Learning from the Past: The Divisional Development Councils Programme Offers hope for our Economic Woes
Posted on January 1st, 2022

By Garvin Karunaratne 

 The experience of the Divisional Development Councils Programme(DDCP) of Sri Lanka(1970-1977) is currently of great importance in today’s situation of unemployment and also the inability to import goods due to the lack of foreign exchange.   This is because the DDCP is a programme that really creates employment. Further it is important to note that the DDCP was entirely implemented with local Rupees.  Foreign funds were only required to import dyes for the Crayon Project and the amount of dollars spent to import dyes saved a vast amount of dollars that would have had to be spent on importing crayons.  The DDCP is a blue print that can be immediately implemented almost entirely with existing staff and it can get into production mode within months.  

There are very few employment creation programmes in the world. What one can find are training programmes which provide training but do not include placing the trained in an income generating project, including guidance till the project- either on a self employed basis or a cooperative endeavour, is successful. The DDCP included all the elements of vocational training in an on the job manner and active intensive guidance, ending in the trainee becoming self employed or cooperatively employed in production. The key element is that success was judged in terms of commercial viability. 

Another important factor in assessing the DDCP lies in the fact that the DDCP created employment for the drop outs of the education system. In any country, the education system provides knowledge and training and those who are very successful enter the universities or institutes of higher addressing the current situtaion of unbemployment and education to attend to further studies. The next lot that get pass marks at secondary school, but fail to enter further studies enter the job market and find employment. Those who are not successful in the education system and who do not get pass marks are classified as the drop outs and they continue to do menial jobs or continue to be unemployed, scraping the barrel, for life. The DDCP dealt with. the youths who are in the third category- i.e. the drop outs and therein lies its greatness. 

Training on the job, ending in being fully occupied in a cooperative enterprise, or being self employed, in both cases being engaged in income generation activities is what the DDCP attended to. The fact that drop outs of the education system were concentrated on gives the DDCP a great place among development programmes. 

The DDCP was the flagship of the Sirimavo Government of Sri Lanka during the period 1970 to 1977. It had very wide and visionary aims in keeping with the Manifesto of the United Front that won the 1970 parliamentary election . It was ” to transform the administration thoroughly, make it more democratic and link it closely with the people” 

As stated by Dr N.M.Perera, the Hon. Minister of Finance, in the Budget Speech 1973: The main objective of this Programme is to create employment opportunities in the rural areas through small scale projects in agriculture, industry and the provision of infrastructural facilities, making use of the resources available locally: increase national production and involve the people in national development work.” 

The chief aim of the DDCP was to create employment for the youth. As stated in the 1970 Budget Speech it was ” to fulfill the aspirations of thousands of young men and women for whom life will lose all meaning unless they can find a useful place in our society.” 

In actuality the DDCP was a crash programme with the objective of creating 100,000 jobs within the first year of the new government.. It was a socialist government that took office in 1970 and in keeping with the aims of the Government as reflected in The Five Year Plan of 1970, the aim was to lay the foundation for a further advance towards a socialist society”. 

Professor H.A.de S. Gunasekera, the eminent professor of economics at the University of Peradeniya was handpicked to lead the programme and he was appointed as the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Plan Implementation. The main charge of the Ministry was the implementation of the DDCP. 

The DDCP got off to a grand start. The Ministry of Plan Implementation was specially created for the purpose of planning and implementing the DDCP. Great prominence was accorded to the Programme. Even a helicopter was placed at the disposal of Professor Gunesekera, for him to travel to the various Districts. This was the first time that an administrator was accorded this privilege. 

At the District level, the Government Agent, the head of the District was held responsible for this programme.  

A Divisional Development Council was established in each division and these Councils were chaired by the Divisional Revenue Officer, later renamed Assistant Government Agent. A number of Graduate Assistants were posted to each AGA area and there was a Graduate Assistant for each Council. The Graduate Assistants were recruited specially for this DDCP. This category was recruited from among unemployed graduates. 

