29 October, 2020

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Waste Enough To Build A Kingdom & Conceal A Hoard

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

My name is Percy Mahendra, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair” – One Percy about another

Ramses II on whom Percy Bysshe Shelly modelled Oxymandius (from the Greek word) was indeed king of kings, the most celebrated of all Pharaohs and lord of all he surveyed. Abu Simbel stands three thousand two hundred years on; one of the greatest monuments of the ancient world. His was an age of prosperity for the peoples who lived on the banks of the Nile and the Nile delta; he extended the kingdom to Canaan, Syria and Nubia in the south. The great pharaoh left mountains of monuments that now stand silent and bare in the desert sands and in a midget to a mighty comparison he is aped by our own Ozymandian upstart. I doubt whether in those days emperors were surrounded by sycophantic place seekers who fawned at every whim and greased their palms with every racket, but in Lanka’s unwept decade it was not only the megalomania of mad-Mahinda that buried treasure in the sand, but also corrupt political hangers-on assisted by the supine toadying of spineless high bureaucrats.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to tour Mattala Madness and was taken into the lounges, security areas and technical facilities to get an idea of how much public money had been buried in this loony binge. On the day in question there were two arrivals and departures, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon but I counted a staff of 80 (x three shifts remember) milling around, bored, chatting with each other or their own shadows. There were security types, information counter staff, senior controllers, cleaners, handlers and women in pretty saris at empty counters. It is also a punishment transfer station for Rajapaksa loyalist detritus. The senior guy who took us round said with a poker straight face that airlines had stopped using Mattala because the present government was not providing enough chairs (those on hand were 100% unoccupied) in the passenger lounges!Kumar David

Choots my sister-in-law laments “Ane what a waste”

Let’s estimate the staffing expenditure of this wasteland. Apart from the 80 I counted there are large numbers out of sight; in the control tower, in engineering, on the apron, gardeners and baggage handlers who must be sleeping all day. Let us say 150 per shift and not to push the number up too much let say a total of 400 people. How much are they paid? Say Rs40,000 a month on average or a gross annual wage bill close to Rs500 million – half a billion rupees a year for doing sweet brinjals! This is the wage bill only; add to it equipment servicing and maintenance expenditure. And this is without saying a word about the burden of repaying capital and making interest payment. One man’s lunacy inflicts ruin on a country!

Now for a sample of the capital-cost side – not recurrent expenditure – let me turn to the Hambantota harbour project. The port was developed in two phases, first phase construction cost US $ 500 million jointly funded by Exim Bank of China and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority; phase 2 cost US $ 800 million. To add insult to injury the organisers of the opening tamasha in November 2010 spent Rs 140 million to welcome Rajapaksa royalty with genuflecting ceremonies, a stage show, gifts , victuals and beverage. Of this Rs. 20 million went to actor Jackson Anthony for the show. This farce will be investigated by a Presidential Commission; yet another impotent commission which will not punish anyone! The Commission has issued notice on Jackson Anthony and Port Authority officials including former chairman Priyath Bandu Wickrema. So far, in all cases, all blood suckers have got away scot free and there is no sign that this pathetic display of Sirisena-Wickremesinghe impotence will cease.

There is a multimillion dollar international conference hall in Hambantota that has hosted just one (yes one!) event, a stadium at which one (yes one!) international match has been played and then there are miles upon miles of highways! Yes four lane highways stark in the middle of the bush; if you are patient you will see the occasional car pass by. As friends travelling with me remarked these tens upon tens of miles (perhaps adding up to a hundred) of highways would have cost as much as the woefully overdue Colombo-Kandy arterial expressway may cost.

Blame not only the megalomaniac but also remember the dozens of august civil servants, high ministry and government officials and smart engineers who did not dare say to His Majesty that he was plain off his rocker. And now the propaganda arm of the present government is bereft of imagination. To win a propaganda war it must organise bus loads of townsfolk and villagers to tour empty highways and stark, silent monuments in concrete. The people must SEE the waste, then the people will be educated. Mahinda’s marching from Kandy hordes too can be invited to track these empty highways without impediment and hold unobstructed rallies to hearts content in vast unpopulated space; no need to haggle over Hyde park and Campbell Park. Ah what an opportunity lost for Oxymandian feats!

