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New govt. to fast-track export-led growth strategy

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By Jayampathy Molligoda

It is common knowledge that Sri Lanka never had a consistent export -led growth strategy. For decades, it has become a buzz word without having a proper infrastructure- both physical as well as soft skill- and much needed foreign and domestic investments. With frequent change of governments, export strategies have been changed and no determined efforts made to promote potential export products, marketing destinations and reap the benefits of positives of globalisation to link up with the global value chain (GVC).

Implement truly export led growth strategy:

It is recommended to appoint a high powered ‘economic advisory committee’ under the Presidential secretariat, comprising key officials of the government, drawn from the Treasury, Central Bank and other relevant institutions, together with a team of experts from private sector thus sharing the same vision and ideology of the new government.

It is suggested that the above mentioned economic advisory committee should pick up acceptable proposals without scrapping the already prepared export strategy and give leadership to effectively implement and monitor same through an efficient economic task force. Whilst supporting traditional exports, time is opportune to concentrate simultaneously for a diversified export portfolio such as newer exportable products as technology-based components, raw materials for chemical industries, bunkering product etc. As far as export of services are concerned, train and upgrade skills of Sri Lanka’s human resource at professional levels, such as nursing and health care services, technology-based services, skilled armed services, maritime and navel services, BPO ICT, etc. This will eventually minimise over- dependence of migrating unskilled labour to the Middle East thus creating unnecessary social issues to their families, children and society at large.

Strictly enforce much needed

fiscal discipline:

The already widened fiscal deficit has been further deteriorated by the recently announced relief measures to meet the COVID-19 packages by the government. Nevertheless, the forthcoming Budget should reflect further austerity measures. It is essential that budgetary allocations are restricted on foreign travel for non-essential purposes for some time and save foreign exchange. Current expenditure should be reviewed regularly and prioritize expenses until such time the economy gets back on track. As for state owned institutions, detailed action plans along with winning strategies should be implemented to minimize losses.

More transparent and equitable pricing formulas will have to be introduced for public goods. Purchase of paddy stocks by the government should be at a reasonable minimum price that covers the farmers cost of production and some element of profit. In order to determine price payable to paddy farmers, it is suggested to introduce a similar scheme such as a reasonable price payable to tea small holders under the Tea Control Act of 1957 as amended, could be used thus stemming from the retail price of rice varieties at the market.

Underprivileged, needy communities can be given subsidies. Indian method of transferring subsidies to underprivileged and bypassing the middlemen through banking system using ‘Aadhar programme’ should be studied and must be adapted to suit Sri Lanka. It is essential to prevent leakages of subsidy as it amounts to a huge drain to the treasury financing.

Link strategy to develop SMEs to global value chain:

It is of paramount importance that the government must revisit and re-activate the financial and banking system loan schemes and provide more wholistic assistance to SME’s, establish SME centres and to provide the necessary guidance and support services which include the following areas;

=Start a programme to promote SME exports linking with global value chain (Select 500 SMEs and support for export as quick starter)

=Engage with DFI’s who have done similar projects – IFC, ADB, JICA

=Encourage SME sector to move up in the value chain

=Give incentives for Sri Lankan expatriate with business ideas to come to Sri Lanka to set up enterprises

=Incentivize setting up of venture capital and Private Equity businesses to support these ideas

=Help Sri Lankan SMEs to find joint venture partners for technology transfer. Set up a fund to support research and Development in SME sector

=Create incubators close to- may be universities to encourage setting up of businesses.

=Restructure banking sector and have a separate window for SMEs in the designated banks.

Re-visit existing subsidies

including fertiliser:

As for fertiliser subsidy scheme, time is opportune to revise same to mitigate negative effects of such schemes. If the present subsidy scheme continues, the Government may not be able to achieve its production targets in the agricultural sub- sectors and the farmers will continue to criticize the Government’s policy implementation. Special cultivation calendar shall be introduced based on resource availability in each Agro- Ecological Zone (AEZ). Improve infrastructure facilities such as laboratories, consultation services, extension on recommending site specific fertilizer application. The strategy should be to export high variety crops in addition to maintain food security and replace unnecessary imported food items.

