20 September, 2021

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Handing-Over Of A Prosperous Sri Lanka To Our Children

By Gunathilake Tantirigama

Dr. Gunathilake Tantirigama

Sri Lanka was a prosperous country a few decades ago but currently is faced with many issues. A survey was carried out among a group of 60 academics and professionals and other thinkers based in Sri Lanka and overseas. The purpose of the survey was to gather information on progress in Sri Lank over time in terms of socio-cultural, political, economic and environmental aspects and to highlight limiting factors. The survey probed on the historical evolution, focusing on two questions: “What went wrong?” since independence in 1948 to today and “what is Sri Lanka good at?”.

The information collected provided a useful starting point to a deeper probe on the questions posed above. According to the survey most of the participants agreed that Sri Lanka is in dire straits in many aspects, including the economy, the political structure, social order and the environment. As revealed from the survey answers, the country is sliding fast towards an abyss with no prospects for improvements in any sphere.

A significant proportion of the survey respondents opined that Sri Lanka can still reach a state of prosperity, provided that the country implements a set of corrective measures without further delay. Most respondents identified that Sri Lanka has several advantages over many developing countries or even comparable to some high-income countries regarding its resource endowment.

What is Sri Lanka good at?

The survey revealed Sri Lanka possesses three main resources namely: human resources, natural resources and man-made resources. Firstly, Sri Lankans are talented, creative and resourceful and the challenge before the country is to harness the innate talents of Sri Lankans at the individual level and design ways to inculcate their capacity to cooperate within the larger society for the greater good.

Secondly, regarding natural resources, Sri Lanka has several climatic zones, ranging from mild temperature to warm weather and wet/dry zones and many natural resources in abundance including minerals such as gems, ilmenite, titanium.

Thirdly, in terms of man-made resources, Sri Lanka inherited an excellent built environment which includes tank irrigation system and road network. According to the survey there is potential for medical tourism, local fruits and geographical locations as foreign exchange earners for the country. There is a functional plantations agriculture sector, most notably, the tea plantations which continue to produce high-quality tea, providing much-needed foreign currency and a stable income source. However, Sri Lanka’s development drive has failed to produce results so far due to the inefficient use of most of the resources mentioned.

What went wrong?

The survey revealed that Sri Lanka as a country has deviated from its true potential for growth and prosperity. Understanding the historical evolution of the issues faced by Sri Lanka and their root-causes or in other words “what went wrong?” is imperative for thinking afresh about bringing back Sri Lanka to a new, sustainable, people-friendly development trajectory.

By classifying all the answers received through the survey, it was possible to identify ten broadly defined root-causes or challenges, which are causing the country to slide fast towards an abyss with no prospects for improvements in any sphere of development. The survey also highlighted the resource-base that Sri Lanka possesses or in other words, “what is Sri Lanka good at?” which can support growth and prosperity.

Ten challenges

(1) Practice of democracy

One respondent summarized the ‘practice of democracy’ as: ”not understanding democracy and freedom”. Another respondent summarized this as: “short-sighted behavior of the majority of the people when exercising their democratic rights”. At a more fundamental level, this could be due to the ignorance of the majority of citizens, which allowed political parties and politicians to exploit citizens’ rights for their benefit. Some respondents also opined that some Sri Lankans believe in the feudalistic system, where the master is supposed to decide and protect the subjects while the subjects offer their loyalty.

(2) Attitudes and ethical behavior

Although Sri Lankans are considered to have historically maintained high standards of ethical behaviour, with tolerance, caring for one another and hospitality, some responses indicated that these qualities have been deteriorating and replaced by greed, selfishness, intolerance and disregard for humans and animal lives.

(3) Economic mis-management

Several respondents identified ‘economic mis-management’ as one of the fundamental root-causes of Sri Lanka’s failure as a nation to advance. As a result of economic mis-management by successive governments, Sri Lanka was unable to generate a liveable income for most people, provide employment opportunities for the youth, maintain price stability, or generate adequate national savings and earn foreign exchange. These failures have led to Sri Lanka’s inability to lift the quality of life in general and many people were pushed in to poverty, food insecurity and destitution.