Ranil’s emerging strategy

The economic strategy of this government is driven by Ranil and the President’s role is to intervene only when there is political necessity. The Mahendran non-renewal, VAT and GMOA’s foreign trade pact delusions fall into this category. This column has for some time been commenting on Ranil’s economic approach on the basis of its potential or otherwise for success as a capitalist strategy. That is I have refrained from interjection of my socialist predilections. This piece continues this approach but to speak of success in a development strategy is to bear two sides of the coin in mind; (a) there has to be growth, and (b) if there is growth then the distribution of its benefit must include a degree of equity. What degree of equity? The answer is equity corresponding to populist social democratic expectations.

But before spreading the butter there has to be butter to spread. If there is no (a) then (b) is kaput. Hence the first question to address is ‘Will Ranil’s strategies succeed in growing the economy?’ There are some points in his approach to growing on a capitalist basis that are sensible, some others are not well thought through. Where he is correct is in opening Lanka to regional economic interactions. ECTA with India, hated by Sinhala chauvinists for that reason, and opposed by the GMOA in its quest to preserve a closed shop for pecuniary gain for the medical profession, must be pushed through. ECTA must not be diminished into a purely trade agreement; it must be a substantive economic framework including investment and manpower movement, the latter on short-term (5 or less years) work visas.

The move to engage China in an economic development zone in the Hambantota area making use of the billions of dollars that have been sunk into the ground is wise. Once a madman has dug a well and we have fallen in, the only thing to do is to start from the bottom and make the best of it from the depths. This is similar to dynamic programming in optimisation theory where one starts from the given, defined by past events however deplorable, and maximises future benefits. The Chinese are doers. Once they take on a responsibility, and if it is in their interests as well, they will deliver; they have done their bit in win-win scenarios elsewhere. Exploring opportunities with them is in the right direction. However Lanka cannot sit back and expect a Chinese Godot to deliver all; there must be activity on our side and ensuring employment creation (say 100,000 jobs within three years) must be a priority. This is where there is much misgiving in my mind. Our officials are reputed to be incompetent and/or corrupt compared to outsiders and there is unease that we will fail to make the best of the opportunity.

In principle I am supportive of the agreement reached with a Singaporean investment consultancy company. I say in principle because little detail has been revealed of what will actually be done. And this brings me to my worries about Ranil’s approach to regional economic cooperation. Let me take several snippets from the PM or his close advisors to make my point.

  • Western Megapolis; Financial City; hub for financial and logistical services in South Asia complementing Hong Kong and Singapore.
  • Finalising a Free Trade Agreement with China in 2017.
  • Expanding trade treaties with out South Asian neighbours.
  • Navigating trade liberalisation and enhancing bilateral trade enhancement initiatives.
  • Opportunity for Sri Lankan exporters to access a market of three billion people.

One couold go one quoting from speech upon speech at international forums and symposia by the PM and his collaborators like Malik Samarawickrama. The elephant missing in the room is the production side; production of tangible, fungible, locally consumable or exportable industrial and/or agricultural commodities. For heaven’s sake what’s the use of easier and bigger export markets if you have bugger-all to export! Ranil and his buddies are blindsided to the production side and obsessed with financial services, trade liberalisation and consultancy services. They simply cannot get their priorities in perspective.

Lanka can play a role as a financial and commercial service centre but not as a global hub like Hong Kong, Singapore, New York or London – those slots are already taken. Lanka’s development will have to prioritise production of material goods and tangible services, and I mean hard growth on a capitalist basis. This way of looking at things is far removed from the priorities that occupy the central cortex of Ranil and his buddies.