Popular participation was foremost in the mind of the Government. As Peris and Nilaweera state 

” these councils were expected to enable popular participation in which the elected bodies of the village- the cooperative society, the cultivation committee, the village council could have a role in planning and coordinating the overall development of the area.” (Rural Poverty Alleviation in Sri Lanka, 1983) 

The Plan also included organizing agricultural, industrial, fisheries and other income generating projects and for obtaining the maximum participation of the people in the planning, operation and management of the projects. The Divisional Development Council was the method of eliciting the participation of the people in planning their own development. 

The monthly meetings of the Council were held regularly and were attended by all the officers at the divisional level, representatives of all village level bodies and also by officers from the district level. Thus it was a body that could attend to the total planning of all development tasks at the divisional and village level. 

Each Council was allocated Rs. 200,000.00 to be spent within the first two years. Of this, 35% was earmarked for agricultural projects. However specific approval had to be obtained for each project from the Ministry of Plan Implementation and the feasibility of each project was studied in great detail. Special grants were given amounting to 35% of the total cost including capital costs and working capital. For instance in the case of the Gohagoda Agricultural Project of the Kandy District, an average project, the capital cost was Rs. 65,000.00, the working capital Rs. 34,000.00 and the grant allowed was Rs. 32,000.00. By 1976, the penultimate year of this Programme, as much as Rs. 127 million had been spent on various projects. 

While it was hoped that the Councils would be a coordinating body for all development work it was also projected that each Council would have to initiate and manage special projects where youths would be offered employment. What was new in the DDCP was that new projects were to be approved where youths would be enlisted, trained and guided to be employed in income generating projects. 

In these projects, the youths were to work with community support where community leaders would help the enterprises. Earlier there were multipurpose cooperatives at the village level with an apex body- a cooperative union at the divisional level. What was new with the DDCP was the thrust of community cooperatives at economic development. Earlier the multi purpose cooperatives only attended to the distribution of essential food, the purchase of paddy, providing credit and supplies for agricultural pursuits. In addition there were industrial cooperatives established for making furniture and for crafts.  There were Power Looms established on a cooperative basis. 

The Achievement 

By 1972, the DDCP was implemented islandwide. By 1973, 590 Councils were fully established and these Councils had submitted 1900 projects proposals of which 900 projects were approved and special allocations of funds were made for their implementation. All these projects were planned from the grass root level. These projects comprised 341 agricultural projects, 512 industrial projects and 47 infrastructural projects. Nearly 2000 acres were brought under cultivation, 68 poultry projects with a bird population of 150,000 were established and this enabled 7904 persons to find employment at an expense of Rs. 4.2 million. Over the period 1970 to 1976, a total of Rs. 127 million was spent and 33,271 jobs were created. Some of these offered only part time engagement. 

The work of the Councils concentrated on developing these projects. The role of planning and coordinating the total development in the division gradually receded to the background and was ultimately forgotten. The Assistant Government Agent of the division already attended to the function of planning and coordinating all development work at the divisional level. He continued to do this work. Projects were planned and established in all districts. There was a duplication of work because many of the industrial projects approved for the Divisional Development Councils were in crafts, an area that also came under the Small Industries Department. There were a few non craft industries like ceramics. In agriculture, the thrust was at establishing cooperative farms and this was a new feature. The services of the Department of Agriculture was obtained for this purpose. In most agricultural and industrial projects the youth workers were able to draw good incomes. 

Of special mention is the Paper Making Project in Kotmale in the Nuwara Eliya District where paper and cardboard making was commenced using waste paper and straw. This was a success till it was closed down by the new Government of 1977 which ran down the working and the achievement of the DDCP purposely. 

In the Galle District progress was made in agricultural farms and in the manufacture of farm implements. The Baddegama Assistant Government Agent, Wilson Perera was provided with four Graduate Assistants and 12 Project Officers. The latter were officers with experience in the particular vocation whose services were sought and they had been seconded for service for the DDCP. Their task was to work with the cooperative workers on a participative basis, teaching youths the essential elements of entrepreneurship in producing and marketing the products. It was hoped that the youths would eventually acquire the ability and capacity to manage the cooperative industry or agricultural farm on their own on a commercially viable basis, when the Project Officer would leave them and revert to their own substantive post or be posted to lead another DDCP project. Thereafter the youths were expected to function on their own steam. 

