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What the world expects of Biden

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US re-entering the Paris Agreement on Climate Change:

By Dr Janaka Ratnasiri

At the outset, let me congratulate President-Elect (PE) Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris (KH) on their historic win at the recent Presidential election. PE Biden made history by receiving the highest ever number of popular votes in any presidential election, while KH made history by being the first woman to be elected as the US Vice President, particularly with South Indian and West Indies parentage. It was reported in media that PE Biden had stated that one of the first initiatives he would take as President of USA would be to re-enter the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (PACC) from which the US withdrew after President Donald Trump assumed office in 2017. The purpose of this write-up is to highlight the implications of the US withdrawal from the PACC and its re-entry.

 

UN FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

The nations adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the UN Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to adopt collective measures to arrest the global warming caused by uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and, thereby, avoid any long-term climate change having many adverse impacts globally. In the UNFCCC, countries are divided into three groups, the first numbering 36 as listed in Annex I to the UNFCCC document, comprising developed countries as well as countries with transition economies (mostly Eastern European countries), the second numbering 25 comprising developed countries as listed in Annex II and the third comprising developing countries referred to as Non-Annex I counties.

The division into Annex I and Non-Annex I Parties was based on the Parties’ per capita emissions rather than on the total emissions, which are high in Annex I Parties than in Non-Annex I Parties. The UNFCCC requires the Annex I Parties comprising developed countries to take the lead in combatting climate change and its adverse effects, and to reduce their emissions back to 1990 levels by the year 2000 through voluntary measures. Non-Annex I Parties comprising developing countries are required only to take climate change considerations into account, to the extent feasible, when formulating their social, economic and environmental policies, and employ measures with a view to mitigate or to adapt to climate change.

The UNFCCC also requires all parties to submit periodic national communications (NC) incorporating GHG inventories of sources and sinks, and description of measures taken towards mitigation and adaptation as well as information on training, research, capacity building and public awareness programmes on climate change. Annex I Parties are required to submit their NCs regularly while Non-Annex I Parties are required to submit their NCs as and when funds are made available for that purpose. Sri Lanka has submitted only two NCs so far, the Initial NC in 2000 and the second NC in 2011. The third NC is under preparation beginning 2016 and is expected to be finalized in 2020, for which the Global Environment Fund contributed USD 654,300 (UNDP Website). The Ministry of Environment is the National Focal Point for UNFCCC in Sri Lanka responsible for preparing the NCs.

 

KYOTO PROTOCOL ON CLIMATE CHANGE

With growing evidence of climate change coming from all parts of the globe by way of increased frequency of extreme climatic events such as floods, droughts, heavy storms; increasing rates of glacier melting; change of rainfall patterns and a significant increase in global average temperature in recent years, and recognizing that the commitment for developed countries to reduce their emission levels back to 1990 levels is insufficient, prompted the Parties to UNFCCC to adopt the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change (KPCC) in 1997 which made it mandatory for Annex I Parties to reduce their GHG emissions to levels below their 1990 levels. Each country was assigned a specific reduction commitment to be achieved within the 5-year period of 2008-2012 below their 1990 levels of emissions, with an average reduction commitment of 5%.

During the 5-year period 2008-2012, many countries, particularly the European countries, were successful in reducing their emissions as required. It is noteworthy that several industrialized developing countries such as China, India and Brazil categorized as Non-Annex I Parties are exempted from any emission reduction commitments because they have low per capita emissions, while at the same time, they emit high overall amounts of GHGs. This was a thorny issue not acceptable to countries like USA, Canada and Japan who wanted these high emitting countries also to undertake reduction commitments, which countries like China and India vehemently opposed. This dispute resulted in these developed countries withdrawing from the KPCC.