Local economic experts are of no help either. They repeat platitudes. “Exports must be promoted; debt must be brought down; fiscal deficit must be brought under control; Sri Lanka is moving towards a grave situation” – oh dear, any A-level student can parrot this. Don’t our experts have a concrete forward strategy to lay before us? Obviously not! Yes Lanka needs FDI though the international climate is frigid; yes Lanka needs to go regional in its strategic thinking on economic (not just finance and trade) growth; yes the local capitalist class has failed to respond to the opportunities opened by its own UNP led government. It’s good that the state has stepped in with strategy I enumerated in five or six bullet points. But NO this is less than halfway to what needs to be done. At some point in time the government has to wake up and bring its interrupted act to fruition with a determined programme to increase the production of tangible commodities in the manufacturing and agricultural sector.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    2

    Commie Kumar,
    Your last article with this.
    If I cannot get the present troikas term extended then let’s destroy the opposition.
    from one sewer of mice to another – liberal/democrat/socialist/commie, free education bane of the island.

    Rooster year- stay stagnant at the risk of peril.

    monkey do.

  • 7
    7

    Hey buddy, if you have a score to settle with Rajapaksas, deal directly with him and his family members. Do not drag national affairs into your rotten thought process. Rajapaksas were rotten we don’t have any love for them. Also knowing your anti Sinhala-Buddhist sentiments and your love for running errands for an equally corrupt Ranil, we have very little appetite for your useless analysis.

  • 6
    4

    The title says it all!

    And although there are many more examples of the funds that Percy Mahendran squandered to benefit him and his family at Sri Lanka’s expense, nothing seems to be done about it.

    Time to confiscate the rest of the Rajapakses’ ill-gotten assets and transfer the funds to the Treasury.

  • 3
    2

    if we are to be a production center it has to be on services and niche manufacturing and agriculture. We cannot compete with lower wage countries.look at the issues facing tea sector and how garment industry survives. Ranil understands this.

  • 4
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    Prof:Kumar David says……

    To win a propaganda war it must organise bus loads of townsfolk and villagers to tour empty highways and stark silent monuments in concrete.The people must SEE the waste,then the people will be educated……..

    This is a golden opportunity for the present Govt:to turn the tables against the Rajapakse propaganda.These tours,arranged on a regular basis,including bus-loads of School children will check-mate the Rajapakses.

    • 0
      1

      I agree that check-mating is being forced on GG, as the corruption involved
      during the past decade is beyond imagination. A reminder of a statement by
      Democracy Sri Lanka might be useful to readers:
      “1. The cost per kilometer of the Outer Circular Highway from Kadawatha to Kerawalapitiya financed by China is US$ 56 million(Rs.7.3billion) This cost is three times higher than the Kottawa Kaduwela extension of the Southern Highway financed by Japan ,which is Rs.2.4 billion per kilometer.
      2. The cost per kilometer of Extension of the Southern Highway from Mattala to Hambantota will cost Rs.2.14billion, whereas per kilometer cost of the Southern Highway cost only Rs.975millions.
      3. Bid price of A9 road was Rs.140 million per kilometer when the departmental estimate for an A class road was Rs. 20million.
      4. Construction of the Norachchole Coal Power Project was awarded to a well established Chinese contractor at US$280 million in 2005 by the previous regime. Soon after present regime came into power it cancelled the contract and awarded it to another inexperienced Chinese firm at US$520 million-almost double the previous price.
      5. On a dispute between Essential Services Commissioner and Asset Maritime(Pvt) Ltd arbitrator-a retired High Court Judge awarded Rs.600,000 as compensation to the company. A Committee appointed by the President on the intervention of the First Lady awarded Rs.180 million to this company owned by Dhammika Perera and Nishantha Wickramasinghe- latter being a brother of First Lady.
      6. Due to the ill conceived Hedging deal of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation headed by Asantha de Mel ( a person connected to the political establishment) lost Rs. 230 billion in2007.. No one has been held accountable for fr huge loss of public funds.
      7. Due to the mismanagement of Chairman Nishantha wickramasinghe, who is First Lady’s brother, Sri Lankan Airlines has lost around Rs.70 billion.!
      8. Mihin Air managed by Sajin Vaas Gunawardene lost Rs.1.455 billion in 2011 and in2012 the Government invested Rs.3004 billion as capital in this loss-making venture to support a close political ally..
      Compiled by Democracy Sri Lanka”

      The good news is, corrupt earning are being reverted to Govt. coffers:
      1. Rs. 157.5 million from the R. Yoshitas Money laundering Case to CB.
      2. Two properties owned by R. Basil (one an 18 acre plot and another housing
      in Matara) both valued at Rs. 246 Mil. confiscated for Govt use.

