Ideas to make Britain great again.
Posted on August 2nd, 2019

Garvin Karunaratne.M.Ed, Manchester, M.Phil.Edinburgh, Ph.D. Michigan State University.


In my own life as an automobile owner – all my earlier cars were made in Great Britain- a Hillman Minx,  a Humber Hawk, a Vauxhall Cresta, a Morris Oxford. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in the Sixties, That Humber Hawk was a dependable, comfortable great car, comparable to any BMW  of today. Yet Britain lost its grip on its manufacturing base. Now Britain does not make a single car. The Land Rover and a few other makes are all owned by foreigners. British craftsmanship and workmanship has eroded to nothing.

Britain has become a nation of talkers. As a Social Worker in Manchester, a Senior Community Worker in Edinburgh and as a Lecturer at Westminster we did well in providing services, but the manufacturing economy has grounded to a halt. German owned Supermarkets Ali and Lidl sell in the UK many small manufactures made in Germany     at prices lower than Chinese products.  This indicates that there is room for Britain to make a comeback in making items that are imported from China. Today building homes and apartments is talked of as development. There is little talk of rebuilding our manufacturing base to give a strong foundation to our economy.

 In 1980, in Edinburgh,   I was  the Senior Community Education Worker  in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh and  the Warden of Clovenstone Community Center. We then had a repertoire of youth and community development programmes. It is a crime ridden no go area today whereas when I was there we used to  travel all over the housing estate even at midnight.

Then, I was also supervising a few  lads under the Youth Opportunity Programme(YOP) and the Special Temporary Employment {Programme(STEP) of the Manpower Services Commission, the one and only occasion when Britain tried to grapple with unemployment. The lads were to be acclimatized into community and youth work. They acquitted themselves very well, were very useful and I was struck with their ability. They were all school leavers who failed to  enter the portals of higher studies. They were paid a allowance for two years and  thereafter got lost.  The only job they found was to join the army and  later I was sad to come to know  that some lads had become cannon fodder in foreign lands.

The  two premier programmes of the Manpower Services Commission- the YOP and STEP actually took away two of the most formative years of the life of a youth, leaving them nothing other than  to hog the queues of the Social Security System that gave them a meager living grant.

I suggested that instead, these youths should be guided to follow a special intensive course in a vocation of their choice- where they would be able to work towards making something that was imported. Many are the Colleges of Education  in Edinburgh that excel in providing  vocational and technical education which train youths for  a year and award them a certificate. Left on their own to find a job in a free market economy with imports being the order of the day, they inevitably fail and have to be satisfied with  social security grants and end scraping the barrel for life.

I  wrote a  Memorandum detailing how the youths under the Manpower Service Programmes, should instead follow a few tailor made intensive but short six months’ courses run by Colleges of Education in an area of their choice where they would after a grounding in basic skills and use of machinery identify  saleable items that can be made,  and make such items as a part of their course. Then the Marketing Lecturers, the professional in economics of the Colleges of Education who normally held courses in marketing on a simulated basis  with  paper and pen, chalk  and talk, will take charge and get involved in actually  marketing the product made by the youths offering the chance to enable the youth to build up their abilities in the art of marketing. The Vocational Training Units in the Colleges of Education would continue to guide the entrepreneurs till their enterprises become commercially viable.

My Report was submitted to the Director of Community Education,  the late Peter Williamson, who full of enthusiasm submitted it for approval by the Education Committee of the Lothian Regional Council. It was intensely debated, but the Labour Party stalwarts  in power wanted to put off its implementation till Labour ruled the country. That was the time when the Conservatives ruled for long. I was given a commendation and that was all. This happened in 1981.  

I was wasting my time in Edinburgh doing sweet nothing worthwhile and     quit to Bangladesh in two years.

Later,  in 1989, I was a Lecturer at Westminster Adult Education Institute in London- my job was in community education- to assess the needs of the community, draw up courses of study find suitable lecturers and implement them. The Institute had an array of vocational courses – in painting, ceramics, wood work etc and the trainees were trained and for practice purposes they made many a something that were never saleable. I prepared a Report where I urged that the trainees should be  more intensively trained and taught  to make a saleable product . Then the  economics  lecturers of the Institute will guide them in the rigours of marketing and ultimately guide the trainee to become an entrepreneur.  My ideas were booted out  and that idea died a natural death.

Great Britain has in the meantime continued its way down hill.   It is no longer a manufacturing hub. Germany and France have taken over that role.