The development work done in Baddegama Council area included establishing a cooperative farm with 60 youths . At the very inception a neglected old farm was taken over. Its factory was repaired and a part of it was converted into residential quarters, 12 acres of neglected rubber was rehabilitated and tapping commenced, 40 acres of neglected tea was rehabilitated, 20 acres of jungle land was cleared and coconut saplings planted, 50 acres of neglected paddy land was rehabilitated and brought under regular cultivation. In addition, in 1975, a housing scheme was launched for the cooperators. Similar farm projects were established in most Districts. 

The Baddegama Farm Project was a great success till it ran into political problems. The DDCP was a socialist concept and engineered by the Marxist group of Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers. These included Dr N.M.Perera, the Minister of Finance. These Ministers left the Government in 1975 and thereafter less emphasis was Placed on this Programme. 

The DDCP was implemented islandwide but I will confine myself to detail what was achieved in my District, Matara, to illustrate what the SLFP and its ally the LSSP stood for.  

In the Matara District, where I was the Government Agent many projects were planned and implemented. The projects included garment making, batik dyeing, crafts, pre-stressed concrete, sewing industry projects etc. The sewing and craft projects were a replica of what was done by the Small industries Department. 

A Batic Dyeing Cum Sewing Project was initiated in Morawaka where employment was offered to twenty girls. Batic Dyeing Training was at that time not done by any State Department or institution and it continued to be within the private sector with a very high margin of profit. The Sewing and Batic Dyeing Unit was a great success. 

In agriculture in the Matara District, virgin crown land was identified, jungles cleared, the land graded and brought under cultivation. A number of farms were established and the cooperator youths drew good incomes by cultivating cassava, ginger and other crops for which there was a market demand. The youth cooperators were taught details of crop planning, preparation of the land for cultivation, planting, , crop care, harvesting and marketing. All of these aspects were taught on the job as they engaged in the various tasks. The entire approach was participatory as detailed earlier in the case of the Baddegama Council in the Galle District. The aim was to make the youths think and thereby enhance their ability and capacity to get to working on their own. This included training in the management of every aspect of their cooperative enterprise. 

The Councils in the coastal areas of Weligama, Matara and Dondra had submitted projects for making inboard fishing boats. It was difficult to obtain approval for these projects from the Fisheries Ministry, the one Ministry that should have been interested.. Two projects for Matara and Dondra Councils were approved with the greatest difficulty. The Boatyard for Matara was established in 1972 and manufactured twenty four, 30 ft inboard motor boats a year. This was the first cooperative boat building project in the entire island and the cooperator youths were taught full details on the job from the selection of timber, tracing the templates, seasoning timber, cutting and fitting the timber and fixing the engines etc. The trainees had been trained in carpentry and they learned the manufacture of the boats on the job. The boats were sold to fishermen in cooperatives. This Boatyard Project was ably handled by the Assistant Government Agent, Ran Ariyadasa and Kumarasiri, the Graduate Assistant. This industry was an acclaimed success till it was closed down in 1978 by the newly elected UNP Government which wanted to discredit the DDCP. 

Other important industrial units established included a Hand Made Paper Unit at Yatiyana, an industry that has survived to this day(2009), recycyling used paper from government offices. At Kekanadure, an industry making agricultural implements was established in a village which was traditionally associated with the industry. This industry exists till today(2009).At Talpawila training in pottery was imparted to youths and a pottery industry was successfully established.  A Pre-Stressed Concrete Factory was established at Talpawila which made concrete pipes and posts of all types. This industry exists and currently employs 40 youths. 

The Morawaka Council submitted a proposal to establish a Water Colour Paint making project, A Feasibility study was made by the Industrial Development Board at our request. The project was aimed at avoiding imports. There was no resource in the area for this industry other than labour, but that was the strategy used by Japan and Singapore in their industrial development. The Ministry of Plan Implementation rejected this application. Instead of import substitution type of projects the Ministry of Plan Implementation was advising us to concentrate on brick making, tile making and crafts- the areas where the Small Industries Department had made inroads with great success.. In the private sector there were plenty of tile and brick making factories. The Ministry was not interested in establishing any import-substitution type of industries. Though we had submitted various proposals for Import-substitution type of industry they were all thrown into the dustbin. I therefore decided to plan and establish a cooperative industry on my own. I was ably assisted by the Planning Officer Vetus Fernando, who happened to be a chemistry graduate and Chandra Silva a resourceful officer who was the District Land Officer. He was working on the DDC Projects in addition to his duties. A graduate trainee Dayananda Paliakkara was specially selected to handle this task. 

