6 December, 2022


De-Colonizing Development: Knowledge & Technology Transfer To Benefit Indian Ocean Communities – II

By Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake –

Dr. Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake

Paradox of Plenty or Marine Resource Curse? Turning Lanka’s Debt-Trap Narrative on its head

Ceylon/Sri Lanka’s geostrategic location was the reason that the island was colonized by competing European (Portuguese, Dutch and British) maritime empires seeking to control the Sea Silk Route and trade in the Indian Ocean for 450 years; from 1505 CE until independence in 1948. Today Sri Lanka is a “chock point” in international security discourse for energy, trade and data transmission for the global internet’s Undersea Data Cable Routes (UDC).

Given its geo-politically strategic location in the Indian Ocean which is a hot spot in the emergent Cold War between the US and its allies and China with the ambitious Belt and Road (BRI) project, and the wealth of Lanka’s ocean resources, both living and non, living, the country which is in a ‘debt trap’ to international bond traders who own 55 percent of Sri Lanka’s sovereign debt that has caused rapid currency depreciation appears to suffer from a classic case of what some development economists term a Paradox of Plenty or ‘Resource Curse”.

The resource curse refers to countries with an abundance of natural resources (such as fossil fuels and certain minerals), that tend to have less economic growth, less democracy, poor governance, high rates of corruption and worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources. There are many theories and much academic debate about the reasons for, and exceptions to, these adverse outcomes. Certain types of countries or regions, such as those in or recovering from armed conflicts are particularly susceptible to the resource curse, given debilitated governance institutions and brain drain of expertise and talent, and a concomitant dependence on foreign aid, experts and consultants to craft development policy.

The idea that resources and geostrategic location might be an economic curse than a blessing emerged in debates in the 1950s and 1960s about the economic problems of low and middle-income countries, as Cold War proxy wars ravaged Africa, the continent with the richest mineral resources and raw materials in the world. Subsequently, former head of the Reserve Bank of India Raghuram G. Rajan and Arvind Subramanian, argued in a widely read paper that; “one of the most important and intriguing puzzles in economics is, why it is so hard to find a robust effect of aid on the long-term growth of poor countries, even those with good policies” (2006). They suggested that aid inflows have systematic adverse effects on a country’s competitiveness, as reflected in the lower relative growth rate of labor intensive and exporting industries, as well as, a lower growth rate of the manufacturing sector as a whole. They provided evidence suggesting that the channel for these effects is a real exchange rate overvaluation caused by aid inflow.

That Sri Lanka has attracted little Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), but is a “donor darling” with numerous debt-trap “development” projects that lack transparency and accountability, substantiates our ‘resource curse’ hypothesis to explain the county’s post-war debt trap.  35% of Sri Lanka’s sovereign debt is owed to Japan’s JICA, ADB, and the World Bank for concessionary loans. China, which holds about 14% of Sri Lanka’s sovereign debt according to Verite Research has been targeted by American Vice President, Mike Pence, on several occasions for blame for Sri Lanka’s post-war debt trap “development” trajectory – signaling the extent of on-going trade and Cold War tensions between US and China in the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, the shadowy Millennium Challenge Corporation  (MCC), which had promised a billion dollar “Aid Compact” back in 2016 for yet unspecified projects, drafts Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe’s, land, transport and energy sector policies. Although many multilateral and bilateral concessionary loans come with significantly lower interest rates than from the private sector, because they are still denominated in foreign currencies such as dollars, payments on them can also become substantially more expensive if a country’s currency devalues. Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt burden had increased by over Rs 626 billion due to the depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar between January 2015 and November 2017, Parliament was told on March 26, by State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne.

One of the more insidious aspects of being a ‘donor darling’ is aid for trade induced Dutch Disease indexed in local-global networks of aid-related corruption, rent-seeking, and local and national institutional decay. The result has been the lack of development policy ownership by local communities that results in building of white elephant infrastructure, such as in Hambantota, that fail to meet local people’s development needs and priorities in an environmentally sustainable manner. Failure of development projects to meet local development priorities is also substantially due to a lack of transparency. accountability and coordination by ‘aid’ donors, in a scenario where donors’ security and business interests trump rules of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness which seem to be in abeyance despite the existence of a ‘Development Partners Secretariat’ in the UN Compound in Colombo at this time.

Islanded Development Policy and Aid Dependency

Ten years after a globally networked internal conflict ended, Sri Lanka appears increasingly caught once again in heightened geopolitical cross-currents and competition for ports and lands in the Indian Ocean between the Washington Consensus Paris Club of aid donors  (United States and Euro-Asian allies, particularly, Japan, Korea, France and UK), on the one hand, and China and her partners, while India tries to balance a course as the island’s most powerful neighbor who was burned in the internal conflict, in the context of Sri Lanka’s post-war record of poor local governance, politicized institutions, corruption and related brain drain. [1]

As an island surrounded by blue ocean with no adjacent land mass aside from India, Maldives and Chagos Island, Sri Lanka should logically have an industrialized fisheries and aquaculture sector earning significant foreign exchange, at least, in the Southern seas and coastal areas which were relatively unaffected by 30 years of armed conflict. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the country has an extensive Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), 15 times it land extent, and sits in rich and relatively unpolluted fisheries grounds in the Indian Ocean. The island’s southern seas are proximate to spawning grounds of high value blue fin Tuna.

