Hambantota in the throes of Development
Posted on February 23rd, 2020

By Garvin Karunaratne, PhD. Michigan State University

Ideas of possible development, poverty alleviation for the people in Hambantota reign supreme in my mind as I watch the parade of our President and Prime Minister opening the Hambantota Section of our Southern Highway.

I recall a Paper I have published earlier which deserves immediate action. It details  how the next phase of development  after the building up of an airport, a tank- Lunugamwehera and a port- Hambantota  has to be done. My Paper A Rural Renaissance in the Offing, publishded in 2014 is reproduced here in full for the kind perusal by our leaders.

Every recommendation I have made is practical to the hilt. I do not belong to the category of doctrinaire economists, who know only theory and not a day’s practical work. I can assure that the peasants of Hambantota District can easily be rewarded with incomes – poverty alleviation can be accomplished within a year at most.

In my Paper I have argued for the establishment of a Cannery where we will turn out Red Pumpkin into Golden Melon Jam and Ash Pumpkin into Silver Melon Jam and have Melon Juice  and Mango Slices and Juice. This is nothing new. We in the Marketing Department did it earlier and if our leaders give the go ahead it can be accomplished within six months.  I have written another Paper on Paper Making subsequently which too tells how Paper can be made out of straw. It was our bold scientists that found the art of making Paper out of straw and it is an irony of fate that we do not make any paper out of straw while India, Thailand, China and every country around us make paper out of straw. My suggestion is simple, import a small scale paper making machine from India or China and get going. If the machine is air flown we can install it within a month and the Maha harvest straw will become Paper and we can kiss good bye to paper imports. The time frame I am suggesting in this Paper  is the speed at which I did work as the G.A. at Matara in 1971-1973 and as the Commonwealth Fund Advisor to the Government of Bangladesh in 1981-1983.

My readers may think of my suggestions as impractical- here is an old hand who worked half a century ago talking nonsense. But we did work fast then. Under the Divisional Development Councils Programme of 1970 to1977, we katcheri administrative officers did wonders. We established a Boatyard turning out 40 foot motor fishing boats a year- the boatyard was established within three months. A Divisional Secretary  at Kotmale established a Paper Factory and it was a great success. I can also speak of the Crayon Factory we did establish at Morawaka. The craze in me to teach the Ministry of Plan Implementation a lesson, because they did not approve my establishing any import substitution type of industry made me take over the Rahula College science lab after hours. I put my scientist- my own Planning Officer Vetus Fernando, to work on a myriad experiments to find the art of making crayons. He was helped by non grad science teachers.  We spent the mid night oil six to midnight for almost every day for three months and we found the art of making crayons equal in quality to the Reeves crayons that were then imported. Then with one word from me Sumanapala Dahanayake the Member of Parliament for Deniyaya in his capacity as the President of the Morawak Korale Coop Union  established the handmade crayon factory within two weeks working 24 hours a day. The Crayon Factory came into being in less than five months. A Crayon is a sophisticated product and the Crayola Crayon recipe will be patented and worth millions. The fact that we were successful in making crayons means that we can make almost everything we import.

From where will the funds come? Funds will come from the savings we make by stopping imports. With a very small expenditure, if we work fast we can easily recoup our expenses from savings in imports. When the Minister for Trade,Mr Illangaratne approved a small allocation to import dyes for Coop Crayon,  in 1971, his Import Controller Harry Guneratne immediately  reduced the import of crayons.

These words come to you from the person who challenged the ILO when they failed to establish a self employment programme in 1978 to 1981 at Tangail Bangladesh. I proved to the Hon Minister for Manpower and Labour that I can do what the ILO failed and with his approval I got cracking and designed and established the Youth Self Employment Programme within eighteen months, trained youth workers and vocational educators in economics and established the Programme, which is yet going strong in Bangladesh and has so far guided three million youths to become self employed. This is the premier employment creation programme the world has known

I hope I have convinced our leaders that poverty alleviation is something that can be done. We did it once and can do it again. Let us think of Hambantota or better, the Southern Province as a  model area- just as once in 1960 the Government of Pakistan requested the USA to provide them with the expertise to find the quickest method of poverty alleviation. The USA its Agency for International Development( AID) selected Michigan State University to provide the expertise and the Government of Pakistan selected Dr Akhter Hameed Khan as the Director. The Kotwali Thana, a division of the Comilla District was selected. In less than ten years the yield of paddy was increased by 103%, cooperative members increased from 200 to 11,637,  overdues kept within 2%, 80 % of land was brought under high yielding varieties and full employment was established (From:Non Formal Eduvation Theory & Practice at Comilla)

I am prepared to give an undertaking that total poverty alleviation, involving the establishment of many small industries, the development of agriculture and small industries can be achieved within five years.  I am prepared to work with administrator and scientists  and can assure success.

One Response to “Hambantota in the throes of Development”

  1. aloy Says:

    Many things can be done if the rulers have the intention to develop the country. But if at the outset itself they appoint dubious people at the helm, then we can understand where they are heading.

    Garvin has been writing about the vast potential of wind power. Elsewhere in this site I have read an article by Tudor Wijenayake, my contemporary at Pera uni highlighting the fact that Tamil Nadu which shares the Straights of Mannar with us generates 7200 Megawatts of power from winds blowing across it. That is almost twice our total current power generation. Why have we not being able to harness this massive power resource. And that too is at the cost of only SL Rs. 6 per Kwh. If the CEB engineers are the obstacle deploy military after throwing out the corrupt fellows. There may be junior ones who might cooperate. But first discard the corrupt who are already in the Prez’s fold as they will only look for ways to find money for the politicos. If this is taken up like at a war, it may not take long time to meet our total power need.

    I believe there are other ways to meet the peak load for which the power being purchased at exorbitant rates. In south Australia they have solved the power demand by installing Lithium Iron batteries that could store and supply a city like Colombo for two days when there is a need. These batteries have been installed in matter of two months. Also why not cut off power for the refrigerators in some areas during the peak time for couple of hours. I have noticed that the thermostats of many of these do not work properly as such they work continuously needlessly.

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