26 January, 2021

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The Cost & Benefits Of Expressway Building

By Amal S. Kumarage

Prof. Amal S. Kumarage

Prof. Amal S. Kumarage

A road for the village has been a fail-safe election promise in Sri Lanka since Independence. Sixty thousand kilometres of rural roads were constructed between 1960 and 1990. Since 2000, around Rs. 160 billion has been spent on carpeting or concreting thousands of kilometres of rural roads. But investment on rural roads has not translated into economic prosperity for these areas. Instead, they have become a burden to maintain. The economic damage inflicted on the country by political and welfare-oriented road construction is yet to be studied and documented.

The open economy in 1977 saw Sri Lanka with an inadequate trunk road network but with an extensive and largely non motorable rural road network. The open economy could not flourish adequately due to the lack of connectivity between rural areas, urban logistics nodes, the port and airport. The 1980s and the 1990s saw heavy borrowings to rehabilitate and resurface the main roads a task that became futile as the increase in traffic hardly gave any real travel time benefit.

The economic damage that purely politically and welfare oriented road construction has inflicted on Sri Lanka is yet to be properly studied and documented. As an internationally indebted country, we continue to borrow heavily to modernize our national road network, the importance of which cannot be over emphasized. But in the end a highway is a national investment. Just as no individual or a company will invest in a business venture unless a reasonable return is anticipated it is standard practice globally for economic feasibility studies before embarking on national road projects.

Today, highways are being planned as if there is no alternative. Possible alternatives or economic viability is not studied. The award of contracts without careful study or competitive bids is nothing less than a calculated theft of public funds, a mortgaging of the country’s future. This article shows how most expressways now being proposed have not been studied adequately and how, at the prices being negotiated, will be economically unfeasible. Maintenance is estimated to cost even more than toll collection, creating still more financial woes.

It was found that many road projects undertaken before January 2015 were blatantly inappropriate financial transactions. But nobody has been held responsible, let alone charged. Clearly, all those who aided and abetted such activities are free to continue even today.

The taxpayers, whose money is spent on these projects, must insist on proper feasibility studies being completed and made public before ministers lay foundation stones or issue media statements. The Cabinet, the Committee on Public Enterprise (COPE) and the Department of National Planning should demand that such reports are presented and publicly discussed before huge sums of money are approved.

The public must also insist that no major project is financed on negotiated loans and nominated contractors because the resultant lack of competitive pricing has been the single reason for why expressway construction costs have skyrocketed in Sri Lanka. This malady is not restricted to expressways. Today, funds for other road construction projects are distributed across different levels of government quite liberally. Politicians of all strata are happy to nominate their contractors for the work. It is left to the public to imagine the rest.

Southern Expressway

A 1997 feasibility study for the Southern Expressway led by this author estimated the cost of the four-lane 131km highway from Kottawa to Godagama in Matara at Rs 20.4 billion (US$400 million) at US$ 3.1 million a km with a favourable Economic Internal Rate of Return (EIRR) of between 19% and 25%.

In 2000, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) financed this project after International Competitive Bidding (ICB). In 2006 some of the contracts were re-negotiated due to political initiatives that led to converting two lane sections to four lanes. With this the final cost at completion was an increase of over 200% to US$ 10 million per km. An economic analysis using the higher cost and lower benefits represented by lower-than-estimated traffic volumes reduces the actual rate of return to 10-12%, making this marginally justifiable.

The next phase of the Expressway, the 30km section between Galle and Matara, was awarded on a negotiated basis to a Chinese contractor in 2011 with financing from Exim Bank of China for a contract value of Rs 18.7 billion (US$ 165). This was not on competitive bidding. But since proper estimates and designs were available, the final cost was a modest US$ 4.5 million per km– the only such contract to be favourable.

The final section of the Extension of the Southern Expressway from Matara to Hambantota, a 74 km section also studied by this author in 2007, was found to be feasible provided that proposed development in Hambantota preceded the construction of the highway. The cost was estimated at Rs 33.2 billion (US$ 300 million) or US$ 4 million per km. The EIRR was estimated to be only 6.2% p.a. with a recommendation was for delayed construction.

However, in 2013/14 the Road Development Authority (RDA) awarded this highway on negotiated design-and-build basis to Chinese companies for a total contract value of Rs 224 billion (US$ 1892 million) amounting to US$ 20 million per km. Given that the anticipated primary industries in Hambantota have not materialized and that the cost has escalated from US$ 4 to 20 million per km, the economic return from this 96km project will be negative and a significant loss.