In my work as the Deputy Director of Small Industries I had approved many new industries to be established and I had directed all my officers that they should investigate when they go for inspections and be certain that the entrepreneur actually manufactured the product. On my inspections too I saw that the items were really produced. This was done because there were people who pretended to have industries in an attempt to secure allocations of foreign exchange, import and sell the goods in the market instead of engaging in production. I had approved an industry to make water colours and was familiar with the process of manufacture. According to my opinion crayons was allied to making water colours. I decided that this could be an area for action. At that time easily 90% of the country’s requirements were imported and if we succeeded we will be creating employment for the unemployed and at the same time cutting off imports. The import content of the ingredients was easily less than 20% and this looked ideal.. 

After we had done some initial experiments and was hopeful of success, we had to obtain the services of a laboratory. I spoke with Mr Ariyawamsa, the Principal of Rahula College, the premier educational institute in the District. I knew a number of science teachers at this College, who offered ideas. Mr. Ariyawamsa readily agreed to allow us to use the College science laboratory for experiments to find out the technical process for the manufacture of crayons. We were also helped by the Science Inspector Mr. Rajapaksa. I had heard about the working of the Land Grant system in the USA where the Universities offered their technical expertise to bring about national development. 

Pooling the knowledge of every scientist that was available, led by our Planning Officer,Vetus Fernando it did not take long to find out the exact proportions of each ingredient that had to be used and to arrive at the real process of manufacture. The process was gradually mastered, but the crayons were not firm enough and Vetus Fernando, the Planning Officer who happened to be a chemistry graduate of the University thought it best to obtain the help of the Chemistry Department of the University of Sri Lanka, from where he had graduated a few years earlier. Vetus spent a number of days beseeching and begging his professors but none of them were interested in offering any advice. 

If any one of the dons had to spare an hour or two to have a careful look, to think of how it could be solved and try a few experiments- that was all that was required. This was a situation where a Land Grant University like Michigan State would have taken on the mantle of development very willingly. But sad to say our Universities are more engrossed with training graduates rather than been concerned about the role they could play in the development of the country. We continued experiments at the Lab at Rahula College and mastered the art of making crayons in around a further month. 

Once the process of manufacture had been finalized I had to decide how we would proceed with the manufacture. It had to be a cooperative structure. Further it had to be done with a great deal of secrecy because I was not expected to be establishing new industries without the approval of the Ministry of Plan Implementation. Though as the Government Agent of the District I controlled vast funds; each vote had a definite remit which had to be meticulously adhered to in spending. Finally I decided to trust Mr Sumanapala Dahanayake, the Member of Parliament for Deniyaya, an electorate in my District. He was also the President of the Morawaka Cooperative Union and in that capacity he had access to the funds held in the Cooperative Union which we could use as capital for the necessary expenses. However he had no authority to use the funds for a new industry. This was a deadlock that had to be surmounted. 

As the Government Agent of the District I was gazetted as a Deputy Director for Cooperative Development. This had been done with the idea of the Government Agent supervising the Assistant Commissioner of Cooperatives and the work of the Cooperative Department in the District for the purpose of implementing the agricultural development programme. I usurped the full powers of a Deputy Director of Cooperatives and ordered the President of the Morawaka Cooperative Union to use funds available with the Coop Union and establish the industry and get down to manufacturing crayons.. Sumanapala Dahanayke the President of the Coop Union, the maverick he was, readily agreed and we got down to establish the industry. Twenty unemployment youths were recruited and the Coop Union purchased the necessary equipment. More youths were employed for packing and handling. 

