Poverty and Unemployment
Posted on March 14th, 2019

By Ananda Ariyarathne Courtesy Ceylon Today

National Prosperity is the reflection of the ultimate capacity that is maintained by a Government providing the best possible environment for the sustenance of life. A Government is the power house that should generate the energy required in turning the environment to be sustaining life with ease. When a Government finds it difficult to solve at least the most crucial problems, it is from there, the deterioration starts extending its effect radiating in all the directions causing stagnation and ultimate collapse of the systems. Poverty is the inability to acquire what sustains life. That inability is the direct result of not having the purchasing power to acquire whatever is needed and that in turn is the direct result of not being meaningfully employed.

Inability to acquire essentials

When a household becomes helpless due to the absence of revenue generating avenues and that is a clear indication of the failure of a Government in assessing the human resources as well as the other national resources in a sensible and in an ‘objective oriented’ manner.

That is what happens when our Planning Principles are not ‘Objective Oriented’. My mentioning that our Planning Principles are not ‘Objective Oriented’ I might provoke many who are traditional and are trying to find answers to clearly specific objectives through very simple and general approaches. For example let us take a simple family in a ‘shanty environment’ where  in some places, family members take turns, even in their daily chores as the space available is so limited.

Let us see how they spend a day. The traditional English term – The Bread Winners’ shall no longer be applicable as the bread won by one shall not be sufficient for the family and that prompts others also to be engaged in ‘winning bread’ and such an environment prompts ‘cut-throat competition’ even at home.

Misled youth

As a result the children of such a family would not be interested in education, as it is beyond their reach on one hand and on the other hand the time they spend after school is not conducive with rigours of survival. The male children are trained to follow their elders and those elders know only their traditional occupations like providing labour as and when the need arises to man a variety of fields ranging from going for regular opportunities in the nearby factories, road works, or in divisions of municipalities and so forth; while, some opt to make some money selling fish vegetable and fruits; at locations where people mingle. Some who may be bolder than others may opt to distilling or selling illicit brews for the toilers who cannot afford the officially produced and sold, only at selected places. The latest and the most lucrative opportunity is in ‘drug-pushing’ which gives the takers a more challenging and a thrilling way to make a living with fast moving motor bikes and cars on one hand, and on the other thrilling night life and drinking and sex orgies with groups of daredevils with quick tempers who have access to all types of guns and blades that are linked to heroes in the world of cinema.

The glamour exhibited by those gun-toting drug pushers who would not need permanent places to rest, at night, would have the capacity to support their families and the skirmishes with the Police would not deter them.

Those who live the most comfortable lives are those who live off drugs and cannabis – pushing and illicit liquor selling; the rest lead very uncomfortable lives suffering and grumbling. The females have the least possible opportunities while the most decent opportunities they get may be in garment manufacturing units close to their homes. Out of them, most of the good looking females get entangled in love affairs which would take them away from their homes and some get stranded during these adventurous opportunities to end up as well known prostitutes, who would get enough income; but not for long.

Of the younger generation the boys and girls who attend schools end up somewhere as their fates may direct.

Now, let us see whether Government could find solutions or not. What are the avenues available to improve the living conditions of those? There are NGOs bragging about their training programmes to train young girls to sew. Some promote better toilets and have no answers to disposing sewerage.

It has become a jungle where only the fittest can survive. While the old and the unemployed are burdens on the Government, those who survive resorting to nefarious activities are not burdens that way but can a Government be happy about the fates of those human resources?  Of all of them how many can be considered as leading really prosperous lives?

No income and inability to acquire

All the grown ups are expected to fend for themselves, as wage earners in a family they help their families only for a very limited period, as their wish is to escape from their ‘Shanty Environment’.

In a family where the parents are too old, sickly and unemployed, when and if the grownups leave, younger siblings and the old parents who would be lost in a world where they have no hopes.

Where will such persons get the ability to acquire their daily needs? They have no means to meet their daily minimum needs because they have no means or revenues. How can there be any revenue if the persons have not been employed or had been holding pensionable jobs? No jobs, means no revenue.

Jobs are created by the planners who assess the resources and organise activities. It may not necessarily be direct Government provided employment opportunities but opportunities facilitated by the Government and private sector entrepreneurs. What is important is the commitment to direct. Let us take for example a ‘Food Processing’ facility. Such a processing plant can turn out products based on the locally available vegetable fruits, fish and so forth, and the households can be guided to produce certain products maintaining the standards and a monitoring facility can ensure hygienically produced pickles, jams and cordials and marketed through a marketing arm planned and activated through Government officials who are paid to do a job.

Employment does not have to be Government only. It can be initiated by the private sector also and can be self-employment too. By ensuring some kind of employment, the ‘revenue factor’ can be established. Once, that is in place and the employee gets assured of a sum of revenue periodically, allowing him or her to plan life.

However, it becomes clear that the employment becomes possible only if the resources are planned well. Just as an example. Let us take the shoe manufacturing industry. Due to the high management costs the in-house production of shoes has become very complicated and too costly. But if ‘Shoe Uppers’ can be out sourced then the factory can fix the cost and that way profitability can be achieved. For the workers who would be completing shoe uppers in their small domestic units, the costs can be kept low all the time. As the worker can be more flexible operating at home, the output targets also can be achieved.

It is only one example of the possibilities for main factories to outsource their production. Related to the same product the shoe manufacturing how many cottage industries and workshop industries can be organised as small production units to manufacture hand-tooled shoes and boots. Those are rare products with very high potential to earn revenue.

But, who has to take that initiative, This is where the Governments in Sri Lanka have always failed. It is a matter of setting standards, finalising organisational approaches and some mechanism to coordinate and monitor. Artisans can be organised into cooperatives and the coordination and financial control can always be made through Government mediation. It is a condition that shall never emerge naturally. It will need some guidance initially and with the progress achieved employment shall become more regularised while the revenues also shall be streamlined and made into some self-propelled activities which need only monitoring and supervision by some authorities of the Government or the private sector.

Lack of resource planning  

Employment is the engagement by a human to do a certain activity according to accepted norms and guidelines. The person representing the human factor contributes his or her skills and knowledge to convert some physical item into something which has a commercial value. That means it needs some material as inputs and processes as preparation of human skills development.

That indicates that the most crucial aspect is the identification of the resources which can be identified as the factors of production, too. Once it is in place, then, there is entrepreneurship which is undoubtedly another human skill.

It can be done in two ways. One is to decide on the availability of resources and the other is to determine what has to be done. Then mark what are the available resources at the place marked as factors that are in favour. That reduces the burden to identify what items have to be sourced from outside. Having done that, the attention can be given to the available human resources.

The available human resources are the people in the area and they are the beneficiaries who would get the benefits. That means the revenue that they get through employment. Who would make it possible?

It is the Government. The attention is on the population and the Government has the ways and means to identify the opportunities. By identifying the resources the Government has to plan how to use these in planning activities, for the people who would end up as the employees. Is not that what we wish to do?

We assess the resources and then determine the possible activity and that way launch the activity so that the people shall be benefited. It depends totally on the capabilities of the officials of the Government sector. If the bureaucrats are not creative that is where it shall collapse as the resources will remain hidden and not utilised if those bureaucrats are inactive.

Professional ignorance

Resource planning shall never become an activity if the bureaucrats are professionally ignorant. Professional ignorance is a condition that can be there due to the inferior calibre of personnel in authority, or due to other factors that affect negatively.

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