The Divisional Development Councils Programme(DDCP): Lessons on the eve of the 2019 Presidential Election of Sri Lanka
Posted on November 11th, 2019

Garvin Karunaratne, PhD Michigan State University*

The DDCP was the major development programme undertaken by the Government of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranayake during her 1970-1977 rule.

This was also the first major islandwide development programme ever to be implemented in Sri Lanka. Earlier there was the Rural Development Programme and the Small Industries Development Programme which were smaller programmes aimed at rejuvenating the rural areas with small industries and Powerlooms. However, the DDCP was far major in scope and the Government had high hopes of great success. The Government head hunted the most eminent economist on the island, Professor HAdeS Gunasekera the professor of Economics at the University of Peradeniya. A new Ministry of Plan Implementation was formed under the Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranayake and Profesor Gunasekera was appointed as the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry. The importance given to the programme was such that helicopter travel was authorized for him.

The main aim of this DDCP was to bring about employment for the youth. The aims, in the words of the Budget Speech of Dr N.M.Perera, the Minister of Finance;

The main objective of this programme is to create employment opportunities in the rural areas and through small scale projects  in agriculture, industry and the provision of infrastructural facilities, making use of the resources available locally; increase national production and involve the people in national development work.”

The method was to enlist the support of all officials and elected personnel in every Division.  In detail,” An entirely new structure for planning is being established (within which) each local authority will be the focus for development planning and plan implementation. Popular participation will be secured through the Divisional Development Council in which the elected organs of the village, the cooperative society, the cultivation committee, the village council will have a planning and coordinating role in the overall development of their area.”.

The DDCP was a crash programme to create employment for the youth. The target was to create 100,000 jobs in the first year.

The Government enlisted the services of the Government Agents to implement this programme. Even before the Ministry of Plan Implementation recruited graduates as Development Assistants and   Planning Officers the Government Agents selected the best officers who were working in the District and the programme was immediately commenced. I was serving as the Government Agent of the Matara District.

There was a major set back because of the Janata Vimukti Peramuna(JVP) Uprising on April 5th 1971. This took on the form of an attack on all Police Stations and army units. It was an attempt to capture power in a single day like what Fidel Castro did in Cuba. The JVP controlled the hinterland- the rural areas and had their kangaroo courts etc. and it took a few months for total order to be restored. The JVP had been instrumental in working for the SLFP – for Mrs Bandaranayake at the 1970 election and the DDCP was a programme that was specially meant to provide employment to the youth.  No reasons were given for the sudden uprising but it was found that the North Korean Embassy had spent a massive sum of money at this time and there was some evidence of some connection with the Uprising.  The Government closed down the North Korean Embassy.  This was an unfortunate episode that delayed the implementation of the DDCP for months. Since that day officials travelled the least possible and further all investors- estate owners, rice millers etc.who had made rural areas their homes left for security reasons to the cities.

The development councils were formed in every division. The Councils comprised all officials and elected officials of cooperatives, cultivation committees and local government institutions. The Head of the Council was the Divisional Revenue Officer(DRO) of the area. He was given a new designation of Assistant Government Agent. Meetings were held and the Councils identified small scale industries and agricultural projects- farms which were funded and commenced all over the island.

In Matara District, in addition to a number of agricultural farms and small craft type of industries, the Councils suggested many industries and feasibility reports were prepared and approval sought.  It was generally difficult to get approvals a few small industries were approved and the Ministry made an allocation of funds to buy the machinery, put up structures and also funds to pay a stipend to the youths till the projects were established and incomes generated.

I suggested that a Mechanized Boatyard should be approved to be constructed at Matara on land bordering the Nilwala River. A Feasibility Report was drafted and submitted. The Ministry called me for a meeting where the Director of the Fisheries Department was also present. The Ministry officials were not interested and there were objections by the Director of Fisheries. The meeting was ultimately put off for another discussion on another day.  This was the first cooperative industry to make seaworthy 30 foot long boats and perhaps the Ministry was worried that it could be a failure and be a blot on the Ministry. Anyhow after a major battle, we obtained approval and the boatyard was established. It was a great success.