The industry was established and we got down to the making of crayons; labels and boxes were hastily printed and crayons packets were produced to fill a large room. This was done very quickly, working day and night because secrecy was a prime necessity. It was a grand task where every one- officers and cooperators pitched in to work as a team- working day and night. If the Ministry of Plan Implementation got wind of the project they could stop it forthwith, hold an inquiry and punish me. The task was to establish the manufacturing unit, make good quality crayons and to show them to key Cabinet Ministers and get them involved so that they could stand up for me in case I ran into a  problem for acting on my own without Ministry approval. The Minister for Industries Mr T.B.Subasinghe was surprised when shown the crayons that were produced and readily agreed to open the sales. With that we felt safe. With the inauguration of the sales, the industry came to the open and the success in production and sales amply justified the fact that no Ministry approval had been obtained. The Ministry of Plan Implementation had to eat humble pie and finally the crayon factory, established without authority in a most clandestine manner, gained the full approval of the Government. Ultimately the Coop Crayon industry established by Sumanapala Dahanayake in his capacity as the Presidenbt of the Morawaka Cooperative Union produced around a tenth of the crayons that Sri Lanka required. became  the flagship industry of the DDCP. 

The only import item in the ingredients that went into the manufacture was dyes and at the initial stages we obtained dyes at black market prices from the open market. The Ministry of Industries was requested for an allocation, but they said that they had no foreign exchange to be allocated to cooperatives for this purpose. An year earlier as Deputy Director of Small Industries I was personally in charge of allocating foreign exchange for small industries and I could have given an allocation for any cooperative. The personnel in the Small Industries Department and the Ministry of Industries were not prepared to bend the rules for the sake of national development. Finally we had to beseech the Controller of Imports, Harry Guneratne. The Controller of Imports allocated funds for the import of crayons and readily agreed to my suggestion to allocate funds for the import of dyes and to reduce the allocation for imports accordingly. Guneratne had the capacity to understand that in a crayon the import constituent was only 5 to 10% and he was making a real saving in foreign exchange to the extent of 90%. The Minister of Trade, Mr T.B.Illangaratna, whose authority was sought, too readily agreed. He was surprised with the quality of the crayons and it ended with a request from him that we should commence a crayon factory in Colombo. We put off that request for the moment stating that we would do that after our crayon industry was fully established on a commercially sound footing. 

This crayon industry was a grand success which paid up the total outlay in the first six months of its operation. After I left the Administrative Service in April 1973, the industry continued under the able direction of the Government Agent of the District and Sumanapala Dahanayake the President of the Coop Union till 1977 when the new Government interfered. Any good industry established by the former government was anathema to the new Government and the new Government sent a Deputy Director of Cooperatives, N.T,Ariyaratne with specific instructions to find fault with this industry so that they could take action against Sumanapala Dahanayake, the President of the Coop Union, the earlier member of parliament, who had established the industry under my direction and had with the youth cooperators managed it in a commercially viable manner. Mr Ariyaratne had found the industry in proper order fully commercially viable and reported that the industry was an asset and this saved Mr. Dahanayake. 

However, the crayon industry had to close down due to the onslaught of imports under the free trade policies of the new Government. At its heyday from 1972 to 1977 this crayon industry did produce around a tenth of the crayon requirements of the country and it could easily have been developed to produce not only the country’s entire requirements but could have even be developed to build up an export trade. 

. In any country when a successful industry is established it should be closely supported and guarded in the national interest. Not so in Sri Lanka, when political rivalry raises its ugly head.. 

As stated earlier the Marxist Ministers led by Dr N.M.Perera leaving the Government in 1975 led to the Government de- emphasizing the DDCP. With the free market and liberalization policy followed by the new Government the death knell of the DDCP was sounded. In the Budget Speech of 1978, it is said that though as much as 2619 projects were approved, 666 projects never got off the ground and of the balance approximately 700 closed down by 1976, of the remaining 700 only 5% were found viable, and as much as 72% of the agricultural projects had failed. This was more a part of the tirade that the new Government had toward the DDCP flagship of the former Government. 

Strengths and Weaknesses 

Many are the weaknesses and the strengths of the DDCP. 

