7 August, 2020

Blog

Getting Sri Lanka To Work

By Kath Noble

Kath Noble

Just when sanity seemed to be prevailing over the Bodu Bala Sena, following the various vigils, rallies and protests that have been organised in the last month, the Government found yet another imaginative way to agitate people – it had Azath Salley arrested. Apparently, the Police are so busy scouring the pages of limited circulation magazines in other countries for potentially disturbing statements by Sri Lankan Muslim politicians that they don’t have time to listen to the bilge that some Buddhist monks are repeating at full volume on a daily basis on the streets of Colombo.

Fortunately, Mahinda Rajapaksa was in a good mood on Friday and Salley was released.

Salley says that he was misquoted. He asserts that he would never advocate or support the taking up of arms against the State since he is all too aware of the consequences, Sri Lanka having only just come out of its three decade long war. Very wise.

Meanwhile, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has proclaimed that there was more to it than an interview – we await his efforts to prove as much beyond our absolutely reasonable doubts.

When people are not so agitated, they focus on their immediate problems.

The electricity tariff hike was enough of a shock to generate a reaction, and the strike planned for next week should give us an indication of how much trouble the cost of living is going to be for the Government.

But what of other issues?

I was bemused the other day to read an article by a prominent economist suggesting that there was no shortage of jobs in the country. He was arguing that the Government might soon have to ban migration, on the basis that the Sri Lankan economy is near full employment. He was concerned about the implications of such a decision on the Balance of Payments, since remittances from workers overseas are the most important source of foreign exchange for the country.

Of course the Government couldn’t ban migration even if it tried. People would continue to leave the country with or without its blessing.

Why? Because they aren’t satisfied with the employment opportunities at home.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the unemployment rate in Sri Lanka was over 15%. In the 1990s, it was over 10%. Now it is under 5%. However, the most important reason for this ‘improvement’ is the departure of hundreds of thousands of people. In 1990, only 50,000 people left the country for work. Now the figure is 280,000.

The 1.8 million workers currently overseas correspond to 22% of people employed in Sri Lanka. Every year, more people migrate for work than enter the labour market.

If this were to stop, the country would be firmly in the grip of unemployment again.

The Government no doubt understands this very well indeed, and I am quite sure that it has no intention of banning migration. That would lead to a serious increase in dissatisfaction, especially among young people, which the Government knows is dangerous.

But not doing something unhelpful is not the same as doing something helpful. Where are its plans to generate decent jobs at home?

At the moment, the Government’s idea of job creation is maintaining an unnecessarily large military and periodically recruiting unemployed graduates to do anything and everything – or most likely nothing at all – in the public service. Keeping people in non-jobs may be good for them and good for the country in some ways, in the sense that they are less likely to get involved in any more uprisings if they are employed by the State, and they will probably spend their salaries on goods and services produced at least in part in Sri Lanka, but this is not good for the country in other ways. While non-jobs occupy so many people, the economy simply cannot reach full employment.

And the country’s development suffers.

While the reconstruction of the conflict areas has generated a certain amount of employment, this won’t last. And it is clear that the Government’s plans don’t go beyond the building of infrastructure to considering how people in the North and East will actually use it to make a living.

What happens if Sri Lankan refugees come home? That’s another hundred thousand people in Tamil Nadu alone.

The Government doesn’t need to recruit them, but it should ensure that they will be able to work.

In the Vanni, the only businesses that seem to be growing at anything like the required rate are banks, which primarily exist to channel remittances from migrants.

Very few people would go overseas to work if there were satisfactory alternatives. The difficulties that migrants face are well known. Even more importantly, everybody understands that families do better when they are together. Tragedies like the execution of Rizana Nafeek have pushed the Government to introduce more checks and balances in the recruitment process, raising the minimum age for migration – especially for women – and to negotiate agreements with receiving countries that try to guarantee better working conditions. However, while these steps are clearly necessary, they are nowhere near sufficient. Most people would rather the Government made it possible for them to live at home.