However, fisheries accounts for a mere 1.3 percent of Sri Lanka’s  GDP, and the sector is perhaps exhibit number one in the ‘resource curse’ hypothesis to explain the island’s current foreign aid related post-war debt trap, development trajectory: For years, French, EU, Japan, ADB, Norwegian, Korean development “aid” funds and projects, as well as, EU’s ‘aid for trade’ or GSP Plus trade ‘concessions’ have been channelled to the Fisheries sector and Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Sri Lanka, while many of these same so-called aid donors’ (Distant Water Fishing State’s (DWFS), fleets have over-fished and depleted the IO fish stocks including high value IO blue fin tuna in the Indian Ocean in an industry that is worth over 2 billion USD a year.

Meanwhile, according to the National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA), Sri Lanka continues to spend valuable foreign exchange on importing fish around 20% of requirement. According to the statistics of the Fisheries Department, the quantity of fish imported from 2018 has been 84,463 metric tons Dried fish, sprats, Maldive fish, canned fish and live fish (ornamental fish) have been imported. “Such a large amount of money flowing out of the country is a serious situation.

Traditional fishermen use poles and lines to catch Tuna one by one, which allows part of the Tuna shoal to escape, but these industrial fishing fleets from France, Spain, EU, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan that started entering the Indian Ocean since 1980s, use Purse-seine nets, which scoop up all the big and small fish of the targeted area. Some large purse-seines are said to be as huge as 500meters across and 200 meters deep, sufficient to enclose all the high rise buildings of Colombo’s central Fort area. Tuna is a migratory fish and these vessels track them in the deep seas. Another tool in this process is the Fish Aggregation Device (FAD) which is now sophisticated for remote monitoring by satellite technology. In the open seas, fish aggregate around large floating items like logs. The fishing vessels using this simple concept, let several such structures drift on the open sea. But these have electronic devices attached to them that estimate the amount of fish aggregate underneath, and transmit to mother vessels through satellites. So the fishing vessel can decide on which area to harvest Tuna to get the maximum catch.

There has been a decades long failure to up-scale and industrialize Sri Lanka’s fisheries sector while the trawlers of so-called distant water foreign states (DWFS), many of whom are co-incidentally aid donors and so-called concessionary trade partners such as the EU, fish in the high-value, Tuna rich southern seas of Sri Lanka.  Indeed, Sri Lanka’s over-crowded near shore fisheries still remains “artisanal” and at a subsistence level, with just a few multi-day boats venturing into the high seas. For years, French, EU, Japan, ADB, Norwegian, Korean development “aid” funds and projects have been channelled to the Fisheries sector and Ministry of Fisheries in Sri Lanka, seemingly to maintain fisheries at a more or less subsistence or “artisanal” level, rather than up-scaling it as a premier export industry and foreign exchange generator for Sri Lanka given the extent of its uncontested ocean to the South of the Island. These countries are also “aid” donors to Sri Lanka and other Indian Ocean small island states and provide ‘aid for trade’, such as EU’s GSP Plus for Sri Lankan fisheries exports under so-called concessionary terms.

Dambisa Moyo, a brilliant African Economist has noted that concessionary trade agreements such as GSP Plus and aid for trade relationships are in the long run counter-productive to real development and facilitative of a colonial dependency mentality. Other interests besides environmental concerns about illegal, unreported and illegal fishing (UUI) were evident in the EU ban on Sri Lankan fish exports when Chinese vessels run by a BOI registered company in league the Fisheries Minister’s agents started operating in and off Sri Lanka’s EEZ in 2014. EU claimed that there was “illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing on-going in Sri Lanka, but the bigger problem may have been the fact that the Chinese vessels presented competition to the French, Spanish and EU boats operating in the IO[2] Sri Lanka clearly needs to look to expand its fishery export market beyond the EU.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Ministers of many regimes not known for good governance or forward planning, have found it easier to sign away fishing rights in Sri Lanka’s EEZ to foreign vessels and hand over ports to international donors as is happening at this time with Olluvil Harbour in the Eastern Province to be given to ADB, KKS habour in the north to India, and 4 southern Harbors to France and EU consultancy company Cofferpech which has no prior experience in Sri Lanka. Arguably, the Avant Guard corruption investigation into the setting up of secret floating armory off the coast of Sri Lanka after asset stripping the Sri Lanka Navy’s lucrative marine security operation in the Indian ocean seems to be a case in point that strategically located island nation suffers from a post-war marine ‘resource curse’.

In the final analysis, development thinking has been ‘Islanded’ or land-locked when it comes to sustainable development and use of Sri Lanka’s extensive and rich marine resources to benefit this ocean resource-rich, strategically located and hence ironically, debt-trapped country that is in the Washington Consensus “Bail Out Business” today due to corrupt political leadership, development policies and agendas that are crafted to benefit “aid” donors business and security interests, and failure to access in-country expertise and invest in research and development (R & D), particularly in the marine sector, where Sri Lanka’s wealth is and global attention is directed at this time in the India Ocean given the depletion of land resources in the development rush and the turn to marine and extra-terrestrial exploration.

In the context it is salutary to remember that economy was in far better state even at the height of the 30-year war.