 

COPENHAGEN ACCORD

At the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) held in Copenhagen in 2009, UNFCCC was due to decide on the terms of extension of KPCC beyond 2012 and several proposals were in the agenda. Several developed countries including those in the European Union were willing to undertake enhanced reductions. A committee comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) was appointed to work out the details and present its recommendations to the Plenary. They had almost finalized a scheme recommending enhanced mandatory commitments to be undertaken by developed countries during the 5-year period 2013-2017 by closing time of the last day of the conference.

However, at the 11th hour, in an unprecedented move, USA President Barack Obama barged into the closed room where the BRICS committee meeting was held and made an intervention, which no one else would dared to have done. He announced that USA would pledge to get developed countries to mobilize funds to the extent of USD 100 billion a year by 2020 to finance projects in developing countries that would reduce their emissions. Trusting President Obama’s word, both China and India changed their stance hitherto held and agreed to undertake voluntary reduction commitments.

President Obama took a step further and proposed that even the developed countries should undertake only voluntary emission reductions rather than mandatory reductions as decided by KPCC. Surprisingly, the BRICS committee agreed to this proposal without raising any objection. He emphasized that developed countries should be left to decide to what extent they should reduce carbon emissions without being prompted by the KPCC. It may be noted that Annex I Parties had collectively reduced GHG emissions from fossil fuel burning from 30,950 MtCO2Eq in 1990 to 25,647 MtCO2Eq in 2018, a 17.1% reduction, with 11 Parties non-complying (UNFCCC website).

The intervention made by President Obama was tabled at the Plenary where it was taken note of, but was incorporated into the COP15 report which said that “developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. A significant portion of such funding should flow through the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund (GCF) to be established”. This arrangement was referred to as the Copenhagen Accord (CA). It was further decided that the modality of implementation of this Accord should be completed by 2015.

 

PARIS AGREEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

With the proposal made at COP15 in 2009, UNFCCC took 6 years of negotiations for a consensus to be reached on the modality of implementing the CA. Finally, a decision was made in this regard at COP21 held in Paris in 2015, resulting in the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (PACC). This incorporated the mandate given in the CA for undertaking voluntary emission reductions applicable to all countries. Developing countries agreed for undertaking these commitments on the understanding that they would receive adequate financial assistance for implementing projects that would reduce their emissions. This was clearly evident from speeches made by Heads of States at the Paris conference including Sri Lanka’s.

The key aim of PACC is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise within this century well below 2 degrees Celsius (C) above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5o C. To reach this goal, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework are expected to be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries, in line with their own national objectives.

During the COP21, many heads of states made pledges for providing finances during 2016-2020, totaling USD 48 billion. Among the key contributors are Japan (USD 10B), EU (USD 11B), UK (USD 8.7B), France (USD 6.6B), Italy (USD 4 B) and USA (USD 4B) (Ref: UNFCCC website). It is noteworthy that USA which spearhead the abolition of mandatory emission reductions by developed countries and getting developing countries on board with them on the promise of mobilizing USD 100 billion annually by 2020, pledged only a paltry USD 4 billion contributions up to 2020. However, according to UNFCCC website, the actual amount received from USA to date amounted to only USD 1 billion.

In addition, several multilateral banks operating in Asia, Africa and globally pledged finances up to USD 160 billion by 2020. In addition, the European Investment Bank provided €3 billion in climate finance to developing countries in 2018. To date, the GCF is supporting 143 projects in countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia-Pacific covering mitigation, adaptation and cross-cutting sectors, for which USD 21 billion has been allocated. However, the actual amount collected to date is only USD 10 billion (GCF Website).

 

WITHDRAWAL FROM PARIS AGREEMENT BY PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

President Donald Trump who assumed duties in January 1917 felt that the PACC is disadvantageous to USA bringing benefits to other countries at the expense of American tax payers. He said this in a press briefing held at the White House Rose Garden on 01.06.2017. He further said that Americans stand to lose over 2.5 million jobs by 2025, reduced wages, shuttered factories affecting the economy badly if USA stayed in the PACC. He also said that under the PACC, China and India will be allowed to build more coal power plants while USA is debarred from building any, and that USA’s vast energy resources will have to be kept under lock and key without being able to generate employment for people in exploiting these resources.