The government needs to ensure that fertilizer is available to the farmers at the correct time and at a revised level of subsidized price where ‘large-scale estate’ owners also get subsidized fertilizer. We need to educate farmers on the proper usage of fertilizer to suit the soil conditions, minimizing wastage and environmental damage. It goes without saying that the system must provide the optimum quantity of fertilizer at reasonable price in time. It is important to identify farm level factors that influence the adoption of straight fertilizers and it would help in promoting the use of straight fertilizers at the farm level. More investment on R&D as well as private sector involvement are needed for manufacture of fertilizers using locally available raw materials.

The following additional points are also recommended:

a. Oligopoly of present fertilizer importers should be taken away and the government should encourage small- scale importers/farmers/RPCs to enter in to the market to import or produce locally. This will resolve issues related to malpractices, fertilizer availability, etc.

b. There shall be no subsidy given to importers, however a ‘ceiling price’ based on the market rate of fertilizer as determined could be fixed taking into account the CIF price of importers. The Subsidy, being the difference between the ceiling price and the subsidized rate, should be given only to the selected beneficiaries and be paid in cash to their bank accounts.

c. Fertilizer will then be freely available in the market and the selling price could be monitored by the relevant agencies and if there is a requirement of controlling the fertilizer prices at the market, then the ‘ceiling price’ could be used by the government. The present subsidized rate should be increased from – Zero for paddy and/or Rs. 10,000 per metric ton (MT) to say, Rs 12,500 and for other crops, the fertilizer mixtures could be increased from the present Rs. 23,000 to say Rs 35,000/ per MT.

d. Government shall encourage farmers (higher subsidy) for “Site Specific Fertilizer Usage and Organic Fertilizer” and required technology shall be given through crop research institutions. Subsidy should be given only for Urea, MOP, TSP and SA. Subsidy on all other straight fertilizers/mixtures should be removed and encouraged to use only where necessary.

e. It is necessary to clear the outstanding subsidy payments to the suppliers of fertilizer by the treasury leaving no room for ‘blame assigning’ by the private sector.

This will enable the government to reduce the burden on the treasury for additional government expenditure on subsidy (at present Rs 50 Billion per annum) at least by 30%.

(1) Invite FDI under the Chinese led “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI):

To increase foreign exchange earnings, it is important to enhance port and port services by expediting the already planned development activities. The new Government has already approved the installing three gantry cranes to the JCT and the contract to deepen the JC. There is nothing wrong in entering into JVs based on ‘PPP models’ as articulated under the agreement between the GOSL and ADB on Colombo break-water financing. Geo-political realities and the popular public sentiments on the concept of nationalism should not be construed as strictures for decision making ability for economic growth and the writer is confident the next government under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is capable of maintaining a balance between the two in order to fast track economic growth activities.

It is essential to resort to a full-scale effective drive towards getting FDIs for long term projects in a transparent manner and such FDIs should be used only for revenue yielding projects from which, at least part of the borrowing can be met. It will be useful to revert to the marine and maritime activities and Aviation hub concept and ensure that appropriate projects are listed under these two hubs as early as possible and invite FDI under the Chinese led “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) and also link up with the ASEAN supply chain trough BRI as Sri Lanka is not a member of the ASEAN.

Conclusion:

Sri Lanka has already demonstrated its ability to combat COVID-19 successfully and the need of the hour is to fast track domestic economic activities, thus enabling Sri Lanka to record a faster recovery than other countries to improve economic growth. A more pragmatic nationalistic ideology – socialist oriented market based economic development model, coupled with an Executive Presidential system of governance would be more suitable to implement inclusive economic development programme to improve quality of life of the people of this country.

(Writer acknowledges the contribution made by Dr Ranee Jayamaha and Mrs Thusitha Molligoda)

 

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Opinion

The care of good dentists

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I experienced an agonizing toothache for the first time in my right-hand upper jaw. On bringing it under control with native medicines, a couple of colleagues at my work place stressed me to see a dentist who could prevent any recurrence, and recommended a highly proficient doctor by the name Rini Mathew attached to a popular medical centre in Riyadh. After nearly five-days-wait I was successful in getting an appointment to consult her.

This highly pleasant lady doctor from Kerala, India, after seeing the set of teeth in my right-hand upper jaw recommended for a root canaling and requested to return in two-weeks-time. Having not undergone any sort of surgery in my whole life, I was a little confused as to what to expect. As I arrived prepared for the repair work on my teeth, the good lady told me to my pleasant surprise that I don’t need any further treatment for the moment and if I get the toothache back again to come and see her. I thanked God and praised her for her being frank and honest.