Knowledge and technology transfer to scale up marine resource development

Sri Lanka’s ‘Islanded’, land-locked development thinking and policy evident in other sectors such as energy and mineral resources development is symptomatic of aid induced Dutch disease. Indeed, at this time Sri Lanka’s marine resources development policies, narrative and agendas appear to be increasingly crafted to benefit “aid” donors’ strategic business and security interests given the island geo-strategic location in the absence of knowledge and technology transfer. Poor governance, politicized Ministries and a fragmented institutional landscape have also resulted in the failure to access in-country expertise and invest in research and development (R & D) in the marine sector, where Sri Lanka’s wealth is and global attention is directed at this time in the India Ocean given the depletion of land resources in the development rush and the turn to marine exploration.

Fisheries sector data continues to be collected together with agriculture sector data by Sri Lanka Govt institutions and the Department of Census and Statistics, whereas in countries like India Fisheries data is collected separately and disaggregated from agricultural sector data in recognition of the importance of both sectors to the national economy for forward planning. Gender disaggregated data on the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka is non-existent

Recently a Norwegian fisheries survey concluded that Sri Lanka’s oceans lacked fish stock. Sri Lanka’s marine resources development narrative has been crafted by foreign consultants to ensure that the sector and industry may remain at a more or less “artisan” level, despite abundant ocean and Tuna stocks in an off Sri Lanka’s Southern seas. On the other hand, local research on the fisheries sector has been overwhelmingly focussed on Indian-Sri Lankan fisheries conflicts in the northern seas, rather than the potential to upscale the Southern Fisheries sector to go into deep sea and industrial fish for a viable export industry, while trawlers form Japan, Korea, China, Britain and France with their islands (Chagos and French island) which are far from the Indian Ocean etc. harvest in waters proximate to Sri Lanka’s landmass.

Recently, in the context of discussion on a looming energy crisis and the awarding of 2 controversial contracts to companies to build Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) power plants in Kerewalapitiya, the Minister of Enterprise, Mallik Samarawickrama spoken about “potential exploitation of indigenous gas reserves expected to be in 5-7 years’ time.” Sri Lanka has which has never been known for good governance or forward thinking to up-scale or industrialize to enable deep sea fishing with a masterplan, road map and achievement targets. Basin of the Bay of Bengal Lanka shares valuable mineral deposits.

The extent of mineral and energy reserves in Sri Lanka’s EEZ are probably better known to US, Norwegian, French, British, and Indian Oil companies and governments than Sri Lankan citizens and relevant research institutions and think tanks so that the debate on the equitable and transparent use of such resources is yet to occur. Rather, aid-loans from interested parties such as EU, France, Japan, Norway and Korea and local corruption at high level has de-developed or under-developed marine related industry in the post-colonial period. In the context it would be important to review past and existing agreements that succeeding fisheries ministers have entered into with aid/loan donors regarding harvesting of fish in Sri Lanka’s EEZ and adjacent deep seas and call for a ban on distant water fishing states (DWFS) to ensure conservation of fisheries in the Indian Ocean, and develop a masterplan to up-scale and enable deep sea fishing with a masterplan, road map and achievement targets.

Where Colonialism, Conservation and Trade Meet: “History” and quotas at IOTC

The plight of Chagos Island peoples and impoverished Indian Ocean fisheries communities seems to illustrate the point that colonialism is alive and well today as noted in the February 25, 2019 ruling the Britain must de-colonize the Chagos Islands. The rich resources of the Indian ocean are harvested by DWFS companies on the basis of a history of colonial access and Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) fishing quotas in the Indian Ocean. The situation of IO rim fisher communities is also illustrative of the fact that neoliberal “development” amounts to ‘colonialism by other means”, as alluded to in Columbia University Economist William Easterly’s book titled “The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Effort to Aid the Rest have done so little good and so much harm”.

Distant water fishing nations dominate the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) by virtue of the history of colonialism in the Indian Ocean as fishery quotas are euphemistically allocated on the basis of “history” of fish catches by colonial states, The ICJ ruling that Chagos Island must be de-colonized and that colonialism has come to an end should be the basis for allocating fishing rights only to Indian Ocean Rim States. However, as recently as 2016 the EU proposed that 90 percent of IO Tuna should quota be allocated to DWFS, a proposal that was rejected by Indian Ocean rim states. Depletion of Indian Ocean Tuna is significantly a result of the distant water industrial scale fishing fleet of vessels entering the Indian Ocean, primarily EU, France, Japan, Korea and Spain which to do not border the IO, and which should be banned in order to conserve IO fishery.

Currently, the CITES conservation agenda that would make Chagos Islands a marine reservation, would make Indian Ocean rim states and their impoverished coastal communities bear the cost of marine conservation and fish stock depletion caused by distant water fleets, while the need of the hour is to severely limit or ban Distant water fleets in the IO till fish stocks recover.

In the context of the up-coming Washington and EU led Conventions on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which is targeting ocean resources under the “blue Ocean enterprise, and where GoSL may unknowingly sign away Lanka’s ocean resource rights due to lack of expertise and attention to fine print it is imperative that Fisheries communities and Co-operatives be consulted. Simultaneously, it would be important to review the current situation of deep sea/oceanic fishing in the Sri Lanka Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ and contiguous waters, and develop a sound and effective Deep Sea fishing Policy, rather than signing away fisheries rights and quotas to Distant Water fisheries nation.