The Councils were agitating for more industrial units and we suggested that at Deniyaya we could establish a Water Colour Industry making watercolour paint boxes. This was import substitution in action because at that time Sri Lanka imported the bulk of our watercolour requirements. The Ministry submitted our Feasibility Report to the Industrial Development Board(IDB)  and a meeting was held at the Ministry.  The Ministry agreed with the IDB recommendation that this should not be approved because the Deniyaya area did not have any of the ingredients that went into making watercolours. I argued that if Japan could buy cotton from as far as Egypt, take it all the way to Japan, make textiles and market the sales back in countries as far as Egypt, we too could do it. We were at an advantage because our country itself needed the watercolour paint boxes. I  lost the battle. The Ministry was amply satisfied with the small craft type of projects and the farms that we had got working.

However, we wanted to do better. I suggested a Dairy Project in the Deniyaya- Mawarala area where we will get Estate owners to plant grass on all their unused land. We could get private farmers too to have more cows. The only proviso I insisted was that we should have a Creamery to make butter and cheese. because it was impossible to sell more milk.  My feasibility report created problems.  It was argued that small creameries were not commercially viable and the Ministry said that we did not have grasslands to feed the cattle. It ended up with heated arguments at the Ministry. I did not know then that Switzerland doted on small creameries.

 It was quite evident that the Ministry was not going to approve any new industry for our District. The only sophisticated industry ever done in the rest of the island was a Paper Making Industry at Kotmale.  The Ministry told me to get going making bricks and tiles if I was interested. I pointed out that in tiles and bricks the private sector had already established factories in the District and it would not be prudent to try to create a problem of oversupply.  The Ministry and I clashed not once but many a time. It happened because once I had served as a Deputy Director of Small Industry and I knew more about industries than anyone in the Ministry.  The Ministry never appreciated my ideas. Theirs was always on the beaten track.

The officers at the Katchcheri were very innovative and we had many meetings. Finally, I summoned my Planning Officer Vetus Fernando, a chemistry graduate of the University of Colombo, just out of the University who did not have a day’s experience in chemistry after graduating. I fed him all I knew about making watercolours. Once as Deputy Director of Industries, I had approved an allocation of dyes to a watercolour industrialist and I had seen him making watercolours. I knew the ingredients but not the proportions and details of mixing it- temperatures etc. Vetus and I decided to try to find the art of making crayons. The science teachers at the school also helped us.  We commenced work at the Residency in the evenings and came to a point where we needed science equipment and it was suggested that we should use the equipment at a school lab. I approached Mr Ariyawamsa the Principal of Rahula College Matara and he readily agreed for us to use the science lab after hours.  The Science lab at Rahula was our domain from around six in the evening till midnight every working day. The workers were the science teachers and Vetus, the only scientists and we, myself, and a few staff officers were all cheerleaders.  The Cheer Leaders had to keep the momentum going when every night we tried different methods and we failed every day for close upon two months. Then Vetus got a brain wave. The crayons we made were never of good texture and he said that  I should approve his going to Colombo to his university dons in chemistry and he was certain they will help. I readily agreed and authorized him travelling and subsistence payment. I was happy that he had thought of this method and I dreamt of success. Vetus turned up on the fourth day and narrated in disgust that none of the professionals at the University of Colombo was interested in helping him. He had begged of them but was told to get lost.  My staff officers and I were not going to take things lying down to submission. We started experiments in earnest – from six till midnight sipping black coffee with a sing-song once in a way to keep the momentum going. In a month of experiments, we came across the method to make crayons. Then I supervised fine-tuning the art again and again till we got to be near the Crayola grade- then it was Reeves.  We won the day.

Next came- how to establish a small scale factory. I could not get approval from the Ministry.  I was certain that they will turn it down. I could have summoned Harischandra or an industrialist and I knew many personally and could have told them to put up a factory, but then it won’t be us. Finally, I decided that it should be cooperative.  The Cooperative Unions had funds but not the authority to establish an industry.  Then I thought of Sumanapala Dahanayake, the Member of Parliament for Deniyaya, who was the President of the Morawak Korale Coop Union because he was a maverick, a daredevil type if that was required. He was in charge of the funds at the Coop Union. When I broached the subject to Sumanapala he readily agreed to establish a Crayon factory. However, he had no authority to use cooperative funds for that purpose. The Government Agent too had no authority to direct cooperatives. However for purposes of coordination in the case of the agricultural development programme, the G.A.had been gazetted a Deputy Director of Cooperative Development. I usurped powers that I did not really have based on this gazette notice and authorized Sumanapala to spend cooperative funds and establish the Crayon Factory.

