Production oriented employment creation- poverty alleviation– What our budget lacks.
Posted on December 3rd, 2022

By Garvin Karunaratne, former GA Matara

This is what all budgets since 1978 lack. It is production oriented- to make everything that we imported, saving the foreign exchange the country has been spending to import and also in that process finding incomes for the people engaged in that pursuit- that is what is required to remedy the economic meltdown our Motherland is facing today.

It is easily done- with local currency, foreign funds are required only to get down some small-scale machinery to make something that we imported eg paper, and in that case, the output in production can easily offset the foreign exchange used by way of the production within say six months or a year.

We did it earlier. The Divisional Secretary at Kotmale made paper out of waste paper that he got collected from the government offices in Nuwara Eliya District. Today the largest export programme in Colombo one can see is lorries collecting used paper and cardboard- some 7000 tons per month, exported to India, and Indonesia- all to get a few cents and we pay in dollars to import reams of paper from the same countries. That has been done since 1978- for forty long years, we have been foolishly doing that task. Surely we need to have the heads of our leaders- and the chief lieutenants in charge examined.

Once in the Seventies, we had the Divisional Development Councils Programme, headed by the Professor of Economics of the University of Peradeniya, Professor HadeS Gunasekara and he got many small farm projects and small industrial units going all over the island. They were engaged in producing vegetables and small-scale items like mammoties and spades. Was not that a great achievement? Perhaps Professor Gunaruwan of the University of Colombo a professor of economics and also an all-rounder can take the place of Professor HAdeS Gunasekera, who is sadly not among us today. 

Then we also did something more. A Mechanized Cooperative Boatyard was established at Matara within two months and every year some forty seaworthy boats were made and put out to sea- employment and incomes for fisherfolk and fish for consumption. That industry was stopped in 1978 and we now buy fish from Chile on the other side of the world. Again we need to have our heads examined for this folly. 

Take Coop Crayon, at Morawaka done by a son of Sri Lanka- a member of parliament- Sumanapala Dahanayake, the MP for Deniyaya in his role as the President of the Morawaka Coop Union. It was an industry established in two weeks working on a 24-hour basis and within a year the crayons were sold islandwide. That is a good role model for our politicians of today. The art of making crayons was found after a myriad of experiments locked up in the Science lab of Rahula College Matara, accomplished by my Planning Officer Vetus Fernando a chemistry grad of Colombo University, helped by the science teachers at Rahula.- it took three months of hard effort but we did produce crayons of high quality easily equal to the Crayola of today- made in the USA and sold worldwide. That was done under my direction- the most enthusiastic task I did in my eighteen years of service in the Administrative Service.

It is a certainly workable task to get production going. When our present economic meltdown commenced in March 2022 I made these suggestions. If only these suggestions were then acted on in March 2022 by now- in nine months there would be small industrial units making paper, crayons, and ladders- we imported 90% of our ladders in 2020.

Well to be frank if we cannot make ladders which is a simple task, making crayons etc. is far fetched idea. But we did produce crayons in three and a half months – to be exact, because it took three months of effort in the Rahula School lab and two weeks to make crayons to fill two large rooms and in the third week- that is in three months and three weeks the crayons were sold, opened by no less a person than the Minister for Industries TB Subasinghe. It was sold islandwide within a year. Try to find an equal to this anywhere in the world. Having travelled worldwide and worked in four countries for forty-nine years after my eighteen years in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service, my guess is that you can never beat this record.   That is the speed at which our science grads, administrative officers, science teachers and members of parliament once worked. 

We yet have the ability to bell the cat again. 

Let me hope that this message gets to our leaders. 

Garvin Karunaratne, former GA Matara

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