In 2019, the  citizens of Great Britain decided to get away from  being a member of the European Union. Having joined later, Britain had to play a second fiddle  to both France and Germany.,  The people had got sick of Britain as a member of the EU because immigrants from the poor countries of Europe have swarmed in droves, enjoying the social security system  the health services, with Britain failing to cope.     Great Britain   voted to leave. Instead of acting on it in a straight forward manner, calling it a day and going it alone as advised by  President Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May went licking the boots of EU leaders to get privileges for Great Britain.. She came   back empty handed, ridiculed and ignored. Now on 23 rd July 2019, a new Prime Minister Mr Boris Johnson was elected as the Prime Minister.

2. My experience and achievements

Let me detail two  programmes which I myself created and established  successfully.  This is important because I am suggesting major ideas and those who read should know that I speak through sheer experience as a battle  hardened professional someone who has established at least one employment creation programme that has stood the test of time. It is also necessary that none can say that I speak from hearsay- without facts. Here I was in sole charge in the design and implementation and no one can doubt the success recorded.

One such programme is the Youth Self Employment Programme of Bangladesh. I left my post in Community Education in Edinburgh to assume duties as the Commonwealth Fund Advisor in Youth Development in Bangladesh. The Ministry had an array of youth activities in social,  and cultural areas and also provided vocational training to 40,000 youths a year in an array of some thirty vocations.

The Military took over the country in a bloodless coup  d’etat in one night. The Military viewed youth work activities with scorn,  Within a day or two a meeting was held to abolish or scale down youth activities with the Minister for Labour and Manpower Mr Aminul Islam in the chair. He went through the programmes that were being implemented and was very critical. Realizing me as the only outsider he called for my designation  and when told that I was the Commonwealth Fund Advisor to the Ministry, ordered me  to state the contribution I could make for Bangladesh. I responded that with 40,000 youths being trained annually, with   most of them remaining unemployed at the end, we should have a self employment programme  as an integral part of vocational training to guide the trainees to become entrepreneurs The Secretary to the Treasury, the highest administrator in Bangladesh quoting the miserable failure of an attempt by the International Labour Organization(ILO) to create a self employment programme  a few years earlier, said that I was suggesting something that could  never be achieved which will inevitably result in wasting funds. I contested and said that though the ILO failed I could assure success. My heated arguments with the Secretary to the Treasury and a few other Secretaries of key Ministries went on for over two hours till the Hon Minister had enough of it and  stopped all of us arguing. He said that I had convinced him and immediately approved my designing and establishing a self employment programme.  The Secretary to the Treasury stumped the proposal  by declaring  that he will not provide any funds to which I replied that I needed no new funds and will manage the additional work within the approved youth training budget by finding savings within votes and re-drafting the work remits of officers. This was approved.

 I started training the staff as well as the trainees the very next day. In the next 18 months, before I completed my two year assignment I had trained 2000 youths and of my starter youths easily seventy five percent were all successful entrepreneurs. I had designed a programme that intensively guided the trained you to become entrepreneurs.

I  had trained the entire staff of youth workers in economics and in the art of involving youths in self employment- building their abilities and capacity while working   to become entrepreneurs. This Programme is today the premier programme of employment creation the world has known and had guided two million youths to become successful entrepreneurs by 2011. This Programme today guides 160,000 youths a year. It is a hard programme that does not provide funds for nothing but intensively guided the youths. It provided training and youth workers- now turned to be economic development  specialists guided them on a daily basis to success. Even today(2019) 36 years later, 95% of the work of the Ministry of Youth Development lies in motivating and guiding the youths to become self employed, the only such programme in the world.

This was what I had suggested to establish in Edinburgh. Edinburgh’s failure was Bangladesh’s success.  Great Britain could do with a self employment programme on a national basis making what the country needs by marshalling its youths. Unfortunately youth development has been neglected in Great Britain and many cities have youth unemployment at 40%. . The Colleges of Education have talented lecturers and Community Education officials can easily provide expertise. Community development, the core method of building up the abilities and capacities of people was a discipline taught at the University of Manchester where I was a student and secured the Diploma with Distinction and the Masters Degree, has stopped teaching that subject.

Establising a Crayon Factory. Another achievement  of mine, comes from Sri Lanka. It happened when the Ministry of Plan Implementation refused to approve. import substitution type of  programmes for implementation in my District. As the Commissioner(called Government Agent in Sri Lanka) of the District, I took over the leading school science lab in the evenings for experimenting  to find the art of making crayons. The Leader was my Planning Officer who was a chemistry graduate. We did a myriad of experiments for close upon three months every evening till midnight working locked up in the science lab and found the art of making crayons.