The weaknesses are many. As pointed out earlier, the Ministry of Plan Implementation was approving only traditional and craft type of industry and agricultural farms and was shy of approving new import substitution type of industry. Perhaps the Ministry was frightened to march into new areas of activity because any failure would reflect badly. Imports eat into our available foreign exchange and also cause our people to be unemployed. Concentrating on crafts and basic traditional industries amounted to duplicating the work done by the Small Industries Department that had been active earlier. The Ministry should have actually taken the forefront to plan and establish import substitution type of industries. 

Another weakness was that the Programme solely depended on worker cooperatives and left the private sector totally alone. If the private sector had been activated in addition, then it would have been a case of walking on two legs. 

The main weakness lies in the Parliamentary form of party political governance system where when a new political party comes into power it throws away all the programmes and policies of the earlier government irrespective of successes. In the process, the baby is also thrown away with the bath water. 

The Strengths lies in the few projects that were successful. These commercially viable ventures helped the national economy. Their production did save foreign exchange that would have been incurred in imports. The fact that employment was made available for the cooperative entrepreneurs is also of key importance. 

An additional strength was the educational process of building up the abilities and the capacities of the participants and making them self-reliant entrepreneurs, able to stand on their own feet. This was due to the strategies of community development and non formal education which we used. At that time administrators who worked in the Rural development Department and that included the Government Agents of the Districts and the Assistant Government Agents in charge of Divisions had come to follow community development strategies and principles. We administrators had not even known the word non formal education, but we thought it best that we work with the trainees in a truly participatory manner, so that they could learn on the job. 

In the planning and implementation of the DDCP the Ministry of Plan Implementation did not give us any instructions as to how we should adopt a participatory approach. However the officers under the Government Agent included those who had worked for long under the Rural Development Department which attended to rural development work with the participation of the people. This Rural Development Department was our counterpart to the Community Development Programme of India and many other Third World countries that were implemented in the Fifties. The Rural Development Department followed the principles of Community Development as enunciated by the United Nations; The term Community Development has come into international usage to connote the process by which the efforts of the people themselves are united with those of Governmental authorities to improve the economic , social and cultural conditions of communities, to integrate these communities into the life of the nation and to enable them to contribute fully to national progess. This complex of processes is then made up of two essential elements ”…”the participation of the people themselves in efforts to improve their level of living with as much reliance as possible on their own initiative and the provision of technical and other services in ways which encourage initiative self help and make them more effective.(United Nations, 1965) 

It so happened that the entire staff handling development in Sri Lanka at the District level came under the influence of the Community Development ideas and this included the Government Agents who were development hardened workers who had a great deal of experience. It did not need directions on how to handle the education aspect to officers that had attended to working with the people for decades. The result was that the staff handpicked for the planning and the implementation of the DDCP did use the community development participatory approach. 

This included non formal education ideas as defined by me later on: Non Formal Education comprises experiential education processes to which people as participants are spontaneously subjected to as they actively work on an individual basis or in any group endeavour, be it in a discussion in the decision making that takes place in a trade union or a cooperative. It is completely spontaneous and as the learner participates, thinks and conscientizes, weighs the pros and cons of a problem and arrives at decisions, knowing fully well the confrontations involved and as the participants cooperate to face the obstacles, get used to collaborative practices of mutual help in achieving the tasks then through these repeated educational experiences, their initiatives develop and they become responsible.(From Karunaratne: Non Formal education Theory & Practice at Comilla) 

This quote would encapsulate the educational methods used by us in educating the trainees in the on the job situation in the various agricultural farms and industrial projects. Details provided of the projects in the Baddegama electorate in the Galle District and the Matara District shows that educational strategies were used to effectively enable the trainees to whet their abilities and in that process they gained the ability to become self reliant entrepreneurs. 

This educational enhancement is the strength that should have been built upon in every development program. 

In the case of the DDC Programme projects, with an initial grant for the machinery and a paltry allowance till the entrepreneurs derive incomes, we paved the way for the unemployed youth of a country to become net contributors. In this process they march from being net consumers to become net contributors. They have also in the process developed their abilities and capacities to stand on their own feet. This is a strength that stands in good stead. 