One assertion made by President Trump was that no one knows where the money collected from developed countries go to. The Green Climate Fund’s website lists exactly 143 projects that are underway in Non-Annex I countries. The total amounts for each are listed, along with the anticipated benefits. It is obvious that President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the PACC is based on misinformation which probably would have been provided by his advisers.

President Obama, on the other hand, said at the COP21 meeting where the PACC was adopted that USA had taken many initiatives to reduce carbon emissions including building many renewable energy projects such as wind and solar energy plants, adopting energy efficiency systems and introducing standards on power plant emissions and phasing out fossil fuel use, and that these activities have created a large number of new employment opportunities while at the same time keeping the environment clean.

Though President Trump wanted to withdraw from the PACC with immediate effect as announced at the press briefing held in June 2017, the official notification of withdrawal was submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat only on 04.11.2019. As such, the withdrawal took effect only on 04.11.2020, as per PACC provisions. On this occasion, Chile, France, Italy, UK and UN Climate Change issued the following joint statement on 04.11.2020.

“On 12 December we will be celebrating the five-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement. We must ensure that it is implemented in full. We note with regret that the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has formally come into effect today. As we look towards COP26 in Glasgow, we remain committed to working with all US stakeholders and partners around the world to accelerate climate action, and with all signatories to ensure the full implementation of the Paris Agreement” (UNFCCC website).

 

PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN’S DECISION TO RE-ENTER PARIS AGREEMENT

The international community would welcome the decision made by PE Biden to re-enter the Paris Agreement. He should be conscious of the fact that the entire group of developing countries gave their consent to undertake emission reductions placing trust on President Obama’s assurance that he would mobilize USD 100 billion annually up to 2020 to meet the costs incurred by them in undertaking projects that will reduce carbon emissions.

If this pledge is kept, by now there should be USD 500 billion collected in climate funds, but the amount collected so far does not come anywhere close to this figure as described before. With President Trump withdrawing from the PACC, all these developing countries who undertook commitments were left high and dry. PE Biden will therefore have to take off from where President Obama left for collecting funds for climate financing. To honour the pledge given by President Obama, PE Biden has an obligation to make a substantial contribution towards the climate fund from USA sources including the private sector.

Even within USA, emission reduction targets made by President Obama set in 2009 in Copenhagen, as announced in his speech made at COP21 meeting, that USA will reduce its carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 has not been kept. According to GHG emission data on fossil fuel burning posted in the UNFCCC website, the reduction between 2005 value of 7,392 MtCO2Eq and 2018 value of 6,676 MtCO2Eq (the latest available) is only 9.67% which is far below the target. Though he has set a new target of 26 – 28 % reduction below 2005 levels by 2025, it is unlikely this target would be met, unless PE Biden makes a concerted effort to enhance the emission reductions.

 

CONCLUSION

Biden’s decision to re-enter the PACC and continue its original financial commitments will certainly restore the confidence the developing countries had in the US as a leading partner in making the planet Earth a safe place for the future generations. People should be able to live without fear of adverse impacts of climate change such as flooding, land-slides, draughts and sea level rise inundating low-lying coastal habitats. These impacts are felt in all countries irrespective whether they are developed or developing, but the developing countries lack the adaptive capacity to meet the adverse impacts.

The international community looks forward to seeing Biden take initiatives to fulfill the commitments made by the US and expects him to meet these commitments pledged by President Obama in encourage the developing countries to undertake reduction commitments. The US could also demonstrate its commitment to prosperity of nations while ensuring rights of people to live in peace by removing unjust trade sanctions imposed on countries having different ideologies. Biden could bring about a change and make history.