Sumanapala needed only a nod. He got cracking with purchasing the equipment and gas burners, recruiting youths. This was done in two days. A few rooms at the Cooperative Union at Morawaka were cleared and the Katchcheri staff too moved in to commence making crayons. It was a 24-hour operation, with youths working in shifts, working under the watchful eyes of Vetus Fernando the Planning Officer. There were Chandra Silva the DLO, Weimalaratne the AGA, Daya Paliakkara a Development Assistant. They were all involved in the experiments at Rahula College and were at hand went Vetus took a few hours rest. The youths had to get trained to do every single crayon to perfection- a difficult task. It was a hand made crayon-like most industries in China today. I broke rest on two days till everything got off the ground. We sipped black coffee and sweetmeats brought by Gunam Tambipillai, an estate owner who was very supportive of all our efforts at development. Sumanapala was in his elements and in around two weeks,  Coop Crayon packets were printed and crayon packets made to fill two large rooms.

Then I took off with Sumanapala to meet the Minister of Industries, TB Sunbasinhe who was surprised to see the quality of the crayons. He readily agreed to come for the opening ceremony when we would commence sales.  That was a grand occasion.  With that aura of authoritative approval, I felt safe for all I had done without any Ministry approval.

Coop Crayon was fully functional. The Youths managed it well. However, one major hitch was the purchase of dyes that had to be purchased in the open market at high prices. I approached the Ministry of Industries, the people that gave permits of foreign exchange to industrialists- the place where I had worked two years earlier. They said that their foreign exchange was only for the private sector industrialists and not for cooperatives. The mandarins were not going to bend rules. We were lost.

In a few days, a brain wave struck us and we went to meet the Controller of Imports, Harry Guneratne, Harry was authorizing imports and confided that he was approving foreign exchange to import crayons. We argued that if he only gave us an allocation of a twentieth of what he would approve for the import of crayons to import dyes, he could cancel all imports and save the rest of the allotted foreign exchange. This had never been done earlier but Harry was an immediate convert. However, he said that this was the first time that such an allocation was made and wanted us to approach his Minister and get his approval.  Minister Illangaratne not only approved it but also insisted that we should open a crayon factory at Kolonnawa his electorate. This detail has been included to show how we can save foreign exchange through establishing import substitution type of industries.

Coop Crayon was developed fast by Sumanapala and he stepped it up to have island-wide sales.  All the units I had established in industries and agricultural farms were active and in good health.  Coop Crayon and the Matara Boatyard were at the top performers in entire Sri Lanka.

In another year in April 1973, I left the Administrative Service to proceed to the UK for further studies. Sumanapala handled the Coop Crayon well. The other industries and employment ventures were well looked after by Vetus and the Katchcheri staff.

Then in 1977 came the General Election where the Government of Sirimavo Bandaranayake lost and the United National Party under JR Jayawardena won.

 Before long President Jayawardena caved into the IMF which insisted that if he needed Financial Aid, he had to invariably follow the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Programme. (SAP) The main condition was that the Government could not handle any commercial undertakings. Everything that the earlier Governments had done in the name of commercial undertakings, to create employment etc had to be totally abolished. The DDCP industries and farms were totally abolished and hundreds of youths were inevitably consigned to the scrap heap of unemployment and poverty.

The political rivalry became the order o the day. My Headquarters Assistant GA Ranjith Wimalaratne, a kingpin in industries and who handled the Powerlooms with great efficiency was a persona non grata and was hunted down. To save his life he had to forego everything and run away to Canada.

