New economic policies for SL
Posted on July 12th, 2022

Priyantha Hettige Courtesy Island

Millions of Sri Lankans are anxiously waiting to see what actions will be taken to make life bearable again.

If we follow the example of successful countries, we see how they have exploited their opportunities, and used the wealth created, not to import cars and go on luxury trips abroad, but to re-invest the money proceeds in further projects to bring in even more money. These worthy patriots proceed in this way until their fellow citizens have a good standard of living. Probably, the best example of that compounding of wealth is Singapore.

Singapore exploited its geographic advantages. It provided cruise ships with bunkering and repair services, later they provided airlines with a refueling stop and then expanded that to one-night free stop overs for passengers to enable them to buy luxury goods at newly built, glamorous tax-free shopping malls. The Japanese were making wonderful new gadgets: cameras, music players, portable radio cassette players, binoculars, all available in the malls and sold tax free!

Housekeeping was supreme; Lee Kuan Yu forbade the ladies to wear denim jeans, and required them to wear dresses with hem lines coming down two inches below the knee! He even instructed the ladies to smile!  No man could have long hair for fear of arrest. Littering was prohibited, so was chewing gum and smoking butts on the roads and pavements. The place was kept clean!

They used the proceeds arising from all this commercial activity to build housing blocks, develop new roads and other beneficial projects. (Individuals were not allowed to walk away with the profits, just to fritter them away.)  Sentosa Island had installed a communications dish antenna connecting it with New York and the latest financial prices. This was an example of intelligent seizing of opportunities. I account for this intelligent development as due to the high educational and knowledge of Singapore’s progressive management.

Something similar has happened to Russia. Russia is rich. It is under progressive intelligent management. Stalin had developed the railway network across the full eight time zones. But many areas remained to be connected. Putin found the finances to develop coal mines, develop oil and gas deposits and build railway bridges and tunnels for better access to markets and their demand for Russian products. Even as you read this, 70 plus long trains of coal trucks, each with 70 tonnes of coal are grinding their way to China, day and night. Gas is flowing through an extensive network of pipelines, both east to China and west to friendly countries in Europe. Mr. Putin and his men have succeeded in getting Russia back to work. And wages increase demand for services: shops, etc., multiplying employment in Russia.

Mr. Putin wants to build a road and rail link to India. A design plan is in the works. It is being discussed with the intervening countries involved. Putin is displaying innovative initiative for the development of Russia and its citizens. He cares for the citizens of Russia and is creating both wealth and jobs, too. Education of Russian citizens is playing a big part in Mr. Putin’s thinking. Russia needs talent – smart countries need smart people to run them.

Belarus can also be fairly examined for its outstanding development. The population in the main centre, Minsk, are cossetted in amenities and facilities which provides a luxury way of life for the few with industrial jobs. The standard of life in the countryside has yet to catch up. The administration is strict and everyone is law abiding. You can leave your hand phone at your seat while you visit the toilet conveniences and it will remain undisturbed until you return.

Belarus, a mostly agricultural country, has a big tractor manufacturing plant, a fertiliser producing plant,a commercial vehicle plant producing fire brigade trucks and the most comfortable low step buses and so on, and of course, it makes its own industrial vehicle tyres. It is all prosperous and clean, and Minsk, the capital is a beautifully laid out city. Town apartment blocks are multi-storeyed living spaces. They reduce urban sprawl across the wooded countryside to zero.

What are Sri Lanka’s strengths? It is a small island and therefore communication is easy. Its location in the Indian Ocean is a plus; its scenic beauty helps tourist trade thrive; its soil is fertile and climate allows almost anything to be grown. Therefore, its agriculture is a great strength. Its long coastline can provide fish. It has deposits of graphite and phosphate which can be exploited to produce money for further investment in development projects. It has its ilmenite sands which are extremely valuable but need to be controlled and exploited in a business-like manner. It has a whole gem mining industry which need to be managed in way beneficial to the government. The Tourist industry is well organised and serves tourists well.

Profits from existing projects need to be ploughed back into the next generation of projects to bring about a higher standard of living for its inhabitants. Then the reputation of being a paradise island will be well restored.

Priyantha Hettige

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