- At the time of Independence Ceylon was one of the most prosperous countries of South East Asia
- Our Politicians converted the country from a prosperous nation to a 3rd World Country between the period 1959 – 1977
- The opportunity lost by Ceylon was gained by Singapore
- Now our politicians are trying to build their paradises in Singapore and Malaysia
- Year in and year out, as per records, 5 – 6 billion rupees are spent as disaster relief
- News channels covering villages don’t show prosperous healthy people
There is an old English saying “Fools Learn by Mistake, Wise from Others”.
This country is known as Serendib and Taprobane and sometimes by pet names such as Teardrop of The Indian Ocean, Pearl of The Indian Ocean and Paradise. The name for this island was registered by The British as Ceylon under its Empire. Foreign rulers converted this island from a rise growing farmer country to one that grows export potential crops such as spices, tea, rubber and coconut, which is still a lifeline for the country. At the time of Independence Ceylon was one of the most prosperous countries of South East Asia. Certain politicians still talk about this. Ceylon gradually moved away from prosperity after Independence. The change of name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka, which came in 1972, took away the lustre the country had. The prosperity associated with old Ceylon was linked to export crops like tea, cinnamon and sapphires, just to name a few. The high standard of service offered in trains, buses, education and in the administrative system helped Ceylon stand out in Asia. Our Politicians converted the country from a prosperous nation to a 3rd World Country between the period 1959 – 1977, a span of just 18 years!
From 1977 we started reentering the race, but by that time countries which were lagging behind us such as India, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea and China had started experiencing rapid growth after following Open Economic Policies. China became a Communist Economic Power and a knowledge factory while India, Malaysia and Singapore emerged as Economic Powers on the lines of Production and Technology. Singapore is the country it is today due to economic bungling by political forces of Sri Lanka since 1957. The island’s officials nationalizing prosperous local assets as well as foreign businesses forced the latter to look for greener pastures. The Government of Singapore didn’t have to do much other than invite all displaced business from the then ‘Ceylon’ to set up business in Singapore. The opportunity lost by Ceylon was gained by Singapore. Senior Citizen Governance of Singapore still thanks and appreciates the service provided by our politicians that helped Singapore to be what it is today. After nationalization, the politicians endeavored to replace imported products by setting up Industries to manufacture products through state corporations. This was a good move. Politicisation and poor management were witnessed in state corporations due to the presence of unqualified appointees. Although the Government created a monopoly by banning imports it couldn’t produce goods which cost 50% less than the imported products. This encouraged smuggling. Razor blades,cement, tyres and various products manufactured by state corporations were below par. Although many efforts were made to grow our own food these attempts could not succeed due to political bungling and mismanagement. Food scarcity and other economic factors drove the country to poverty. All good ideas couldn’t be made use of due to mismanagement and bureaucracy. The start of State Corporations and efforts to industrialise the country by replacing imports and campaigns to grow more food did not improve the living standards of the people. In fact their lives became worse.
The Open Door Policy saved the country from economic disaster. Both programmes like grow more food and the Industrial Corporations Act are criticized by some. But this is what has helped our neighbours to overtake us. Now our politicians are trying to build their paradises in Singapore and Malaysia. Sri Lanka can’t be on par with countries like India, China, Korea and even Bangladesh. Sri Lanka is still ahead of them in terms of literacy and health care which are nothing much to talk about. This writer poses the question whether Sri Lankans are educated and healthy? News channels covering villages don’t show prosperous healthy people. They have the same problems or are worse off than they were ten years ago. Kolambata Kiri, Gamata Kakiri (An old saying which underscores the fact that Colombo gets the best while those in the village get a raw deal). Some old issues or problems still remain. Some places still have no roads, bridges, water, transport, teachers and doctors. Some farmer can’t sell their produce even at cost, during a harvest. Administrators are asleep!
Returning to the saying “Fools learn by mistakes, wise from others”, one of the hot topics these days is ‘floods’. Our administrators know that floods and the drought are common occurrences each year. Politicians boast that all action has been taken to cater to disaster victims by providing temporary shelter, food and health care. Year in and year out, as per records, 5 – 6 billion rupees are spent as disaster relief. All these expenses can be channelled for better use if our administrators at least now start advancing funds to clean all inland waterways and water retention areas in and around major cities. It is said that there are around 20,000 rain water retention tanks around the country. The larger ones were built by kings, medium ones by local administrations and the smaller ones were built by village administrators. Have our administrators taken any action to clean water waterways other than indulge in big talk? We are yet to ‘Walk the Talk’. Some action was taken by UDA and SLLRDC in the recent past which is now producing results. The Parliament surroundings, Colombo and suburbs are not submerged by water this time despite rivers such as Kelani and Kalu overflowing.
Kings and the past
Millions of acre-feet of water reaching rivers could have been reduced if internal tanks had been dredged. During the times of the kings, animals and man power were used over long periods of time. Now machinery and technology can be used to speed up the process. Kings and past administrators used their own technology to seal the bottoms of tanks against seepage. When the tanks are dredged, they must be done in such a way that heavy vibrator rollers and then heavy rollers are used to compact the bottoms of the tanks to prevent seepage. Just dredging with back hoe and dozers will damage the technology used by our ancestors to prevent seepage. When instructions to rebuild tanks are given by authorities of higher administration, the Irrigation Engineers and Civil Engineers must ensure to see that their education is put in to good use.
Sluice gates of tanks too are not controlled intelligently. When rain is expected, which leads to the expectation of water, gates must be opened in series. We are famous for opening sluice gates suddenly and this results in many people being washed away by gushing water, resulting in flooding. There was a report that all 20 sluice gates of a tank were opened at once causing a massive flood downstream. What happened to the intelligence of the irrigation engineer and other administrators responsible for water control? Will they take responsibility?
During the past few days many politicians said that rain is good and will increase GDP. Only one person said that we should not allow water to go a waste, and make plans to retain it; stopping it from seeping back into the sea.
I assume that most people didn’t realize the amount of mud in rivers and waterfalls. This shows that a large quantity of mud is being washed away from hills and surroundings. This is a result of forest felling on mountains and riverbanks. One bright spark might say that this will increase the amount of sand being deposited at the bottom of rivers. Millions of Acre-feet of water flowed into the sea during the past few days instead of being saved for prosperity!
Will our administrators at least now allocate funds and resources and call for offers to dredge the many tanks and waterways to be ready for the next drought period? This will help save at least 20% of the water lost this year which is a better option than boasting about disaster relief and wasting contributions received as disaster relief.
Let’s learn from our mistake!