1 October, 2020

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Two Years Of “Yahapālanaya”: Is Development A Mere Mirage?

By Ratnam Nadarajah

Ratnam Nadarajah

Ratnam Nadarajah

8th January 2015 for most people in Sri Lanka was a new dawn, a new President followed in July with the formation of a National Unity government, with a promise of good governance and all that goes with the new broom.

There were all sorts of promises and mega plans for the nation. Also a promise to bring to account all those robbed the country during the previous regime.

Here we are two years down the line; what have we achieved. Not much, to say the least. Yes, we have borrowed to the tune of billions of dollars from various sources to prop up the economy, to service the loans and debts accumulated by the previous regime and currently to service the legislators needs and demands.

When simple checks and balances are made, there is nothing to show for; in the eyes and minds of the populace. “A week is a long time in politics”. Harold Wilson (who was also instrumental in formulating “the white heat of technological revolution” in the UK).

But two years is a lifetime in any book!

The balance sheet shows zero progress in the sphere of development of the nation. There have been many meeting, well hyped symposiums, and statements over the past two years. But to date there is nothing concrete except the recent fiasco of Volkswagen car assembly plant foundation laying exercise. Which turned out to be disappointing. The same thing with the so called Italian company funded tyre factory.Ranil W pic via PM's media

Let us start from the fundamentals of development:

Our citizens want to improve their living standards, want jobs especially for the youths; they look forward to the government of the day to take initiatives to full fill their election promises.

In evaluating the degree of economic development of nations, most commonly used indexes are the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Gross National Product (GNP), and the Human Development Index (HDI). I dare say, we have made no significant progress in the last two years.

For any development to take place we need the resources; man power, material, infrastructure, and capital as pre-requisites. Do we have the skilled workforce in enough numbers to meet the demands of modern and technologically based industries we want to create and produce high value products? The short answer is no. The available pool of qualified technicians, engineers and managers is rather wanting in practical experience and training to meet the requirements of these employers both local and foreign multinationals. This is the egg and chicken situation.

A critical challenge for manufacturers will be to approach footprint decisions in a more nuanced way. Labour intensive industries will almost always follow the path of low wages, but others, with more complex needs, must weigh factors such as access to low-cost transportation, to consumer insights, or to skilled employees.

For policy makers, supporting manufacturing industries and competing globally means that policy must be grounded in a comprehensive understanding of the diverse industry segments in a national or regional economy, as well as the wider trends affecting them. For example, shapers of energy policy need to consider; higher or lower energy costs will affect which segments, how great the impact is likely to be, and what magnitude of difference will trigger a location decision. Environmental factors are another important aspect to be considered at the planning stages. We do not want to be the dumping ground. Policy makers should also recognise that their long-term goals for growth, innovation, and exports are best served by supporting critical enablers for manufacturers (such as investing in modern infrastructure) and by helping them forge the connections they will need to access rapidly growing emerging markets.

Two key priorities for both governments and businesses are education and the development of skills. Companies must build their R&D capabilities, as well as expertise in data analytics and product design. They will need qualified, computer-savvy factory workers and agile managers for complex global supply chains. In addition to supporting ongoing efforts to improve public education—particularly the teaching of math’s, science, and analytical skill. Policy makers must work with industry and educational institutions to ensure that skills learned in schools and higher education Institutions, fit the needs of employers.

Science and technology is one of the major drivers of socio-economic development. Economic development for developing countries can be effectively stimulated by building the technical and entrepreneurial capacity of their workforce through quality engineering education programmes. A competent technical workforce base can then provide several paths to economic development: attraction of technically oriented multi-national companies, who can invest effectively in Sri Lanka.

Capacity building is a dedication to the strengthening of economies, governments, institutions and individuals through education, training, mentoring, and the infusion of resources. In Capacity building the nation should aim at developing secure, stable, and sustainable structures, systems, and organisations, with an emphasis on using motivation and inspiration for people to improve their lives. Good governance plays an intrinsic part

In the global economy of the 21st Century, a well-qualified, motivated, and trained workforce play a key role in overall economic development for our country. In the well-developed countries, the role of the engineer is well understood and utilized. In much of the developing world, however (such as in Sri Lanka) the available pool of engineering talent is typically below critical mass – and economic development and even important basic societal needs that rely on engineering – such as clean water supply and sanitation – lack the technical talent to address them.