Although the Government may think that it can safely ignore this issue, since Sri Lankans are now used to the idea of travelling thousands of miles if they want to earn a reasonable income, doing so is putting the country in a vulnerable position.

In 2009, remittances became the single most important source of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka, overtaking exports of textiles and garments. Now textiles and garments exports earn only $4.0 billion compared to $6.0 billion in remittances, with exports of tea accounting for a mere $ 1.4 billion and tourism receipts amounting to just $ 1.0 billion.

Banning migration is not on the Government’s agenda. But what if it were adopted as an objective by receiving countries?

The Indian press has been full of such concerns in the last month, following the implementation by Saudi Arabia of stricter laws on what it calls ‘Saudisation’. Passed in response to the Arab Spring, which made the authorities in Middle Eastern countries think a bit harder about the well-being of their people, they require all companies to employ a minimum percentage of their citizens, as well as to pay them a fairly substantial minimum wage – exemptions for companies with under ten employees have been removed. Also, a new system that may do better at ensuring compliance has been established.

Kerala expects to be badly hit, with an unusually large share of its population working abroad, and its Chief Minister is already talking about establishing a rehabilitation package.

This is probably an overreaction, but at least they are aware that they are exposed.

With 2.3 million workers abroad out of a population of just 33.4 million, Kerala’s numbers are similar to Sri Lanka, except that it has the rest of India to back it up if required.

Although keeping people’s minds off such problems is no doubt awfully time consuming, it would be nice if Mahinda Rajapaksa could spare one or two members of his administration to come up with a few solutions.

However, the rest of his followers will have to intensify their search for the next Azath Salley. The way things are going in Sri Lanka, the Government is going to need to create a lot more demons if it is to continue distracting people, since every distraction is a reminder of just how far off the right track it has swerved. And each demon has to be more extraordinary than the last. Only a few months ago, people were thinking that it couldn’t get much worse than the absolutely reckless impeachment of the Chief Justice, and then along came the Bodu Bala Sena.

*Kath Noble’s column may be accessed online http://kathnoble.wordpress.com. She may be contacted at  “kathnoble99@gmail.com

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Latest comments

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    thoughtfull and logical

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      Folks, Kath Noble should be given honorary citizenship for the great service she does with her consistently valuable political economic analysis which is far better than the analysis done by the so-called Sri Lankan economists, most of whom have bought into the neo-liberal trip!

      BTW. World Bank recently released a report on very high women’s unemployment in Lanka and their figures and finding simply do not tally with the official figures of unemployment (5 percent my ASS?!) since women are more than half the population!
      Something stinks in the regimes figures; whether of poverty, unemployment, foreign reserves – all are fixed to present a pretty picture that covers over the corrupt muck that is the regime and its governance

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        If you read the report it is about the very low level of women’s participation in the workforce, not unemployment per se. It is that many women for all sorts of reasons do not offer themselves or search for work, and stay at home looking after the family. Other countries have a much higher participation rate as they appear to need to work to make ends meet.

        It is possible that in the Sri Lankan sense they do not feel the need to work, being lotus eaters in the end may be a better alternative to the woman concerned, but not to the country as a whole which has many vacancies that are unfilled, and therefore have both GNP and growth rate suffer.

        In time when life gets tougher, maybe they will have to join the labor force and take up jobs they currently do not wish to engage in. Then again the statistics of the CB may be incorrect!

        After all who can we believe in the resplendent isle anymore

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      Logic and thoughtfulness are the very ingredients that are lacking in the lady’s scribbling. Muddling is more appropriate a description.

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    Thank heavens you’re back! For one moment I thought that unseen forces had conspired to ensure you never made another well-researched, well-crafted and well-observed contribution pertaining to the current Sri Lankan condition. Some of us had noted the unease among ‘certain’ sections of the readership who were clearly unhappy that a daughter, no less, of the old colonial master was able to comment so incisively on the convoluted machinations in this blessed island. To borrow an old phrase, never let the small buggers grind you down, and may the ink in your printer cartridge never run dry!

