Strengthen the Budget with provisions for Poverty Alleviation- train the unemployed to get to production. An Idea for kind consideration.
Posted on November 15th, 2023

Garvin Karunaratne Former GA Matara 1971-1973

Having read what the newspapers detail on the first day of the budget, I get the impression that Poverty Alleviation and Training and Empovering the unemployed to become productive, making what the economy needs has not been given a place .

Opening new universities and selling off post offices is not what will create wealth. Thesale ofthepost offices will create wealth for Taj.not for us

Unfortunately we have been sold with the ridiculous idea that printing money should be restricted. Before the IMF took over running our country at the end of 1977, all development programmes- building he largest tanks and every officer was paid and all development functions were done with printed money. Of course printing money was done with great restrictions- endless commissions guzzling money was not done. If there was a major problem one of us administrators was tasked with it and it did not cost any additional money.

We have a mass of government staff- some 1.4 million fully paid-they have been confined to the barracks since 1977 on the IMF dictat that the private sector is the Engine of Growth. It was forgotten that the aim of the private Sector was aggrandizing wealth. At Kegalla when I was the Additional Government Agent, the GA was in sole charge and presided over the DCC meeting where all development ideas were discussed and decisions reached. That was also the situation in Matara in 1971-73 when I served as the GA. Later on a petty political personage was put in charge and the Government Agent pushed to the background. What has to be done is to get back the handle all development. Throw him to the wolves if he fails.

At Matara in 1971-73 I was having some twenty Development Officers. Now there are some 500 to 800 Development Officers in a District. Get them working.

In 1957, when the Prime Minister Mr Dudley Senanayake took charge he wanted to increase the yield of paddy and he entrusted that task to the Government Agent of the District. To enable the GA to devote his full time for paddy production, for every district a senior officer was posted as Additional GA and the GA was totally to handle paddy production. As the Additional GA at Kegalla the entire Katcheri was run by me and the GA did not have to do anything in it.

A major change took place when Premier Sirimavo won the 1970 election. She created the Divisional Development Councils Programme and the GA of the District had to devote his full time to it. The Additional GA did the normal work of the District. In 1977 the Government abolished the DDCP and since then the Government Agent has no duties- he has crept back to handle some of the normal work that the Additional GA did!

Thus there are many high ranking officers who can be called upon immediately and this does not cost a single cent

To get back to the budget my thinking is that there should be a major programme to train the unemployed to get into production. This was an essential part of the DDCP Programme where many small farms were established where the unemployed youths were trained in agriculture and livestock. That was a great success and the DDCP created a mass of 33,300 scientifically trained youths. Imports have to be curtailed- even stopped. This offers the major path to saving our foreign exchange that is being used to import jam., fruit juice, tomato sauce and many such items that can be made within six months. The trained youth all became entrepreneurs producing vegetables, various crops and drew good incomes.

If this training cum production is to be mooted a marketing organization has to be established to collect the produce and marketing it. This is the task of the Marketing Department of old- from before 1948 to 1977 we had a Department of Marketing that collected produce at the fairs, brought the produce to Colombo overnight and sold it at reasonable rates in the cities. This type of organization is a must.

The unemployed have to be trained to produce many small industrial items that are imported and The Crayon Factory I myself established in Matara tells us what has to be done.

I wanted to establish an industry and I had already established the Matara Boatyard that made 40 seaworthy fishing boats fitted with engines that were sold to fishery cooperatives. It was so great a success that the Ministry of Plan Implementation was highly satisfied and was fighting shy of any further industries. Perhaps they were worried that it could be a disaster and they would lose face. I took charge and directed my Planning Officer to find the method of making crayons. We took over the science lab of Rahula College after hours and from six in the evening to mid night my Planning Officer who happened to be a chemistry grad was instructed by me to try to find the art of making crayons. He with the help of science teachers at Rahula College were experimenting to find the art of making crayons. Though we spent every day for two months from six to midnight at the science lab we never made any crayon worthwhile. Then the Planning Officer thought of obtaining the help of his professors in chemistry and he spent three full days at the University of Colombo pleading of the professors for help only to be turned away. This total rejection made us ever determined and we continued our experiments and in another month the Planning Officer found the art of making a good crayon. Then I sat with him for some nights and we finalized the art of making a crayon equal to Reeves crayons the best of the day.

Then I had the problem of establishing a factory. I had no funds, no authority to divert any of the money I spent on various programmes. I could have summoned Harischandra and give him the recipe but it wont be us. Finally I summoned Sumanapala Dahanayake, the member of parliament for Deniyaya who happened to be President of the Morawak Korale Coop Union. When I told him of the task to establish a programme he gladly undertook to do it. But he had to use the money in the Coop Union for which he had no authority. I issued him a letter authorizing him to use cooperative funds and establish the industry. I had around five officers including the Planning Officer Vetus Fernando who were involved in the experiments to find the art of making crayons and in two days time when Sumanapala had cordoned a section of his coop union we moved to Morawaka and trained youths on a 24 hour basis for two weeks. In the second week labels and packets were printed and we filled two large rooms with packets of crayons. It was a difficult task as the product was handmade and every crayon had to be hand crafted.

Finally we had to come to the open and sell the crayons. Sumanapala and I took some crayons and showed them to the Minister of Industries. Mr TB Subasinghje was surprised that we made so fine crayons and agreed to open sales. We rushed back and in a few days held an opening ceremony where with the grace of the Minister of Industries opening sales we had won the day.

The only ingredient that was imported for the manufacture was dyes and the Ministry of Industries refused to give us a small allocation of foreign exchange as we were a cooperative. Finally our slethus- we had informants in many areas- they reported that the Controller of Imports was about to authorize the import of crayons and Sumanapala and I moved in. We managed to show the crayons we made to the Controller of Imports and convinced him to stop imports and allocate a small fraction of the money for us to import dyes and we would step up production, But because this cross allocation of foreign exchange had never been done earlier he wanted us to obtain the approval of the Hon Minister Mr Illangaratne. He was an immediate convert the moment we showed him the crayons we made. He authorized giving us an allocation of foreign exchange to import dyes and also got me to agree to establish a Crayon Factory at Kolonnawa, his electorate. He also ordered that all imports of crayons should be stopped.

Finally the Crayon Factory that we established had islandwide sales and this factory became the flagship industry of the DDCProgramme.

Our President and Hon Prime Minister, Dear sirs, Please establish a small programme to train our unemployed youths in agriculture, livestock and industry and let them get to produce what our country needs.

The true details I have penned about the success of the Crayon Factory may somehow enable a programme to train our youth to become entrepreneurs. The funds required are all in rupees.

May I stop writing, with the humble request that our President and our Prime Minister may please decide on some initiative to commence immediately.

Garvin Karunaratne Former GA Matara 1971-1973


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