Technical capacity building efforts aim at developing a sufficient pool of well-educated and certified engineering graduates, managers, and planners in developing countries to effect three desirable outcomes:

•    Technical capability that is needed for to engage effectively in the global economy; direct foreign investment(FDI), international trade, mobility of engineers, and the flow of work to countries with cost-effective talent will result.

•   Indigenous science and technology capacity is needed initially to attract Foreign Direct Investment and to ensure that international aid funds are utilized effectively and efficiently – for initial project implementation, for long-term operation and maintenance, and for the development of capacity to do future projects. And a sufficient pool of engineers, technologist and planners can enable a developing country such as ours to address the UN’s Millennium Development Goals effectively, including poverty reduction, safe water, and sanitation, etc. (Poverty alleviation seems to be the byword for 2017, considering to the repeated pronouncement of our President Maithripala Sirisena)

•   To stimulate job formation in developing countries, a technical workforce pool is needed, made up of people who are specifically educated and prepared to engage in entrepreneurial start up efforts that meet local needs. Thus, creating local jobs

In a report published to coincide with the start of the week-long World Economic Forum in Davos, ( I believe our PM Ranil Wickremesinghe is also a participant) Switzerland, Oxfam said it was “beyond grotesque” that a handful of (8) rich men, globally control 50% or more of the wealth.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) said last week that rising inequality and social polarisation posed two of the biggest risks to the global economy in 2017 and could result in the rolling back of globalisation. As a nation, have we lost the boat in our plans to have a stake in the global economy? Only time will tell

While emphasis on health and basic relief needs must continue, there is also a critical need to break the cycles of poverty through development of strong and competitive economies that can relate to world markets. The building of indigenous pools of people with quality educations in science, technology, and engineering can help lead to economic growth and healthy economies.

One need only look at examples from India and South Korea to see the effect of concerted efforts to enhance the education of engineers and technology graduates on the economies of these two countries. At the 2004 meeting of the American Society of Civil Engineers the South Korean delegation to the Capacity Building Forum presented the results of South Korea ’s investment over the past three decades in the number and quality of engineering graduates. In 1970 South Korea, had about 6,000 engineering graduates. In 1980 these were increased to 14,000. By 1990, the figure had jumped to about 80,000. When plotted against South Korea ’s per capita GNP growth, the number of engineering graduates almost directly parallels the growth of the South Korean economy, offset by a few years. This data appears to show a direct cause and effect. Investment in building a well-qualified and sufficiently large pool of engineers leads to sustainable economic development.

In the case of India there has been a long-term effort to increase the numbers of engineering graduates and the quality of their education. Whereas in the past, many of these graduates sought employment outside the country, now many are returning and newer graduates are staying to work in India in the software and design industries, often to high-tech cities where well-paying careers and extensive numbers of colleagues await them. The growing number of technically proficient and well-educated specialists also has enabled India to become a prime location for the outsourcing technical support by the world’s leading technology firms.

In China, already a major economic power, the proportion of first science and engineering degrees to all bachelors-equivalent degrees was 59%, as compared to about 33% in the US in 2001 (Source: Science and Engineering Indicators 2004, National Science Foundation, National Science Board). The report opens with the statement:  “Excellence in (science and engineering) higher education helps a country to be technologically innovative and economically competitive.” China’s current position as the 2nd largest economy in the world (only behind the USA) is the proof of the pudding!

What is needed

Primarily, a large enough pool of high quality, accredited engineers, technicians, managers, and people with analytical skills is needed in developing countries so that the good results listed above can be realized. It must be recognised that there will be some leakage of these graduates to jobs in developed countries, but many will choose to stay where family ties and native country culture provide a comfortable environment.

But the basic need is the creation of good jobs in the home country. This is again a chicken-and-egg issue. Increased demand for engineers will result only when there is a sufficient pool of well qualified graduates to attract direct foreign investment by multinational corporations(MNC), offshore outsourcing from developed countries, and entrepreneurial start-ups. Sri Lankan planners and government officials must pursue effective economic development and job generation strategies in parallel with making the needed investments to enhance the quality and quantity of engineering graduates.

Engineering education should include significant coverage of entrepreneurship – how to start, operate, and grow a small business. Note that US companies such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Yahoo all were started in garages by enterprising young people with a technical bent. Engineering graduates should be equipped to take a path of creating jobs rather than seeking one if they wish to do so.

