities, and managed to get the funds passed by the Treasury for the construction of the Library building. When the Minister came on a visit to the university, he told me that the building that should have been done for Rs.7.5 million will cost Rs.253 million. I told him that the Treasury never gave any money after approving the initial funding of Rs.7.5 million. Anyway, I had achieved what I wanted to do and the building was successfully completed. Now the furniture for the Library had to be procured. When quotations were called the suucessful tenderer had brought a sample of the study tables. I rejected this as it was inferior to what I wanted and asked the officer concerned to get the design of the furniture from the library in the University of Peradeniya. This was done and the furniture was installed. The official opening of the new Library was arranged. By that time I had retired from the position of Registrar and was the Director of the Institute of Workers’ Education. Even though I was instrumental in getting the building done, I was not invited for the function. That is gratitude!!

 

H M Nissanka Warakaulle

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Opinion

Ali Sabry bashing

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Justice Minister Ali Sabry has appealed to his critics to spare him from the criticism that he was behind the calling of applications for the appointment of Quazis for Quazi Courts (The Island/23.01.2021). In my view, the allegations levelled against Justice Minister Ali Sabry are unfounded and uneducated. If you are an educated and unbiased citizen of this country, you’ll understand it better. The applications for Quazis for Quazi Courts have been called by the Judicial Service Commission, an independent Commission chaired by the Chief Justice of this country. If you aren’t happy with this decision, you have to take it up with the Chief Justice, not the Justice Minister. He has no control at all over the Judicial Service Commission. In a way, criticising that Justice Minister influenced the Judicial Service Commission, chaired by the Chief Justice, tantamounts to contempt of the Supreme Court. Moreover, Quazi Courts have been in existence for well over 70 years, and it hasn’t affected the Sinhalese or the Tamils nor has it been incompatible with the common law of this country. If there is any serious discrepancy, it can be rectified. But I wonder why the calling of applications for Quazis has now become an issue. I also wonder if the removal of Quazi Courts was promised as a part of the subtle 69 mandate. This is not the first time similar allegations have been made. When Rauf Hakeem was Justice Minister, Member of Parliament Pattali Champika Ranawaka  made serious allegations that more Muslim students were admitted to the Law College and led many protests and ultimately a group of monks stormed the Law College in protest. He had charged that Law College entrance exam papers were leaked and criticised the then Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem for it. He  knew very well that Law College came under the Council of Legal Education chaired by the Chief Justice and  Attorney General and two other Supreme Court judges among others were  members of this Council, yet he had made these allegations with a different motive. Amidst international outcry, Muslim Covid victims have been denied burial. To make the situation worse, some vindictive, venomous elements are now trying to create another bad scenario that Muslims can’t marry either according to their faith, and tarnish the image of this country internationally and drive a wedge between communities. Therefore I earnestly ask the law abiding and peace loving citizens of this country to work against these vindictive, venomous elements.  

 

M. A. Kaleel 

Kalmunai. 

 

 

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Opinion

What do Northern political parties seek?

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Political parties, based in the North, are reported to be getting prepared to attend the UNHRC sessions next month. For several decades, the only thing they did for their constituents is to spread feelings of hate among them, against the government and the people living in the South. Today, we have two important issues where India is involved – re. the Colombo Harbour and the death of four fishermen. There is another perennial issue of Indians fishing in our waters. Have these parties uttered a single word on those matters? What do they expect to gain, or achieve for the Northerners, even if they could prove SL war crimes allegations at the UNHRC? Can they honestly say that they were not a party to the LTTE and other terrorist outfits which looted, tortured and killed hundred or thousands of civilians, both in the North and the South?

Other than shouting about the rights of their people, have they done anything for the wellbeing of the people in those areas? Whatever was given to the people were those given by the Government on a national basis. Excellent example is the conduct of C V Wigneswaran, who held the high position of Chief Minister of the Northern Province for five years – had he done any significant service for the people? Those parties never complain about India for the killings, torturing and raping done by the IPKF, or the damage and loss due to the activities of Indian fishermen.

India too overlooks all that, and to keep Tamil Nadu happy, forces the SL government to grant whatever the Northern Parties demand.

 

K SIRIWEERA

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