With this success I established a Crayon Factory Cooperative Industry at Morawaka in three weeks working day and night with my Planning Officer  along with a few other  officers training youths in the art of making crayons and in quality control. It was a handmade crayon like most Chinese products today.  This Coop Crayon Factory  was a great success  had expanded to have islandwide sales and became the flagship project of the Divisional Development Councils Programme , the major success of the 1970-77 Government of Prime Minister Sirimavo.

3. Employment Creation Programmes submitted for consideration

(1)  A Self Employment Programme

Great Britain with its excellence and expertise in Universities and Colleges of Education can easily take on the mantle to get the youths in training to get down to production and to guide them till they are successful- a replica of the  Youth Self Employment Programme of Bangladesh, the premier employment creation programme the world has known. The  basis is that the lecturers who train the youth  will also guide the youths if  they are willing to venture out to make things for sale. To my own knowledge the Lecturers at Colleges of Education in Edinburgh as well as at Westminister do have the ability to guide their students to become entrepreneurs. I am doubly certain of this fact.

The science laboratories in Colleges of Education are far more equipped than the Science lab that I used to find the art of making crayons.  It follows that the Colleges of Education can easily find the method of manufacturing imported items and get going with establishing production cooperatives manned by youths working under the guidance of the Lecturers.

This Programme will be following the Buy American pattern pf President Trump. In my working life in the UK I have found  communities rife with patriotism, specially in Scotland. This programme can be charged with patriotism and I can assure success.

I would urge that this Programme be accepted for immediate implementation. I am certain of success and can build this to bring great popularity to anyone that spearheads. It requires only one charismatic utterance from our new  Prime Minister and this will get the Colleges of Education that trains youths in industry cracking and with support from local councilors and politicians,  I can assure  success within a year.

Britain has not had any attempt at national development since the days of the Manpower Commission of the Fifties.  It is time that a new initiative is  made..

(2)Community Cooperatives 

It is necessary  to detail  another essential factor in the task of employment creation. . In Edinburgh, the most successful manufacturing industry was Edinburgh Crystal, a cut glass crystal manufacturer  at Peniquik. Established as far back as 1867, it was a show piece of Scottish workmanship. In 2006, Edinburgh Crystal was purchased lock stock and barrel by Waterford Wedgewood, another Crystal Manufacturer from out of Scotland who inherited its sales, but stopped the Edinburgh Factory. Its trained workforce of some one hundred or more were cast on the heap of the unemployed. On my numerous visits to Edinburgh Crystal I had seen the craftsmen at work. They were really skilled workmen who had been at the task for decades. I consider the closure of such a vibrant and successful manufacturing industry as a disaster for Scotland.

On inquiries I found that Edinburgh Crystal was an industry that was very hale and hearty. It was highly profitable and that was the very reason why another multinational had its eyes on it. It was success for the intruder, but a great loss for Scotland.

A similar loss happened in Canada. That was Blue Mountain Pottery of Ontario an industry that began in 1953. Its animal figurines, vases and jugs etc adorned the show cases at Harrods and Selfridges. Though it was a profitable concern the owners were not satisfied with the profit and closed it down in 2004. I happened to visit it at its closure and spoke to the workers who were being laid out. They were  a hundred or more trained craftsmen destined to the scrap heap of unemployment though their products have today become well priced collectors items.. This was a great loss for Canada as Blue Mountain Pottery had finalized a rare process of fineness in pottery  which could have taken on like the  world famous Lladro of Spain.

The closure of Edinburgh Crystal and Blue Mountain Pottery, both extremely successful enterprises also brings to light the ills of the private sector. In neoliberal economics which UK follows. It has to be understood that the motto of the Private Sector is to make a profit and the development of the country comes second  For systematic development of a lasting nature the Private Sector has to be guided by the State. It is the State that is interested in development. The State has to harness the Private Sector for development.

The answer lies in community cooperatives where the workers as well as communities tie up to establish and run manufacturing industries. Here with success the venture stays in the place of origin providing work for the people and the enterprise can be developed with resources from the community. It will not fall a prey to venture capitalists that may acquire, move it or close it down. The UK has a developed cooperative network which is vibrant in areas like Scotland. This cooperative network can be harnessed for the cause of creating employment under this Programme.

In any attempt to bring about employment creation, it is also necessary to plan for the emergence of cooperatives where the community too will be involved as much as the youth of that community will be the workers. Then the industry that is created will have a community base where members of that community will take the lead to work with the workers to ensure success in manufacture and sales. This is found necessary because even worker cooperatives with success on their hands can  move their ventures  from their area to areas of affluence leaving the area where they emerged.  In this task a major role has to be played by  Community Education, regional and city councils as well as by Colleges of Education.

