It is high time for action in Development
Posted on June 18th, 2022

by Garvin Karunaratne

The sad news of a mother in Badulla who commited suicide unable to bear the sight of her three children who have not had a meal for three days is indicative of the future of our beloved motherland.

Two weeks ago my writing that starvation and death to around half a million of our citizens is round the corner failed to find a publisher. Now, Unicef Sri lanka has called for foreign donations to save the lives of 1.7 million Sri Lankan children (

My mind raves mad at what has happened to my Motherland- a country full of resources, bountiful downpours of rain on a regular pattern and a willing, able and industrious people, reduced to bankruptcy- to a plight of having to beg on the streets of the world for food. Though we have a foreign debt of $ 53 to 56 billion today in 1976 we were not in debt. When President Gotabhaya ascended in 2019 our foreign debt was at $ 49.5. The rot set in from the day we started following the IMF’s Structural Adjustment at the end of 1976- stopping our development and instead living on loans.

Where are we today?. We have a President who has perhaps taken leave of work, leaving the reins of administration to an arch rival who talks big but so far has failed to come up with any tangible programme of work, other than to beg for food and sustenance from the IMF and from all countries. He states- there is a man made economic crisis. The politicians they say and certain by the Governments that were in power(LankaWeb:130622) Meantime the majority of people are finding it difficult to find food, medicines- the essentials-. The devaluation of the Rupee from Rs 190 to Rs 365 to the dollar- an increase of 80% has sent prices beyond. Devaluation, evidently done to please the IMF, means in reality that we really get less for our exports. Devaluation immediately sends up the prices of everything imported- and naturally things are beyond the reach of the common man. We call it inflation. We fail to understand that we ourselves willingly created this inflation and in that process also organized a plan to get paid less for our exports.

We are waiting for IMF solutions. The IMF is concerned only to restructure the debt. In the history of the IMF all countries- over eighty, have miserably failed in their hands. It is upto us to look after ourselves.

Instead of establishing a massive production oriented programme to make everything that we imported to be done by our youth and the unemployed, we are concentrating on amendments to the Constitution, trying to sell off – privatize our loss making enterprises and also trying to woo foreign investors. We keep forgetting what did happen when we privatized earlier. The state of the art omnibus making machinery at Werahera was sold for scrap and instead till today we keep importing buses instead of importing chassis and building the buses ourselves. Then we had thousands making buses and rail carraiges. Our tyre factory, a donation from Russia which could have made all our tyres was sold and ended up with a foreign magnate.

We think foreigners come to help us. No. They come to help themselves. Take Mcdonalds or KFC. They bring a small sum initially and build, then in trading they import all ingrediants and cups with our foreign exchange, trade in rupees but remit their profits from our foreign reserves. Take Deliveroo- they trade in rupees but take the profits out from our foreign reserves. Take those who come to make wind farms. They use our wind power sell power to our folk, collect the rupees and calculate profits and take them away from our foreign reserves. Even our wind and water is turned into dollars and taken away. This has gone on from 1977, the day President Jayawardena accepted the IMF’s Structural Adjustment. We fail to grasp that by Structural Adjustment it is our economy that is structured to contribute dollars to the Superpowers .

Instead of begging we should marshall ourselves to get going in producing what we need and thus make all what we imported.

In our own living memory we have the Divisional Development Councils Programme of the Sirimavo days, the brains of Dr NMPerera to talk of. Prime Minister Sirmavo head hunted the premier economist of the day, Professor HAdeS Gunasekera, created a new Ministry- the Ministry of Plan Implementation and did get cracking, placing helicopter rides. I was the Government Agent at Matara. The programme was implemented with not a single new staff. I handpicked the best staff under me and got cracking. The Programme created some thirty thousand trained farmers. In my district they produced vegetables- ginger- all what we import now. In addition I fought to get bigger industries – I was hated by the Secretary but he had to approve a mechanised boat yard which I established at Matara in two months and boats were made and put out to sea with fisher folk. All done by Divisional Sec Ran Ariyadasa and Dev Assistant Kumarasiri- a great industry. On my own steam, I established a Crayon Factory- the art of making crayons unearthed by my own Planning Officer- a chemistry grad who did a myriad of experiments in the Rahula School science lab for three months every night from six to midnight. Then I established the industry in three weeks through MP Sumanapala Dahanayake in his capacity as The President of the Cooperative Union. Coop Crayon was developed to have islandwide sales. The Divisional Secretary at Kotmale established an industry making Paper and cardboard out of waste paper. Sadly today we collect our waste paper and cardboard and sell it to India- some 8000 tons per month and earn a few coppers and buy paper and cardboard from them paying dollars. Making paper out of waste paper is a simple process done by many of my youths who earned a living from that enterprise in my Youth Self Employment Programme in Bangladesh.

The DDCP would have been far more successful if only the JVP did not strike and try to hand over Sri lanka to the North Koreans on 5 th April 1971. North Korean ships were in our waters then- one ship came to Matara and unloaded something to boats and had to be machine gunned by our air planes. We had to banish the North Korean Embassy overnight to save our country. .

The DDCP is a programme of sheer achievement. A similar and better programme can be established in days and it can get into production within weeks. I am dead certain of this.

It is upto our President and Prime Minister to marshall the public service to direct a massive employment creation programme islandwide and if my Coop Crayon did make crayons equal to the Crayola- which the Morawaka youth did, there is nothing we cannot make. The cost was only a stipend paid to the youth while they were labouring to get the project going. It was the most successful industry established under the DDCP.

Our President after the demise in agricultural- fertilizer has now declared that he will not be leaving as a failed president. My message to His Excellency is bold and clear:

.Here Excellency is the chance. Please get cracking on an employment creation programme to make everything we imported. The 1.4 million public service is there doing sweet nothing since 1978 as ordered by the IMF. There is no problem with the finances. It is all an expense in Rupees- not in dollars. Printing money for the stipend payments and staff travel expenses will be a small sum- that too our learned economists say causes inflation. Inflation is caused not by spending money in a useful manner but made by spending on give aways like Samurdhi- the Safety Nets of the IMF. . Before 1977 we did all our work with local Rupees.

New programmes have to emerge. I can quote my own programme- the Youth Self Employment Programme of Bangladesh, designed and established by me, in nineteen months, implemented by the staff I trained which has by now guided over three million youths to become entrepreneurs making what the country needs.

Let me hope that our Government will immediately implement a production and employment creation programme. That to my mind is the only way ahead.

Garvin Karunaratne, former SLAS- G.A.Matara

Author of:

How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka…, Godages 2006

How the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Destroyed Sri Lanka, Godages, 2022


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