Colombo-Katunayake Expressway (CKE)


In 2008, a design-and-build contract was signed with a Chinese firm for a cost of Rs 32 billion (US$ 320 million) for the 26km four-lane highway. While there is no comprehensive economic feasibility study available, an internal RDA report dated 2008 stated that traffic levels on the CKE would reach over 50,000 vehicles per day by 2016 and that the rate of return would be 14.1% p.a. The current traffic levels, however, are less than 50% of estimated. With the final cost of the highway at US$ 353 million, the actual EIRR translates to a marginal benefit of 10%p.a.

Outer Circular Highway (OCH)

The study for this was completed by Oriental Consultants of Japan in 1999. It was found to be economically feasible with a rate of return of 18.9% p.a. for a four-lane highway to be constructed in four sections. The cost of two sections was to be financed by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). In 2009, the first section (OCH1) of 11km between Kottawa and Kaduwela was awarded on ICB to a Chinese firm. Its cost was US$ 212 million at US$ 19 million per km.

In 2012, the Japanese restricted the second section (OCH2) between Kaduwela and Kadawatha to Japanese contractors resulting in one company submitting a proposal at a very high price. Even with a recommendation to re-bid, the Government in 2012 decided to award it to the same company following superficial negotiations. The cost for this 9km section was US$ 329 million (at US$ 43 million per km), a significant increase over OCH1.

The initial feasibility study made by Oriental Consultants–a leading Japanese engineering consulting firm with extensive international experience estimated the cost to be US$ 120 million for OCH1 and US$ 80 million for OCH2. The actual cost of construction was 100% more for OCH1 and a phenomenal 300% more for OCH2. The traffic level of the OCH in 2016 is less than 50% of what was estimated, indicating that the rate of return of the OCH1 would drop significantly and in OCH2 even turn negative.

The third stage of the OCH from Kadawatha to Kerawelapitiya was also awarded in 2013 on a negotiated design-and-build basis with financing from China Exim Bank. The contract value for this 9km highway was negotiated for Rs 66.7 billion (US$ 535million), amounting to a record US$ 59 million per km. The actual cost estimated by Oriental Consultants of Japan for this entire 9km section was only US$ 50 million.

Northern Expressway-Central Expressway

In 2001, Euro Infra of Sweden under a grant from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) undertook a feasibility study for a 60km four-lane expressway between Kadawatha and Ambepussa costing Rs 19 billion or US$ 4 million per km. The EIRR (Economic Internal Rate of Return) was calculated at over 20% p.a. without tolls and 16% with tolls. A two-lane road was recommended for the section from Ambepussa to Hadeniya costing a further Rs 9 billion or around US$ 2 million per km.

However, after the reopening of access to the North in 2009, the author, at the invitation of the RDA, proposed a trace for the Northern Expressway since it was evident that the North and the East were likely to attract much higher traffic levels than Kandy. The feasibility study which examined the potential road trace northwards from Meerigama found that a 41km section could be constructed at a cost of Rs 35 billion or at US$ 5 million per km for which the EIRR was a marginal 10% (for achieving traffic levels of around 17,000 vehicles per day by the year 2031).

However, in 2011, the Government procured the services of the Australian-based SMEC International consulting firm without tender to undertake just the feasibility study of a 198km Northern Expressway. Astoundingly, this contract cost over Rs 1 billion!

The initiative was intended to be a mammoth construction project of four sections costing Rs 600 billion. However, the SMEC feasibility study dated October 2013 makes some imaginative assumptions to justify this highway at 12.1% IERR. The RDA has played a Jekyll-and-Hyde role: It accepted the study by making nearly the full payment while also rejecting it on grounds of technical inadequacy. Notwithstanding this contradiction, the RDA went ahead and inaugurated construction in 2014.

Thus, SMEC had severely compromised its position. A subsequent review by a university is also yet to be accepted. In any case, it has assumed the same RDA-estimated cost for the project without any verification or comparison and, thus, cannot be considered as a full and independent study.

While the entire country expected the new government to reexamine these highway projects, the opposite is true. There were superficial changes–such as shifting the starting point from Enderamulla back to Kadawatha, changing the name of the project from Northern Expressway to Central Expressway, and altering the starting point of the extension to Kandy. But the same project is proceeding as before.

