The time has come to change this political system that is getting out of hand and ruining our country. This can only be achieved through changing the present mindset of our masses. With the help of the masses, a country with new vistas, for a brighter future, with new hopes and aspirations can be realized. After this discussion which we have started today, we are ready to venture out into various other relevant topics to achieve this end. Should you join us, as I am sure you will all, these problems can be solved.
Any country when setting up their own economic strategies should focus on three important factors. They are: 1) geographical location of the country 2) available natural resources 3) the available human resources. Based on these three factors, we wish to propose a new development plan to our people. Instead of the current futile sterile economic strategies, we are ready to direct our country towards a new fruitful future. We need to implement a strategy that involves the state sector and private sector together with our youth.
We also need to define a 10 year plan with a target. We have to know where we stand at the end of the 10 year period. The new economic plan will consist; firstly of a strategy to achieve economic prosperity that includes all strata of our society. Secondly, a social structure to bring in social justice and equality and thirdly establishing a non corrupt political platform instead of the prevailing corrupt system. If these three pillars are strongly positioned, our country can be developed based on the above foundations.
Today, we are living in an era where it is imperative that we all join forces to achieve this target and make it a success. For this to happen, we need to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to be partners of the economic process. No citizen should be distanced from the economy.
Today, 36% of our GNP comes from the western province, 5% from North Central and 9% from the southern province despite the latter having a large coastal belt, including vast areas of tea and cinnamon plantations. Thus, this situation calls for focusing not only on Economic development and ECONOMIC JUSTICE, but also on ECONOMIC EXPANSION. This is the only available avenue to eradicate the existing poverty of the rural communities.
On the other hand, a centralized economic development of the western province will bring only a meager benefit to the rural communities. In this backdrop, as of now, the poverty of the rural folks has posed a serious problem. Their debts, medical issues and their inability to become a part of our society as valued members have driven them to a macabre suicidal frame of mind. These are the main reasons to prioritize eradicating poverty of the rural folks which will be a key component of our economic development strategy. This cannot be achieved only via ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT but via ECONOMIC EXPANSION to reach the rural areas utilizing and developing the already existing means for their economic sustenance and livelihood.
The main means of income of the majority in districts such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Ampara, Monaragala, Kurunegala, Hambanthota, Kiliochchiya, Trincomalee, is from agriculture. It is only by developing the agricultural sector and other industries based on it we will be able to uplift their economies and social standings.
In order to uplift the livelihoods of farmers, we have proposed an eightfold plan that focuses on land, water, soil, storage, minimizing post-harvest wastage, and proper utilization of marketing strategy. Similarly, the livelihood of tea small holders living in many districts could be uplifted by developing small scale tea estates.
Introducing modern technology to the fisheries industry in areas such as harvesting, production, breeding, storage and marketing can uplift the livelihood of fishing communities. This is another reason why we place great emphasis on improving the economic status of our own people.
We need to build up a contingent of small and medium scale entrepreneurs, involving youth. We need to utilize Human Capital, Technology, and Knowledge, to build a network of knowledge based entrepreneurs able to sell their skills in the local and international markets.
We need to draw up a new plan to develop our natural resources and to re-focus on our location and utilize the benefit of our strategic position in the Indian Ocean.
For example, mineral sands found in Pulmoddai in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka are extensively used to extract much sought after rare minerals such as Limonite, Rutile and Zircon, which are now exported. But with the available resources, should we not add value and produce Titanium Oxide, which will fetch a higher price in the overseas market? It has been confirmed that an income five times higher than the current rate could be obtained. But, we have failed to use this opportunity for the last five decades.
In order to earn foreign exchange, we need to prioritize and invest on capital and technology in such areas. Do you know the royalty fee that private cement manufacturers pay for utilizing our national limestone resources? One kg of limestone is estimated to be sixty cents in value. Out of this sixty cents, only a 5%, is charged as the royalty fee, which amounts to only 3 cents, per kg. Thus, a 50 kg bag of cement will give us only 3 rupees.
Hence you would agree that we need a plan that utilizes our resources to the maximum in an economically viable manner. From time immemorial, we have been selling raw graphite without any value addition. But if we can add value by refining the graphite in our country we can sell a ton at 5000 USD, instead of the current price which is 2000 USD per ton. It is unfortunate even up to this moment we export raw graphite – this has been going on for the last so many decades.
Our country has a wealth of strong human capitol. If we are prepared to provide them with the latest knowledge and technology, we can capture a good portion of the market share in the knowledge based economy. We need to acquire the most advanced and skilled human resource skills to enter the present unskilled global resource market. If we are to provide highly skilled employees for a more advanced and lucrative labour market, we need a complete overhaul in our education system. A child who enters grade 01 as a student must not leave without a professional qualification or any other higher tertiary educational qualification. At the same time, we need to restructure our health system to enable our people to lead a healthy life regardless of their financial situation.
