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SL's public holidays and the economy

14 April 2016 10:02 pm - 31     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


After years of civil conflict, Sri Lanka takes the needs of its multiethnic population very seriously, with a very pleasant side-effect: 25 national public holidays a year.

It's one of the highest national public holiday counts in Asia, far outstripping Singapore's 13 days, Japan's 17 days and even Indonesia and Thailand's relatively generous 19 and 20 days respectively. For Americans, who survive on a measly nine mandated days off a year, as well as Australians on just 10, 25 would be a dream.
Sri Lankans can thank their country's many recognized religions for the days-off bonanza.

Up to 70 percent of Sri Lankans are Buddhists, while the rest of the population identify as Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Christian or "other," according to an official census in 2012. As a result, most public holidays are for Buddhist holiday days, but there are also holidays for important Hindu, Christian and Muslim religious events.
The full moon day of every lunar month is known in Sri Lanka as Poya day, a Buddhist day of observance. There are 12 Poya public holidays alone in 2016, which generally sees residents wind down and the sale of alcoholic beverages, meats and fish banned. 
Lolitha Abesinghe, managing director of investment advisory firm Opportunity Sri Lanka, told CNBC that the high number of religious public holidays was a way to "extend the same level of respect to a cosmopolitan mix of maintain the peace, harmony and coexistence in the country."
The war ate up more than $200 billion in government spending over the years, according to an estimate by the Asia Economic Institute, as well as damaging economic development - an effect from which Sri Lanka is still recovering.
And while the high number of national holidays are a sign of religious equality, some businesses complain that they're unfavorable for the economy.
People working on a public holiday are entitled to double the normal rate of wages, according to Sri Lanka's Shop and Office Employees Act.
"Business entities in Sri Lanka have worked around the higher number of holidays to continue generating a good level of productivity," Abesinghe said.
He added that the public holidays helped boost the revenue potential of hotels, shopping malls and other entertainment-related industries.
But Lahiru Pathmalal, chief executive of Takas, a Sri Lanka-based internet e-commerce startup, is less positive.
"Public holidays may lead to better off-time but in terms of productivity and consumer behaviours there's an impact," he said.
"I dread seeing public holidays turn into long weekends," said Pathmalal, adding that this often led to a fall in revenue for his company.
Pathmalal told CNBC that he believed Sri Lanka needed to cut down on its generous public holiday calendar, because the holidays, which were originally meant for religious purposes, were no long observed as such by most people.(CNBC)

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  Comments - 31

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  • Cricy Friday, 15 April 2016 04:55 PM

    Do you want less public holidays or Religious/cultural harmony?

    karigalan Sunday, 17 April 2016 01:18 PM

    Thats why we are not like Japan and Singapore. our Per capita income should go up let increase productivity

    SL Sunday, 17 April 2016 12:52 PM

    Devolve the power to the states and let the holidays be state wise.

    kondaya77 Saturday, 16 April 2016 09:38 PM

    Country of lotus eaters.

    chandana Saturday, 16 April 2016 03:48 PM

    We should not compare only holidays in Sri Lanka but total working hours including staurdays, leave entitlements. On the other hand Most of the big companies are working for more than 45 hours a week and make payments for extra hours worked. Also there is a separate machanism to pay workers when they work on poya days.

    Banda Saturday, 16 April 2016 01:12 PM

    As we are not salves we should enjoy our holidays

    Banda Saturday, 16 April 2016 01:10 PM

    I think we should have more holidays as it will improve domestic life of individuals and bond between them. We should have one week holiday for Vesak and another week holiday for Christmas.

    koheda Saturday, 16 April 2016 04:02 AM

    Only for students.

    Sylvia Haik Saturday, 16 April 2016 12:30 AM

    It is meaningless to quote statistics of only the mandatory holidays. Most counties offer their employees maternity leave, paternity leave, 3 - 4 weeks paid vacation, casual leave, sick leave etc. I agree Sri Lanka has too many mandatory religious holidays. The Poya day prayers are held after working hours so there's no need for a day off.There are holidays on Mahasivarathri (whatever that is) day. Why do we need a hooliday a day prior to Sinhala/Tamil New year or Vesak Day. Also why is there a holiday on the birthday of Milan-Dun-Nabi (whoever he was).

    Hubert Friday, 15 April 2016 11:14 PM

    First and foremost is the commitment of the people to work and resurrect the country from economic woes

    Palitha Wijesundara Friday, 15 April 2016 10:15 PM

    Absurd blaming holidays for low economic growth. Do these people think of the low salaries most of the public and private sector employees get.Are people robots or machines? in this country there are no long term plans. No educational reforms to cater to the requirements of economic growth.

    L De Silva Friday, 15 April 2016 10:01 PM

    Its ridiculous to write these type of an article to a main stream newspaper without facts and figures. Quoting small time businesses. Most workers in Sri Lanka especially in the private sector that sustains the local economy work over and above their mandated hours especially from home on laptops. Are these hours counted weekends counted NO neither are they paid overtime but work has to be delivered on time Europeans in Germany are very lucky for ex. They get one month and more of paid annual leave and 21 days of paid medical leave. thats just an example. so unless and until we get with modern times and benchmark against developed countries like Germany or Netherlands lets leave are holidays as is. At least it ensures work life balance in a competitive world Which means a healthy and happy workforce in the long run. via DM Android App

    Ant Friday, 15 April 2016 08:32 PM

    Or how about removing one Sunday closer to a poya day, then leaving the poya day as it is. That way it will be fair to the Buddhists who go to temple once a month, compared to Christians who go to church every Sunday.

    das Friday, 15 April 2016 08:14 PM

    Let's ask countries who have less holidays and make more money to give us financial aid.