In December 2015, Cabinet decided to obtain technological and financial proposals from the Metallurgical Corporation of China for the section from Kadawatha to Kossinna–a stretch that was to have been built with savings from OCH3. It was revealed a few weeks ago, however, that the entire Section 1 of 36.5 km is to be awarded to this same company for Rs 158 billion. This works out to US$ 30 million a km, 10% more than the cost per km before the elections!

The China Exim Bank with whom the Government has entered into an MOU has recently asked for a feasibility study for Section 1. The RDA has supplied a cut-and-paste job using material from different studies, including reports it had previously rejected. This is the sad plight of a country about to embark on its biggest investment in history, much larger than the Mahaweli project.

Based on previous feasibility studies, which were done in an acceptable and transparent manner, the negotiated cost appears inflated several times. At this price, the traffic-heavy Section 1 will not yield a return rate of more than 4-5% p.a., indicating that it will be an extremely poor investment.

Last week, the Government announced that Section 2 has also been awarded–this time to consortia of local contractors for Rs 137 billion at US$ 24 million per km. As before, there is still no accepted feasibility study for this section at this expenditure. With traffic levels, that would only be a fraction of Section 1 and time savings that are even less, it is likely that at this higher negotiated cost, it would end up with negative economic returns.

It is widely known that expressions of interest were called from local construction companies for Section 2. But instead of calling competitive bids, the RDA formed consortia to negotiate costs for design-and-build so that there was only a single bid for each subsection.

For Section 3, limited bids are being called from Japanese companies. The media reported that the same Japanese company which provided the opportunity for the first large-scale cost escalation for the OCH2 during the previous regime is now in the picture again. Speculation is rife that Section 4 has also been awarded by negotiation to Chinese contractors. Hence it appears to be open-season yet again for highway robbery.

The RDA has not carried out a feasibility study for the revised cost. Sadly, the Exim Bank which provided this loan does not seem to follow the practice of other international lending agencies in asking for a rigorous study. This was pointed out by the writer prior to the Presidential elections. The current Government, a few months afterwards, announced a negotiated reduction in the cost. This circus act however, enabled the OCH3 contractor to negotiate and secure the first stage of the Central Expressway without competition as the so-called saving (which has now transpired to be almost nil) was transferred to that construction to avoid calling for international bids. This means this section too will have negative returns.

Impact on mounting debt

Of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt of Rs 3,544 billion rupees, at least 20% is on account of highways and expressways. The current projects will add up to over Rs. 850 billion, doubling the highway component in the foreign debt. This with interest is a debt of Rs 350,000 per household in Sri Lanka that has to be paid through taxes such as VAT by the current generation and the next. Furthermore, it can be rationally proven that these projects will not return an adequate investment and Sri Lanka will plunge further behind in its endeavour for economic progress.

There is also a myth propagated that expressways cover their cost with toll revenues. In 2015, the RDA earned revenue of Rs 5.3 billion from expressways. Policing, lighting, toll collection and administration together with maintaining expressway standards will likely exceed this as the surface wears out. The pay-back of the loan and interest is additional.

If there are indeed conspiracies against Sri Lanka, this extravagance will be the most obvious threat to our prosperity if we stand aside, watch and allow daylight robbery.

Highways are essential for Sri Lanka to become economically competitive while providing modern amenities to its people. Highway Construction Cost Indices used globally from 2002-2014 indicate an increase of just around 50% of cost per km in US$ during this period. Therefore, even after allowing for inflation, the real cost per km of four-lane expressways given in the table below is seen to have increased at a rate much higher than global trends.

In many countries, as local engineers gather experience, they are able to reduce cost. In Sri Lanka, the opposite has happened. It appears that, with time, unscrupulous elements have succeeded in finding more ways and means of increasing costs. This trend can only have a sinister motive.

The Exim Bank of China, which is funding most of these projects, is not asking for comprehensive studies as required by multilateral agencies such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank. This allows ample opportunity for unchecked project costs benefiting the lenders, contractors and brokers. For example, let us say the actual cost of a properly-designed highway is US$5 million per km. If it has been poorly designed (with unnecessary viaducts, interchanges, crossings, higher embankment heights etc) there could be an increase by 50-100%; a further 30-40% if the material quantities have not been calculated properly; and a further 20% in the rates allowed. The overall ‘cost’ on paper would quickly escalate to US$ 15 million.

