A humble request to His Excellency our Prime Minister Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa
Posted on August 10th, 2020

By Garvin Karunaratne

At the auspicious moment this morning on the ninth of August 2020, when our Prime Minister is being inaugurated it is my humble request that he considers the full development of the Hambantota District and a Youth Development Programme for special implementation.

The Hambantota District has been a  district where I did work long ago. I have been struck with the sincerity of its people and their sufferings. My first novel, Mukulita Piyumo Ayi Vana Meda Me details the travails and tribulations of its innocent people.  I have hoped that someday the people will be delivered from their poverty. My Paper tells it all. I propose the development of its agriculture and industry. These thoughts come in my Paper: Mattala Airport is not for sale. 

The youth of a country has to be the prime concern of any Government. I had the opportunity to beat hollow the ILO, the world reputed organization, when I worked in Bangladesh as a consultant to the Ministry of Labour and Youth way back in 1982. When the Military Government of General Ershard took over the country he was disillusioned with the work done by the Ministry of Youth Development where I served as the Consultant. The  Minister for Labour and Manpower in his Government, the Hon Aminul Islam,  Air Vice Marshall ordered me, What can you contribute for Bangladesh?” It was delivered in a vein implying that foreign consultants were non grata. I replied: Please consider approving a new self employment programme to enable the 40,000 youths we trained in vocations annually.” The Secretary to the Treasury the Highest Officer in the land objected stating that the ILO had failed miserably to establish a self employment programme in the earlier three years and said that self employment was not something that could be achieved and that it would  inevitably end in a waste of funds. I vehemently contested this statement. A two hour verbal duel ensued with my providing details of how it can be done while he contested every idea. This slang battle went on for over two full hours, with the Hon Minister painstakingly listening making notes.  The Minister finally had heard enough and ordered us to stop the verbal battle. Then he ordered. I approve this Advisor implementing a Self Employment Programme for our beloved country and I look forward to see it being done. He has convinced me.”  The Secretary to the Treasury stumped at one stating that he will not provide any funds to which I promptly replied that I needed no funds more than what was approved on the youth training budget. I requested approval to find savings within our approved budget and make variations and rewrite the remits of officers. He approved my request. My task was to design and implement a self employment programme and also train Bangladesh officers to continue it after my two year assignment was over.  The rest is history, Today it is a Programme that is on going, This Programme is today the premier programme the world has known and has guided over three million youths to become self employed. This Programme is today the premier programme of youth development the world has known.

I look forward to see two major programmes from the Government of President Gotabhaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa.

I enclose my Papers for kind consideration.

Mattala Airport is not for sale 

By Garvin Karunaratne 

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has made the difficult decision not to sell the Mattala Airport to India.  It is the right decision and he deserves to be congradulated.  

I wrote about how the Mattala Airport and the Port of Hambantota have to be activated back in 2014. That Paper is annexed because every detail of what I then wrote will hold good for today. Nothing happened in 2014 and we lost the Port during the regime of the UNP. 

Let me hope that the contents of this Paper will reach our leaders President Gotabhaya and Prime Minister Mahinda. To make the Mattala Airport pay  is very simple.  

Firstly we must understand our resources.  The Chena cultivators in Hambantota and Moneragala have to be activated to plant melon, red pumkin, ash pumkin. A Marketing Department has to be re established with two of their earlier programmes- the vegetable and fruit purchasing scheme and the Cannery.  The MD can be created overnight. The cost of creating it can be recouped within the very first year from the profits that come in by the purchase of veg and fruit that is supplied to the Cannery.  

A Cannery has to be set up. A medium scale Cannery has to be imported and assembled. My take is that it can be done within three to four months judging at the speed I worked at Matara in 1971.. 

The produce is already there the chena cultivators will produce all the Red Pumpkin, Ash Pumpkin we need and Melon to make all the fruit Juice and Jam and within one year we will be self sufficiuent in Jam and Juice. The foreign exchange we spend to get imports of Jam and Juice today will easily match the production we make in the very first year. We can grow Tomatoes and be self sufficient in items like Tomatoe Sauce. 

If we can find the equal of Assistant Commissioiner Oswald Tillekeratne  we can even export pineapple. He was in charge of the Cannery. We then exported 8% of our pineapple products. 

I have seen children in Lunugamvehera running behind my car to sell us mangoes. Our crop of Mangoes is vast and half goes waste as we pluck to the ground. 

The Mattala Airport is to be used to export the products. 

That is easily the way ahead. Someone in the Administrative Service has to be put in charge. 

If there is none to bell the cat I can undertake, though lingering in my Eighties I can undertake that job.. A place in the Administrative Service or an assignment will do that trick. Establishing a Marketing Department, a Cannery and getting it going will be far easier a task than establishing the Youth Self Employment Programme in Bangladesh which I did in 1983 when working as a consultant. 