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      Printers don’t have cartridges but printing devices do. How do we believe the former colonisers who are the present day American poodles? See what happened to Gadhafi who gave them everything as a primary friend. Ceylonese did not fight for independence but hid in India while the Indians adopted a 2 pronged attack and finally after losing 2 million in the English war called WW2 to protect the British Raj it had the guns so it received independence with a twist. UK wants to rule the commonwealth like before where the others are slaves because its game of being a thorn within Europe is up.

  • 0
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    ‘patriots’ coming in 3,2,1….

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    Very timely analysis. It is quite evident that the Government, though boasting so much of “development” has not quite well put its house in order. We see a large amount of investments being made mostly, perhaps through “long term loans”. A simple case in point is the Southern Highway. The loan repayment is Rs. 06 billion whereas the revenue it generates is merely Rs.01 billion. However adding the net asset value to the country, it should generate much more from the economic development of the commercial projects that it serves. Do we get it? The only visible economic project so far is the “tourism”. Even with the development of a commercial “hub” sorrounding the Hambantota “dream”, the question arises as to the “capability” of that two lane concept of this High Way. When you analyse the commercial aspects of this type of “road projects” one wonders whether it is all about “showman’s” work or economic related tasks to enhance the living conditions of the general public. If these projects are not geared to generate economic value to the net worth of the country, then servicing the loans and maintenance will become an unending burdon on the tax payer.

    It is so with employment. Do we produce “talents/skill related” work force to cater to the demands of the local economy? Who are migrant workers? What number of them are “skilled” categories? Has the Government (meaning its agencies, like Foreign Employment Bureau, Educational Institutions etc.) planned to produce to meet the demands of the skilled categories of workers abroad?. If we compare this with other developed countries, we see all such skill categories like Masons, Carpentors, Electricians, Plumbers, Mechanics of all disciplines, House Maids & Care Givers etc. have to have “Trade School/College” level education with “practical experince” and be “certified” to carry out functions in each field. Therefore their earning capacities are much higher than even some of the “professionals”. This is done by “Research and Development of Human Reosurces. We have a dedicated Ministry for this task. What have they done or are doing? So it is necessary to divert serious thought to these aspects if we are to face the challnages of the future.

    Of course after thirty years of “terrorism” and the massive investment made (money and lives) to defeat it and maintenance of peace and calm that it has generated must be very well cared and looked after. So it is the responsibility of all categories of persons in the country to help maintain it and refrian from disruptive acivities. It is also the responsibility of the Governing Authorities to safeguard the country and all its citizens against such threats that come from any individual or organizations. In that context if Mr. Azath Salley corrected his position without delay of what he said at an interview and how he was “misquoted” this “drama” probably would not have been staged. It was his responsibility and failed to do that on time.

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    I suppose the latest distraction “Sinhala Avurudu mela” is now over, and “Wesak dansal” is the go in Sri Lanka. The Koha’s call must be fading away for this year by now.

    I attended Gordon Weiss’s book launch in Melbourne some time ago, and in response to my question from the forum, he openly and publicly advocated taking up arms against a government if the people collectively felt that law, order and justice had deserted them.

    The arrest of Azath Salley, for allegedly inciting violence against an elected government was mentioned by the writer. Perhaps Gordon Weiss should be similarly “arrested” by the Sri Lankan equivalent of Israel’s Mossad !

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    Kath Noble and her NGO friends are complaining about BBS. Really, what has BBS done, in regards to the Muslim issue? Today I read an excellent article about the Muslims in Burma… they are fleeing by the tens of thousands to places like Indonesia and Malaysia. More and more, I am leaning towards the view that only a violent approach will solve the Muslim issue. If Gandhi’s ahimsa failed to prevent the Muslims from taking up arms, can anyone else possibily succeed?

