I have this unfortunate tendency to recognize my own writing. This is what was in an article about the tower levy in the Sunday Times, 26th of November 2017: This was another reason for the government’s action to reduce the number of towers, he said. The tower levy is unlikely to result in the quick consolidation of antennae to fewer towers because tower sharing is already happening and in most cases, mounting additional antennae on existing towers is not practically possible because of the weight they (or the underlying structures) have been designed to carry. The likely outcome is the shutting down of marginal towers, harming the quality of service in the cities and loss of service in some rural areas. This what I had written under my name in the FT this past Monday, 20th of November 2017.
The role of insurance and zoning was discussed at a video conference we organized shortly after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. I wrote up some of the insights that were shared in my Choices column shortly thereafter. It’s good to see that knowledge informing the thinking of the Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs: There was a need to introduce disincentives to prevent construction of buildings in places that are disaster prone, he said. Providing more people disaster insurance was also important, De Silva said. “We need to not only prepare for post-disaster insurance but prevent probability of people being subject to disaster.
LIRNEasia has been working on agriculture since 2006. Most recently, in the context of the Inclusive Information Society project that is being wrapped up, I was talking about GAP compliance with an agri-producer connected to global supply chains standing in a paddy field in Kandy on which he was growing bitter gourd for export to Europe, where among other things, he described the various authorizations he had to obtain because he was cultivating on land designated as being for rice. I recalled a conversation with Helani Galpaya several years ago upon her return from a field visit connected to our agriculture research. She said, we’re looking to solve information and knowledge problems, but the biggest barriers the farmers face is with regard to land. The 2018 Budget Speech proposes to relax the constraints that have been artificially imposed on what farmers can do with their land.
CEO Helani Galpaya was invited to speak at the Intersessional Panel of the UNCSTD. Her presentation was based on three themes at LIRNEasia.
Improving the quality of policy proposals in the Budget Daily FT Opinion by Rohan Samarajiva I have been immersed in discussions in various media platforms about the 2018 Sri Lanka Budget. A budget speech seeks to communicate the direction of government policy to other economic actors. While it is a coherent and forward-looking document overall, the 2018 Budget does contain some problematic proposals that will have to be walked back or quietly buried. In this op-ed published in the Financial Times, I discussed a solution: Every Budget Speech includes complex policy measures. Given the traditions associated with the Budget Speech, it is not possible to conduct public consultations on each of the measures beforehand.
I’ve been on some kind of budget binge this past week. Part of the problem with Sri Lanka public administration is that no assessment is done of the budget proposals. Last year’s budget increased the allocation for the Ministry of Telecom and Digital Infrastructure by 479 percent. What are indicators that this was a wise and useful expenditure of the people’s money? The first thing is, it’s difficult to even find out whether the money has been spent.
Sri Lanka has not one, but two, government-owned TV channels. They tend to be used for propaganda, but there are occasions when they act like normal news channels, serving the public interest in understanding what is going on. Last week, for example, I was happy to be on a talk show in the midst of a breakdown of fuel supplies debating the issues with a leader of a trade union combine that is trying its hardest to roll back even the current nominal liberalization and restore some kind of retrograde state monopoly. This week, I was invited to come on the show again to discuss the budget. I am generally supportive of the thrust of the 2018 budget proposals, which may be why they invited me.
It was in 1998, almost 20 years ago, that I was invited to a meeting at the Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka in my capacity as Director General of Telecommunications. They had identified a high point in the city of Colombo to locate ALL the cellular antenna towers and they wanted me to concur with their plans. I explained that the very concept of cells required multiple towers in multiple locations. Twenty years later, the same ignorance is being displayed again. A Minister of the government is making speeches in Parliament about how all of Sri Lanka can be served by nine towers.
As I was thinking about how to explain the silliness of charging LKR 200,000 (USD 1,300) per antenna tower per month as proposed by Sri Lanka’s 2018 Budget, I came across this piece on how African governments were shooting themselves in the foot by following the Willie Sutton doctrine: Unfortunately, instead of seizing such opportunities, many African governments are energetically discouraging the spread of technology. Many ban genetically modified crops, refusing even to accept them as food aid when their people are starving. Almost all invest far too little in science and research, and have byzantine visa systems that discourage skilled immigration. And they tax mobile phone and internet companies at punitive rates. In 2015 mobile-phone operators in 12 African countries paid taxes and other fees equivalent to 35% of their turnover, says the GSMA, an industry lobby.
In 2016 LIRNEasia went to Jaffna for fun. Finally there was a hotel big enough to house our large group so we decided on Jaffna as the location of our annual trip. Many interactions followed, for example on our work on online freelancing. This longer piece was first published in Tamil in Thinakkural. It is interesting that the Tamil paper carried the data tables, but the Financial Times chose to delete them (correction: deleted only in the online version).
I was asked to say a few words on how to use social media at a meeting of government information officers. I anchored my comments around what had occurred in the last few years to make me change my thinking on whether government could effectively use social media. Government organizations provide a range of services to citizens and non-citizens (e.g., foreign investors, visitors).
Yesterday I was at the launch of a report on cloud computing by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy funded by Microsoft in Manila. Listening to the presentations and then reading the report, I was surprised that there was no discussion whatsoever on any risks that may come with a move to cloud by developing countries. I had written such a discussion for UNCTAD a few years back and blogged about it subsequently. But it’s too easy to beat up on other people. We should always apply these kinds of tests on ourselves.
Two and a half weeks after the Sri Lanka Broadband Summit, the coverage continues, this time in the highest-circulation English language newspaper, the Sunday Times. The Sri Lankan government should be focusing more on investment and not subsidies to develop telecommunications in the country, says Rohan Samarajiva Chairman of LIRNEasia. Addressing the second Broadband Forum held at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo recently Mr. Samarajiva said that the Government said, “The Sri Lankan government should focused more on investment and not subsidies. Taxing incoming and outgoing calls in this day and age is silly.
Galpaya, H.G, Senanayake, D. L, Suthaharan, P. Exploring the challenges faced by Sri Lankan workers in web-based digital labour platforms, CPRsouth 2017, August, 2017.
The decision of a significant court case with relevance to regulatory practice was issued recently. The Chairman and Director General of the Sri Lanka Telecom Regulatory Commission were sentenced to jail and were required to pay substantial fines after being found guilty of criminally misappropriating USD 3.9 million from the stand-alone fund of the Commission. Because this is of relevance to regulatory practice, I wrote up a short note and am thinking of fleshing it out as a journal article. Suggestions and comments are welcome.
India cannot advance from 1st place. So they should be happy about their place in the AT Kearney Index. Just a few years ago, I was asking what the Government of Bangladesh could do to get on the Index. Not only are they on it, they are advancing. Sri Lanka can be happy about advancing 3 places.