    • 2
      1

      Plato; Better Education and Better English so that the Younger Generation will have greater critical access to Information on the Internet and the Wider World, will slowly but surely turn their Minds against the Rajapakse propaganda!

      • 5
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        Hamlet

        “Plato; Better Education and Better English so that the Younger Generation will have greater critical access to Information on the Internet and the Wider World, will slowly but surely turn their Minds against the Rajapakse propaganda!”

        You are either wrong or 60 years too late.

        The present day children do not need sudda’s language as witnessed they do well with their own Sinhala language, as you know Sinhala language is the international language of Science, Technology, Commerce, Communication, …..

        Why bother learning our colonial master’s language when the educated Banda had had the foresight to impose Sinhala as the official language? That will do.

        You seem unpatriotic.

        • 1
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          Thank you NV.
          If I have the Welfare of Sri Lanka at Heart, then I am proud to call myself an Unpatriotic Sinhala/Buddhist!

  • 0
    1

    The masses must be told what the filth have done?
    If they ever did get back which is very unlikely they would string up Ranil and Maithri at Galle face so forget the stalling get them behind bars.

  • 1
    6

    Your sister in law is an idiot like you.

  • 0
    6

    I mean….am I the only one who cannot make head or tail of the Port/Financial city? (I mean, I am merely a non-professional greenhorn in economics, and only understand and try to reason out what I read in articles……like most of Sri Lanka and the world)

    But upon what basis is money to be deposited in Financial City? Singapore became a financial city as they were handling and controlling the oil and gas wealth of the S.E Asian religion (Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia all have oil and gas). Hong Kong became a financial city when China became communist, and 1% elite who continually screwed the Chinese masses, bunked to HK with 99% of China’s money.

    Well, the South Asian region doesn’t have oil or gas. India will not be turning communist in the near future….although let’s hope India becomes communist soon, and then we can secure the wealth of the 1% high-castes in our very own Financial City.

    Financial City deposits will be offshore hideaways, like in Switzerland and Panama, and also more recently like Singapore. Singapore will want to look clean, and so they are probably looking for an alternate shady spot to park illegal deals. Wonder how Trump or Clinton will view all of these things.

    I mean, this could be all Coomaswamy’s subtle suggestions. When he made his dignified and professional suggestions, he created a plan for magical city with financial statistics and graphs. This magical city is going to emerge out of thin air, with the Lankan populous working their hearts out to look like Singapore and Hong Kong. It would mean, of course, the eventual sell to…..India!!!! You see, Coomaraswamy knows that ETCA will be a no show, or a small show. But when the trap of the Financial City comes in, the only place to fall back on, will be grandmother India. Our gullible politicians gulped it down hook, line and sinker.

    At least when Rajapaksa did it, it was to be a Chinese submarine base (with some finances involved of course, replete with a car racing arena). There were supposed to be 2 casinos also. At least all was transparent and open, even if we eventually got bombed by the US. New plan Financial City will be a slower bombing process of course, but one that will hold the golden chance for the American invasion so they can look after their favorite place, India.

    With Commaraswamy’s Port City, finances are unknown and/or unreal. Local entrepreneurs are uncomfortable to whip up masses to work anymore for them. Masses refuse to work for the anymore anyway, preferring to work in the Middle-East.

    The best thing that is true to Lankan money and the ability of the people is to turn the whole area into a Lankan Theme park, replete with Mahavamsa magic carpets flying from Bengal, ancient Hela spaceships coming down from Mars, Life-of-Buddha Land, and Jaffna-Tamil high-caste vs. low-caste caste gaming. This can come complete with a few casinos. The world will be enthralled. Sri Lanka will be saved.