(4) Environment mis-management

The destruction of Sri Lanka’s rich flora and fauna systems has accelerated overtime, leading to the loss of much-valued bio-diversity and its capacity to regenerate. Sri Lanka’s forest cover is fast declining despite claims to protect them. The so-called human-elephant conflict is simply a manifestation of the declining forest cover in Sri Lanka, as humans encroach natural habitats.

(5) Government fiscal responsibility

Irresponsible fiscal management has led to use of government income and expenditure that ended up in wastes. Many respondents highlighted massive government investments on projects with insignificant returns and that do not enhance the country’s productive capacity leading to a significant imbalance between internal (fiscal balance) and external (trade and foreign exchange) accounts.

(6) Judiciary system

The participants of the survey have mentioned that people tend to disrespect law and order due to various reasons and many opined that there is a tendency to lose peoples’ confidence in the judiciary system. Unless Sri Lanka can restore the supremacy of the judiciary and equality under the law, there is little hope to regain peoples’ trust in the judiciary.

(7) Education system

Respondents highlighting many examples indicated that the current education system has failed to produce creative minds and skilful people with the right attitudes. One example is the failure of government officials to think and act creatively.

(8) Utilization of human resources

Respondents pointed out that a significant reason for the development failure in Sri Lanka is the non-usage of appropriate human resources in key and responsible positions in line with the best expertise and skills, regardless of their social status, family connections, and other favours. This has caused brain-drain, depriving the country’s potential for producing goods and services within the country for domestic and overseas mark

(9) Foreign debt burden

As a result of short-sighted economic and political decisions by successive governments, especially obtaining foreign loans for non-productive projects and activities, Sri Lanka has ended up in a ‘debt trap’, making it extremely difficult for managing the scarce foreign resources.

(10) International relations and geo-politics

It is well-known fact that Sri Lanka has gained interest among the world’s superpowers due to Sri Lanka’s strategic location. The survey revealed that power struggles by foreign superpowers have severe effects on Sri Lanka’s political and economic independence.

Summary

Sri Lanka was a prosperous country a few decades ago but currently is faced with many issues. It  has has deviated from its true potential for growth and prosperity. Understanding “what went wrong?”, or put differently, the historical evolution of issues faced by Sri Lanka and their root-causes is imperative for thinking afresh about bringing back Sri Lanka to a new, sustainable, people-friendly development trajectory. Based on the survey findings, ten challenges of current state of affairs of the country have been identified. The survey findings  also highlight “what is Sri Lanka good at?” or in other words, the resource-base that Sri Lanka possesses which can support igniting growth and prosperity.

Final remarks

Further delving into ten challenges is required to identify a path(s) to a prosperous future for Sri Lanka. This task is left for the next stage of this study.

Notes

1. The author is a member of “Seniors for Motherland”. This is a volunteer social group established in 2019 that wishes betterment of our motherland, Sri Lanka. The author wishes to express his sincere thanks to all those who responded to the survey. He is especially grateful to those who volunteered to review the survey report and made valuable comments. His special thanks goes to W.A Jayasundara (Attorney-at-Law) who was instrumental in design of this survey research.

2. This is the shortened version of detailed report which is of about 8 pages. In order to download the detailed report please use the link: https://newhorizonsplus.org/publications/

3. Please send your comments to: Seniors for Motherland. Email: admin@newhorizonsplus.org. Web page: www.newhorizonsplus.org/public-awareness/

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Latest comments

  • 2
    3

    Instead debt, war, grievances, unmet aspirations and misery is handed down to them.

    Only way forward for the island is to split it into 3 mono ethnic nations equitably and relocate people. All 3 nations will be prosperous within 25 years. Muslim Elam will have a totally Sharia compliant legal and economic system and will attract billions of dollars of investments annually (Sinhalas and Tamils, don’t worry; it is none of your business). It will be developed first. Tamil Elam will attract Tamil diaspora and Tamil Nadu investments and will be developed next (Sinhalas and Muslims, don’t worry; it is none of your business). Sinhala Only Elam will will be the next Taiwan, mono ethnic and prosperous (Muslims and Tamils, don’t worry; it is none of your business).

