GOTABAYA’S  VISION FOR PROSPERITY

GOTABAYA’S VISION FOR PROSPERITY

Business confidence zoomed with the election of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. As he gave oaths as President on 18 November, the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) all share price index (ASPI) climbed by 106 points (1.77%), closing at 6,129.5, the highest so far this year, on a daily turnover of LKR 2.41 bn.

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Cheese and wine

Cheese and wine

Celebrated at A lliance Française of Kotte as part of French Spring Festival

The French Spring Festival is an occasion for people in France to celebrate art and culture, and the Alliance Française of Kotte, which the recognised and accredited branch of the Alliance Française in Paris, gave prominence to one important aspect of French culture, which is gastronomy.

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Bogambara Cultural Park

Bogambara Cultural Park

Will bring considerable benefits to Kandy

A ceremony was held on 24 August 2019 at the site of the Bogambara Prison Complex Redevelopment to announce the opening of Phase I of the project for the Bogambara Cultural Park.

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EU team visits KEPZ

EU team visits KEPZ

Recent visit of the European commission delegation to BOI Katunayake EPZ confirms very high standards in industrial relations, working conditions and environmental quality

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WFP supports vulnerable areas

WFP supports vulnerable areas

V Sivagnanasothy Outlines New Project

The world Food Programme (WFP) is supporting Sri Lanka through an innovative and sustainable new project, says V Sivagnanasothy, Secretary to the Ministry of National Policies, Economic Affairs, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Northern Province Development and Youth Affairs. He and Brenda Barton, Representative and Country Director of the WFP, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in regard to the project on 21 August.

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Tech driven Megapolis

Tech driven Megapolis

Creating the special structure for an innovative, knowledge-based economy

When Sri Lanka’s declared open the iconic Lotus Tower in the central business area of Colombo on 16 September, it marked the beginning of a new era in Sri Lanka. The innovative, indigenously-designed, Chinese-engineered structure is symbolic of a commitment to a knowledge-driven economy.

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Interest rate cuts

Interest rate cuts

Slowed growth stimulated, financed by further borrowing

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) cut its main lending rate for the second time in three months, on 23 August, a measure it hopes will revive the struggling economy. The devastating Easter Sunday attacks and their aftermath hit the crucial tourism sector, the only growth sector in an otherwise faltering economy. Meanwhile, the treasury is preparing to take loans to meet debt obligations, as the yields from treasury bills fell.

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Policy Planning or  Planning  Policy?Thilanga Sumathipala

Policy Planning or Planning Policy?Thilanga Sumathipala

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Despite promising prospects, 2019 so far remains no different to 2018. This is not surprising, given that prospects in 2018 were no different to those in 2017. According to the Central Bank report, real GDP growth in 2018, at 3.2 %, was slightly below the 2017 rate of 3.4 %, while unemployment rates were 4.4 % and 4.2 % for 2017 and 2018 respectively. In other words, most indicators and rates are oscillating within a particular range, a symptom of an economy all but completely in recession. While the expansion of the services sector, among a few other cosmetic improvements, is certainly to be welcomed, these are at the level of a country still in the throes of a spiralling national debt from which there seems to be no escape.

Several factors can account for this conundrum and impasse, and among them the more important would have to be the lack of industrialisation and the concentration of economic activity within the traditional capital, Colombo. The two, it would seem, are connected, given that most economic activity, despite several well intentioned FDI projects from the Board of Investment, happens to be concentrated in the Western Province. This in turn can be grounded in the fact that ever since Sri Lanka became the first country in South Asia to liberalise its economy, successive regimes have promoted the idea of Colombo as a regional metropolitan centre at the cost of investments in less endowed but more promising regions.

Urban planning

The inequalities this resulted in crept up very quickly. Contractions in both agriculture and industry, barring a few sectors which depended on liberalised foreign exchange laws and reduced import restrictions, led to severe inflationary pressures which in effect limited the economy’s growth potential. Several well-planned government enterprises, such as the Thulhiriya Textile Complex and the Embilipitiya Paper Mill, were abandoned if not sold to profiteers, which led in turn to slipshod development that favoured higher income earners. Lack of initiative in the transport sector, severe underfunding in the public sector, and city development that privileged cosmetic Potemkin village like facelifts over proper planning, worsened this.