If anyone confronts and tells that this cannot be done. I will be there if intimated.- (garvin_karunaratne@ hotmail.com)  Once I had a two hours’ duel with the highest officer in Bangladesh- the Secretary to the Treasury who contested my statement that I will establish a self employment programme. He quoted the International Labour Organization’s failure to establish a self employment programme after trying for three years and getting down experts from all over. The Minister who presided at our duel Air Vice Marshall Aminul Islam, the Minister for Labour and Manpower was convinced of my arguments and immediately approved my establishing a self employment programme. An entire Department of Youth Development took orders from me and within nineteen months I established the programme and also trained the staff to continue it. Today that Programme is the premium employment creation programme in the world and has by now guided three million youths to become self employed. Establishing a Marketing Department and a Cannery is a far simpler task. If I had failed I would have been court marshalled for wasting funds, as it was a military government 

It will be a pleasure to work for my Motherland. and I am dead certain that the task of establishing a Cannery can be accomplished and our country can also be self sufficient in all jam, Juice, Sauce and many more items that are imported today.  

A Rural Renaissance in the Offing
Posted on January 12th, 2014 in Lanka Web 

By Garvin Karunaratne 

My travel to Kataragama in December 2013 took me to the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa Airport and via the new road that is being built through Lunugamvehera Tank to Kataragama.  . 

I have worked stationed within Hambantota for over a year working in the Agrarian Services and Marketing Department and have covered Hambantota from Matara for another two years working on the Paddy Purchasing Scheme of the Agrarian Services Department and the Vegetable and Fruit Marketing Scheme of the Marketing Department. .  I lived in a chummery with  Vet Surgeon Balachandran and Assistant Commissioner Nanayakkara. We had to have a bath under the street tap at night or have a swim in the sea. Hambantota was easily the worst district I worked in.  There was hardly any decent restaurant other than the Rest House . That District has to be developed. The travails of the colonists at Meegahajandura detailed in my novel Mukulita Piyumo Ayi Vana Meda Me”(Godages) and the poverty of the fishing settlements the subject of my novel Landa Liyange Sihina Atare”(Godages) have to cease someday 

My work has taken me to remote areas covered by the paddy purchasing unit- the cooperative societies that were seething with life. In my eighteen years’ of life in the Administrative Service I have seen the pulse of the people in the Dry Zone marching from a peasant economy to a commercial economy but the neglected areas were many. While the Mattala Airport has the capability of breathing life to the Hambantota District in particular  and the entire South,  the Lunugamwehera- Kataragama Road will breathe life to a section of villages that were hitherto away from communication links with the rest of the country. 

To me the manner in which President Rajapaksa has dealt with foreign aid- in using it to fund development projects- like the Mattala Airport, the Hambantota Port  the Lunugamwhera Road- the massive highways tells me of a shift in the manner of using foreign aid. Hitherto, since the IMF took over the development of our country in 1977 and dictated us to follow the freemarket and the liberalization of foreign exchange, taking away the handling of foreign exchange that comes into the country from the hands of the sovereign government into the hands of the banks, the multinationals and their salesmen.  Instead of using  the foreign aid and the  foreign currency that we earn  for the development of the country and its masses we used it since 1977 to import everything  for the rich in terms of luxury imports, to fund the education of the rich children overseas, for luxury cruises and endless foreign travel for the rich. The foreign aid and foreign income was used to satisfy the luxury craze of a miniscule section of our population instead of being use for the masses. The new Strategy of President Rajapaksa  heralds to me a shift in the use of foreign exchange. 

Since 1977  foreign aid was not used for the masses except in  the Mahaweli Project, the brain child of the LTTE assassinated Minister Gamini Dissanayake. 

Driving along the Lumugamvehera- Kataragama mud track- which was being built, I saw mangoes in  plenty on the trees and the people, dressed in rags  in their attempt to get some income  chased behind my car with a few mangoes for sale.  It was a sheer attempt to find an income. 

Every year I spend a few months in the motherland I love. At Katunayake Airport  I slump into a roadworthy rental car sent to the Katunayake  Airport by King Rent a Car at Battaramulla and clock a few thousand miles driving down the roads I drove once as an administrative officer.  Then I had the ability to listen to the people and do something for them. In  charge of the Tripoli Market, the headquarters of the Vegetable and Fruit Marketing Scheme I often ordered a fleet of lorries to Producer fairs where the entire produce was bought. In Colombo Oswald Tilekeratne another Assistant Commissioner in charge of the Cannery turned Red Pumpkin  into Golden Melon Jam, Ash Pumpkin into Silver Melon Jam. Now I listen to them and write about them in my endless Papers and novels, hoping that my writing will reach the eyes of someone in power who will be spurred to action. 