A few years later, I met AT Ariyaratne, a senior member of the Administrative Service and when I told him that I had last served as the GA at Matara he spoke of a special assignment he got in 1978 when he worked as a Deputy Commissioner of Cooperative Development. He had been assigned to proceed to Morawaka to inspect Coop Crayon and somehow find fault with Sumanapala Dahanayake the Member of Parliament who in his capacity as the President of the Morawaka Coop union handled Coop Crayon.  Coop Crayon was at that time in full swing with islandwide sales and was easily the flagship industry of the DDCP. The Government wanted Coop Crayon discredited and to also find fault with Sumanapala for him to get punished. Ariyaratne told me that he had spent days inspecting and auditing and could only report that Coop Crayon was a very successful cooperative industry, with all books kept in perfect order. Sumanapala was saved from a sojourn in the gallows. Ariyaratne was not an officer who would stoop to create evidence to put a person into trouble at the bidding of someone in authority.

In order to get foreign loans, the UNP caved in and destroyed all that we had created to bring about youth employment. The Matara Boatyard where youths built seaworthy inboard motorboats- some 40 every year and earned good incomes was scrapped and the valuable machinery was neglected, sold and also left in the scrap heap. Coop Crayon was stopped. All other industries and agricultural farms were stopped and a few hundred youths lost their jobs. Getting loans was the priority, and the UNP Government did not care whether youths who earned a living were destined to the realm of poverty. The aim was to satisfy the IMF. The IMF barked orders to be carried out.

Let us see what economist luminary Professor Jeffery Sachs had to say of the entry of the IMF and the World Bank to Africa:

The IMF and the World Bank virtually ran the economies of the debt-ridden continent recommending regimes of budgetary belt-tightening known technically as the Structural Adjustment Programme. These Programs had little scientific merit and produced even fewer results. By the start of the twenty-first century, Africa was poorer than in the late 1960s when the IMF and the World Bank had first arrived on the scene., with the disease, population growth and environmental degradation spiralling out of control. IMF led austerity led to riots, coups and the collapse of public services( From The End of Poverty)

As much as Africa became poorer with the advent of the IMF, from 1978, Sri Lanka too faced destitution.  The UNP Government of President Jayawardena played poodle to the IMF and did everything that the IMF wanted it to do. As far as the DDCP was concerned all industries and agricultural farms were abandoned and the thousands of youths involved were destined to unemployment and poverty. Imagine what the youths who were making crayons felt in Morawaka, what the youths fromMorawaka who were selling crayons at both Alimankada and Pamankada felt and the youths that were making boats felt at the Matara Boatyard felt when they were ordered to close down and get lost.

A Presidential Elections is in the hustings in a few days in Sri Lanka and it is necessary to bring about employment for the youth and prosperity for the people. The DDCP was once the flagship that Dr NM Perera and PrimeMinister Sirimavo doted on to bring us prosperity. The United National Party of President Jayawardena sacrificed that at the behest of the IMF.

It is time that we rethink our strategies at development once again from scratch.

It is hoped that the combination of leaders former Defense Secretary Gotabhaya and former Premier Mahinda can effectively strategize a programme to end poverty and unemployment in Sri Lanka. I am certain that they will be successful.

I hope to see a development programme that is better than the DDCP in the new future and the only path to this development lies through a victory for Gotabhaya as President. There is no other option.

It was not long ago that they showed us their full colours by defeating the LTTE that attacked us all over our country for thirty long years.

That is the only hope for our Motherland.

These words come to you from a Sri Lankan  administrator who once in 1982 and 1983 was working as the Commonwealth FundAdvisoir to the Ministry of Labour and Manpower in Bangladesh, who was able to obtain approval to establish a Youth Self Employment Programme, and within two years did create the Programme and trained Bangladeshi staff to continue it- a programme that has guided millions into self employment, which is today the premier employment creation programme that has withstood the sands of time.

*Garvin Karunaratne, PhD Michigan State University

Author of How the IMF Sabotaged Third World Development (Kindle/odages:2017)

How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka and Alternative Programmes of Success(Kindle/Godages:2006) 

Professor George Axinn of Michigan State University hails this book: It is hoped that this timely book will enable international organizations to arrest the trend of failures. …  I am delighted and proud  to have been one of his teachers at Michigan State University.”

11/11/2019

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