The history of dentistry records Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, who lived around 2600 BC is recognized as the first dental practitioner. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about dentistry, specifically about treating decaying teeth, but it wasn’t until 1530 that the first book entirely devoted to dentistry – The Little Medicinal Book for all kinds of diseases and infirmities of the Teeth – was published.

You don’t want to feel like just another item on your dentist’s to-do list. The best dentists, like whom I consulted, have a way of letting their patients know they care about them personally. They are interested in their patient’s lives and are eager to become a part of their general care team. The best dentist always gives you the care that you deserve.

 

S. H. MOULANA

 

 

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Opinion

The Age of Animal Ministries

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The call by the government’s backbench MP Mr. Dilan Perera to be made the Rilav/Vanduru Amathi, or the Minister for Monkeys, in the Pohottuva Realm, certainly leads to plenty of interest.

This must do with the various divisions and breakup tasks that have been given to both Cabinet and State Ministers, in the current play of governance, by the Gotabaya strategies. 

The call for a Rilav Ministry may have come after the Minister for Coconuts, Arundika Fernando, tried to climb a coconut palm, in his estate, at Dankotuwa, and hold a press conference to tell the people about the shortage of coconuts and the cause of the high price of this essential food item. One was surprised that he did not blame the coconut price hike on the 19A to the Constitution, and give any assurance that the coming 20A will bring the nut prices to within the people’s reach. Such nutty thinking is possible from politicos today.

What was also interesting is how he did this climb, halfway to coconut heights, with some modern climbing gear, having nothing to do with the traditional coconut tree climbers, who used their feet and hands to move much higher, and also walk on ropes from tree to tree for coconut plucking and toddy tapping. He must be following the new thinking of the Rajavasala on Digital Development to raise this country to new heights of Rajapaksa Success.

Let’s get back to the hopeful Rilav Amathi – the Monkey Minister Dilan Perera. The dictionary meaning of ‘Rilava”, that comes from the Vaanarayas, is those who take the forest products. This certainly has much relevance to the huge forest destruction taking place today, with the clear political blessings of the Rajapaksa realm. It is the crooked, or rilav, thinking of the Pohottu politicians that is causing this huge destruction of nature, bringing disaster to the environment. Is it the hope of Mr. Dilan Perera that he would be put in charge of this chronicle of destruction, becoming the political gatherer of profitable forests products, and giving free forest land to the political catchers of 20A fondness?

Or, is he thinking of the romantic legends of the monkey Hanuman, that had so much to do with Rama and Sita, and brought so much of forest land from India and dumped in several parts of this country, giving much of the ayurvedic medicine to this day. Is the Pohottuva Dilan thinking of becoming the Phohottu Hanuman, to bring in new legends of politically powerful romances that will soon be part of the Hanuman Keli or Monkey Games of the Power Players? His recent defence of the 20A, against the 19A that he voted for, gives a good indication of the Rilav and Vanduru thinking that is the stuff of Pohottu politics.

 There is also a good opportunity for the call for a Nari/Hival Amathi, or Fox Minister, in this government. Why not have one of these foxy politicians, with their delight in political long-jumping, who have plenty of nari-thinking in their systems, as the new Nari-Hival Amathi. He or she will make some quick decisions on how the ‘Nari Tharjanaya’, the Fox Threat in the Kalutara, and now Horana areas, can be tackled; giving the Cabinet Minister of Health time to keep thinking of matters other than public health, and more on the political health of those who are in the bandwagon of power politics. 

A Nari-Hival Amathi will be one whose hoots will be heard loud and clear in support of 20A, and one who would have gladly hooted in support of both the 18A and 19A, and is ready to raise both hands, and even one’s legs, for the 20A.

There are other animals who can have Cabinet or State portfolios in this politics of backward evolution. Why not have a Buffalo, or Meeharak Amathi? This could be a Pohottuva activist who will promise to give a good price to the curd made from buffalo milk, and also tell the public how much they can benefit by lying for hours in the mud found near their homes, without looking for government jobs or contracts for services that can only be given to the Pohottu catchers.

