14 July, 2020

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Why Megalopolis Project Must Be Debated In The Parliament?

By Hema Senanayake

Hema Senanayake

Hema Senanayake

Still we do not have a clear pronouncement of intended policy programs or work programs which are going to be implemented by the new National-Unity-Government (NUG). Since there are significant differences between the UNFGG’s manifesto and UNFA’s manifesto, people do understand that the NUG cannot implement any one of the political factions manifesto in full. Hence, immediately, the principle challenge before the National-Unity-Government is to redefine or spell out the scope, characteristics and components of the policies and programs of the new government. This is important to avoid any misunderstanding between the forces of UNFGG and the forces of UNFA which support for NUG. For example, UNFGG’s Megalopolis project could be one of such projects that need to be redefined under NUG. Why?

Megalopolis project is the UNFGG’s flagship project mentioned in its manifesto. On the contrary, UNFA has no such program mentioned in its pre-election manifesto. However, now we have a National-Unity- Government (NUG). Among the Ministers of NUG, there could possibly be a one special Minister. He is the Minister for Megalopolis. Sri Lanka never had such a portfolio before or even such a subject under any Ministry. This is a new Ministry. So, what the Minister for Megalopolis is going to do?

He is going to put up a Megalopolis in the Western Province which will have a population of over 8 million. The word Megalopolis is now commonly mispronounced as Megapolis. The word “Megalopolis” is used to define an extensively large city. Anyway, for this article let us use the word Megalopolis to define the project that comes under the purview of the Minister of Megapolis.

Port cityThe concept of Megalopolis has been proposed to Sri Lanka by the Manifesto of UNFGG. According to the original proposition of the project, it is not just a project; instead it is going to be the flagship project in developing the Sri Lanka’s economy in the next five years. That is why the Megalopolis project needs to be discussed and be debated in the new parliament in order to ascertain the scope of project, its components and as to how those components are going to be financed. Since, the Sri Lanka’s economic development depends on this project, as it is proposed in the manifesto; this would be seen as an inevitable project in regard to the economic development of the country. Is the project appropriate for Sri Lanka as at now?

Sri Lanka is not a country that runs with a surplus in its “current account.” Sri Lanka is posting a current account deficit for a long time. Also, its current account deficit is not balanced out from the non-credit inflow of foreign currencies such as U.S. dollars. This means the country’s Balance of Payment (BoP) is maintained with continuing borrowed money from foreign sources. Under such circumstances I particularly concern about the financing of Megalopolis project and how it is going to affect the country’s current account and BoP in the medium to long term. Therefore, we will have credible answers to those concerns if the project is debated in the parliament.

I never intend to doubt that a country like Sri Lanka under the existing situation of its current account, BoP and increased consumption levels, cannot have Megalopolises. It can, but it requires a major shift in the mind-set of general populace in regard to the transformation of certain services into sellable services, promotion of certain foreign investments and flexibility in owning of properties by foreigners. If we do not do those things, I doubt very much, Sri Lanka’s capacity to do such a project by its own funds because this project will be huge. Let us have a quick look of this project as proposed by UNFGG.

“More than 50% of global population lives in cities. Eighty percent of global Gross-Domestic-Product is produced by them (this columnist observes that the term “global Gross Domestic Product” must be corrected as global “Gross-World-Product” (GWP)). The economic power concentrated towards cities due to employees, entrepreneurs and higher population densities are concentrated into one area and also due to the emergence of extensively large market. Megalopolises are the lifelines of global economy. Therefore, the success of Sri Lanka’s economy shall depend on its ability to build such a Megalopolis.” (UNFGG Manifesto, page 17 & 18. This is translated into English from Sinhala version of the Manifesto).