To keep a highway in motorable condition, a provision of around 1% of construction cost should be provided annually over its life. At current costs of Rs 4 billion per km, the 450km network of expressways planned by 2020 will cost, in today’s prices, Rs 18 billion per year just for maintenance alone. This is more than four times the entire maintenance budget of the RDA for 2017!

Does it matter?


The public applaud road building without realising the economic cost and damage of unplanned and uneconomical construction. The President and the Prime Minister, as well as many senior Ministers in this Government, campaigned to end corruption citing the previous regime’s highway projects. Claiming “We are not as bad as those before us” is not good enough to develop the country.

Parliament and, in particular, COPE, has largely neglected its duty to examine the RDA’s investments. The Committee on Public Accounts should be more vigilant about institutions such as the National Planning Department (NPD), set up to study such investments and advice Cabinet before it approves large financial commitments. It is not known if the NPD approved all these projects and, if so, what documents they studied to justify such investment.

No minister should be allowed to inaugurate projects unless full feasibility studies are completed and accepted by relevant agencies. It is hoped that at least the current COPE, which has shown intent and capacity in recent times, will take up highway expenditure as an important agenda for early investigation.

The RDA, along with the Government, should also be held accountable for waste in resources. In most cases, projects were simply formulated and implemented by a few selected officers in consultation with ministry officials. Highways were not properly planned or designed and construction bids were not called in an advantageous manner–at least to the country. The RDA has spent over Rs 1 trillion on road works over the last 10 years. It is clear that a sizable proportion of this has been wasted or stolen.

*Amal S. Kumarage (PhD) is a Chartered Civil Engineer and Senior Professor in the Department of Transport & Logistics Management at the University of Moratuwa. He is also the former Chairman, National Transport Commission and former Vice President of the global body of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport (CILT). He has led transport studies in Sri Lanka and in South and Central Asia. He wrote a series of articles before the Presidential Elections in January 2015 exposing corruption and waste in the highways sector that was to become a point of intense political debate. This article revisits the same subject two years later to investigate the status quo.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    0

    It is well known that Amal, the author has been involved in this sector for a very long time. He has taken the trouble to enlighten us on this subject and we all must give him a round of applause for that.

    The two sides of the coin are the heavy costs on one side and the desire to travel to the destination as soon as possible. It is this desire that has resulted in many an unsafe driving and deaths. Further, the traffic snarls, the unnecessary consumption of energy wasted on the road by just waiting vehicles are considerations as well.

    As to whether rural roads or express-ways are the solutions or not is something that I as a member of the ordinary public cannot say. But as an ordinary member of the public I can say that we need solutions to our pressing road problems. Hence I would welcome persons like the writer to analyse the exact state of affairs of the road problem and offer workable solutions.

    • 4
      1

      With Ranil-Sira Jarapalanaya, Sri Lanka is on the Expressway to Hell!

      There is a looming currency crash, while the island sinks deeper in the IMF-China Debt Trap as the corrupt UNP and SLFP politicians continue to loot the people!

      Long live the Miracle of Modayas!

      • 2
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        Dr. Amal thank you!

        Decent PUBLIC TRANSPORT should be the national priority, not duty free cars and super lux SUVs for corrupt politicians/

        You are quite right that No minister should be allowed to inaugurate projects unless full feasibility studies are completed and accepted by relevant agencies.

        All the tree on public roads and lands have been felled by corrupt politicians and municipalities and sold to make money. This must be stopped and there needs to be a major tree planting and growth campaign along major roads and expressways.

        • 0
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          >All the tree on public roads and lands have
          >been felled by corrupt politicians and
          >municipalities and sold to make money.

          Dinuk,

          I cant comment on roads in the rest of the country.

          However, a new carpet road was constructed for
          the Old Puttalam Mannar Road between Aug 2012 and 2014.

          I moved to this area in Jan 2012 so have seen
          the changes in the area.

          Many Kumbuk trees lined the old narrow road.
          It was not even a road, just pieces of tar.

          I think about one Kumbuk tree was cut when the road
          was upgraded. The road is winding, but lined
          with beautiful large Kumbuk trees.

          http://www.accessengsl.com/project/roads-highways/rehabilitation-and-improvements-to-mannar-puttalam-road-project-c3/

      • 4
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        RDA is the MOST SYSTEMATICALLY corrupt institution in Sri Lanka and should be shut down at this time.