As technology based economies grow in developing countries, one important source of top talent – in addition to new engineering graduates – is the return of previous emigrants from the diaspora. Several countries (China, India) that are developing well have benefited from the return of former citizens who see new opportunities in their home countries, and bring back foreign experience and network contacts to the benefit of their home countries. Sri Lanka should encourage the return of such people who could assist speed up the nation on the march to development.

In addition to increasing the number and quality of engineering graduates, and pursuing strategies to have good local jobs available, developing countries need mechanisms to apply research and development results from local universities and companies for economic gain. Such mechanisms as incubators and small business development financing are needed in the mix in Sri lanka

Government alone cannot provide all that is needed for the development of the country. Companies and organisations must develop a highly-detailed understanding of specific emerging markets, as well as the needs of their existing customers. They will also require agile approaches to the development of strategy—using scenario planning rather than point forecasts, for example. And they must make big bets on long-range opportunities, such as tapping new markets in developing economies or switching to new materials, but must do so in ways that minimise risk.

It has been said that 2nd half of the 21st century belongs to Africa. Here is an opportunity to explore.

Continued utilisation of advanced technologies, and education that leads to high skills in technological areas must be the prime aim of our government, planners, educationists, and industrialists.

“Give a person a fish: you have fed the person for today. Teach a person to fish: you have fed the person for a lifetime.”

In today’s global economy, one more level needs to be added for developing countries: And: teach the person how to process and package fish for export and market it, and you have stimulated economic development.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    “What is needed

    Primarily, a large enough pool of high quality, accredited engineers, technicians, managers, and people with analytical skills is needed in developing countries so that the good results listed above can be realized.”

    What is needed is stability.

    No foreign – or local for that matter – investors, except the Chinese, will come as long as Mahinda is there rocking the boat. No one wants to build on quicksand.

    Ranil had the right idea of combining the two main parties and projecting to the world some form of policy-stability. Mahinda has other ideas; his own and family’s interest. But can you blame him, if the voters are willing to vote for him? After all his crap, he didn’t lose by much.

    Give the people what they want and make them happy.

  • 2
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    A simple example of how the Yahapalanaya operates is given below.

    The Minister of Finance increases the price of a Lottery ticket by Rs:10.Additional income after all helps,and the Govt:has to generate income.
    Lottery ticket sellers protest and go on strike.
    The Head of State[President] panicks and orders that it should be sold at the earlier price of Rs:20.
    What sort of governance is this?
    Development is indeed a Mirage!

  • 0
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    Don’t be silly.. so much development! What about the rajagiriya flyover and..and…oops..nothing else!

  • 3
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    Dear Ratnam Nadarajah,

    It’s good to know that there are a sizable number of people who are voicing their discomfiture in this way.

    those who came to us as politicians, have now become our rulers. We must keep asserting that there is a limit to our patience.

  • 1
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    There is nothing to more to say, can agree with the analysis mostly.

    However there is one export commodity in which Sri Lanka is very successful. That is the export of educated and skilled people. All over the world where ever you go the migrated Srilankans are holding good jobs, working hard, successful and live above average life. Cab be proud of them.

    Therefore at least if our leaders can establish and maintain good education system, excellent universities and vocational training centers and so on, then people can at least find their own way.

    I do not think we cannot expect more than that from our leaders when you look at their capacity and abilities.

    • 2
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      This is the truth; very well put.

      A great idea!

      I never thought this path of salvation for Lankans. As the writer says this has already happened all over the world.

      It’s true, at one time, the top graduates of our universities were held in very high esteem by the educational institutions around the globe where ever they ended-up for graduate work.

      But I am not too sure of the quality of SL higher education any more. I am unable to comment, as I simply don’t know.

    • 0
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      Dear Vasantha Siriwardhena,

      Your tongue-in-cheek comment is very true. Also valid are “nimal fernando’s” reservations about the quality of SL education – not just Higher Education, but throughout.

      Not enough money spent on Education is true, but even that is not spent sensibly. In fact little is done sensibly. So wrong is everything that it’s become futile to protest.

      Those who migrate are lost to our society which has usually invested much in them. But given the current situation, can one blame them? Even worse is the fact that now those without any marketable skills have got it in to their heads that they must migrate, Australia being the favourite destination. Few are aware that Sri Lankans are not wanted in those countries – deluding themselves that it’s some other sub-group (I’m talking of ethnicities!) that is disliked.

      And young people with even O. Levels tell themselves that they are educated and somebody owes them a “rassawa” (i.e. “a job”). I fear that I’m stating what is all so true that its just banal.