    BBS is not doing enough; much more force is needed. If it takes a riot, so be it. Burma has solved its ethnic problem flawlessly, with the Buddhists coming out on top. Sri Lanka needs to adapt a similar approach. Now is the best time, while the rest of the world is occupied with Syria.

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      so… your master plan is to shoot them down like animals before they can even flee? how very Buddhist of you. And people ask me why im a ‘godless unbeliever’! better to not believe than patronize holy places and then run around spouting filth.

      …and the muslims wanted a separate state years before Indian independence was gained- our muslims have vocalized no desire to do so since they’ve been left alone while those of the BBS’ and your ilk went around doing such ‘patriotic’ tasks like black july. Keep up with creating problems where there are none, and soon we will have created a muslim community that demands secession and resorts to violence. A more perfect example of ‘illang kanawa’ i have never seen epitomized.

      BBS has done nothing wrong lu… Hahahahahahahahaha good joke. What a blind buddhist you are. You wouldnt recognize Buddha if he walked up and tapped you on the shoulder! There are monks within sight of one of the most revered places in buddhism, the dalada maligawa, with a buddha statue on stage, yelling words like “para hambayo”, “haththa”, “yakku” “paaharayo”, and you claim this is all in aid of protecting the people and the religion! Hahahahahahahahaha. Whatever you do, dont breed. We dont need any more of your dumb-ass types in this country. While you may die with a racist hard-on, the rest of worry about the kind of intolerant mess we’re leaving for our kids.

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        Muslims agreed to a federal state within India. But the traitor Jinnah went for more.

        Buddhism has nothing to do with Buddha, except historically. One can be a Buddhist without knowing about Buddha. There are no pedophile prophets and plagiarized “holy books” in Buddhism.

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          circumventing the point by putting a religion on the pedestal… ah man, you should become a politician.

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            Hooooo. he is no Buddhist but a Joooo Hoooo the eternal Jew from India.When the Romans burnt their synagogues some fled to Kerala.

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        He is not buddhist actually he hates the sinhala buddhist people just like he hates muslims

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          You forgot to mention, I speak Mandarin Chinese and drive an Aston-Martin.

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            And that your address was, THE MENTAL ASYLUM- ANGODA, SRI LANKA !!!

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              Is that where you first met your parents?

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            As expected an imbecile response!,

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              Thank for confirming that which is well-known, aka your family history.

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            What gratitude? It’s OK. They donated for the well being of Angodas inmates. Did not expect Angodas no.1 inmate to pretend to have a little class! I think its that tumor playing up again.

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          What gratitude? It’s OK. They donated for the well being of Angodas inmates. Did not expect Angodas no.1 inmate to pretend to have a little class! I think its that tumor playing up again.

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      That’s a pretty sick point of view. Par for the course, I guess! No wonder you agree with the aggression and violence of the BBS – ‘birds of a feather’…

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        I will tell you what is sick.

        Suicide bombings in Iraq:

        1.1 2003: 25 suicide bombings
        1.2 2004: 140 suicide bombings
        1.3 2005: 478 suicide bombings
        1.4 2006: 297 suicide bombings
        1.5 2007: 442 Suicide Bombings
        1.6 2008: 257 Suicide Bombings
        1.7 2009: 76 Suicide Bombings
        1.8 2010: 44 Suicide Bombings

        I don’t need to mention the religion of the suicide bomber. :)

        When Sinhalese complained about LTTE suicide bombings, I used to laugh. Now you know why.

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          The famous hand bag was part of the cause for GW1 and those bombings are its symptoms.no fire no smoke.

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          The laughter of a mad man!,

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      Don’t’ Feed the Troll, Lester

      Lester/Heshan/Nihal/Observer is a serial liar, Waffen SS fantasist and an apologist for Hitler whose pronouncements (see below) on Sri Lanka deserve to met with utter contempt. His most moronically cretinous comments include:

      “if the Muslims took responsibility for their own actions, torture would not be an issue.”