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Teaching for job market and ‘liberating the whole person’ during Covid-19 pandemic

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by Liyanage Amarakeerthi

 

(This is based on a short presentation made at a promotion interview at the University of Peradeniya on November 19th, 2020. Author thanks Professors KNO Dharmadasa, Wimal Wijayarathne and OG Dayarathna Banda, Dean/Arts who encouraged him to publish this speech.)

At universities, we are busy teaching online. It is heartbreaking to find many students lack required facilities. Teaching on Zoom, for example, takes smart phones and personal computers for granted. We have to assume that Internet access is as ubiquitous as air, but reality is otherwise. Attendance at live Zoom classes can be as low as 40 percent in the Faculty of Arts, where students from underprivileged backgrounds account for the majority. Therefore, we need to record our lectures and make them available through other means. I myself have WhatsApp groups for all my classes to transmit important course content with a minimal cost. The university and the faculty take admirable care with extremely limited resources to make sure that no student is left behind. But the situation is far from satisfactory.

In addition to Corona, our political authorities routinely tell us that what we teach at the faculties of arts has become irrelevant and obsolete. They regularly ask us to produce employable graduates. Recently, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was seen in a video clip telling a graduate that she should have studied ‘something technical.’ While it is wrong to produce an endless number of external graduates merely with degree certificates to wave at media cameras at the Lipton Circus, learning something ‘technical’ signifies a poor understanding of university education.

I want to reflect on the true meaning of education at the faculties of Arts. At our faculties we teach courses in the humanities and the social sciences. As a scholar in literature and language, I am at the most pressured end of the spectrum: Learning literature is the most removed from ‘something technical.’ Therefore, we, the humanities scholars at universities, routinely have to justify what we are doing in teaching and research. There reflections are made in that context.

 

Vision of the founding fathers

The founding fathers of the University of Ceylon, never imagined that future scholars in the Humanities would have to face the particular challenge mentioned above. In the inaugural address of the Ceylon University movement Ponnambalam Arunachalam, the President of the movement, had elaborate plans for a university of our own. Out of 13 professorships they had imagined to create in the University of Ceylon, eight were for the humanities. They wanted professorships for vernacular languages such as Sinhala and Tamil, and when the university was established, in 1942, the curriculum had considerable focus on local language and traditions. Indeed, there were professorships for natural sciences, and many science-based subjects were to enter within the first decade of the university.

In addition, those founding fathers had much larger and grander ideals for education; here are the words of Arunachalam:

“University will be a powerful instrument for forming character, for giving us men and women armed with reason and self-control, braced by knowledge, clothed with steadfastness and courage and inspired by public spirit and public virtue.” “A Plea for a Ceylon University” (A. T. Alwis. Peradeniya: The Founding of a University).

Those beautifully profound words demonstrate that Arunachalam’s vision for education was much more than teaching ‘something technical.’

 

Liberal Arts

In order to rediscover the true meaning of the Humanities education, one may look into what is meant by the liberal arts in contemporary international universities. ‘Liberal arts’ is a bit more inclusive than what we call ‘arts subjects’ since they include natural sciences, basic mathematics and the like. A rich liberal arts degree programme exposes students to a wide range of subjects––languages, literature, philosophy, religion, natural sciences, mathematics, Fine Arts, citizenship education, social sciences (at least key concepts of them) and so on. Since there is nothing strictly prohibited from the domain of liberal arts, one could add numerous other things to the curriculum.

The word ‘liberal’ in liberal arts a loaded one. It includes knowledge required to liberate human beings from socio-cultural bonds they are trapped in producing hierarchy, inequality and injustice. Rousseau famously claimed that chains binding human beings were human-made’ and the hammers to break them were also made in earth not in heaven. A high quality education in liberal arts should help us see those chains and to forge the hammers that can break them. In other words, liberal arts teach us the significance of working towards a just society. For that goal, there are many sources of wisdom. Unlike political parties and rigid ideologues, universities believe that there are multiple ways to reach that goal. That goal may be always at the horizon resisting our reaching it. Still, a society that has given up on that goal is perhaps so much poor even with endless affluence. Teaching liberal arts at universities is one important way societies hold on to a richer dream even in the midst of relative economic hardships. A country can be poor but yet not philistine.