The tuna fishery sector in Sri Lanka has been facing an insufficient financial support for the introduction of well devised deep sea fishing vessels in the EEZ. In countries such as Norway and Denmark, separate fisheries bank has been set up, obviously because of the distinctive characteristics of the fishery sector and the need to have separate banking set-up for the purpose. The developing countries like India, the system for fishery sector has been to set up the National Marine Fisheries bank which provides a guarantee to the financing of introducing deep sea fishing vessels and for securing other needed infrastructure facilities.[3]

The sustainable utilization of living and non-living Indian Ocean resources by IO communities has been bogged down and often deliberately delayed in extended process of negotiations over jurisdiction, as well as litigation as evident from the Chagos Island case.  The “Resolution on the Development of Marine Scientific and Technological Capabilities” – one of the resolutions appended to the Final Act of the Conference gave the formal endorsement of the United Nations to a management concept for the oceans has not been followed up.[4]The Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Corporation (IOMAC) seems to be in slumber although, six main areas of activity were identified:  marine science technology and ocean services; living resources; non-living resources; ocean law policy and management; marine transport and communications, and the marine environment.

Conclusion: From Chagos to Sri Lanka, de-colonizing the IO

In an era when air, water, oceans, and lands, as well as, history, ethnicity, religious identity politics and even war trauma, just about everything in fact, is being financialized, commoditized, privatized and curated for sale or debt, and hence often weaponized; how can a country as richly endowed with marine resources and geostrategic location as a trade, energy, and data security hub be apparently caught in ‘debt trap’, ten years after armed conflict ended?

The answer is not only blowing in the wind but also in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka suffers from an Indian Ocean geostrategic marine “resource curse” — like the Chago islands. The trauma and plight of the Indian Ocean Chagos Islands people, forcibly displaced and scattered that signifies the incomplete process of de-colonization of Mauritius and the re-colonization of Chagos Island by UK-US, must both haunt and enlighten Sri Lanka’s search for answers to its post 2009, post-war debt trap development debacle: Claiming that the ICJ’s ruling that Chagos Islands must be returned to Mauritius ‘was an advisory opinion, not a judgment’ , the British foreign office has said the Diego Garica military base ‘helps to protect people around the world from terrorist threats, organized crime and piracy.’ The door closes once more on the hopes of the Chagossians to return to their island home?

A geostrategic trade and security “choke point” the new Cold War it is increasingly apparent that Sri Lanka suffers from an marine “resource curse’ as this time, as global-local networks of (fake) development ‘aid for trade’ related corruption and poor institutions have been steadily eating into the body politic and social fabric, particularly since war ended in 2009, pushing the country further and further into the IMF Washington Consensus and related sovereign bond traders’ ‘debt trap’, while strategic assets, lands, ports, fisheries, LNG and mineral resources are being traded and sold off willy-nilly in the absence of open tender processes, transparency and accountability by local authorities.

Coastal communities of the Indian Ocean risk being beggared through a duel strategy of privatizing oceans and lands via “environmental’ discourses and related trade control mechanisms also embedded in the CITES push in into Ocean resources, as evident in ongoing attempts to turn Chagos Island into a marine reserve to prevent return of Chagossians to Diego Garcia, as well as, through the securitization, surveillance and militarization of the IO gathers pace with a new Cold War in the IO. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute recently noted that world military expenditure in 2017 reached highest level since the Cold War end, at $1.739 trillion. The SIPRI Report noted that the US remained the world’s largest spender with $610bn, unchanged year-on-year. The US accounted for 35 percent of global military expenditures, more than the next seven highest-spending countries combined.

Indeed, the over-securitization of Sri Lanka due to twin threat constructions of drugs coming from the ocean, as well as, environmental discourses unless balanced with a geopolitical and strategic analysis could be detrimental to Sri Lanka citizens and other Indian Ocean small island nations enjoying their own marine resources and benefits and income for their development and sustainable use. Islanded development policy processes as a result of aid dependence for development policy making, as well as. Corruption has meant insufficient awareness, recognition and interest in developing and sustainable use Sri Lanka and other small island developing state’s enormous marine resource, and the need for investment in marine and ocean related research and development (R & D), including a Marine and Ocean University and the transfer of technology to enable development of a national strategy or masterplan to develop and utilize Sri Lanka’s marine resources, both live and non-live.

As the February 25 ICJ ruling that Britain must return Chagos Island to its people, tells us, de-colonization is not over yet, and re-colonization by other means including debt trap “development” and rituals of accountability at the UNHRC in Geneva against Sri Lanka, may constitute a ‘politics of distraction’ on the one hand, as the Cold War between the United States with its European and Japanese allies against China heats up in the Indian Ocean, with competition to access and control strategically located Sri Lanka’s ports, airports and lands, as well as, access valuable live and non-live marine resources. Arguments presented before the ICJ reflect concerns about inequalities of power, the legacy of colonialism and the continuing dependency of former colonial states on former colonial powers. At the same time, and as emerges from the arguments presented to the ICJ, there are matters which go beyond the remit of individuals or individual countries and concern the international community as a whole. As with the development of the ius cogens on decolonization, those with less power – in the case of decolonisation those countries which had been colonised – may have little say in how the rules emerge. This argument might be applied to the current debate about the global commons, the control of seas beyond national jurisdictions, the protection of 10% (perhaps by the end of this year 30%) of the world’s oceans and other current debates which appear to undermine the idea of autonomous sovereign states. Indeed whereas ‘the winds of change’ was the mantra of the latter part of the twentieth century, ‘protecting the planet’ might be described as that of the current century.