      “Torture is justifiable if there are laws that says it’s okay.”

      ..”Americans are very careful about who gets tortured..”

      “Jeyaraj is a pseudo-journalist. He can’t take the heat from pro-LTTE people, which is why he consistently “responds” in the comments section (journalists are supposed to keep a distance from readers). Try telling him the LTTE should’ve broken his other leg, and watch his reaction.”

      “Women who marry more than three times are whores.”

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    You are absolutely right in what you state, but so many are saying the same thing though in different ways. Sri Lanka’s government is lost in it’s own world which is always a consequence of authoritarianism. The government does not understand the implications of their actions. They do not understand their role. They think it is about preserving the votes for the next election. The peoples’ wellbeing is the least of their worries.

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    Incisive analysis of the current situation

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    Experience is a best teacher.Very,comprehensive article,in a nutshell well said, truths.

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    I don’t think any Economist can stop the desire of Sri Lankans to rapidly improve their living standards, by seeking well paid jobs abroad, by legal or illegal means. The remittances increased by 16.3% in US Dollar terms in 2012, helping to stabilize the Rupee and cushion the wasteful expenditure and the leakage from commissions retained abroad.

    Sri Lankan Companies are also gradually establishing joint ventures abroad, despite the difficulties created by an incompetent Exchange Control Department. They are recruiting Sri Lankans for their projects. Very soon we will be left with only the unemployable graduates produced by the universities funded by the University Grants Commission.

    The switch to English medium and the gradual development of the private universities, as well as the increasing number of young people obtaining professional qualifications will gradually contain this problem. So I believe, Incompetent politicians cannot stop the desire of Sri Lankans to rapidly improve their living standards.

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    Simply super, Kath! Of those writing regularly on Sri Lanka you are absolutely our favorite columnist and have been so for quite a while. Thank you for your humor, lucidity and goodwill towards Sri Lanka.

    Dayan and Sanja

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    On a different note, I had the opportunity to dine at the Waters Edge location during my brief sojourn in Sri Lanka. I had a glimpse of the power hungry King’s brother Goata jogging along with approximately 150 – 200 hundred “joggers” most, if not all, are his bodyguards. There were also an upteen number of “SAVAK” (secret police) hovering around and mingling with the crowd and I made sure that I kept my lips sealed????

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    Latest Wikileaks indcate that even Assistant Sec Bobby Blake is no match for our Gota.

    Isn’t it cool to out smart a Yaknkee Head Honcho?.

    Kathie surely doesn’t believe that Mahinda is banning our Hospitality Staff, or even our poor Housemaids.

    After all isn’t it a fundamental Human Right?.

    Four calender years have passed since Nanthikadal,

    Samandan and Co didn’t mention even a single word about the plight the poor refugees in Vaikoland.

    They even made protests about the Ferry Service to bring them home.

    Why this urgency now?.

    And some of these refugees have been languishing in these atrocious abodes in the future Eelaam for a quarter century.

    The current Eelaam Leaders there, the likes of the of Brahamin CM and the shadow CM didn’t t’give these poor souls proper sanitation and schooling facilities for the kids, let alone PR.

    But Sinhala inhabitants were happy to absorb one million Naduans who came as Economic refugees.

    This was despite the dislike of them by the current Srilankan Eelaam leaders.

    Probably Kathie isn’t interested in the pre 83 history of our Motherland.

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      Leela writing as sumanasekera is at it again and goes on like a broken record!

      I say Leela alias ‘Sumanasekra’ tell us machan how you created the Lee Potter scheme and attrachted the poor people to invest and then cheat them!

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        peace lover: You no like Sinhala Buddhist man say go love a duck and f**k it. It’ll clear your brain idiot.