My recent travel tells me that easily half the crop of mangoes goes waste today.  The Marketing Department Cannery established by us, when I served as an Assistant Commissioner, enabled that Department to offer  floor prices for Red Pumpkin and Ash Pumpkin. Mangoes and Oranges were used to make fruit juice. Now the Cannery  came under the axe of the IMF in 1978 by  the executioner of the Third World, the IMF that decided that the Public Sector should not do commerce and  the Cannery was privatized. The people of the Dry Zone that drew high incomes for their produce now cannot sell their produce.  I have repeatedly suggested that Canneries be opened in Tissamaharama and Dambulla and Anuradhapura to make fruit juice. We have melon in plenty and tomatoes that go waste. Now we import fruit juice, tomatoe sauce and jam from Developed countries like the USA, Australia. All this while our produce is wasted; our people have no incomes. The IMF strategy is for structuring the Third World to contribute to the Developed Country  and we have to follow the IMF because we are an indebted country. That was the legacy of the UNP that accepted the Structural Adjustment Programme of the IMF.  Why do we not realize the folly of following the IMF following it so far for over three decades. 

Let me hope that this Writing gets to the eyes of someone in power, The building of the Port, the Airport and the Highways is the first part of progress. Let me hope that Canneries will be set up to bring incomes to the masses that produce. Let me see Sinharaja Water for sale in Colombo. The development infrastructure of Canneries, Small industries that was all abolished by the IMF from 1977 by the United National Party has to be set up once again. 

This can be done fast- in a few months if the Government Agents are activated. We established The Matara Mechanised Boatyard that made 40 foot seaworthy fishing boats and  Coop Crayon, a crayon  factory that supplied high quality crayons for a tenth of our requirements in 1971 within  three months. Our administrators can do that job. They are used to it. There was one of us that made Paper at Kotmale. Now we export Waste Cardboard some 30,000 tons every month to India and buy Paper in return. 

That senario must cease to bring employment and incomes to our people. It is heartening to note that the 2014 Budget  is emphasizing import substitution, to make everything imported in Sri Lanka bringing employment and incomes to Sri Lankan youth and not creating employment and incomes to people in countries like the USA and Britain who are ranged against us to take our leaders to the War Crimes,  Coop Crayon, the Crayon factory that I as the Government Agent and Sumanapala Dahanayake the member of parliament struggled and established in Deniyaya in 1971 tells us that we can succeed in import substitution. The quality of the crayons made by Coop Crayon equalled the quality of Crayola and when I and Sumanapala showed the crayons we made to the then Minister of Industries Mr. Subasinghe he was surprised and readily volunteered to preside at the ceremony to open sales. That art of making crayons was unearthed in the science lab at Rahula College. Matara  in 1971 by  my Planning Officer Vetus Fernando working with science teachers. That success itself tells me that Sri Lanka can succeed in import substitution. But the full blast of the IMF and their lackeys the Pathfinder Foundation in Sri Lanka and their mouthpieces the economists shout from the tree tops that import substitution will derail our economic effort.(See Sunday Times 29/12). Let us ask any of them whether they have ever established any industry, import substitution or otherwise in their entire life. Let them tell us of what industries they have established before advising. 

They all the economists as well as the IMF forget the man at the helm , the personage of extreme courage who delivered Sri Lanka from terrorism, a task that every Superpower  said we could not ever achieve. 

Let me live in hope that President Rajapaksa will now take full charge of the economic development of Sri Lanka.  

The Youth Self Employment Program of Bangladesh.

The Ministry of Youth Development where I was working as a two year consultant from the Commonwealth Secretariat was attending to traditional youth work and providing skills training to 40,000 youths annually. The Military Government that took over in 1982 expressed dissatisfaction with the programmes and at an evaluation, presided over by Air Vice Marshall Aminul Islam, the Minister for Labour and Manpower,  I was questioned as to what contribution I could make for Bangladesh.

I replied that it would be ideal to have a Self Employment Program which will guide and train the youths  undertaking skills programs to become self employed. Then most of the trained youths remained unemployed. The Secretary to the Ministry of  Finance, the highest official in the land, objected, stating that this was something that can never be achieved because the ILO had miserably failed to establish a self employment program in Tangail in the earlier three years. The Secretaries of the Finance and other Ministries strongly objected, stating that it would end up in a waste of funds and also that the Youth Ministry should not be entrusted with the task of creating employment opportunities. I argued that though the ILO failed, I had the ability to  succeed because I had established many employment projects in my work in Sri Lanka. I also argued that youth work should concentrate on skills training and guiding the trained to establish enterprises. The Hon Minister listened carefully to an easy two hours’ arguments between me and the Secretaries of some Line Ministries. Finally he ordered all of us to shut up and asked the Secretaries for the number of drop outs of the education system in any one year, those who would be searching for employment without any qualification. The answer was in the millions. Then he asked for the number of youths who would be guided to become self-employed through Government Programs. The answer was none. He immediately ruled that I should be allowed to establish a youth self employment program. The Secretary to the Treasury immediately vetoed it by stating that there were no funds. I immediately said that I needed no funds, but authority should be granted for the Ministry to re deploy officers, redraft their work remits and to find savings within the skills training budgets for expenses on holding workshops to train and guide youths to become self employed. The Hon Minister granted that request.