It might also be suggested that the declaration of large marine parks around overseas territories, and even around island states which are now independent, is a continuing manifestation of colonisation and the legacy of inequality of resources and bargaining power that flowed from decolonisation. This is rather ironic given that the UNGA declared 2010-2020 to be the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. As Walter Lini (first President of Vanuatu) said: ‘The remnants of the past must be lifted from our ocean, for … until all of us are free, none of us are’.

Elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, Brooking Institute researcher Mariam Soy writes: One of the key underlying economic reasons of piracy in Somalia is the depletion of seafood resources through illegal fishing by foreign companies. the depletion of Somalia’s seafood stock had pushed workers who depended on fishing for a livelihood toward piracy. In 2009, a Time magazine article highlighted the transformation of Somali waters into a “free-for-all” fishing site. where international fleets illegally collected more than $300 million worth of seafood. Foreign vessels have been increasingly present in Somali waters, with seafood captures doubling or even tripling those of Somali fishermen (Figure 2).

India, the regional power, distracted with conflicts on her northern borders has been unable to play a vital lead role to secure the riches and resources of the ocean that shares her name– for Indian Ocean rim countries – in the international community were big states hold sway.

There is a need for great South-South, Asian -African collaboration to secure the resources of the IO and the Economic and Social rights of IO rim communities at this time. However, Sri Lankan civil society and NGOs which are largely funded by US and EU have shown little interest, sympathy or solidarity towards their Chagossian neighbors plight, and India focused on it never-ending Indo-Pakistan wars and tensions with China along northern borders has not been able to work for the rights of its southern and coastal communities.

As the authors of the book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty”  (2012 ), and Rajan and Subramaniam  suggest, poor institutions and brain drain have enabled international ‘aid’ donors to craft Sri Lanka’s development policies to benefit their respective business and strategic security interests in the Indian Ocean through a confluence of debt trap ‘development’ policies and narratives, poor governance, and debilitated institutions whose downward spiral has been exacerbated by local power-struggles and corruption of the political and related business elite’s  dependence on foreign consultants and ‘experts’ to craft Sri Lanka’s national development policy and “debt trap”  narrative. The debt trap development policy framework in post-war Sri Lanka and its narratives are increasingly crafted by financially illiterate local politicians, such as the Finance Minister who knows nothing about finance, who rely on IFIs and audit firms of the international the “bail out business”.

There are clearly geostrategic reasons including an apparent low-intensity economic-war against the people of Sri Lanka |(as in Venezuela),  being waged by external parties with the Washington Consensus (IMF and World Bank), that have put Sri Lanka into a debt trap and what the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam terms the “International Bail Out business” whereby big banks, sovereign bond traders and 4 accounting companies KPMG, Deloitte, PWC and Arthur Anderson which work for America First and the Global 1 percent continues to re-cycle debt and capture strategic resources, and asset strip counties and its peoples economies. This is how the transfer of wealth from the global north to south which has expanded inequality to the extent that 86 percent of global wealth is owned by 8.6 percent of the Super-rich has been enabled.

In the context, Sri Lanka needs to invest in institutional capacity building and technology transfer with a Road Map to upscale the fisheries sector and marine sector as a whole including harbour engineers, marine oil and gas exploration capacity, and ensure the requisite transfer of technology but instead all the youth are going overseas to university.  Sri Lanka urgently needs an INTEGRATED  marine resources sector and development Policy and Master Plan – that integrates analysis and a road map to develop and UP-SCALE  ocean-related sectors such as:

1. Trade and Logistics and ports and security

2. Fisheries and aquaculture industry upscaling

3. Oil and Gas sustainable use with best practices from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI),

4. Marine mineral use with best practices from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI),

5. Sustainable marine ecosystem management as a cross cutting theme.6. SL navy to protect Sri Lanka’s EEZ resources

There is need for an  integrated marine resources development policy and Masterplan to up-scale the Fisheries sectors  and for arguably, State-led, development of Sri Lanka’s marine resources (both live and dead including LNG and seabed mineral ), as well as, related infrastructure and engineering expertise at national universities which should have marine engineering programs for ports and marine sector research and development resource management and environmental assessments for sustainable development especially in the context of the island’s geostrategic location in the Indian Ocean, which is emerging as a trade and resource competition hot spot.[5]

With regard to non-living marine resources, Sri Lanka may wish to engage experts from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), in the context of the LNG plant cases that are ongoing in the AGs department. There has been no investment in university and higher education, research and development or forward thinking in on how to sustainably use Lanka’s extensive marine resources, live and dead, (Fisheries, as well as, LNG in Manner basin and mineral deposits in Bay of Bengal.) What happened to the Ocean University?!