        A new authority to develop INTEGRATED Transport SYSTEMS should be set up instead.

  • 1
    0

    Soemwhere in the early 1980s when a Korean firm (I believe it was Keang Nam) was re-doing the Baseline Road, I asked an engineer friend who was working on the project if theere was a plan for the Borella junction to address congestion – (overhead or underpass, which though hugely less I remember from my school days in the 1960s. He said NO, since the planners had decided that the traffic volumes did not justify it.

    30 years later, we are paying in millions daily for the wasted fuel, wasted time, frustration and stress on all sides of the Borella junction, with traffic stretching as far as the Dematagoda junction, Maradana junction, both sides of Castle stree/Horton Place, and to Narahenpita Junction affecting sides roads as well such as Nawala – Narahenpita, Thimbirigasyaya, Bauddhaloka, Kynsey Road. This is to be seen every day in the mornings, afternoons and evening till about 7.30/8 pm.

    I know Prof. Amal is not a fan of Over/under passes, but a little better planning and money spent would have saved us several billions today.

  • 3
    1

    Yes Amal NPD and RDA must be accountable for all these blunders. The bitter truth is that roads give more commissions and votes for politicians and government officers. Why Railway ignored? More roads but people are moving away from public modes and more private modes in roads creating null all road construction benefits. Sri Lankan poor people never deserve good governance. May be fate.

  • 1
    1

    “Today, highways are being planned as if there is no alternative. Possible alternatives or economic viability is not studied. The award of contracts without careful study or competitive bids is nothing less than a calculated theft of public funds, a mortgaging of the country’s future. “
    A real professional has come forward to debunk the myth of progress through expensive infrastructure, the hobbyhorse or the Rajapaksas.
    I think this is just another aspect of the Sri Lankan character- living beyond one’s means. Preferably on loans.
    I visit India often, and I have seen their highways, most of which are bigger and cheaper to travel on than ours. Tolls are about 50 rupees on average. It is also possible to stop and have a tea anywhere . These highways are locally built (no loans), and do not look as good as ours, they have garbage on the edges ,and even 3-wheelers are allowed. But they serve the purpose quite well and this is what you would expect in a third-world country.
    On the other hand, in SL, we have first-world highways charging first-world rates ,built with crippling loans. For whose benefit? I live on the Kandy road, and believe me there was less congestion before the road was “improved” by the Chinese ,with centre medians that make it impossible for the police to widen lanes with traffic cones. Now it is impossibly congested from the campus to Kiribathgoda.
    As to Colombo city, it was possible to park freely in Fort 25 years ago, but it is a nightmare now.
    I have often wondered how we will pay for and maintain all these white elephants, but politicians keep on with the same policies.
    An excellent write-up , Dr. Kumarage. If we had a dozen more like you, there would be hope for this country.

    • 2
      1

      Dear “old codger”,

      I still don’t know who you are, but I do realise that you are an honest man. On the other hand you have a pretty shrewd idea of who I am. However all that may be, I agree absolutely with all that you say above, but by way of contrast, we have the ad-hominem comment by “namal” below. I have no doubt that we, and generations to come, will have to pay a heavy price for the way in which politicians are robbing us, and embroiling us in all this debt. The public don’t protest, because we just don’t understand how horrendous all this is.

      This is one of the few sentences from the article that we do understand:

      “Claiming “We are not as bad as those before us” is not good enough to develop the country.”

      For the rest there are all sorts of figures: I can just about understand how much a million rupees is – but a billion is way beyond me. And then, there are billions of rupees, and billions of U.S.$.

      However, this much we do know. Prof. Amal Kumarage is not just a critic of what this government is doing. He has written these two articles about rip offs by the Rajapaksas:

      http://www.sundaytimes.lk/141221/news/road-building-or-rip-off-128259.html

      http://www.sundaytimes.lk/150315/news/the-attempted-great-highway-robbery-140034.html

      I have known Prof. Kumarage well for forty years. I can vouch for him being an honest man. He was on the BoG of S. Thomas’ for about 2 years, but resigned in February 2016 saying it was like “a social club” and there was not much point continuing. Those statements of his also we understand. But let me wrestle with these figures, by quoting some of what he has said, and deleting parts of the text:

      “(The Southern) Expressway, the 30km section between Galle and Matara, was awarded on a negotiated basis to a Chinese contractor in 2011. . . . Since proper estimates and designs were available, the final cost was a modest US$ 4.5 million per km – the only such contract to be favourable.”