Please read the last sentence of the above quote again. It says, “… the success of Sri Lanka’s economy shall depend on its ability to build such a Megalopolis.” This economic vision is different from the economic vision which says that, “the success of Sri Lanka’s economy shall depend on its ability to expand its agro-industrial and industrial base. If any government accepts the latter economic vision then such a government will concentrate more on building the useful infrastructure that facilitates the expansion of agro-industrial and industrial base. Both economic visions are good. But in the process of economic development of any country at any given point, one vision may be appropriate than the other. Let me give you a quick example.

When the United States envisioned for a new industrial revolution, the U.S. spent more money in building up infrastructure to facilitate doing researches. It expanded the country’s ability to produce newer products. The U.S. still expands its useful agro-industrial and industrial base even though the government is supportive for the expansion of large financial markets rooted in Megalopolises like New York etc. Under the Obama administration the U.S. envisioned to be self-sufficient in producing fuel and they will achieve their goal in 2017. The U.S. values its agro-industrial and industrial base and the U.S. always has been continued to focus on having useful infrastructure that supports useful production even though the U.S. imports a lot of products.

When the U.S. hit a massive economic crisis in 2008, the U.S. government did not think of building a few more Megalopolises. By that time the U.S. government observed that the private consumption was so low which resulted in reducing output leading to an economic recession. Hence, the government decided to increase consumption by spending in building new infrastructure and by renovating old ones. It has been estimated that increased investments in infrastructure saved or created 1.1 million jobs in construction industry and 400,000 jobs in manufacturing by March 2011 from 2008. Building infrastructure reduced the cost of doing businesses around the country.

From the above example, we see that the investments made in infrastructure must be ascertained in terms of their comparative advantage. Accordingly, one criterion in building basic infrastructure could be determined by the rate of net physical growth, per capita and per square kilometer. That ensures the development in each and all parts of the country or the economy. I am afraid that Megalopolis project might easily ignore this criterion.

Yet, if the country is running with a significant surplus in the current account and BoP, then we do not have to argue that much in building a Megalopolis. But it is not so, when the country is running with a current account deficit for a long time. As a result, already, the country’s liabilities to rest of the world might have been significant. Under such circumstances, I would suggest that we need to be more concerned on the basic economic parameter known as “comparative advantage” in implementing the Megalopolis project.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    2

    Very true! The whole of the Western province is already one giant Megalopolis anyway(was that way for a long time). We just need to clean up the place a bit, like the way Gotabaya was doing. Put Gota in charge of the Megalopolis ministry, I say!

    • 0
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      But it’s good Champika is put in charge of the ministry. The place won’t get too concreted up like Singapore. Guess it’s UNPGG ( or whatever) ‘s way of keeping the eisting structure and cleaning it up a bit with more trees and plants and windmills , and a generally Lankan heritagal look- excellent thing!

      Productivity of the province will yet increase, and although many misguided Lankans are clamouring the Singapore look, this will work most idyllically with our Island potential and setting.

      • 0
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        *existing

        • 2
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          Let’s hope also, that Champika, being nationalist and all (a good thing), will stand up against Sri Lanka to becoming the 30th Federal State of India.

          • 0
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            *become

  • 1
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    I am not sure whether ‘Megapolis’ is a result of mispronouncing ‘Megalopolis’ or it actually meant that way. The term ‘Megapolis’ do exist and there are books written on that title. Some say it is a variant of ‘Megalopolis’ and others use it to mean the same in modern context.

    For Tokyo, both terms are used. For United Arab Emirates, ‘Megapolis’ is used both as a term and a concept. There is a new program in New South Wales, Australia, where I live now, to convert Sydney into a ‘global city’ or ‘Megapolis.’ It means a ‘city of cities.’ The program is called ‘Fit for the Future’ which I happened to review recently with favour.

    A student of mine a decade ago at the University of Colombo did her undergraduate thesis on ‘Megapolis.’ She took Tokyo and Bangkok as examples and tried to apply the models to Sri Lanka. It was part of the course ‘political economy of south and southeast Asia’ which I was teaching. I was surprised when she proposed the topic. If I remember correct she argued that the Western Province should be converted into a ‘Megapolis.’ She came from rural Sri Lanka and was doing her studies in Sinhala medium. What I want to say is that the ‘Megapolis’ program might go well with the visions of the new generations.