“France supports Sri Lanka’s fisheries sector to cut post-harvest losses” was the title of the


FAO Fisheries Circular No. 920 FIRM/C920 Rome, 1997 ISSN 0429-9329




Why Nations Fail. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, first published in 2012

2011 Principles of allocation systems and criteria for Indian Ocean Tuna Fisheries. A guide for IO participants to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s Technical Committee on Quota Allocation, World Wildlife fund https://d2ouvy59p0dg6k.cloudfront.net/downloads/a_guide_to_negotiating_qas_in_the_io_new_.pdf

Transnational Institute, Amsterdam.  Greece and the International Bail Out Business Jubilee Debt campaign for debt cancellation oceanic area almost equal to one hundred and twenty-five times of its land area under UNCLOS Article 76.  This area covers a large extent of the southern part of the Bay of Bengal with a thick sediment cover having a high potential of hydrocarbon accumulation. UNCLOS Article 76, enabling a special method of establishing maritime boundaries for countries south of the Bay of Bengal was formulated during the Third United Nations Conference of the Law of the Sea held in 1982.

[2] The Spanish fleet has caught 73.95% of its quota in the Indian Ocean, industry sources told Undercurrent on July 3.The amount remaining to complete the 45,682t allocated to the Spanish fleet is therefore less than 12,000t for the rest of the year. The French fleet is in a similar situation. However, the French fleet could fish until December, thanks to “steps that have been taken”, according to a third French source. Wonder what and where these mysterious steps were and whether the Coffrepeche projects is part of these “steps taken”?!

[3] Cf. N.G.K. Pillai and Satishkumar, P. (2013) Conservation and Management of Tuna Fisheries in the Indian Ocean and EEZ. International Journal of Marine Sciences Vol. 3. No. 25 https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/33019676.pdf accessed February 20, 2019

[4] http://archive.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/uu15oe/uu15oe0n.htm

[5] Japanese experts study coastal erosion in Sri Lank” with British experts http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190224/news/japanese-experts-study-coastal-erosion-in-sl-337720.html

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Latest comments

  • 2

    What a useful topic for these ‘conference types’!

  • 4

    You have given very good information about how the Developed world and the Europeans plunder the Resources of other countries.
    with respect to the economy and the financing and currency, the Govt – Mostly Mangala Samaraweera and Ranil are lieing to the Parliament and to the public. It looks SLFP and President are also in the same camp. Mahinda Rajapakse even when he lost because of the Sri lankan – Arab spring in 2015, Ranil’s U”NP could win only 42 seats. So, Mahinda Rajapakse is silent, I think for a reason, and they are waiting for a Protest vote or Rejection vote of this govt to make SLPP/SLFP win and set up the govt. Srilanka’s Inflation this year, according to Mangala Samaraweera, is 2.5%. YEt, American bond Dealers are paid for Treasury bills a 10.5%. Mangala Samraweera says that rate is better as they were paid last year 11.5%. After the Last October Parliamentary Debacle, USA Rating Agencies lowered the Financial rating for Sri lanka which increased the Bond yields paying to the buyers. Mangala Samaraweera says, they sold Rs 10 billion worth T bills this year and he identifies that as INVESTMENT and not as SHORT BORROWINGs. Because of the high interest rate differential between US rate and Srilankan 10.5% rate Sri lankan T bills are very popular among American Institutional investors. Mangala Samraweera identifies that as Srilankan rupee is the third most popular currency in the world. In other worlds, Sri lanka is the third most well to do but Bankrupt country probably the first two are two oil rich countries..

  • 2

    Sri lanka has taken so many loans every way possible from every possible bank, institutions and these days for some time, Sri lankan is issuing short term bills in billions. Because, of this if there is an austerity measures in the Middle east, All the women that work there will come back and, as Sri lanka is bankrupt now, we won’t be able to pay the debt installments, so the rating Agencies will lower the Sri lanka to lower level which result selling what ever have in return to those T bill and bond dealers. I hear, Japanese have given the lowest interest rates (Because LOcal Rate in Japan is ZERO%), on the other hand, a Fast developing country has given a higher rate, but the American Rate when their local rate is about 1.0%, Is very high. Because Finance minister said that we are paying 8.5 – to 10.25% for T bills.

  • 2

    Dear Madam. Sri Lanka has all rich natural and human resources.. yet, corrupt politicians spoiled all this. so, until we have a good and honest political leaders.. please do not dream all this.. Sri Lanka is a paradise on earth and yet, politicians made a Hell on Earth. We are far better than Singapore in 1970s now, we are far behind them. why is it? is our human resources are less rich than them. No not all. Are we less rich in natural resources? no not all. But, we are fooled by some external and internal forces. So sorry to see it.

    • 0

      Perhaps France too wish to fish in ‘Troubled Waters’

  • 2

    Resource Curse used here is a phrase that forces its way into any high-level policy discussion on resource development in Sri Lanka (or almost in any similarly poor and therefore dumb countries). It is a hypothesis that came into macro-economic parlance in the early 90’s where it proposes that resource-rich economies generally grow more slowly than resource-poor economies. At first glance, it represents a difficult puzzle since a free gift of nature should be a blessing, not a curse.

    Although concern over efficacy of resource-dependent development is centuries old, the exact phrase “Resource Curse” was first used by Alan Gelb in 1988 as part of his economic research. He argued that resource-poor countries engage earlier in labor-intensive competitive manufacturing with the result being faster diversification, higher saving rates, and faster build-up of human and social capital.

