Beg Peter and Pay Paul,  Import everything with dollars; Allow the rich to use dollars endless; . Where will it all end; The $ 56 billion Foreign Debt of the Gota Days will end at $ 75 billion!
Posted on August 12th, 2023

Garvin Karunaratne former GA Matara 1971-1973

Can we stop imports and save dollars. Yes, We CAN. Let us talk from what we once did.

Once when I worked in Nuwara Eliya a car loan of tomatoes purchased at Hanguranketa made my home a Cannery for a weekend and we made Tomatoe Sauce that lasted six months.

In 1958, In my days in charge of the Tripoli Market that ran the Veg and Fruit Purchasing Programme of the Marketing Department, the Marketing Officer at Hanguranketa Fair reported a glut of tomatoes and I despatched three lorries to Hanguranketa Fair to purchase all the tomatoes and at the Cannery by mid night it all became Tomatoes Sauce. Today we spend dollars obtained on loan to buy Tomatoes Sauce from as far as the USA and Australia. Are we not foolish?

In my days as the GA at Matara in 1971, my Planning Officer, Vetus Fernando a raw chemistry grad, toiled every day from six to twelve midnight for three months at the Rahula College science lab, aided by Science teachers at Rahula, with all of us as Cheer Leaders goading Vetus when he failed. Somehow he found the art of making Crayons. That took a full three months. Then Sumanapala Dahanayake, the MP for Deniyaya as the President of Morawaka Cooperatives organized producing crayons- day and night and in a fortnight we filled two large rooms. I broke rest for three days and my officers supervised for two weeks- a 24 hour a day operation. That was also Sumanapala the MP for Deniyaya, perhaps his role is to be admired by the Members of Parliament of today. Minister Subasinghe, the Minister for Industries opened sales. Minister Illangaratne when he saw the crayons we made ordered the stop of all imports of crayons. He even got me to agree to open a Crayon Factory at Kolonnawa, his electorate! Today our chemistry grads are fighting and protesting on the streets and we import Crayola Crayons. The Morawaka made Coop Crayon was as good as the Crayola. Are we not the fools to close Coop Crayon? Of course we had to do it as the IMF ordered. But we can get down to make all our crayons again. That was my stsff- Vetus and Development Assistant Daya Palihakkara in action

The Marketing Department Cannery was established in 1955. From 1956 we purchased all the Red Pumpkin and made it into Golden Melon Jam; we purchased all the Ash Pumpkin and made it into Silver Melon Jam. Professor Sarathchandra’s cherished drink was Tomatoe Juice. We exported eight percent of our canned pineapple.. I was Assistant Commissioner in charge of Tripoli Market then and covered the duties of Assistant Commissioner Oswald Tliiekeratne, to supervise the cannery when he was abroad to find sales for our canned pineapple. Today we import Jam and Fruit Drinks. A few years ago I ran into a distant relative, a lad trained in fruit processing who was a clerical officer in a Ministry.

Now we import jam and juice from Australia, from Cyprus and from everywhere!

Making Jam, Fruit Juice is something that can be done overnight with fruit that is in plenty. Are we not the Fools to import instead of Canning and making Fruit Drinks and Jam?.

The Marketing Department produced all our Jam and Fruit Juice within three years 1955-1958- the Philip Gunawardena days.

The Divisional Development Councils Programme(DDCP) of the Sirimavo days(1970-1977) was the last production programme our country had.

In Matara as the GA, I obtained approval to establish a Boat Making factory and our youth made seagoing motorboats- forty boats a year. The IMF stopped the Boatyard in 1978. Are we not the fools. Yet we import fish, though our seas are full of shoals of fish.

Then in Matara I had around a dozen agricultural farms where we trained farmers and we produced vegetables- ginger etc. We had established many industries- batik making, farm implements, crafts etc.

There were 22 of us Government Agents in the island, producing in farms and industries all over. We trained 33,200 scientific farmers and industrialists. This was done by Professor HadeS Gunasekera, the Professor of Econ at Peradeniya. He was the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Plan Implementation and even a helicopter was at his disposal for district travel and we had to bend our heads when we met him at the helicopter to avoid being decapitated..

In NuwaraEliya, the Divisional . Secretary at Kotmale established a paper making factory. He collected the waste paper in the District and made paper and cardboard. That factory was also closed under IMF orders in 1978. Today we import paper and our book printing has come to a halt as we have no dollars to import. Paper is made out of straw and illuk, which we have in plenty.

Are we not the fools to close Paper Making. Farmers even set fire to the straw to get rid of it.

We have acted the goat from 1977 in Waste Paper. Instead of following the Kotmale Divisional Secretary, and making paper out of waste paper we export waste paper and cardboard to India- some 8000 tons per month and earn a few coppers and also buy paper and cardboard from India paying full dollars. Mind you we did that from 1978 to now and we do it even today. I am certain that we cannot find any country as foolish as our Sri Lanka

In every District under the DDCP we got into production. Let me narrate what Wilson Perera the Divisional Secretary at Baddegama did to illustrate how we can become productive. He was a personal friend so I knew what he did. I quote from my book: Papers on the Economic Development of Sri Lanka. (Godages:2012)

The development work included establishing a cooperative farm of 60 youths. A neglected farm was taken over- its Factory was repaired and a part converted to 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 the working of the farm weekly meetings were held for all the cooperator youths also attended by the technical officers… every detail in planning and implementation was discussed and plans drafted for the coming week.. Thus the cooperators were educated on the job…

Another successful project at Baddegana was was the manufacture of farm implements… mammoties, spades and forks of high quality were manufactured.”

The achievement was great but at the same time the Member of Parliament who was a deputy Minister thought that Wilson Perera would contest him in the general election and Wilson had to get a transfer to save himself. This was fairly normal and I myself have been transferred overnight twice for good work done which may not be good” for the member of parliament- at times it was a Minister and I had dismissed his pet men.. We administrators have got used to this system- we get transferred overnight and finally get kicked upstairs for good work done.

I can go on narrating endless. Now what I have said is the truth- Sri Lanka can produce all the imports other than wheat flour within weeks if only the Government approves it. The expenses of establishing training centres, farms and industries is all in local rupees. But when the production comes in- of Fruit Juice, Jam, Tomatoes Sauce and we can avoid imports we do really save dollars.

Our stalwarts who once led this DDCP programme of production are now enjoying fat pensions. Will it not be prudent to enlist their services immediately and get going in days and see to become productive instead of continuing to be importers of what we can produce.

Over to our leaders- the President and Prime Minister. You owe to make our country productive , not to get our country into further debt.

Garvin Karunaratne

former GA Matara 1971-1973

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