    Sanjaylk Friday, 15 April 2016 07:41 PM

    We are famous for blaming something for Sri Lanka not progressing. Last I recall it was the war (the list is way longer before that), then it was the government, then came the present government and now we blame the holidays. Countries which are developed don't do so due to the holidays they take or the lack of them. They do so due to good work ethic, proper government policies and good governance. Extra working days is not going to do anything when the entire "machine" is broken.

    rr Friday, 15 April 2016 06:39 PM

    anybody can comment any of the top companies not earning profit due to holidays Comparing the government sectorIts all about how an employee gets the job done not about how many hours u work.. via DM Android App

    [email protected] Friday, 15 April 2016 01:47 AM

    but remember there is something called mandatory summer holiday , so many take as part of holidays . In sri lanka it is hard to get such a thing

    COSCOS Friday, 15 April 2016 02:22 PM


    hater Friday, 15 April 2016 01:59 PM

    Recently I went to so called developed. is. full of robbot like people under awful is not just profits.there are lot who again sil on poya day like me and they are hard to find In don't try to abolish poya days.remember Sri Lanka is a budhist country whether you like it or not.silent majority is not commenting on internet and we don't want robots -like-human-citizen with no religous values in our country

    Shelley. Friday, 15 April 2016 01:29 PM

    Less holidays means human being become machienes. Families get torn apart. Is that acceptable via DM Android App

    Krish Friday, 15 April 2016 10:51 AM

    It's true that SL has lot of public holidays than other countries but all of those are not mercantile holidays so the private sector has lesser amount of holidays, for ex. 2016 there are about 17 holidays for private sector which fallen to working days. Except for gov. sector most of all the employees who works in private companies are working more than 45 Hrs per week regardless of holidays. Mr. Pathmalal only thinks that the productivity is increasing when employees working more extra hours in company. This is the ugly truth of immature SL businessmen. The employee's productivity is not increasing the extra hours he spent in office because his/her personal life will be a messy. Also lot of private sector employees get 35 leaves per year(14 medical,14 Annual and 7 Casual) but I think more than 70% of employees will get about 15-20 leaves per year.

    cheers Friday, 15 April 2016 09:08 AM

    most of the countries get 21 days of annual leave for a month apart from 2 days off per wee. But Sri lanka gest 14 days annual leave only per year and 7 casual leave and 7 sick days. if you take the casual leave out it is the same as other countries like Australia don't you think so.

    Srilankan Friday, 15 April 2016 09:04 AM

    Atleast someone has the sense to raise this matter..... one cannot be a superstar if they don't behave, think, and be like one" we want to develop the economy but we are willing to let go of our traditions which in fact has little or no values to our ethinical Co existence.

    yahapaluwa Friday, 15 April 2016 08:32 AM

    I think we need to have few holidays here and there. Life is not all about productivity and profits. thats why people are so mechanichal in Japan and Sinagapore

    Shan Friday, 15 April 2016 08:32 AM

    Sri Lanka can not afford 25 national holidays a year. This leads to low out put low productivity in the economy. SL cant compete with countries with more robust economies. via DM iOS App

    Banda Friday, 15 April 2016 08:28 AM

    Public holidays ! specially Poya means good business for all the liquour joints.... that economy booms.... It is sad to know if these holidays specially Poya is well observed by the Buddhist ...

    Shace-uk Friday, 15 April 2016 05:09 AM

    In nethelands if you work more than 38 hours you get extra holidays, on average if you work 40 hours a week you ger 38 annual leave and add the 8 public holidays which totals to 46, in SL 25 public and 20 annual makes it 45 holidays in total, its not how many holidays we have, its how effecient we can work!!! dutch has one of the strongest economy in the world and they work less than most Western couturies.

    Ireddyu Friday, 15 April 2016 04:55 AM

    Where are the stats to prove that holidays eat into economic progress in Sri Lanka? Country maintained a good GDP growth with all these holidays because it stimulates workers to perform better after a break. Come on publish something with validations!. Other countries should learn from from SL,

    annoyed Friday, 15 April 2016 04:04 AM

    Wouldn't it be good to make Sunday for all religions to observe their faith? Eg. once a moth Poya can be tagged to either one or all Sundays of the month. Eg. have one religious birthday celebration on all faiths on one day. Eg. merge independence day with any other national event celebration days. etc etc.

    Lanka Friday, 15 April 2016 03:03 AM

    Not to mention, for example...when the employees go home to their villages to celebrate Sinhala/Tamil NY, they don't show up for another few days/a week. By the time they come back to work, it's Wesak. The pattern starts all over again. So, no wonder we hardly get anything done.

    Cheers Friday, 15 April 2016 02:02 AM

    Finally someone has woken up only 10 public holidays is sufficient to a country like Sri Lanka and productivity should be raised

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