Colombo has seen a few over-hyped development plans, though none of them was ever worked out till the end. In the 1920s, the 1940s, and the 1950s, globally renowned town planners were invited to sort out the problems of rapid urbanisation in the capital. Two of them – the Geddes and the Abercrombie Plans (named after Sir Patrick Geddes and Sir Patrick Abercrombie) – in particular, stood out. But even they were neglected after being taken up by the then government. What linked all these was their proposal for the resettlement of inhabitants in the outskirts and the concomitant development of these outskirts into viable financial centres The Sirimavo Bandaranaike government in the seventies even went as far as to incorporate a Master Plan with UN assistance, but that was later replaced by a similar Master Plan drawn up by the J. R. Jayewardene Government, which established the Urban Development Authority a year after it assumed office in 1977. Two successive plans at reconstructing the city and expanding it to the suburbs, in 1978 and in 1985, were implemented in part, particularly by the development of Kotte and the construction of the new Parliamentary Complex. Neither could stem the tide of rural-urban exoduses, vehicle imports, and apartment complexes, however: the result of an economy opening up to heavily import-centred consumption patterns.

Today, at a time when vehicle growth has almost surpassed population growth, and when all the leading companies are concentrated in a small area in the centre of Colombo, the need for a proper policy regarding sustainable development has become more urgent than ever. What makes it even more urgent is the fact that, compared with some of our neighbours, we do not lack vital natural resources and minerals; indeed, enough and more of them, including more than 20 million tonnes of iron ore and deposits of Ilmenite and Thorianite sands, are buried beneath our earth. Consider that processed graphite fetches a world market price per tonne of USD 12,000, whereas the unprocessed variety, which is what Sri Lanka sells, gets the country less than USD 700 per tonne; the fact that we still export the latter is telling.

SDGs

City planning, industrialisation, sustainable development: these seem to be interlinked, as in fact they are. What can bring them together? Thilanga Sumathipala, no stranger to the world of policy planning and politics, thinks he has a solution, if not the solution. In many ways his education has prepared him to pass judgment on such issues: having obtained his primary and secondary schooling at Nalanda College, he attended the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts (now the London College of Communication), the University of Oklahoma, and Harvard Business School. Initially interested in printing, public administration, and management, he followed these with lecturing stints at the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration and Keimyung University, all of which have, in one sense, qualified him for the task he’s set ahead for himself.

Sumathipala contested at the 2009 Provincial Elections, obtaining around 160,000 votes in the Colombo District, and a year later entered parliament after winning it at the General Election. Ever since he entered parliament in 2010, in the wake of the post-war euphoria, his focus was always on research, or in his own words, “planning for policy before actually implementing it.” As the former Deputy Minister of Skills Training, and as Deputy Speaker, he feels he did what he could in the political circumstances in which he found himself, but in 2016, as he tells OSL-THE Investment Magazine, he put forward a paper on sustainable development, which for him became a top priority after reading about, and studying, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While he didn’t want a carbon copy of what the UN had come up with, he wanted to ascertain how far Sri Lanka had progressed in the achievement of these goals. The findings, he realised, were not very heartening: while we have frequently experimented, we have, mostly, failed.

“I was intrigued by the SDGs because, as you know, we were embarking on an ambitious development drive in Colombo and other suburbs. Where were we in, in terms of poverty levels, social and economic inequalities, sustainable industrialisation, and so on? What were the measurements we were using and were they suitable for a country that was trying to become a middle income nation in the 21st century? The first issue, which we stumbled on at once, was that we didn’t have proper statistics. We had to patch one year’s statistics with another year’s statistics. The Census Department hadn’t done a good job. I don’t blame the people there, but the truth is that if we are to measure how well we’ve progressed, we need numbers.”

Mechanism

According to Sumathipala, the SDGs have been carefully elaborated and detailed so as to be applicable to almost every country, but Sri Lankan administrators have so far failed to make use of that. That was the reason behind his decision to convene a Parliamentary Subcommittee on the SDGs, “probably the first in the world”, where they came up with a mechanism to collect statistics and come up with a proper plan to achieve the goals. A key part of that was assessing the budgetary allocations and see how far they were aligned with those goals, a difficult task made all the more difficult by the manifest lack of transparency in the budget making process. This is turn was compounded by another problem: a failure to delve into regional statistics and percentages. For Sumathipala, the gap between the Grama Niladaris (village officers) and Pradeshiya Sabhas (local government institutions), and between the Pradeshiya Sabhas and the Provincial Government, should not only be surmounted but, in the interests of national policy, be done away with altogether.

“For instance, suppose the SDG poverty rate goal is 7 %. The figure in Colombo District might be 9 %. In Avissawella, which is on the periphery of the District, however, it may be 21 %. It may be even higher, say at 31 %, in a Grama Niladari division like Waga. We have foregone on the need to consolidate regional percentages with national averages. If we are going to be serious about achieving SDGs, we need to let go of this mentality and concentrate from the Grama Niladari divisional level. Generalising everything and presenting a rosy national mean is not going to be the answer, and will never be the answer. No other country, certainly not in the middle income and highly developed industrial world, ever clinched economic growth and equity by laying aside regional development. In that sense Sri Lanka is very much behind.”