      As for unconcern with how money is spent: the A. Level General English book is to be replaced after 17 years – you cannot go on for ever with books however good they may be. CT readers may only know that their children or grandchildren are struggling with basic English at this level, and wondering why such elementary English causes problems. This is the “English for All” book, not the serious “main-subject” English (Literature-based, may I say?) Can you believe this? A Teacher’s Guide” has already been written setting forth only the theory, and the book itself will be written NEXT by another lot of people? A Teacher’s Guide has to be essentially an “Answer Book” which makes a teacher’s task lighter.

      What I have written above is too simple, I guess. Along come the “experts” and give us complex academic explanations which prevent anybody understanding that simple common sense is drowned in all that dishonest explanation.

      I’m NOT debunking academic discourse. What I’m saying is that the language of such discourse and some of the arguments are taken out of context and distorted so as to give a “message” to the non-specialised Public. That is ALL of us, outside our area of specialisation. And the money gets spent! – on nothing useful.

      Nobody will read that Teacher’s Guide – and nobody cares about each of the many individual bits of wastage.

      I fear that what I have said is so simple that I may be regarded as being “simplistic”.

      The situation that we have today may be what leads to the mindless violence of “Revolution”.

  • 1
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    I agree that brain drain is a big problems for countries like Sri Lanka. What most of these professionals want is a system that works – laws and policies that are fair and implemented without bias, promotion and hiring based on merit, rather than who has relatives in high places, and a work ethic that is not beholden to fatalism.

    if these criteria are met by the government and the culture of Sri Lanka, those expatriots will return in droves.

    The question is: are we smart enough to change?

  • 0
    1

    No, no, no, oh! no, who says so! (that Y-pala is a mirage!)! it’s a real reality! so real that everything is hunky-dory under Y-pala in Sri Lanka. Some Mahinda-palas are spreading lies!
    Good luck!

  • 0
    2

    This is harsh.. man..Which faction are you from?.

    I just had a quick glance at the Yahapalana Ledger.

    All is not bad,

    Soon we will have Same X marriages .

    EU wants it implemented before Batalanada gets his GSP plus.

    And Begal Yapa can export 7000 types of items to French, German and Scandinavians.

    Do these Europeans chew Beetle and Ericanuts too may I wonder?..

    Other achievements of Batalanada Ranil’s Yahapalana Economy are not that bad either.

    Singapore FIL & SIL collect 5 Billion every Six months.

    Malik Samare drank Bubbly most probably dreaming about that TV Station with the Big Elephant at the Front.

    Selva got 250 Acres of prime land in Kurunagala to build cars in his VW Bogus Ltd..

    Baththudeen has reclaimed 1200 Acres of Virgin Mahavamsa forests,

    Although Manangoli is not bringing their Radial Tyres for the the Yahapalana Elite, made by our Dalits, Lokuvithane got 100 Acres for 100 Ruppiah an Acre.

    Car Permit Senasinghe is a Millionaire thanks to the PAYE Yahapalana suckers.

    Malik Samare I believe brought down the latest Merc .

    Krish Group is now pouring the foundation , after Batalanada promised the ETCA before Christmas.

    Measure of Rice is at a record price thanks to to the Yahapalana Rice mafia.

    Galleon is selling Yahapalana Citizenships at bargain basement prices. Sugar daddies must be happy as Larry.

    There is a totally independent IGP appointed by the UNP and takes instructions from the Yahapalana Sagala about who to arrest who not to arrest.

    Then there is the Yahapalana Navy chief who drives a Dovra wearing his shorts and a T Shirt to threaten the dock workers using raw filth, which even Batalanada’s boy Minister Harin will be ashamed of.

    The list goes on and on.

    BTW ,Is Singapore Mahendran still on Batalanda Ranil’s payroll as the chief Business and Finance advisor/.

    • 0
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      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      “And Begal Yapa can export 7000 types of items to French, German and Scandinavians.”

      Instead you want to export your women folks to medieval middle east kingdoms where they earn foreign exchange under most difficult working conditions which is lavishly spent on imported malt.

  • 1
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    The key issue is National Economic development having no Strategy of path and model by own experiences build up by ourselves!

    We are changing one party rule to other are by shifting different mode of Economic Developments has undermined whole national growth of GDP.

    Since closed 70 years after Independents since 1948,which that we lack policy of transforming colonial Economic into an Independent path of developing was failure and unable to delivered some thing positive impact of Peoples life .

