A Humble request to our President and Prime Minister
Posted on November 6th, 2020

by Garvin Karunaratne Former GA Matara

May I hope that the incoming Budget includes funding for a major new Programme of Poverty Alleviation, cum creating Production and also obviating imports. Such a development programme implemented all over our Motherland will bring about  definite results in terms of creating employment, production- both agriculture, animal husbandry and small industry, involving thousands  and also reducing imports. This   will bring great credit and be a major contribution to the economy of our country.

I can speak through sheer experience having handled, been an active partner in many development programmes for over five decades and also having started new development programmes from scratch.  One can find many who have participated in development programmes, but it is very rare to find someone who has started a new development programme from scratch especially a programme that was a success. Let me detail that achievement in order to enable readers to understand that my suggestions do not come from the blue.

My commencing a development programme from scratch happened when I served as the Commonwealth Fund Consultant to the Ministry of Labour and Manpower in Bangladesh in 1981 to 1983.  and was ordered to design and implement a Youth Self Employment Programme and train the staff to continue the programme after my consultancy was over.  It was done in the teeth of opposition from the Treasury of Bangladesh, who said it will be a waste of funds. The Treasury had to eat its words and its later  Five Year Plan devoted eight full pages to document my programme.. This Programme is today the premier employment creation programme the world has known and so far has guided over three million youths to become self employed. Even today, in the fourth decade of its implementation it is yet being run by the officers trained by me.

Since the beginning of 1978, when our President Jayawardena caved in to the International Monetary Fund, and decided to follow its advice in return for loans Sri Lanka has not had a single development programme that brought employment and incomes to the people and also created production. We have Samurdhi to talk of . Samurdhi is only a welfare grant type of programme. Its savings aspect and training aspect have never developed. In terms of production Samurdhi is a nonsensical programme. I have seen with my own eyes the receipients marching weekly and at times getting involved with some measly clearing a drain or  a public place.  Samurdhi has to someday get altered to become a production oriented programme, contributing to our Motherland.  We have to teach people to fish, not give them fish.

May I suggest a new Training Cum Production Programme

The Method  is to identify areas in the economy, and establish small industries where local resources can be utilized to make items either for local consumption or for export. Sad to say we gave up National Planning in 1978 at the  behest of the IMF. National Planning has to come to the forefront to identify areas where there is scope for producing what we need and training to enable the people to get involved. There have to be programmes involving the people to develop their abilities and capacities to become entrepreneurs.

To commence with I would suggest the following:

Making Paper

 Making Fruit Preparations- Juice, Jam, Sauce 

Making Items from Wood 

Making items from Metal 

Some details of each of the above are submitted:

Making Paper

Making Paper is a simple operation and thanks to President Gotabhaya and his team that resurrected the mass of metal at Valachenai to make paper. His success proves that we can.

Just import a few small scale paper making machines from India or China. This can be done in weeks. Set them up in Padaviya, Tissa, Mahavillachchiya and Polonnaruwa and we can kiss good bye to all imports of paper.

Setting up the machines can be easily done in three months at the speed at which I worked as the GA at Matara, to establish the Mechanized Boatyard that turned out 30 seaworthy boats a year.

Also we can use the waste paper. Today we collect and send off the waste paper to India and buy back paper after they convert it. Mind you once in 1971 the Divisional Secretary at Kotmale established a Paper Making Industry with waste paper. President Jayawardena of the UNP kicked it,  and out went Paper Making and today the Paper  Economists of the UNP cry loud finding fault. It is the UNP that ruined all the industries our country had developed from 1948 to 1977- the Powerlooms, handlooms, Textile Industries, paper and everything we had done including the Crayon Factory at Morawaka established by me which had islandwide sales from 1971 to 1977 were all abolished by President Jayawardana and since then we became a non producing and import consuming country.

I have suggested making paper from Illuk at Tantirimale. That was recently when I happened to get lost in the Illuk jungles at Mahawillachchiya and remembered that originally the paper machines at Valachenai was intended to use Illuk. Making Paper out of Illuk is a fait accompli within months if only we want it done. It will take only three months to set up a small paper making machine.  Though I speak from sheer experience  the mandarins with doctorates that adorn our higher climes will think otherwise.  Ask them to find people from the 1971-1977 era who are alive who will tell that the Boatyard with all sorts of wood work machinery was done within two to three months and my Coop Crayon Factory was done- three months of experiments in the Rahula College Science Lab to find the method and two to three weeks working day and night- a 24 hour operation to set it up.  We did work fast and can do it again.