‘Liberation’ in liberal arts includes internal liberation as well, and it could include several modes of refining oneself within. When modernity was an unquestioned project, liberation from the Nature was one goal of humanity. But now we know better. While we have to keep Nature at bay, we also have to realise that we are also part of it. The time of coronavius is opportune to reflect on this. Moreover, our nature itself is something that needs refinement and taming while it is very much a part of big Nature. So, in recent times a diverse set of course related to environmentalism has made its way into our liberal arts curriculum. As Professor Spencer McWilliams has aptly put, “a liberal arts education can help us develop a more comprehensive understanding of the universe and ourselves”. (Liberal Arts Education: What does it mean? What is it worth?)

Our political authorities may ask for graduates with a certain set of limited technical skills to be productive in the narrow roles assigned to them in contemporary economy. For us in universities, a human being is not just a worker. His or her life in the world of work is only one small segment of his or her life. For us as in the Humanities, questions such as what human beings do, what they reflect on, what and how they enjoy during their non-working hours matters as much as the ‘job skills’ they are supposed to hone. To make matters even more complicated, the liberal arts is interested even in the dreams that occur to human beings during their sleeping hours. To put it simply, for liberal arts human self is much more than a human worker.

A holistic development of the ‘whole person’ is the goal of liberal arts. It includes eight interrelated aspects: intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual, vocational, ethical, personal, and social. Intellectual development requires acquiring broad-based knowledge, learning how to learn, and learning how to think critically. Emotional development includes understanding, managing and expressing emotions. Developing high quality relationships with other people is the basis of social development while ethical development aims at providing students with a clear value system that enables them to make sound decisions. Physical development concerns the understanding of one’s own body and taking care of it. Spiritual development may be the most culture-sensitive as each culture may have its own take on what is ‘spiritual. ‘Vocational’ is indeed a form of development that must be a part of contemporary education. But is only one among eight. It includes exploring career possibilities and developing skills required for a career. As university teachers we do want our graduates to find jobs and achieve some sort of financial independence to pursue other goals of life articulated here. Personal development, the last of the eight, stays the last because it is the bottom line, so to speak. For personal development one needs to cultivate a strong sense of self-identity and agility to step out of that identity in being considerate towards others.

The Role of Peradeniya:

Whole Person, Whole Campus

A fully developed university must have all the facilities needed to address at least those eight areas. Holistic education believes that curriculum and co-curriculum must make use of whole campus for that purpose. Founding fathers of University of Peradeniya seem to have endowed with a concept of holistic education in the early twentieth century. Just to give only a few examples, for those who argue for making use of the whole campus for holistic education claims that for one’s intellectual development, a university has to utilise learning centers, library, academic advising services, tutoring services, information technology centers, invited talks on various topics, workshops, theatre halls, art shows and so on. This list, though not comprehensive, demonstrates that the intellectual development of a graduate is much more than following time tables and attending formal lectures. At Peradeniya, we may not have all these facilities, but when the university was founded a considerable attention was paid to these aspects. Taking a long walk through the beautiful University Park can be education in itself if one is rightly attuned to the lessons of natural beauty. I have learned those lessons at stunning campus parks at Wisconsin and Cornell.

Now, let me touch on ‘spiritual development.’ In addition to formal instructions on subjects such a philosophy and arts that concern one’s spiritual life, there should be co-curricular involvements with campus religious communities. Programmes such as inter-religious dialogue could be part of these activities. Perhaps, it was for such holistic education that places for all religions have been established within the University of Peradeniya.