In WesterHailes, Edinburgh, if by any chance my suggestions of 1980 had been approved to make entrepreneurs out of the youths in training, able experienced community members were always willing to offer a hand to make them a success. Then once an industry is established it will be the guarded treasure of the community.

An important aspect re cooperatives is that the profits go to the cooperative  and the cooperative workers. The funds in the cooperative are for future development of the cooperative enterprise. The current model of enterprise development in the capitalist world is the public company, where the capital is provided by nonworking investors who hold shares and  the payment they expect is in the dividends. In the cooperative model profit making is not the aim. Instead the aim is the development of the country, the creation of employment and bringing about production causing national development.

(3) Harnessing the Private Sector for Development

In development the private sector has to be harnessed for the achievement of development goals. As much as there are private entrepreneurs who may be interested, they are also worried about a possible failure with major losses. This has to be combated by the State identifying areas of activity  with a potential for investment, developing local resources or to combat imports.

 In this connection a further  lesson can be quoted from Sri Lanka. In the Fifties and Sixties the Green Revolution was taking place apace in Sri Lanka and  the country did not have the capacity to mill the paddy to rice. The Department for Development of Agricultural Marketing that handled rice milling imported a few rice mills and installed them at vantage places in the producing areas. Next the Department drafted plans for the establishment of small scale rice mills and called for applications from investors. The machinery that had to be imported was detailed and the Structures and buildings that had to be built like floor space for the machinery and drying floors were detailed. The private sector entrepreneurs were offered an allocation of foreign exchange to import the machinery. At this time foreign exchange allocations were required for imports. An investor  could come forward and was guided in the investment. I happened to be in charge of the Southern Province and many millers who came forward had to abide by the rules in installation. I supervised the rice mills being installed. The rice miller was given an allocation of paddy on a weekly basis for milling for which he got paid. This was a great success and overnight we built up a capacity to mill the paddy.

This details the  strategy for the State to play a major role in development, harnessing the investors in the country.  This leadership is essential as otherwise individual investors will not find the backing to forge ahead. 

(4) Identifying Engines of Growth for Areas of Britain

It is also necessary that the different areas in Great Britain do decide on the  engines of growth, depending on available resources.  To start with Great Britain can be divided into England, Wales and Scotland and a group of experts covering industry, community work, engineering and education should undertake to arrive at the engines of growth for the area. For instance in Scotland, Wales and certain areas in England, tourism is an engine of growth. Accomodation has to be made available at reasonable rates. The equal of Premier Inn and Travelodge have to be opened in areas where  there are glorious views. There has to be parking places where tourists can park their vehicles and enjoy the scenery.  Further there have to be facilities provided to motorists to rent recreation vehicles, motor caravans, motor homes to tour the area. The services of institutions like the Caravan Club  with their caravan parks etc  can be enlisted. In every area a group comprising a few  councilors,  community members, a civil  engineer, a representative of the Caravan Club a representative of the College of Education in the area could draw up what infrastructure has to be provided to encourage tourism.  Similar details have to be worked out on an area basis. Perhaps the City and Regional Councils  can take on this leadership for this task  of development. 

It is my experience that tourists cannot find access to  coastal areas of pristine beauty. Many areas have scenic beauty. These have to be identified and necessary facilities provided. Instead of  British tourists flocking overseas for holidays, they can easily be accommodated in Britain itself.

4. Conclusion

Creating entrepreneurs out of the cadres that are being trained at Colleges of Education all over the UK, and an attempt to establish Community cooperatives out of the trained with community expertise also playing a role, enlisting Colleges of Education and even Universities along with County and City Councils to forge ahead on employment creation tasks can  be the nucleus of a long lasting and useful programme that will give great credence to any personage that establishes it.  

Such an attempt will bring about production, will reduce imports and  equip Great Britain to face the problems that it will have to face from a departure from the EU

Such an attempt at employment creation will also put Great Britain on a path to become the manufacturing hub of the world, which it actually was in the last century.

It is my sincere contention that instead of pleading  and begging from the Garniers and  Merkels, an attempt should be made to revive the British economy and things will then move in the right direction.

May this Paper be debated and appropriately developed on to enable the creation of a sustainable economy. Let me hope that initiatives will commence in a few areas  like Edinburgh, Manchester or London or where there will be interested officers in Colleges of Education,  Universities, in Education Departments, Regional and City Councils and interested politicians.

It is time for a new initiative  for Great Britain to be great again.

Garvin Karunaratne.

M.Ed, Manchester, M.Phil.Edinburgh, Ph.D. Michigan State University.

 1 st August 2019

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