    Since then there have been few assays challenging the concept of Resource Curse. More recently, Daniel Lederman and William Maloney of The World Bank concluded that the evidence for Resource Curse “remains elusive”. They say that nations with quality administrative institutions are able to manage their resource revenue and effectively turn it into positive economic growth.

    Resource Curse is just an excuse – not a real thing.

  • 2

    Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake hopes that there will be “Knowledge & Technology Transfer To Indian Ocean Communities”
    The ‘Transfers’ do take place but not to benefit.
    Nauru is a typical example: It had deposits of phosphate. Multi-nationals gobbled up the phosphate but while it lasted, the islanders had a very high per capita income. Now a beggar state, Nauru is used as refugee centre by Australia. Global warming may ‘drown’ the island.
    Take Zaire (formerly Congo). Patrice Lumumba was replaced by an obscure Col. Mobutu. The man gobbled up billions for over thirty years and died an exile in Morocco. What happened to the stash?
    Secular, oil rich Nigeria?
    Now a nation struggling to contain the religious-divide/
    To cut a long story short, humans greed is insatiable and easily exploited.
    This is the Lankan malaise.
    The Lankan media carry new appointments to state and private sectors. Without much effort, the media produce skeletons out of the appointee’s cupboard.
    Most of the upper echelons of the Armed Services and Police have unmentionable past.
    The moral turpitude of the politicians?
    Will we ever have ‘Law & Order’?

    • 2

      Nauru is not a typical example. It is a very special case and has much to do with corrupt and inept local politicians than any curse brought about by natural resources. Multinational firms are driven, lot more so then than now, by pure profit motive and they are not trying to hide it. It is the local politicians (and the populations by extension) who pretends they are driven by values they never subscribe to and look at becoming rich today and this moment.

  • 2

    electricity cuts are because of Politics. SAMPUR was not build because TNA wants Samapura as Mythical Tamil homeland. Electrical engineers of the EB recommends Coal too as it is a cheaper source. As Sri lankan engineers can further develop the problem of PArticles causing health problems just by adding filters to the exhaust gases.
    At present there is a huge production of LNG and LNG prices are very low. But, LNG prices for Sri lanka may go high as the Sri lankan politicians and Electricity Utility commission want to go for LNG and they do not want to Listen to the Electricity board engineers.

  • 3

    A very enlightening article again. The “Resource Curse” is one that can explain the true nature of theft of the Western Nations on the lesser nations, although they like go round in circles with charts and financial figures to try and figure out where it all goes wrong for us.

    And Oh No! Sri Lanka is hardly at any Geopolitical strategic location vis-à-vis all other places. Other places also had their own strategic interests to the West in colonial times and at this time. We have no “Resource Curse” and must stop pretending like we have it, thereby losing the precious little we have to the “Resource Curse” algorithm. This algorithm will as usual entrap us in the debt-trap via the 1% that will uphold the global currency to befit the West, which will of course reciprocate with foreign Aid, so as to perpetuate the system.
    But it is seen that Singapore, Malaysia, India, Africa etc. will not sit trumpeting their geopolitical strategy. If Sri Lanka does indeed have a geopolitical strategy, it is in gross competition with all other places. In fact, these other places will use our bragging potential to sell off environmental hazardous and assets (like oil refinery plants) so they can move to the next stage of evolution of their economies.

  • 4

    Currently, a certain percentage of Sri Lankans are presently in Euphoria about the following Fallacies:

    1. Our Geopolitical advantage. Every country in the world is also of geopolitical advantage with the China-West rivalry, including most countries of Africa.

    1. Impending oil-refinery: Now this doesn’t mean we have oil. Oh no! We will only be refining crude oil from other places because no one else wants to pollute their environment. Or their pollution, like in Singapore, has gone above the acceptable pollution standards, so they sneakily use Sri Lanka to refine their oil. (and they know how to keep a straight face whilst at it)

    3. Megapolis city to emulate Singapore, Hong Kong, Desert-Dubai. First is to build at exorbitant costs, and then is to sit in anticipation of money pouring in. Only the 1% will benefit as usual. Foreign Aid will perpetuate the debt-trap.

    4. The India merge (replete with land-bridge) – the masses of poor Indians not taken into consideration.

    5. Selling of fishing rights to conserve karma in the non-killing of fish

    6. Removal of cattle farming in favor of GMO and Monsanto vegetarian foods, to secure karma.

    7. One Lanka student in UK who achieved IQ scores higher than Einstein, therefore exciting Lankan minds that all Lankans have the same potential. Other countries with similar students are not taken into consideration. https://blackdoctor.org/519166/meet-the-boy-who-scored-higher-on-iq-test-than-bill-gates-albert-einstein/
    Oh My God! Common Sense has evaded Sri Lankans as usual. But this time, once the fallacies have been implemented, there will be no turning back. After all is converted to above, we will have to wait for God’s magic fingers to sprinkle the gold-dust of success. Hope God loves us. In the meantime, it will be demise of our ancient Nation.

    • 3

      Dear RTF,
      You’ve made some good points. I was particularly struck by points 2,3, 5, 6 & 7.
      To start with number 7: the girl is a nice kid who, hopefully, will not lose her head, but it was blown out of all proportion. No point going into detail. We can be happy about her success, and that’s it. And poor Einstein! His name is just being used.
      5 & 6: We still want incomes from those things, do we? The hypocrisy f it. Even 4, you’ve got a point there. We don’t think of solving the political problems ahead of all that, do we?
      3 & 2 (never mind typo) : obsession with mega projects. To get all those commissions. We are familiar with 3, but the pollution aspect of 2 hadn’t struck me. Thank you.