      “(OCH1) of 11km between Kottawa and Kaduwela was awarded on ICB to a Chinese firm. Its cost was US$ 212 million at US$ 19 million per km.”

      “(OCH2) between Kaduwela and Kadawatha to one company submitting a proposal at a very high price. The cost for this 9km section was US$ 329 million (at US$ 43 million per km), a significant increase over OCH1.”

      “(OCH3) from Kadawatha to Kerawelapitiya – amounting to a record US$ 59 million per km. The actual cost estimated by Oriental Consultants of Japan for this entire 9km section was only US$ 50 million.”

      “There is also a myth propagated that expressways cover their cost with toll revenues. In 2015, the RDA earned revenue of Rs 5.3 billion from expressways. Policing, lighting, toll collection and administration together with maintaining expressway standards will likely exceed this as the surface wears out. The pay-back of the loan and interest is additional.”

      Amal had necessarily to write a full report, and so we get lost with figures, the magnitude of which we just can’t comprehend. What is this “failed park and ride system” that “namal” talks about? What I do know is that that Amal continues to be a simple straightforward man, having been a schoolboy who for many years used to attend S. Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa for five years, on a push bicycle (with gears) from the really remote village of Bogahakumbura where they used to have a farm, more than 5 miles of hilly roads away. Perhaps he had advocated that we park vehicles and bicycle in to the city. Not much to the liking of people nowadays, I guess, but we may well end up in that sort of situation soon!

      We guys don’t really care much about nature, do we? Certainly, I don’t spend much time with animals; but can wild animals get across a highway at any point? I don’t know since I haven’t been all the way on the Southern Highway. But aren’t all our wild elephants going to be doomed if we construct the Northern Highway? It’s not only the Highways, there are also high voltage electric wires designed to stop elephants. If, destroying all other life forms, we humans can at least treat each other decently, there may be some excuse for our all the destruction that we cause.

      • 2
        0

        Dear Sinhala man/Panini,
        It’s true that I know who you are, but I am a simple old codger with interests in various things from computers to cooking. Not worth knowing!
        Thanks for the background on Prof. Kumarage. I don’t know why some people try to run him down. The execrable English in the comments may be a clue.
        I do know a bit about the Park-and-ride experiment. People were supposed to park their cars free at Moratuwa or Ratmalana and take air-conditioned buses run by ECD Global, a company involved in airport transport among other things. It failed because buses cannot include every single office on their route, and many commuters were unwilling to walk a few hundred yards from the bus stop. Probably beneath their dignity, being Sri Lankan.
        I suppose , as you say, when these people are forced to walk in the near future, they will learn their lesson.

        • 1
          0

          Dear “old codger”,

          Three days after the article appeared there’s some appreciation of Amal’s article, much ad hominem stuff directed at him, but no real attempt to understand how we are to prevent the pauperisation of the poorer citizens in the interests of vehicle owners. Some of us have modestly contributed the bits we know, but we haven’t seen any rival experts even attempting to counter Amal’s observations.

          I don’t know how relevant the background knowledge that I gave of Amal is. It is incomplete. Having done his O.Levels at the private STC, Gurutalawa, around around 1974, he became my pupil at Bandarawela MMV. The Principal was an old school martinet, who used to test the spelling of the English teachers and see if they knew that “wander” and “wonder” were not homophones. He was also conscious of the claims by the two S. Thomas’ schools in Uva (Bandarawela has the other) to have “superior English”; so he put the better guys into a class that also had a few students wanting to study A. Level English (often referred to even today as “English Literature”), and asked me to teach. This was before I, myself, entered Peradeniya University and got myself the qualifications usually thought necessary to do this sort of work. I did my best. So, Amal had his daily period of slightly more advanced English with me, although he was studying Maths.

          Amal was boarded with a friend in Bandarawela, and all went well for him for a year; then his father (who had been a planter but preferred more diversified farming) died while still in his forties of a heart attack.