Instead of cutting down funding on ‘liberal arts’ education, the government must invest more in the kind of education explained above. Even without enough financial resources some of us have been working hard to promote such a holistic education. Yes, just some of us. There are people who have no idea as to what they should be doing at universities. Among them, there are academics who believe that training students to site exams that lead to a certificate is university education. Yes, that is education often found at private tuition classes. But there is much more to university education. If our holistic education is only partially done, it is natural that authorities ask out graduates to learn ‘something technical.’

The prevailing pandemic has crippled nearly all co-curricular activities at campus. An education that does not include library, playground, gymnasium, the Sarachchandra Open Air theater, the E.O.E. Perera theatre, heated discussions with guest speakers, and, even some trips to the lovers’ lane or other ‘lanes’ cannot help achieve eight developmental goals of holistic education. COVID-19 has corroded that education. But holistic education is faced with a bigger threat. It is the demand that education be geared for the job market. True academics must do everything possible to prevent that philistine virus making inroads into our higher education institutions. Only those who are capable of realising the true meaning of holistic education envisioned in the Humanities and liberal arts can stand up to such philistine invasions. Those are the ones who really deserve to be hired and promoted.

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Chinese Development Experience:

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Why Have Sri Lankans Failed So Far

by Luxman Siriwardena

 

During the past decades, several East Asian Economies have experienced consistent high rates of economic growth while achieving unprecedented improvements in the standard of living of their citizenry, an achievement that has been described in the famous World Bank study as ‘Asian Miracle’.  Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and the Republic of Korea (ROK) were the partners of this achievement. One analyst explained this miracle as developments that have ‘telescoped into a single generation, a process of socioeconomic development that took the advanced economies of Western Europe centuries to achieve’. This group have now been dramatically overtaken by Communist China which has also eliminated poverty, probably excluding a few clusters in remote parts of rural China. 

Unfortunately, however, all South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka still remain far behind China as developing economies. It has been estimated that a high percentage of the population of many of these countries are living in abject poverty and deprivation. 

China’s economic development as now well demonstrated, has been associated with technological advancement surpassing many of the advanced market economies. It is only a matter of time before China   becomes the largest economy in the world. Even in the current COVID-19 pandemic situation it has emerged as the only country to record a positive growth rate in 2020, according to multilateral lending agencies.

In this context it is of significance to understand how President Xi Jinping has articulated the Chinese development within the framework of Marxist Political Economy. In this regard, a speech delivered by Jinping, in the mid-August needs to be closely studied by the academics and policy makers in developing countries like Sri Lanka. President Jinping proposes in the speech that the Marxist political economy must be studied and developed as a higher stage of theoretical and practical advancement of Political Economy. Most relevant to the current development discourse is his combining of Marxist political economic principles with new practices of reform and opening up of the Chinese economy. 

President Jinping has also categorically mentioned that the belief of some people that Marxist political economy and the analysis in Das Capital is outdated or outmoded is arbitrary and inaccurate. Jinping states that nowadays there are various kinds of economic theories but the foundation of Chinese development cannot be explained by any theory other than the Marxist theory of political economy. 

With reference to the development of theory and practice in China, Jinping upholds the contribution by successive Chinese leaders. Going through his argument it is clear that President Jinping is contributing to the new stage of development in Marxism termed as Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. 

In his analysis President  Jinping refers to almost all challenges the modern-day advanced market economies are confronting and strongly advocates study of them in the context of Marxist political economy which include  theories of developing a socialist market economy, enabling  market to play a decisive role in allocation of resources while providing for a prominent role for the government and state-owned enterprises in promoting, facilitating and coordinating  new industrialization, agricultural modernization and other  essential players of growth and development. It is also interesting to learn the way China addresses the property ownership/rights and right of the farmers to contract out lands. 

What President Jinping has emphasized with regard to the study of political economy has a direct relevance to Sri Lankan academics and policy makers irrespective of what they have learned in universities of the West or from multilateral or other agencies. In his presentation President Jinping has emphasized the importance of six key principles in economic development in China. 

i. Adherence to people-centric development thinking 

ii. Focusing on new development concepts with a futuristic view 

iii. Upholding basic economic systems preserving Chinese Socialists Characteristics 

iv. Improvement of basic distribution systems 

v. Focusing on the direction of socialist market economy 

vi. Adherence to the basic national policy of opening up when effecting    necessary reforms. 