Social justice is another target of our strategy. Currently, income distribution is extremely unjust. 10% of the population, which comprises the high end of the society, enjoys 36.5% of our national income. The lower end of the society gets only 1.1% of the national income. If you take business institutes, LOLC earned a profit of 53 billion in 2020, though they earned a profit of 1.3 billion in 2019. Similarly Hayleys earned 17 billion, but in 2017, it was only 2.7 billion. Hemas revenue was Rs. 2.3 billion. Accordingly this goes to show that the benefits of our national revenue are being rolled out only among a small group of the population.
If we are to create social justice, we need to minimize this large gap in the income distribution. This does not mean an equal distribution of income, but a fair distribution. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS NOT POSSIBLE WITHOUT ECONOMIC JUSTICE. Uplifting the standard of living of citizens is the only way to achieve economic development. Poor standard of living will not help Economic Development of a country. Economic justice is crucial for social justice.
Over and above this, there must be justice in accessing education as well. Everyone should be treated equally under the law of the land, when it comes to legal matters. Certain incidents which took place in the recent past reveal how discriminatory the judiciary is. One cannot expect justice and fair play when the law of the land is discriminatory. We will guarantee justice and equity to all citizens through an unbiased judicial system! This is the only way to establish social justice. A society with slaves who worship and bow down to each other will not move forward. We are prepared to introduce a new social development scheme into our society.
Corruption has gone sky high, especially shady deals on long term projects have created a great loss to our country. Loans were taken in large amounts for various futile projects. We have discussed many times about how Chinese companies passed money onto corrupt parties. We must immediately usher in a political system with no corruption. The new economic strategy, social justice and uncorrupted politics can only be executed by collective action.
What a lot of expectation the citizens in this country had, when they cast their votes to bring to power R. Premadasa, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapakse. But all of them left us high and dry as very unsuccessful corrupt leaders. How did Ranil Wickremesinghe or Maithripala Sirisena lose the political battle? People placed high hopes on the incumbent president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. But he has also come to the end of his political journey as an unsuccessful monarch. Therefore, please do not handover this country to individual magicians. Building a nation is a collective process, but do we ponder whether they have a collective approach?
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa holds ministries such as defense and digital affairs. Prime Minister Mahianda Rajapaksa is the minister of Finance, Buddhist, and Cultural Affairs. Chamal Rajapakse is the minister of Irrigation, state minister of Defense and Disaster Management. Namal Rajapakse is the minister of Sports as well as the state minister of Digital Affairs. A greater portion of agriculture is handled by the state minister Shashindra Rajapaksa. Nipuna Ranawake, who is related to the president, is chairman of the district development committee, in Matara. Over and above this, Basil Rajapakse is the chairman of the Special Presidential Task Force on Economic Revival and Poverty Alleviation as well as of the Presidential Task Force on Creating a Green Sri Lanka with Sustainable Solutions to Climate Change. Namal Rajapaksa is the head of “conversation with the village- rural development force”. There are some more relatives of Rajapaksa’s working as ambassadors and directors of various institutes. Do you think a single person, or his family could build a nation? They are competent only to build up only their family regime, not a country. To build a nation, we need a collective political effort and a concerted process.
It is only the JVP, and the forces around it, that has a collective leadership. Let us build a collective political leadership! We invite the industrialists, factory owners, manufacturers, investors, government employees including people from all walks of life to join forces and work with our leadership.
Approximately, 15% of the population is state employed. But who is satisfied with the services rendered by the government? Are state workers satisfied at work? All promotions, transfers and appointments are messed up and spoiled at the hands of politicians; obviously, the workers have no job satisfaction. Hence, the people in this country cannot receive good service from the government. This has to be totally restructured. We can rebuild our nation, provided all of us perform our share of responsibility with a sense of dedication and sacrifice. The role of the politician, the professional, the private sector, and the general public in this effort has to be clearly understood and defined. We are ready to provide leadership for that group. Let’s change the existing system which has already been proven to be extremely unsuccessful.
In the circumstances, I am issuing you a clarion call because the need of the moment is to head in a different direction in search of a viable solution. I am aware, that Covid-19 Pandemic has kept you home bound, but I am inviting you to join us to make this collective effort- a total success. Let us meet again!
*Excerpts from the online seminar JVP 2021-06-06 at JVP head office Battaramulla by Anura Kumara Dissanayake