          His mother (who even now lives with him) sold their Bogahakumbura farm and moved to some place near Mt Lavinia. So, Amal entered Moratuwa University from S. Thomas’. But he has benefitted from that mixed heritage of his. He talks about it, and is concerned about the way our Universities are being neglected. Does this sound too political?

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DucJG-_DIw

          That’s ten minutes of him speaking out, in Sinhala. His social concerns are there. Of course his detractors have already shown that they will use any weapon against him. As you suggest, there may be resentment of his bilingualism and of his commitment. Before anybody else comes up with it may I also state the he’s an eloquent lay preacher of the tiny Baptist Sangamaya of Sri Lanka. As you know, “Old Codger”, I’m no religious fanatic, but I do respect sincere religious commitment when I see it.

      • 2
        0

        Sinhala_Man,

        Thanks for your comments.

        I don’t know the writer Prof. Kumarage and even some of his numbers might be incorrect as they are bound to be estimates. The real costs and benefits will be known only in the future.

        Dr Kumarage is taking up a major problem that exists with the construction mania that our politicians have. They borrow money and invest it in projects that have low or negative return on investment. These projects, of course, will never be profitable for the people.

        I have read the budget proposals and found many roads, buildings etc that there in my humble opinion is no real demand for or need of. People talk about the minimum fines but has anybody talked about Sri Lanka Telecom using 10 billion for buildings and the small roads leading nowhere being paved in villages with no vehicles in the provinces? The IRD also is going to beautify their building in Colombo. Is this an effort to attract more tax payers?

        I know that some of the leading politicians admire Singapore. They should note that Singapore needed good education, good governance and law and order to become what it is today. We cannot just try to copy the buildings and roads of other countries and forget what else is needed for real development and welfare for all. The priorities are still wrong despite all the empty words.

        The people have demanded drinking water in many places. Some where shot dead. The people have demanded basic things like better education, better health services, electricity and work. They are offered buildings and roads with the idea that the wealth trickles down to the villages. IT mostly does not.

        Why do the IMF and World Bank allow this to continue? Why do we allow this to continue?

        Another point is the lack of a holistic environmental impact assessment. The rocks, sand and water for all the construction must come from somewhere. What is the impact of sand and rock mining? What is the impact of the new wide roads on animals and people?

  • 3
    5

    Sad thing is the writer has been in this sector roads or public transport for last 25 years and we are in this situation. so he has failed as a professional to guide sri lanka in right direction. He is known to cry sour when he is not involved in projects. Take all the credit for what others have done. He states that he is team leader for southern expressway project while he was just a team member. Has he taken the responsibility to the failed park and ride system he is responsible for.

    Academic who has become a businessman.

    • 2
      1

      [Edited out]

  • 0
    1

    [Edited out]

    • 2
      0

      Namal,
      Please do tell us exactly which figures are wrong, as you seem to have more information than Dr.Kumarage.
      I believe that even at half the cost these highways are not suitable for this country.

    • 2
      0

      Shame on this crazy fading light “Namal” who again failed to talk about the facts but rather tries to spread “mada” on people, that is also in a pseudonym, which is cowardly!!

      I remember a story!

      “A man interrupted one of the Buddha’s lectures with a flood of abuse. Buddha waited until he had finished and then asked him:

      If a man offered a gift to another but the gift was declined, to whom would the gift belong?

      To the one who offered it, said the man.

      Then, said the Buddha, I decline to accept your abuse and request you to keep it for yourself.”

    • 1
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      Well Namal, why wait for RDA? it seems to me you as a brilliant person than the writer (hope you have not licked that many boots) and seem that you have better understanding and information about this matter, so why afraid to challenge this Dr Kumarage openly as a real man (or a woman) with courage and enlighten us with real facts without bluffing. So that you can be a shinning star up in the sky, Otherwise you will be a fading light for-ever!!

  • 5
    3

    Namal and Tania; this place is for commenting on the article and not to shoot the messenger. If you want to comment on the author, just like he has revealed his name and taken enormous courage with doing so, which appeared that he has done all along, why do not you show some courage and reveal your name and then criticize the author or his work. What moral right do you have to criticize the author on a pseudonym. If you cannot do so just shut up without stating factual inaccuracies.

  • 0
    3

    This [Edited out] does not consider the cost of living in the stoneage with roads built for bakki karatta . Typical Sri Lankan prof .