    Thereafter they can (if they wish) join again as a trading block while keeping their nationalities in tact like the EU.

    This is the only workable model for SL.

  • 2
    0

    Sri Lanka was a prosperous country a few decades ago but currently is faced with many issues.

    Alone can do little together begins building

    BANGLADESH HOW is that it is capable enough it said the days are coming when we will offer loans to other countries. In the future we won’t take out loans; rather we will lend.
    Country should have together we can do so much

    • 0
      0

      “Firstly, Sri Lankans are talented, creative and resourceful and the challenge before the country is to harness the innate talents of Sri Lankans” Whether Sri Lankans are as “talented, resourceful, and creative” as, say, the Chinese or some Indian communities is moot. It would help to examine why this is so.
“many natural resources in abundance including minerals such as gems, ilmenite, titanium.” Ilmenite is Titanium Dioxide. . Graphite is a more viable resource. There is plenty of Phosphate but this stays in the ground due to environmental objections. You can’t have it both ways.
“Although Sri Lankans are considered to have historically maintained high standards of ethical behaviour,..”
Really? A look at the Mahavamsa will reveal how many of our Kings came to power by murdering their relatives or opponents. Others invited foreigners to help in internal disputes.
Tourism is currently hamstrung by hypocritical Buddhist clergy and their demands to limit alcohol and meat consumption . Thailand is a Buddhist country which does much better because of its lack of “moral” restrictions. Even Goa and Islamic Maldives do much better. Another problem is that ancient Buddhist sites which nobody knew of till they were found and conserved by the British, have been restored to places of worship by mendacious monks. So tourists are obliged to follow ridiculous standards of behaviour in such places.


  • 4
    0

    In any people group, unity is strength. We live in a fallen world with mental division in every aspect of life, that heart reconciliation is not found even in people’s imaginations. Anger, fear, pride, doubt and a sense of not being accepted by others seems to be strong even amongst each ethnic group. If only this can be replaced by love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and humility to bring reconciliation and harmony of all humans, wars and weaponry can be subdued. Each individual needs to do this and stop pointing fingers at others.

  • 3
    0

    Due to the extremely bad record of prospective candidates who promise to “develop the motherland” but develop themselves when they are given the vote, it will be very difficult for the new horizons group to garner the vote of the people. However, if you have vast amounts of money to throw around for the monkeys, you might score well. That is SL politics. There are no ethics, justice, law, order (there is a low odour though) fairness or way forward for a cursed country which is so blessed with natural beauty and abundant resources with so much potential for a decent life IF it was managed well.

  • 1
    0

    “Handing-Over Of A Prosperous Sri Lanka To Our Children”

    Departing British colonialists handed over a prosperous Ceylon to the natives.

    Please analyze how a series of appe aanduwa governments reversed the prosperity into misery and poverty.

    That should be the first step before “Handing-Over Of A Prosperous Sri Lanka To Our Children.”

    What is the guarantee that they won’t mess it up?

  • 0
    0

    Future comes after past and present . It is always the present that is real and
    makes the past and future . Those who are desperately seeking to bury the
    best of the past can not live in a good present and dream for a better future .
    In Srilanka , talk of Future is a popular ‘Baila’ of corrupt politics to destroy
    history and live off the resources of all past and future generations , the
    reality ! Talking about future ? If so , stop producing Babies for export , I mean
    foreign employments for Dollars to feed locals ! Stop begging to build high rise
    buildings and highways ! Stop fooling your people abusing and misusing the
    very system meant to lead them to progress ! Stop day dreaming to become
    Singaporean while digging one’s own grave by way of encouraging and living
    in lies , deception , corruption and fraud ! Stop all these and you will start to see
    results in ten or twenty years for you to Live and not exist ! ! Future will
    automatically fall in line , you don’t have to break your head about it !

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