    • 7
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      ramona grandma therese fernando

      ” I mean….am I the only one who cannot make head or tail of the Port/Financial city? “

      Well I can confirm not just the Port/Financial city you never made head or tail of anything and everything that was published on this website. Please stop self-loathing.

      • 2
        0

        RGTF,

        best you to go an have a check on your head. We the CT readers are not fool as appeared to be.

      • 2
        1

        NV,

        Well…that’s typical of your quips without much substantive thought, either for or against.

    • 1
      1

      Dear Ramona,
      Another marvellous piece by you, exposing the bankrupt thinking of people like Native Vedda. These people probably sit at their computers all day whining about our glorious country with its 4000 year history.
      I believe you know that King Ravana had spaceships which he used to bring rice from Mars in time of famine!
      You should write a piece on the vile lies that Sirasa is spreading in its Gammedda program, about our happy and contented (thanks to Mahinda)peasants in remote villages. I am sure the scenes they show, of villages without roads or clean water, are filmed in Tamilnadu and dubbed. I once heard a bit of Tamil dialogue in the background.
      Yes, when India turns Communist, as you predict, Sirasa will be unable to do these tricks.
      More strength to your arm.

      • 0
        0

        Oh Wow….thanks Romani! I didn’t know about King Ravana using spaceships to bring rice from Mars. But I knew the story that Lankans came from Mars – Sri Lanka has the lowest pull of gravity on earth….spaceships would have found it easy to land. And now they have found water on Mars. Lankan history becomes even more fascinating!

        It is amazing the Ranil with his continual pro-US stance, now suddenly succumbs to China. The US must have some covert-operational reason for allowing this. Civil society must demand for transparency as is democratically due! No use saying this and that building is coming up, and giving statistics and figures of future trends , “papered with magical assumptions of higher growth” (Fareed Zachariah). What needs to be known is whose and what financial scheme are we going to deal with, and how far are masses to be whipped to suffer the fulfillment of the growth speculation.

        The Hambantota port area has some meaning. Something constructive will actually happen there with Chinese ships going to and fro. But the Financial city is too castle-in-the-sky to fathom.

        • 2
          0

          Ramona
          ” I didn’t know about King Ravana using spaceships to bring rice from Mars. But I knew the story that Lankans came from Mars “

          Yes, evidence has been found by Dr.Mirando Obeysekera, who has deciphered Brahmi inscriptions at a secret location. They are 4000 years old, and are in Tamil and Persian.He says at the time the Hela people spoke Sinhala but wrote in Tamil, like those who signed the Kandyan Convention.

          • 3
            0

            romani

            “Yes, evidence has been found by Dr.Mirando Obeysekera, who has deciphered Brahmi inscriptions at a secret location”

            Oh dear me, I didn’t know the well respected gynecologist Dr Obeysekere to whom I used to deliver one and a half bottles of quality honey every month is a secret epigraphist.

            I am thrilled to meet him.

            Thanks for the info.

      • 0
        0

        I really thought Sirisena had been going such great things for agriculture. So, all then pictures he put up were a bluff, were they?! Recently too he spoke of further developing the agriculture sector. It will be truly devastating for the country if he means to GMO all our ancient grains, vegetables and farm animals.

        • 0
          0

          Ramona,
          Pacha Sira even steals dreams of other people.Recently he claimed that Moragahakanda was his dream project when this project was mooted he was not even in his father’s balls.
          So be ware of pinning any trust or hope with Pacha Sira.

      • 2
        1

        “Oh wow”, Romani, you sound remarkably like Grandma Fernando praising your own tail and then responding to it.

        How banal can you get?!!!

        • 0
          0

          Oh boy! No, I am not Romani. Maybe CT can clarify that.

          Anyway, there’s some proof. I was focusing on global high-level Capitalistic theft that would probably determine our Financial City. Romani was more on the Theme Park I mentioned.