If there is a problem of expertise in making paper out of waste paper, I can phone  some officers  in Bangladesh and obtain the services of a few youths who., under the guidance of my officers now do paper making from waste paper and make a living out of it. They will come as Consultants!   I wrote that we need to have our heads examined bcause the drop out youths in my programme have beaten us hollow in making paper.

Making Food Preparations

Look at the shelves of any Supermarket and one will find fruit juice, jam, tomatoe sauce, even vinegar  from as far as the United States of America, Australia, Cyprus.

. The Marketing Department did set up a Canning Factory in 1954/1955 and by 1957 we made Sri Lanka self sufficient. We offered floor prices i.e. prices at which we will buy all the produce offered. We then bought all the Tomatoes, Pineapple, Red Pumpkin and Ash Pumpkin and at the Canning Factory we turned them  out to Tomatoes Sauce, Pine Slices and Juice, Golden Melon Jam and Silver Melon Jam. By 1957, in three years’ time we were self sufficient. The UNP Government of President Jayawardena privatized  the Canning Factory and now the production has dropped and we import every item today.

Install one or two small fruit processing machines in Colombo, Kandy and Tissa and we can be self sufficient within two years.

This is something we did earlier. Then eight percent of our pineapple products were exported.  I have been in charge of the Canning Factory when Oswald Tillekeratne, the Assistant Commissioner in charge of the factory was overseas building up exports. 

Wood Working and Metal Working Machines

Two years ago I could not find a locally made ladder at Nawala. I went to everyshop. Even the ladders imported from Thailand and Singapore were not that great.

If we cannot make a basic item like a ladder we can give up metal work. But Jinasenas will stand out and say no because they have now developed and make water pumps that can stand to any world specification.  The story goes that once, the Government had said they will import water pumps and Jinasena is reported to have said that if that does happen he will close his factory and eight hundred workers will be sent home.

The success of Jinasena tells anyone that our production can succeed.

Once I was the Deputy Director of Small Industry in charge of allocating foreign exchange to small industrialists. They had to submit applications to import the machinery they required or the raw materials they wanted.  They had to get an allocation of forex from me and then open a letter of credit with a bank and order the stuff. I gauged that most manufacturers would be ordering their production after they come to know the order.

We must have two manufacturing Units, one with wood working lathes and another with metal lathes and when an order is received we set the lathes working and get the product turned out. I am aware that the Hardware Corporation has such a unit, but never gets to systematic production not because they cannot but because there is no system. Dealers who import have only to place the order and these lathe workers can get it done. That is a simple operation.

All what I have suggested earlier is what we have done and there is no doubt we can do it again.

The next Stage

 I have had the occasion to trail behind lorries full of flowers in Southern France. They cannot be easily overtaken like the straw laden lorries that plied from Polonnaruwa to Valachenai long ago.

It is sad that we do not know what to do with the mass of flowers at Ruwanweliseya, the Sri MahaBodhi and the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy. It is a simple operation to set up a distillery and I have seen many in France distilling lavender to oil. .

Once touring Wales I came across a mini distillery. Had I known of it in 1971, I would have got it down and set it up at Matara. That was when I was in charge.

My Paper on setting up a Perfume Factory proves that it is feasible

Finally if asked to set up my Coop Crayon again I do not know whether I will succeed. I will have to find the equal of Vetus Fernando, my chemistry qualified Planning Officer and the patriotic Science Teachers at Rahula and get down to experiments to find how. In 1971 it took three full months experiments from six to mid night. Once that was done I will have to find a Sumanapala Dahanayake to undertake production- then it was as the president of the Morawak Korale Coop Union. Suffice it to say that crayons were sold islandwide and Harry Guneratne the Import Controller and Minister Illangaratne cancelled all imports of crayons. Sumanapala is not with us today.

The lesson in all this is that we can do it again and I pray that the new Budget will make provision.

I am certain that the targets I have set can be done. I am aware that many of the economists who will be consulted on this matter will doubt. If that happens I will request the authorities to find whether those pundits did ever get to a situation of working, setting up an industry.

Finally I wish to add that if no one will undertake to keep to these targets I will undertake to bell the cat. If called upon it will be a pleasure to get back into my working boots and Land Rover once again to be of service to my Motherland

Garvin Karunaratne, Ph d Michigan State University
Former GA Matara
Author of  How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka & Alternative Programmes of Success, Godages 
Howthe IMF Sabotaged Third World Development, Kindle/Godages 


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