    The Zig sag of one to another set of policies of colonial or Neo-colonialism to return Depended capitalisms has undermined whole innovation of Development of Economy of Sri Lankan.

    We are needed that sustsnibility and balance power of Economy to be bailout ongoing political-economic crisis since 2015 January 9th by misrules of bad governances and mismanagement of Economy by UNP leadership.

    The rising New world power and capital investments has change by China and Indian engagements of Global Economy has an open new venture Trade and capital market by Sri Lankan having demand new outlook for future-Sri Lankan as well as South Asian nations.

    That is our urgent task of Economic Development and Growth that task must undertaken by Rational People of Sri Lankan

  • 0
    0

    The key issue is National Economic development having no Strategy of path and model by own experiences build up by ourselves!

    We are changing one party rule to other are by shifting different mode of Economic Developments has undermined whole national growth of GDP.

    Since closed 70 years after Independents since 1948,which that we lack policy of transforming colonial Economic into an Independent path of developing was failure and unable to delivered some thing positive impact of majority of Peoples life .Poverty remain among people of rural sector that is key issue of Economy since then.

    The Zig sag of one to another set of policies of colonial or Neo-colonialism to return Depended capitalisms has undermined whole innovation of Development of Economy of Sri Lankan.
    The Backwardness and simple production is core issue has be address by Ruling Parties.

    We are needed that sustsnibility and balance power of Economy to be bailout ongoing political-economic crisis since 2015 January 9th by misrules of bad governances and mismanagement of Economy by UNP leadership.

    The rising New world power and capital investments has change by China and Indian engagements of Global Economy has an open new venture Trade and capital market by Sri Lankan having demand new outlook for future-Sri Lankan as well as South Asian nations.

    That is our urgent task of Economic Development and Growth that task must undertaken by Rational People of Sri Lankan

  • 0
    0

    It is clear there is a total failure of Maithripala Sirisena to deliver whatever he promised. He not only cheated and back stabbed his former boss he also cheated and back stabbed all those people who voted for his victory.

    It is very clear people have got fed up with Maithripala Sirisena. They have got fed up with the UNP,they have got fed up with the SLFP, they ONLY want Rajapakse back to restore the country, its development and provide a lively hood to all the people.

    All the turncoat and unfaithful politicians who deserted Rajapakse after his loss soon after the election now realize the mistake. What Rajapakse said is true and the Government will collapse this year. soon these politicians will get back to Rajapakse and worship at his feet and apologize to him.

    Further knowing the serious danger Maithripala is in he too will dessert his own Government as it is his last chance to save him from prison for the money and wealth he had looted which Rajapakse knows very well, when only a Grama Sevaka could not have never earned his wealth legitimately. Rajapakse is not a fool like maithripala and a man without a back bone unable to find how and where the money he looted. He too will worship for mercy for the ungrateful and dirty game he played against his own boss Rajapakse. The only way he can secure the stolen money and save him from jail is to ask mercy from Rajapakse now before the Government anyway will collapse!

  • 1
    0

    If you want to open up a Volkswagen factory, Yes you need quality engineers and highly skilled workers. But didn’t Britannians establish the Estates with the least skilled labor and make the country one of the richest in that hemisphere? Even that labor was they brought from outside. The only resource they used is the fertile Land-Central Mountain. Now even the leadership of the tea is gone.

    If that development phase was maintained, Lankawe would have been beyond South Korea and Singapore in Engineering & Technology. There are two ways to make a smaller line bigger than the other. One is to stretching the small one to longer and other one is to erase the long one to be shorter. Sinhala Chauvinism followed the second method to make them look richer than Tamils.

    If you look at Tamil Nadu, it is attracting workers from other states. Of cause there are managers coming to manage the new factories; but most of the incomers are labor classes. Tamil Nadu’s young farmers are throwing away the mammoties and walking into factories. Within 5 to 10 years, this kind of semi-skilled workers can be developed if the political situation is right. When there was no CEB engineers, Chinese complained about it, but brought their engineers. If the Chinese projects were well managed, now without engineers, Lankawe could have many income earning assets. But the Lankawe politicians milked commission from China and destroyed the country with unwanted white elephants.
    After freedom, Lankawe send away its workforce as disenfranchised workers, refugees, Middle East indentured workers. Brain drain is other one. Even in Cuba this kind of human effort wastage is not taking place. Those who are doing these are depositing in foreign banks in billion dollars.

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