      • 0

        I was about to congratulate RTF, but you beat me to it. Apparently she can write coherently when she is off whatever she smokes.

  • 2

    These resource Curse and De-Colonizing are terms that the west uses when ever they want. Those countries with the English as the mother tongue, Those countries of the five eyes did not have any of these troubles. Even to date Irish and Scottish people blame English for ruining their cultures, language and every thing. The whole world blame FIVE EYES of the english speaking countries for ruining whole nations whether it was local or not. some of the things in this article are simply western terminology. All English, French and Spanish speaking countries in the Europe, Not to forget dutch or Norwegians ruined the world and they continue it that is why they are in the Indian OCean.

  • 0

    Dear “critical thinking”,
    The way education is getting messed up, and the better “qualified” are migrating is worrying. Our human resources may soon not amount to much.
    We are bereft of ideas and may soon find that our education falls behind even that of the Maldives; something which I see as most ironic.
    [Edited out]

  • 0

    Is there, and/or was there, Benign Technology Transfer? Should both sides have moral norms?
    Take the progress and the direction of the Royal Institute issue.
    Dr. Nirodha Bandara, Academic Director of Royal Institute claimed that the Judges who gave the order to demolish their Nugegoda Branch and cancel of their business license are heartless.
    Judges must not let their heart to influence verdicts. In this case the bench consisted of three judges.
    However what appears more of concern is her threat of using her political powers against an order given by a three judge bench of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.
    Nirodha went on “If you all are really angry go and scold the residents who filed the case against Royal Institute”.
    This is inciting.

  • 3

    Thank you Darini for this well-substantiated article.

    It is unfortunate that most of our gifted intellectuals live overseas, and thus have zero chance of influencing and guiding our national policies that put the lives of ordinary Sri Lankans first.

    Had we had such individuals we would not be where we find our selves today.

    Even if we did have such, we would not be able to fight the EU/US/Japan/South Korea; China/Russia/Iran mafia on our own.

    We need to build a network of other countries like ours to oppose the rape of our nature by the above mafia. A new “non-aligned” movement of the poor nations in the world.

    Any movement in that direction?

    • 0

      sinhalese buddhist,

      “It is unfortunate that most of our gifted intellectuals live overseas”

      Are the intellectuals that you refer to the LTTE-Tamil Diaspora?

  • 1

    Well verse article by writer ,timely need data and facts has been included information which reveled by writer .
    Better to know that research has made positive steps forward for New Global Order to be established by Non-Western countries.
    Indeed crux of deliammea an issue is that Old hegemonies are attempted disrupted that emerging nation sustsnsbility of New path and own model of economy development . The puppet regime led RW, MS and CBK by post -independent undermined the nations that south-south corporation.
    The People’s movement are undermined by Police state of UNP regime in power. They wanted crushed that People’s democratic movement by disfranchised right to elected government by mandate of that WILL of citizens. .

    An Old productive forces and its relationship can be destroy by new social classes of People Governances by universal franchised. Right elected New rules has been denied by Supreme Court of Lankan judiciary.

    Look at case of Lankan since 2015 January 8th by MS victory has brought forward by lumpenization
    of entire that Parliamentary system of governances to most corrupted regime in Indian Ocean countries.

    By and large it stand for Neoliberals set of policies. The key leaders are that unholy alliance politically corrupted are of RW of UNP, CBK of Federalist, TNA of Tamil extremist of that political Terrorist and JVP of south Terrorist come to grand coalition as ruling parties of under the name of that so-called

    All nation inside wealth, assets and all marine resources in Indian Ocean are an outright FOR SALE by UNP RW ruling regime last 4 years and 3 months.
    Our nation is challenge by USA, UK, Indians and EU countries for they demand to surrender economic sovereignty to big powers of USA UK EU Japan and Indian hegemonies. All evil conditions are put-forward by IMF and World Bank ,ADB by so-called debt trap !

  • 0

    Dear Darini

    Thank you once more for your knowledge sharing.

    We did do all the hard work most of which you have mentioned and kept our sovereignty during non aligned movement days.

    We need to include in our discussions our Neighbours who have armed and trained our children and looted all our fish stock for the past 40 years when we were too busy killing each other. Polluted our seas too need to be discussed soon.

    All that we talked about super powers/g7’s/g21’s are only trues when we have accounted/BENCH MARKED the hideous crimes SAARC countries have committed against each other?

    We just needed the white man to get out so we can show how evil we all can be?? we are the worst form of human rights abusers/squanders with a breeding program not sustainable THAT I KNOW OF IN THE WROLD TODAY.

    There was a film made in Bollywood on toilet use. When a foreign Journalist with Indian Ocean origins interviewed the Directors why it took so long for them to get such educational materials & prevent people defecating in public the Directors blamed the British who left 70years ago?? such is the ownership of the Independence status??(fully appreciate you are arguing how the colonisation is maintained through any other means…. I will repeat it is done because we are willing to commit crime against fellow men amongst ourselves?? can we blame others??)

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