  • 1
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    We hade the Gal Oya mega project, followed by the Mahaweli Projetct. Then the Mattala Airport and harbor. Now this administration wants to have a mega-city project !! The full potential of the projects mentioned here has not been fully utilized. There is no transportation that s adequate to carry the produce from the Gal Oya and Mahaweli regions yet, Mattala is going to be used to store paddy and the Hambantota Harbour is in the hands of the Chinese. It is at times like this when I think that we do not have a strong Civil Voice to shoot down all these stupid ideas by politicians.

  • 0
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    “I would suggest that we need to be more concerned on the basic economic parameter known as “comparative advantage” in implementing the Megalopolis project.”

    Not only that. It is possible to borrow money and build sky scrapers, shopping centers, roads etc and make Colombo look more like Singapore. This is to some extent what the previous president and his henchmen were doing.

    Singapore is not only nice modern buildings. The promises of “rule of law” and “good governance” must be fulfilled before there is any hope of creating even part of a new Singapore in Sri Lanka.

  • 6
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    An intelligent thought provoking article.

    Sometime back CT had a lot of reputed writers on its regular list. But gradually it went down. All kinds of insulting things and lies were freely allowed under comments.

    Now it is mostly immature and mediocre writing we see here and other websites.

    Maybe we should aim to have basic standards of writing and integrity in the comments policy

  • 1
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    We all know we are faced with a serious financial problem, I feel we should have to face with very sensibly at this critical time, not just thinking of monetary gain.

    The Port City project would give ready monetary advantage sure but we should give serious consideration to important aspects.

    The consequences of the project should not be detrimental to the environment. There should be formal endorsement.

    We should ensure from where are we to the required boulders at the least damage to the environment.

    We should seriously consider the potential harmful impacts to our culture Could we have a control on them throughout

    How could we preserve the resources of the sea in the connected environment. Do we have adequate control over any potential damage.

    Is there an possibility that unauthorized people or goods enter our island through the concerned sea area.

    The previous performance of people implementing the project

    The potential harmful macro activities in the associated sea area that have been arisen due to the project.

  • 0
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    I completely agree with the written. For glamour, we could create mega projects but do they really give us the returns. During his previous government Ranil created glamour project ICTA. If we review the cost vs benefit in economic terms I feel,tre,turns may be worse than Mathala Air port. At least Mathala airport can be used as paddy store but Loan from World bank is spent on services. Old CINTEc of Prof Samaranayke delivered much better results than Eran Wickremaratne, s ICTA. In fact in one of the meetings with IT profession three years Ranil agreed that ICTA was flop. Never government expenditure on these glamorous projects will yield sound economic results but end up in colossal waste and mis use of funds. As the writer suggests it should spent by people who will use their money local or foreign who will create sellable services which will justify their spending.

  • 0
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    I feel if we are sensible we could find alternative investments which would improve our financial position and less harmful.

    We have abundant resources in our country if we are bit sensible. Our people are clever. They are of genuine concern if we help them. Really Tamils are industrious if we try to release them of their long standing burden.

    Only thing for good thing to happen we have to exert genuine effort. Or else we could implement a point just blinding thinking it would provide us our monetary needs. At the end of the day our children are in irreversible trouble.

  • 0
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    so then where were your articles for the useless
    portcity
    harbour
    airport projects

    or are you now only talking cause your in the oppositions side of the govt?

  • 1
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    yes,to avoid the mistakes of the previous government of going ahead with un-viable mega projects new projects have to be done in the correct manner after feasibility studies.

  • 1
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    As some media spelled it, I thought that they want to create a a mega police force.

  • 1
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    As some media spelled it, I thought that they want to create a a mega police force.
    I think the word has Greek origin.
    If an intelligent person like me cannot understand this word properly, hope that a fool like a Minister do not confuse it to a ” polos curry”

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