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      Don’t touch these folk with INGO leanings. They say third world nations are very corrupt. The Mahaveli cost the nation 3 times the original and 3 times longer by Balfour Betty Nuttel.
      British NGO functioning in the UK is always 4 times the original value and to top it they don’t fall under the freedom of information act while the government and MP’s are bound.
      British NGO’s are therefore smelly legalised tax dodgers. One has to be careful with former colonisers and backstabbers like Dayan.

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    Fantastic article which totally skewers GoSL’s brain dead economic policies; and no offence to the brain dead community. Please translate into Sinhala for the widest possible dissemination.

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    Sinhala Only, Pogrom of 83, Standardisation, Racial and Religous discrimination all have forced minorities to migrate. Because we cannot enter govt schools and universities we had to educate our children in private schools or international schools at a cost. Then we were able to send our children abroad for tertiary education. Now our children are working abroad and are better of than ourselves. So in a way it has been a blessing in disguise.

    The govt and people of Sri Lanka need to resolve these fundamental issues regarding human rights, good governance etc if we hope to move forward otherwise they might as well hand over the country to the fanatics like BBS who think that religion is the solution to all the ills that plague the nation. Even a cyclone has to be renamed. Northern elections will be decided by the Presidents astrologer. Cuckoo.

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    “Getting Sri Lanka To Work”, oh isn’t that sweet. There is no shortage of opinion-heads in Sri Lanka who cN tell you what is precisely wrong with the country and what exactly must be done.

    But are any of these brainiacs ready to pick the shovel and get to work? Guess not!

    Looks like all Sri Lanka has got are a bunch of self-absorbed, self-righteous, egotistic pr*ks who can’t lift a finger to help themselves get out of the sh*thole they are in. As if that is not pathetic enough, now you have outside-experts, telling you what you must to in order to get it to work.

    I’m telling you… write this into a sketch and this will be hilarious comedy. Imagine the scene… a bunch of Oxford, Griffith, Harvard, etc. scholars sitting around a pot of water, in a freezing cold evening, with no fire underneath, and telling each other what should be done if they were to have a warm bowl of soup.

    If people in engineering disciplines were tools like these morons we’ll still be rolling rocks to and from work; naked!

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    Kath,

    There are other reasons besides economic ones such as bad governance, racism, children’s education, lack of professionalism at work places etc. which has made Sri Lanka’s leave the country of their birth.

    The Government should not only be talking about full employment, but should be concentrating on paying a decent living wage to public sector employees. There is no point in talking about full employment if employees are paid poor salaries and this applies to both the public sector and the private sector.

    Niranjan

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      Invariably all wars are economic in nature and the writer admittedly likes politics (sandwich with lies).

      When a warlord rules you can never expect a decent wage.

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    Stupid are the people who fall into her provocative generalizations…..there is far greater dimension to what actually happens (as she lays it out). The actual situation of Sri Lanka system relates to terms of equilibrium and normalcy for the masses. The UK and US has exactly the same operative military (on other people’s lands also), and the same operative workers at redundant jobs for the sake of keeping the masses employed. It’s either control the ME oil wealth (as the UK and US does), or work with it (as Sri Lanka does) – both being equally valid and necessary for modern democratic society.

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    Besides, the majority of workers do not “migrate” (which means to re-settle in other lands), but work temporarily in other countries like in the ME. However too many do actually “migrate” to the West, taking the wealth of Sri Lanka with them, especially many from the free university system. Unfortunately all that hard earned ME petro-dollars from under-skilled and semi –skilled workers of the ME get rolled into land and property purchase, of which the sellers of collect and migrate(in its proper term).

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    ~ correction(in first set of comments) :………It’s either control the ME oil wealth (as the UK and US DO (not does))………

    Also (in second set of comments)……….of which the sellers of collect and migrate(in its proper term), and/or use for education of their children in the West. Thus is inflation driven up corresponding to house values and/or cost of education in the West.

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