The Ministry of Labour and Manpower got cracking the very next day, identifying key areas where the work will commence, drafting training schedules to train the staff who attended to skills training on how to guide the youths to make their own assessment of how they can be self employed in their habitat. The Ministry took over elements of national planning, in identifying areas where there was a potential for youths to become self employed. I with a core of officials addressed the 40,000 youths in training on identifying areas where they could generate incomes,  and how they should draft plans to be self employed. It was to be a family basis where the parents and elders of the youths were also consulted. All skills training institutes were activated till late at night to enable youths to utilize the machinery to make something that  could be sold. What they made was evaluated at the next days training and this took on a process of training to make marketable products. The three Livestock and Poultry Training Institutes of the Ministry established  an extension service to help youths who commence farms in their homes. The Deputy Directors of Youth Development in charge of Districts took on the mantle of guiding the youths to establish income generation activities and guiding them on a day to day basis. In short the Ministry of Youth Development  became in facto a Ministry creating employment and providing training for that purpose/.

In 1982 I commenced training the staff in economics and techniques of community development and non formal education where the thrust was to enable youths to make their own decisions  and develop their abilities to make them become successful entrepreneurs. I was training 2000 youths and also training the staff to continue the program when I leave.

The design of the program and my accomplishment is recorded in the certificates issued by the two Secretaries with whom I worked.

Mr Ayubur Rahaman, The Secretary to the Ministry wrote on 5/10/1983:

His contribution towards successful launching of a number of skills  development training programs to promote employment of youths deserves special appreciation. His role as formulator of the self employment project has been particularly commendable. Dr Karunaratne  applied his initiative, skills, expertise and energy on training of youth officers, preparation of business profiles for encouraging self employment and guding youths to formulate small projects. It was mainly through his dedication and hard work  that the pilot program  for self employment  has now been formally accepted as one of the most important development projects to be implemented  by the Youth Development Department.”

Mr Md. Asafuddowlah, Joint Secretary on 28/8/1983:

Dr Karunaratne’s significant contribution has been in the field of self employment to the drop out youths. This Programme was not only designed by him but also guided by him. This activity which was initially launched  as a pilot experimental project has been a great success and has now been  adopted as a full fledged programme of the Youth Development Department. This is a non subsidy programme  in which the youths are subjected to non formal education inputs while they are engaged in viable bur small scale commercial ventures. The Government  has been successful in providing  meaningful employment  to a large number of youths on this programme.

Mr Md Asafuddowlah,  Secretary to the Ministry, on 20/2005, eihht years later, wrote to me:

You will be happy to learn that the Self Employment Program of the Youth Development Department  has expanded across the country and attained great success. I have not forgotten your valuable contribution to the success of this programme.”

In 1993, the Government of Bangladesh through the Commonwealth Fund requested my service as an Advisor but I had to decline as I was in a permanent post as an Assistant Professor at Westminister.

The Programme has been expanded apace. On 19/2/2011, the Government of Bangladesh,  in its Report to the 34 th Session of the IFAD(FAO) stated that two million youths have found self employment on this Programme. By now (2020) this Programme has guided over three million youths to become self employed and derive incomes equal to the earnings of a clerical officer in the Public Service. This target has never been reached in any other programme anywhere in the world.

Today this is the largest employment creation program the world has known. The Programme currently guides  160,000 youths to become self employed and the Youth Ministry has taken over the task of national planning to create employment. Today,  Ninety five percent of the work of the Youth Development Ministry is to create employment for the youth.

I am proud that I was able to establish the Youth Self Employment Programme in Bangladesh on my own and to have trained Bangladeshi administrators to  continue it after my assignment was over. The only Programme that can stand comparison is the Comilla Rural Development Programme of Bangladesh, implemented in 1958- 1969 which doubled the yield of paddy and achieved full employment in the Kotwali Thana- a Division in Bangladesh. This was established by Dr Akhter Hammed Khan with the help of a number of professors from Michigan State University who were in residence in Comilla.through a decade.

The Youth Self Employment Programme of Bangladesh stands out as a success that can be repeated in many a Third World country

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