His concluding remarks would be an eye-opener to Sri Lankan and other developing country policy makers, particularly economists. 

Their commitment to upholding the basic principles and methodology of Marxist political economy does not imply rejection of the rational components of other economic theories. Western economic knowledge on areas such as finance, prices, currency, markets, competition, trade, exchange rates, enterprises, growth, and management do reflect one side of the general laws underpinning socialized production and market economics, and should therefore be used as reference. At the same time, however, Jinping suggests that it is necessary to keep a discerning eye on the economic theories of other countries, particularly those of the West, making sure that the wheat is being separated from the chaff. It should be ensured however, that these theories reflecting the nature and values of the capitalist system or are colored by Western ideology are not blindly adopted. Although the discipline of economics is devoted to the study of economic issues, it does not exist in a vacuum, and therefore cannot be separated from larger social and political issues.  

Why have our economists, both in academia and in policy making positions, not understood this simple truth?  Why have they failed to develop theories and explanations that address local needs like their counterparts in the region? For example, India, Pakistan or even Bangladesh have world class economists who have come up with homegrown theories and homegrown solutions to local problems. Could it be that our economists, unlike their regional counterparts who have succeeded, have not been able to free themselves from the clutches of the west intellectually and ideologically? How much their education in the west, reinforced through regular training given by West-dominated multilateral agencies and also frequent exposure to thinking of the West in their work, is responsible for this unfortunate situation? Whatever the reasons are, instead of thinking independently on their own they parrot their mentors in the West for short-term gains like easy recognition and self-fulfillment continuing the vicious circle and perpetuating the misery of their people. Irony is that when a solution is needed the only thing our experts are capable of doing is seeking refuge in programmes of multilateral development agencies reminding us the famous saying attributed to Einstein that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

Sri Lankan policy analysts, this applies to academics and researchers too, must desist from advocating indiscriminate reliance on foreign concepts. Their analyses should be based on objective conditions that exist in Sri Lanka and associated socio-political environments namely, political economy. thoroughly and at length to prevent them being marginalized in the emerging discourse.

It is time for our academics and policy makers to change the path on which they have been travelling, the path not only built by the West but also the road rules for the travellers have been written by them.  What our academics and policy makers, especially, economists, have been hitherto repeatedly preaching and implementing are literally  carbon copies of classical, neoclassical or Keynesian theories they have learnt without adaptation to meet Sri Lanka’s development needs.

It is stated by the historians that Lenin further developed Marxism where it was further fashioned by Stalin and Trotsky. In the modern era remarkable adaptations to it were brought in by Chairman Mao. Since then there have been many Chinese leaders who have made various pragmatic contributions for the Chinese economy. President Jinping has presently brought Chinese economy to a new stage of development through more pragmatic and innovative ways without deviating from fundamental Chinese characteristics.

In view of the above it can be concluded that there are many lessons that developing countries like Sri Lanka can learn from the Chinese development experience. If our academics and policy makers can come out of the ivory tower of conventional framework and improve on theories and models that they have learned in the past by adapting them where necessary to local conditions that may go a long way in help promoting effective policy for sustainable growth and development. Until and unless that happens our attempts to achieve sustainable economic growth and development in the country will remain only a pipe dream, which it is today. 

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Covid-19 prevention:

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Revamp CMC’s crippled Public Health Services

By Dr. Pradeep Kariyawsam
Former Chief Medical Officer of Health / CMC

When the second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic started, it was inevitable that the wave would reach Colombo, as many other epidemics such as dengue fever, chikungunya, cholera, influenza started in Colombo and then spread to other areas. Here of course those who travelled from abroad obviously brought the disease to the country, and then it spread towards the city in no time. There are many who travel from Gampaha District to Colombo city area and they were the potential carriers of the virus.