While Sumathipala’s prognostications and pessimism may be warranted by the failure to act on these goals by successive governments, however, one must take the objective of achieving the UN SDGs with a pinch of salt. If Sumathipala’s problem, which is entirely true, is that we have focused on national averages to such an extent that we conveniently forget about inter-regional disparities, resolving it for the sake of achieving goals that have ostensibly been formulated for the entire world, without taking into account disparities between countries, is also an issue. How can one compare the development needs of a country like, say, Zaire with one like the United States of America? Or closer to home, the needs of a country like ours with those of Hong Kong? All the 17 SDGs have been articulated and sketched out in a way that certainly makes them applicable to every context, but still, given economic, social, and cultural disparities between nations, isn’t the issue to do with how global development parameters and benchmarks have privileged the global at the expense of the rift between the developing and developed halves of the world?

Regardless of this caveat, of course, Sumathipala does make a good point, particularly when it comes to his favourite theme, the need to come up with policy after taking into account views and counter-views of different stakeholders. It is this which empowered him to go beyond Colombo and into Moratuwa, not least since he sees it as a model city. Considering that the story of Colombo begins with Moratuwa, or rather the fortunes of the bourgeoisie who resided there in the colonial era, the move is certainly prescient. “Before going any further, however, I need to present a paper on the region. For that, I am still conferring with the people of Moratuwa, to get their views and understand their grievances. Since the city connects the Kalutara District with Colombo, it’s a vital region, economically and socially.” Added to this, of course, is the strain on Colombo which decades of haphazard planning have served to worsen and compound: “We are talking about 3,700 square kilometres accommodating the leading firms in the country. That’s a huge pressure to pile up on such a tiny region.”

Radical change

In Sri Lanka, unlike much of the West, there is no linkage between the city and its outskirts, something Sumathipala points out when he observes that in London “we have the Metro, we have Charing Cross, we have Kings Cross.” Forget the lack of such linkages, for the more than 1.5 million passengers who commute to Maradana and Fort every morning, no proper public transportation exists to take them to their place of work. “Public and private transportation must blend in without competing with each other, like they are now.” Not resolving this will lead to a situation where productivity levels will plummet even while cosmetic development projects and high rise buildings continue to crop up, given that employees who come to Colombo every morning get tired and fatigued even before reaching their offices. “People have suffered enough. Successive governments have let them down. I am in favour of ensuring that they get the best deal from us, be it in city planning or transportation.”

For that, of course, a radical change is needed from the parliamentary level down, to tackle a very serious problem, how can there be cohesive city planning when the government spends less than 0.2 % of the GDP on Research and Development, and when the private sector spends an abysmally low amount of science and technology and training? “We need to hire bureaucrats who know the game and how to play it. Professionalism is the key to everything, even though it’s become something of a cliché for politicians to spout in their campaigns. We talk so much about building a meritocracy in the government, and so far we have failed. If you want to project yourself as a visionary, moreover, you need to not only articulate policies, but also ensure those policies have been filtered through every layer of society, so that they reflect society’s views in general. You may have a wonderful world class programme for the country, but if they haven’t taken into account the concerns of your constituency, of what use is it?”

In other words, being with the people counts. While this may be easy to do, in reality it’s quite difficult. “It’s fatally easy to give into this illusion that policies need to be enforced from the top. That doesn’t work in a democracy and it shouldn’t work out in any country, least of all a country like ours.” Stateled initiatives are a must, given the fact that the private sector, concentrated in the Western Province and in Colombo, if not more prosperous parts of other provinces (while regions like Moneragala lag behind in nearly every social and economic index), has failed in spreading development throughout the country. But in a political system where everyone is there to take in everything, leaving behind little room for development initiatives (a legacy no doubt of the open economy days), can we hope for better days? Sumathipala thinks we can. “We have so much to be thankful for in this country. It intrigues me why we can’t take it forward.”

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Nelli and Rasakinda For a world of green goodness

Nelli and Rasakinda For a world of green goodness

Link Natural Swastha Amurtha distributes a large number of Nelli and Rasakinda plants for World Environment Day

Two key medicinal plants that have dominated the ayurvedic milieu for centuries are Nelli (phyllanthus amblica) and Rasakinda (tinospora cardifolia), known for their useful goodness in health, longevity and relief from aches and discomforts. However, due to rapid urbanisation and deforestation, these medicinal trees are slowly dying out, like many other plants in Sri Lanka, preventing our children and the future generations from enjoying life in a healthy green environment.