The Tamil Tigers were defeated more than a decade ago. But the politics of today is still seething with tiger threats to national unity. With what is happening to the leopards in this country, there is certainly a cause for a pohottu backbencher to ask for a Kotiya or Diviya portfolio. This can be a pohottu player who have the stripes of corruption on one’s body, with plenty of experience of grabbing the land of others, whether paddy fields or plantations, with the twisted politics of power, whether from the UNP, SLFP, UPFA or the Yahapalana travesty. A Koti Amathi will be roaring away, and leaping with great success on grabbing the property of other people, for the rising cause of Pohottu Balaya, the future power Dual Citizens, especially of the Washington-Medamulana alliance.

It is not likely that there will be any calls for a Bull or Cow – Harak Amathi – especially after the reigning silence over the plan to stop the slaughter of cattle. There are plenty of bulls in the huge pack on the government side, at Diyawanna Oya, we hear and also see their ‘gon talk’ and ‘harak keliya’ in the parliament so often today. They will be happy that cattle slaughter will remain a reality here, with no moves for the rise of a vegan society, which is certainly not the substance of the real Rajavasala thinking, with complete absence of kindness to animals.

There are many more animal or species ministries that can be offered to build up this Rajavasala Sathva Kattiya, once the 20A is passed, and the ministries can flow from the Rajapaksa pen. There is much space for more than one serpent or Sarpa Amathi – who will spread themselves all over the country, and crawl around and strike down with venom those who dare talk of the disasters that lie ahead post 20A. There can be many cockroach and mosquito ministers, too, who will help spread the Covid 20 — that can be far more dangerous than today’s Covid-19.

Let’s give a bow to the Age of Animal Ministries or Sathva Amathya Yugaya. 

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Opinion

Where is Sajith’s leadership?

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By Dr UPUL WIJAYAWARDHANA

The Leader of the opposition is a vital link in democracy and, as the name implies, is expected to give leadership. Unfortunately, the behaviour of Sajith Premadasa is casting doubts as to whether he is giving that leadership.

Even when he challenged Ranil for the leadership of the UNP, he was happy to put up a fight for some time and then give up. His disappearance into the wilderness after losing the presidential election and issuing a statement that he would devote the rest of his life to looking after leopards, perplexed many. Egged on by a coterie of Ranil-haters, he split the UNP but still wanted to grab the HQ of the party, an aspiration he quickly gave up after the last general election, probably because the UNP did unexpectedly bad.

There is no doubt that the biggest challenge he faces is opposing the introduction of the 20th amendment. If the ugly scenes in the parliament, when 20A was tabled, on 22nd September is anything to go by, many would be in for disappointment. “The ongoing campaign against 20A is characterised by a severe trust deficit, which the Opposition has failed to overcome.”: This forewarning in the editorial “Diyawanna Post Office” (The Island, 22 September) seems to ring true. I greatly doubt the opposition enhanced its image with this behaviour and the contempt of the voters towards Members of Parliament surely would increase.

What was displayed was not leadership but gang-leadership. Instead of obeying the rulings of the Speaker and forging a strong opposition in a democratic manner, what we saw was rowdy behaviour. To add insult to injury, they were demanding the cameras be aimed at them, so that the whole country could witness their rowdiness!

I too am against some aspects of 20A, like removing the limitation of Cabinet size and letting dual citizenship holders enter parliament, but have done so by just means; having voiced them through this newspaper.

In addition, Sajith failed miserably as a leader when he did not take any action against the national list MP Harin Fernando, who made a totally unsubstantiated allegation against Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith. He told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating the Easter Sunday attacks that the Cardinal shifted the Sunday Mass to Saturday as he was aware of the terrorist attack. As a catholic himself, Harin should have verified facts before he made such a serious accusation. In spite of having had to admit his folly to the commission, on his way out, Harin made sarcastic remarks to journalists. It is impossible even to speculate what earthly purpose these insults are meant to serve. If it is to regain the support of the Buddhist voters, it certainly is an exercise in futility as most Sri Lankans hold Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith in high esteem for his exemplary leadership following the Easter Sunday attacks.

Sajith should have taken immediate action, as this is a repeat offence; having taken Harin to the Cardinal for an apology on the previous occasion. Instead, he said in high-brow Sinhala “abhyantara kathikawathaka yedenewa”, meaning an internal conversation is taking place. Sajith seems to be under the impression that using serious sounding words would satisfy the masses and solves problems.

Unfortunately, Sajith’s lack of leadership qualities are becoming more obvious by the day. Perhaps, there is a chance for Ruwan Wijewardena, if he plays his cards right!

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