In Projects, the manufacture of farm implements in Baddegama, , the manufacture of crayons at Deniyaya, the pre-stressed concrete industry at Matara, the making of paper products at Kotmale and Matara and a number of such industries were all well established and commercially viable. So were many textile and sewing industries. The good number of DDCP industries that have been successfully implemented even today(2009), defying the inroads of imports indicate the viability of the DDCP Projects and the underlying strategies. The main tenet was import substitution which is forbidden under the IMF rules of the Structural Adjustment Programme, Even today, three decades later, my blood boils when I see a packet of foreign crayons being sold in Sri Lanka. My mind travels back in nostalgia to the time when the crayon factory provided employment to scores of youths in making and packing crayons and in selling them island wide. 

. Establishing the crayon industry was easily the happiest task I had done in my eighteen years’ service to my Mothercountry. It was also the most dangerous task I had done because I was not authorized to establish a new industry without the specific approval of the Minstry of Plan Implementation. I had experience in handling small industries earlier and was certain that the venture would be a success. If it had failed I would have been demoted for certain but I was certain of success. Further I knew Dr N.M.Perera the Minister of Finance personally as he had been a member of parliament in the opposition in Kegalla District where I worked as the Additional Government Agent for two full years. He gauged my ability and I became one of his trusted lieutenants in the field of development. I was certain that he would have stood up for me if I fell into a scrape by attempting to do the impossible which other administrators would shrewdly avoid. 

The DDCP had all the elements of a great employment creation programme, which was lost partly due to defects in the Programme itself , due to administrative ineptitude and partly due to political rivalry. 

What should have happened is what did happen in Singapore. In the words of Michael Smith
The real clue to Singapore’s success has been a brave, consistent, government generated long term industrial strategy. Professor Tom Stonier sees that strategy as having worked in two stages, In the early Sixties the emphasis was on import substitution. The Government had high tariff protection to help industries that would reduce dependence on imports. In the second phase, the emphasis shifted to export oriented manufacture. (From Asia’s New Industrial World) Singapore has had a steady rule by a single government for decades and thus did not suffer from political party rivalry. 

The DDCP of 1970-1977 was a genuine attempt at brining about development. Its achievement and the strengths and weaknesses have already been dealt with at length. 

Though certain aspects of the DDCP, like the agricultural farms and industrial projects were a great success and could have been easily built upon, the DDCP came to an abrupt end due to the fact that the newly elected President Jayawardena’s Government wanted the DDCP, discredited, annihilated and closed down. It was necessary for the new Government to paint everything that the earlier government achieved as black as possible. This was to get political mileage. It is sad that development in the Third World countries does fall between two stools, whenever a new government is formed. 

Development requires a long standing effort where programmes get continuously reviewed and renewed where the dead wood is dropped and new vistas are commenced. In any programme the weaknesses have to be identified and annihilated while the strengths are further developed on. This ideal is not possible in the case of a country where at the hustings an entire government can be changed. This is inimical for development. Perhaps the method of elections to the US Congress offers a model where continuity can be hoped for. This is because it is only a third of its members that are elected annually. This newly elected one third of Congress members join the already elected two thirds and continue . Thus the development that has been achieved is not lost. 

The DDCP can stand comparison to many other development programmes both in Sri Lanka as well as overseas. 

The DDCP was  the last attempt  we had to create employment and thereby bring about production that the country needed.  Earlier, we had the Rural Development Programme of the Fifties, again the Janasaviya Programme, again The Paddy Lands Act and its cultivation committees. Political changes deprived the continued development of all these programmes. After 1977 we had none, except for the grandiose Mahaweli which actually deprived water to the Sinhala Minipe farmers. It is sad that since 1977 we have not had any real employment creation and poverty allleviation programme.  It may be a good idea to summon those veterans of the DDCP programme who are yet alive to deliberate and come up with a better programme than the DDCP which can bring about development today. Let me live in hope. 

Garvin Karunaratne 

Former GA Matara 

(written in 2009, submitted with a few changes to help the Economic Woes of today(2021)Author of  

How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka & Alternative Programmes of Success, Godages, 2006 

How the IMF Sabotaged Third World Development (2017)

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