        • 4
          0

          Frank

          “How banal can you get?!!!”

          You didn’t get the sarcasm in romani’s comment, did you? For once try to be cool.

          • 1
            0

            Banal? Sarcastic? What are you two traitors talking about? And I am not Ramona either.I have no tail.

            • 4
              0

              romani

              “What are you two traitors talking about?”

              Had you added further details on Ravana I would not have mistaken your comment, such as his 10 heads, his composition of Gambothi Raga,his ability to play Veena, and the trophies he won at several international contests, …..

              I am sorry, I didn’t realise you were communicating with ramona grandma therese fernando which is not that easy.

              • 1
                0

                Mr. Veddah,

                When one is in Rome, one has to communicate in Latin, no?

  • 3
    0

    There is a politician who robs and squanders. There is another pair of politicians who protect him from justice and help him and his vast family live in comfort. Isn’t one lot as bad as the other?

  • 1
    2

    This ‘Elamist’ can say what he wants. But it is becoming clear that Rani / Sirisena Modayapalanaya is turning to Mahinda’s initiatives one by one to develop this nation. Modayapalanayas have to ideas or knowledge to do anything – these two years proof of that. So you will find Mattala as a functioning second international airport, Hambantotta a mega city and economic hub. And to put salt into ‘Percy bashing and say nothing of significance buggers’ Hambantotta port will a thriving hub of the maritime industry and Colombo Port City will go ahead to be a success. Ranil’s pipedream the Mega mega city will be a non-event!
    In few years time you will find this is not a nightmares you guys have woken up to! BUT REALITY! So wake up!!!!

    • 6
      0

      anotherSinhala/Buddhist

      “Hambantotta a mega city and economic hub.”

      This development project was the brain child of Ranil. He proposed the megacity and developing the hub during his short lived premiership. In fact the project was included in his election manifesto.

      • 1
        2

        Native clown
        Do you worship the ground Ranil maharani walks? What else do you do?
        Even if Ranil maharani had the idea he does not have the balls to do anything about anything. He only knows to bend backwards to Tony Blair,Obama and other warlords!!

        • 4
          0

          another Sinhala/Buddhist bigot

          “Even if Ranil maharani had the idea he does not have the balls to do anything about anything.”

          Ranil was the Primeminister between 9 December 2001 – 6 April 2004, less than 2 years and 3 months until he was sacked by Chandrika under Hindian pressure.

          I know you are another stupid Sinhala/Buddhist however I didn’t expect you to be that stupid.

          Clowning is essential part of Yakku Natum rituals, in case if you are familiar with Sinhala culture.

  • 0
    0

    [Edited out]

  • 2
    0

    Waste and Corruption!

    Myee what a circus, Myee what a show, Mahinda went to town Over the love of his new Chinese friends. Now, We’ve all gone crazy. Mourning all day and mourning all night. Now we falling over ourselves to put all of the nonsense and misery right.

    Myee what an exit, that’s how to go, four in the morning bringing your curtain down demanding immunity for you, your family, and all your cronies. For the madness and wild spending and all. It was good for the country in a roundabout way, Mahinda made the front page of all the world’s papers that day

    But who is this Maithripala? Why all this howling, hysterical sorrow? What kind of goddess has backed him we wonder. How will he ever get by without her?

    She had her moments, she had no style, The best show in town was the crowd
    Outside Queen’s House shouting “Whiskey Madame” But that’s all gone now.

    You let down your people Mahinda. Great Liberator. You were supposed to have been immortal. Instead of government we had a stage; That’s all they wanted, not much to ask for. But in the end you could not deliver.

    Instead of ideas, you had a dictatorthuma’s rage. In the end, instead of help we were given sil reddi. You wanted your people to love you, You never expected any less.

    The time came you just had to go….

    • 0
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      Spring Koha,
      At least Eva Peron was good-looking without Photoshop. You could hardly say the same for our dictatorthuma.

      • 0
        0

        Nice observation old codger! and one I whole-heartedly agree with.

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