Being the core ingredients of Swastha Amurtha, the 100% natural herbal drink by Link Natural Products (Pvt) Ltd., the brand has initiated a CSR project to coincide with World Environment Day, titled “Thuru Wawamu, Gatha Niwamu” (Let’s plant trees to heal our bodies not just externally, but internally as well).

The aim of the campaign is to encourage the public including children, to grow Nelli and Rasakinda trees for the betterment of the environment and the well-being of all living beings. The first phase of the programme was held at the Siyane National College, Dompe, with the participation of its principal, Anuragoda Dhammarama Thero, teachers and students, where several Nelli trees were planted within the school premises.

The students were entrusted with the responsibility of looking after these plants. The event served as a means of educating the children present at the occasion about the initiation of such social causes, and the benefits of planting trees .

Educational sessiom

This was followed by another special educational session at the Sanasa Conference Hall in Palugama with volunteers from different Grama Niladhari divisions in attendance. A large number of Nelli and Rasakinda plants, along with packs of compost, were distributed on this occasion, and the participants were encouraged to plant them in their home gardens. Dr. J. T. R. Jayakody, a Senior Lecturer at the Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Institute of the University of Kelaniya, conducted a session about the priceless benefits and medicinal values of Nelli and Rasakinda.

The implementation of this programme was supported by M. D. J. Prasad, the Divisional Secretary of Dompe and officials, Leonard Perera, the Deputy Director of Planning, Economy Development Officials, Police Officials and the members of the Youth Federation of Dompe.

Nelli and Rasakinda is one of the best medicinal combinations that helps cool the body, cleanse blood circulating in the body and boost immunity as protection against various diseases. Continuous blood purification results in longevity and relief from various discomforts such as joint pains, prickly heat, excessive sweating and body odour, cracked heels, burning sensation in the body, heels and eyes, and ailments in the urine system to name a few.

Harder to find

“It is unfortunate that these plants are becoming harder to find in Sri Lanka, and the public is not aware of their medicinal values. With the rapid deforestation currently prevailing in the country people are now concerned about the need to grow trees. This is why Link Natural Products’ Swastha Amurtha planned this campaign as an initiation for a social cause. Through this project we are not only able to hand out a large number of high quality Nelli and Rasakinda plants along with packs of compost, but we can also speak directly to the people, especially children, and educate them on the importance of such a project”, stated Priyantha Collonnege – Manager of ER & CSR at Link Natural Products (Pvt) Ltd.

“We are glad that we were able to initiate a CSR project of this kind for World Environment day from our brand, Swastha Amurtha, as we believe in setting an example to society during a time of need. We wish to continue this project in different areas of the country in the coming months as this is only the initial step of this massive project. Let’s all gather together to make this country a lush green paradise once more”, said Niroshika Perera, the Brand Manager of Link Natural Products (Pvt) Ltd.
Link Natural Swastha Amurtha, which is a 100% natural drink is produced from extracts obtained from Nelli and Rasakinda, using the extraction technology that is owned only by Link Natural Products, thereby ensuring consistency of the product. It is a convenient form of these two natural ingredients that is prepared in a ready to use manner. It can be consumed as either a hot or cold drink, and positively facilitates the internal functions of the body.

About Link Natural Products (Pvt.) Ltd.

Link Natural Products (Pvt) Ltd is a local company that has been operating successfully for 35 years. The company has a range of products including Ayurvedic products in its portfolio and it is registered at the Department of Ayurveda in Sri Lanka. It is a company that has won the trust of Sri Lankans over the past years due to the high quality of the products owned by them.

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Dr Sampath Gunawardena on clearing your mind

Dr Sampath Gunawardena on clearing your mind

In Philip K. Dick’s story “We Remember It For You Wholesale”, the protagonist, fantasising on and on about a trip to Mars, visits a corporation specialising in memory implants and tries to live through that fantasy. Unfortunately, as the technicians at that corporation (tellingly called Rekall) realise for themselves, the man has already paid a visit to that planet: he’s a secret agent and what’s worse, a secret agent on the run who’s unaware of his true identity. First written in 1966, just before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the story was a landmark in science fiction, and 24 years later it was turned into a film: Total Recall. It seems to have outlasted its popularity, but the science and technology behind implanting good memories hasn’t.