Prevention activities should have been started from all fronts, especially in Colombo North and Central areas, as soon as we heard about the Minuwangoda outbreak; and without hesitating when it reached Peliyagoda which lies in the northern bank of Kelani river. Colombo North lies just a few hundred feet away in the Southern bank. True the CMC started carrying out PCR tests, but most of them were off target as hardly a patient was found initially. There is no point in crying over spilt milk now. The importance of Public Health Services should be recognized at least now, and that a proper service could save the city and country from economic collapse and social unrest. The latter mostly instigated by politicians. The deaths at home is a sign that all is not well with the prevention services. Unfortunately, some politicians and government servants do not understand this reality.

Around 40 years ago, the Minister of Local Government realized the importance and the necessity to organize the people in these areas, who actually lived in slums and shanties and the need to prevent communicable diseases and provided them with basic amenities. Hence under his direction the CMC went on to carry out surveys of the needs of the people through new recruits called Health Wardens. The Health Wardens formed Community Development Councils after having elections in the so-called Gardens (Wattas) where the people in them chose their leaders as the office-bearers to run the Councils. Women’s and children’s groups were also formed by the Health Wardens, and these GCE (AL) qualified youth were the acceptable officials to give instructions on any matter on health and welfare. I can remember they even arranged marriage registrations.

They teamed up with the Public Health Inspectors, Nurses, Midwives and Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLT), Health Education Officers, and formed a network that supported the preventive services to the hilt. In short, we were proud of our work and it was appreciated by UNICEF, WHO, UNCHS, etc. For example, when we had to get Colombo as polio free, all of them teamed up and with the help of Rotarians gave vaccines to all children under five years of age in the city in one day! In order to provide a proper service, the city needs at least 65 Public Health Inspectors, 35 Nurses, 175 Midwives, 35 MLTs and over 200 Health Wardens or Health Instructors as they are called now. (The Salaries and Cadres Commission please note!) These services are in a sorry state of affairs now, as the number of officers in service have dwindled so much that we no longer have a single maternity home that is operating at night, as only nine nurses are available, the PHIs have neglected food hygiene work, and Midwives are over stretched so much they are running a crippled service, the laboratories lack material and the poor people have to go to the private sector to get expensive tests done, when they could have got them done free at the CMC labs. But the most important aspects of all this, which are organizing the communities, health education, creation of awareness about communicable diseases, communicating with all and being the link between the people and the health units that were handled by the Health Instructors do not exist anymore.

There aren’t even Health Education Officers anymore, who used to supervise them. The information thus collected then can be analysed by the Epidemiologist to understand the vulnerable areas and direct prevention activities. Unfortunately, there is no Epidemiologist as the post of Deputy Chief Medical Officer (Epidemiology) is not filled during the last three years. That is what is lacking mainly in CMC’s Covid-19 prevention programmes today. It is not the ambulances that the people need as CMC already has two ambulance services; The ambulances run by the MCH Division and the 110-service are run by well-trained fire-fighters. The people need someone to be with them in their hour of need as it happened years ago, looking after their health and welfare needs, as Health Instructors were allocated to areas in which they were responsible for the people in slums, shanties and apartments.

Therefore, it is my humble appeal that the CMC, the Western Provincial Council, and the Ministry of Health get together and fill these posts, create higher cadres for these posts and appoint suitable persons immediately. We have to allocate vulnerable areas to these officers and get them to go to the people, organize them, look after their health and welfare needs and prevent a disaster happening as there will be more Covid-19 waves and new epidemics in the near future. This will definitely reduce deaths at homes. A stable Colombo, health-wise, will make the country stable in the same way. With all my experience I know that this is the only way to prevent this kind of disaster happening again, and this will be a feasible way of managing this crisis for the government to prevent and control this disease.

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