  • 2
    0

    Friends, the Author has given us food for thought on a very important subject and we must thank him for his effort and not insult him as Abhaya has done here. Only a bigger idiot would think that an idiot can get a PhD and then find a position in the staff of University of Moratuwa (an internationally recognized institution), which has well specified standards for teachers as well as students. Not stopping there, Abhaya goes on to insult the country itself by saying that the person he called an idiot is typical of Sri Lankan Professors, showing us what kind of person Abhaya is.

    Thanks to the author, at least we have some figures that we can cross check with other sources and then use with corrections if necessary.

    Whenever one travels in the USA by road, one comes across boards saying ‘Your Tax Dollars at Work’ at new road construction sites. This suggests that the tax funds are used for these projects. I think that is the correct way to go and not to take huge loans for this purpose as MR has done, burdening future generations with repayments.

    Investors consider the state of the infrastructure facilities, such as roads, energy and water supply, when making a decision to invest in a country. Good infrastructure facilities attract good investments in the form of factories, farms etc. These bring tax revenues for the government. In addition, the employees may also start paying taxes. These can be channeled for further infrastructure improvement. Thus taxes and infrastructure improvement form a positive feedback loop that builds up in volume producing economic gains for the whole country.

    I hope that in the future, we build our own roads, with the local expertise available so that costs may be cut down and the people of the country gain in the form of employment, new skills and expertise.

  • 3
    1

    Public Universities are run through tax payers money. Therefore people have right to ask professors qualifications and publications. International norms are there to be called as a Professor. If some body uses Prof title wrongly people have right to question him/her.

    • 1
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      I think the last para of his article explains pretty well what we need to know about the author’s qualifications. Anyway, the right of anyone to question is not being questioned here. To be more decent and polite is what I am asking for.

  • 2
    0

    Dr Kumarage has been intently involved with Transport Research for over 25 Years, I have followed his presentations, and had the opportunity for him to briefly work with him. He clearly stays off Politics, and has expressed his views without fear or favour. They were logical, and strongly researched base, and they were home made. He presented very viable, logical and economical solutions, to subsequent Governments, some of them were read in Parliament, but ….

    Political appointees, still have the weakness, of importing foreign experts, who’re alien to local situations, and not a patch of Dr. Amal.

    It looks like every ‘Politician loves to build Roads & Roads…’, without thinking options to suit country situation state of economy, environment and need, but don’t think of improvements to Public Transport.

    Why don’t we improve the Railway to North instead of making an Expressway ? Its big money, which the Country cannot afford at this stage. Sometimes I ask mysel, ‘Why Dr.Amal remains here ?” I get the answer ‘His love for this country’.

    I have listened to Politicians who are appointed for Ministries to handle important subjects, and within weeks they talk like experts, while experts silently watch the Drama. They must at least be honest to learn from the learned.

    People must support academics like Dr Amal, as they are pathfinders, of a Nation.

    Suren Abeyagoonasekera.
    former Chairman Ceylon Motor Traders Association,
    Former Advisor Ministry of Internal Transport

    • 2
      1

      If they are so good why they work for less than 1200 US $.They are here because they do not have necessary publications and international experience and Phds from good Universities. Public do not know University games. It is a mafia and family business. Interesting thing is So called “Senior Professor title” no where in the world except in poor Sri Lanka. Check Nobel prize winners list not a any singe senior professor there. Then you see Sri Lankan local University titles are absurd likewise its people.

      • 3
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        Yes Herbi you are right. Now Sri Lankan Universities full of deal makers, businessmen/women. It is really family business and mafia. I checked this writer’s publications. I do not think he can find Assistant Lecturer position from a good University. These people are inside University built their Kingdom and convert Buddhist students to other religions for the foreign money and by using students do consultancy and give degrees to them. Even wife write husband put name and become professor. No one to check it. Therefore cancel all professorships given and by using foreign team re-evaluate all applications and re-appoint them. You may not find 1% again become professors.

  • 0
    0

    Readers please read carefully this article. This professor is a hoax. Infrastructure are not meant for profit. Those contributed for other developments. Cost of highways were increased later because replanning involved future expansion. Under this man underpass heights and availability of extra lanes for future expansions were removed.
    Continents like USA, Australia and countries like Germany, UK built Highways,Freeways and Autobarn thinking future generations and infrastructure of moving resources. This man is ruining the country by giving wrong and illogical information to authorities

  • 0
    0

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