Although Dr Sampath Gunawardena doesn’t specialise, much less practice or dabble, in memory implants, he claims to have perfected a form of physio-psychotherapy that leaves convalescent patients free of negative energy and full of good memories. Unlike the stuff of science fiction potboilers, this method is based on a fusion of Western and Eastern, particularly local, psychology; there are no machines, no technicians, and no pills. Since Dr Sampath believes this will have an impact on our tourism sector and, on that count, investment environment, OSL – The Investment Magazine decided to have a small chat with the man who claims he’s found a solution not to the problems of life but to the problems of everyday living – the two being clean different.

Dr Sampath, a medical practitioner at Karapitiya Hospital in Galle, gained much of his knowledge of this form of therapy through observation of his patients, especially from grief-counselling the survivors of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami – a cataclysm which, he admits, proved a turning point in his life. The effects of grief on a person’s abilities gave him an insight into how the body works, as a holistic entity. Studying the subject closely, relating it to empirical evidence from his counselling sessions, he arrived at the present form of his remedy through trial and error. He removes the mental barriers that people have erected for themselves in response to outside stimuli.

The “method” as such, as he details it for us, is both comprehensive and simple. According to Dr Sampath, “what we call life, or pana, is dependent on energy.” Academics, physicians, health experts, and mental health professionals have, as he puts it, focused on how the levels of energy within a person can change his mood and personality. This, however, isn’t the be-all and end-all of the matter: as important as the energy levels within a body is the energy varga, or type. “Put it this way. When we are in love, we inculcate one kind of energy within ourselves. Same goes for other emotions: they correspond to specific forms of energy. Once we learn to reduce the effects of negative emotions, we are one step towards a healthy, happy, fulfilled life. In other words, the objective should be to purge out negative energy.”

For his part Dr Sampath has travelled wide and far, and picked up bits and pieces of what he’s pieced together so far. Having visited Thailand, Singapore, and the United States (five times to the latter country, where he met experts in the field from over 75 countries at a mental health symposium), he came to understand that any technique that aims at purging someone of mental ailments must be simple, practical, and firmly results oriented. Obviously, much of what passes for mental health care in the country leaves much room for improvement. “We need to keep up with the latest strides in knowledge in this field. Not just for the sake of being up to date, but because this being a fast moving world, we need quick and drastic solutions.”

The remedy he’s found out and perfected, as he tells us, goes through three broad stages: lectures, coaching, and practical treatment. “We begin with a series of lectures that cleanse the individual of naraka sithuvili [bad thoughts]. We do follow up sessions where we check up on patients to see how they are progressing. Next, we take this remedy to the individual level by coaching them on how to keep at bay negative emotions. Believe me, this is important.

“Once these two are done we move to practical treatment, which falls under three categories: physical therapy through dieting, sleep control, and exercise; bodily therapy by seawater; and mental therapy, the aim of which is to control and restraint seven negative factors in a person’s mental build-up. What are these factors? Well, five main ones in the form of the stress of leaving work unfinished, unhappy memories, jealousy, envy, and fear; and two subsidiary ones in the form of cunning and the stress of retaining unnecessary information.”

A person who has successfully “passed” through these stages has, accordingly, been cured: “When he or she is through, he or she is considered to be ‘clear’.” The use of Scientological jargon (in the dictionary of the Church of Scientology a person said to have reached a higher state of consciousness is also termed as “clear”) there startles me, though it is a relief, to say the least, that what Dr Sampath does cannot be considered a cult (religious or secular).

In any case the term is convenient shorthand for the transition a patient makes from negative, unclear energy to positive, clear energy: “We basically equip him with the tools he needs to eliminate naraka sithuvili. That is how he gets close to, and ultimately realises, a happy, fulfilled life.”
Given that he claimed the treatment has potential for the tourism sector, I ask him next as to how tourists, expecting the unexpected away from their shores, can seek solace in his method when in Sri Lanka.

The first point Dr Sampath makes is that other things aside, “tourists spend a considerable amount of money here.” As he points out, “they look for something new, which they can’t get in their country, just as when we go there we seek new experiences in Disney World and other leisure resorts.” In other words, he notes, they want good memories.

While memory implants, strictly speaking, are not on the doctor’s plate, he does admit he offers something quite close: “My treatment, if correctly followed, can and will ensure that when you leave this country, you will leave it with good, clear as crystal memories. Once we purge you of negative, bad energy, the energy left in you enables you to enjoy and recall more distinctly the sights, the sounds, and the smells of our paradise island.

That is why I say we have a big potential in the tourism sector.” As a last question, then, I ask him whether he and his team has gone to authorities with their miracle cure. While as of yet they haven’t, he does feel (as, in a way, we do) that “there’s hope for the future, despite the situation tourism in Sri Lanka is in currently.”

Uditha Devapriya

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