Sri Lanka Archives — Page 10 of 60 — LIRNEasia


As a civic duty more than as the more mundane CSR, LIRNEasia has been assisting the Elections Commission on Sri Lanka since 2015 March by donating intellectual work on various aspects of improving the functioning of the electoral system, including a Constitutional changes and the working through of a strategic plan. Thus when I was invited to present the Indian Constitution Day Lecture at the University of Colombo, representation and stability was the topic that I picked. The lecture is on Friday, 25 November, 2016 at 5.00 p.m.
So the Daily Mirror, the leading English language daily, carried my comments on the illogical tax proposals. “Around 2010, the Government considered the complexity of taxes affecting the telecommunication sector and exempted telecom from the Value Added Tax. Instead a twenty percent tax was imposed for telecommunication which was remitted to the Government” said Former Director General of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and Telecommunication Expert Prof. Rohan Samarajeeva. “The previous Government also considered the data issue as separate from voice and value added services.
Myanmar is ranked 140th in the ITU’s ICT Development Index, just 0.16 away from India, which is ranked 138th. It is now ahead of all South Asian countries, except Maldives (86th), Sri Lanka (116th), Bhutan (117th) and India (138th). It is no longer the lowest ranking country within the ASEAN; Lao PDR is ranked 144th. Sri Lanka is running in place.
Following the online posting of my articles on the government’s 2017 Budget proposals affecting the ICT sector a rich discussion occurred over Twitter, which included participation and fact gathering by one of Sri Lanka’s leading journalists, Namini Wijedasa who writes in the highest circulation English newspaper. Thanks mostly to a valiant social media spokesperson from the Ministry of Public Enterprise Development who tried, to the best of his ability, to defend the indefensible. Examples below. Lot more Tweets. @Nimilamalee @samarajiva @groundviews 2013-2014 saw an increase of 1.
“The digital economy will empower our nation – through providing affordable and secure Internet connectivity to every citizen in any part of Sri Lanka, removing barriers for cross-border international trade.” The above quotation from the Prime Minister’s Economic Policy Statement in Parliament on 27 October 2016 suggests the government sees ICTs playing a vital role in the country’s progress. Sri Lanka has been a leader in ICTs in the region. The Prime Minister gave enthusiastic leadership to the e Sri Lanka initiative, which when launched was a pioneering effort. It is known that he played a valuable role in connecting Sri Lanka to the Internet in the 1990s.
As can be seen, the language used by Sujata Gamage in her op ed on the education proposal in the 2017 Budget Speech was very nuanced and academic. But the problem was that politicians tend not to read to the end, choosing to form their opinion from the headline. In this instance, the headline was “Can tabs do what PCs or bricks could not do for education?” But looking at that headline, I do not see anything near the kind of attack common in many of mine. It after all ends with a question mark.
The legislation creating the Public Utilities Commission and the Telecom Regulatory Commission specifically provide for the regulatory bodies to have their own funds. The Minister of Finance in the 2017 Budget has announced he intends to expropriate the money in the funds and give it out on request. My response in today’s Daily FT: It is customary for independent, sector-specific regulatory agencies to have a separate fund. The agency is operated with fees and other payments from the entities that it regulates that go into this fund. The principal rationale is insulation from pressure that could be exerted by the Government which could use disbursements from the consolidated fund as a carrot or a stick.
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka is in charge of national policies and economic affairs. The Minister of Finance is in charge of finance, the money the government raises and the money it spends. As a result, the Prime Minister presents an economic policy statement before the budget is read. So it was with some surprise that I saw many policy proposals that did not have direct revenue/expenditure implications in the 2017 Budget, such as extension of the duration of visas issued to spouses of Sri Lankan citizens. The digital commerce proposal is also a policy proposal, but given the objective of ensuring the collection of relevant taxes, one could see a rationale for it being in the Budget Speech.
The Tamil mediasphere in Sri Lanka has been over-determined by the political. Now that we’re reverting to a more normal country, it’s time for economic issues to be covered. A group of volunteers including LIRNEasia’s Suthaharan Perampalan assembled a group of eager Tamil media personnel for training program today. I was one of the speakers. Here are the slides I prepared but was not able to use because the projector went on the blink.
My talk at the International Research Conference on Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura has been published in a newspaper. I described two critical issues facing our country and highlighted the dearth of good evidence. In the concluding part, from which the excerpt is taken, I discussed the challenge of maintaining quality. We must do these hard things, subjecting ourselves to the highest levels of quality control. Because the only thing worse than not being engaged with the policy process is its pollution by the introduction of bad research into it.
The University of Sri Jayewardenepura is organizing an International Conference on Humanities and the Social Sciences, 10-11 November 2016. A principal focus is taking research to policy. That was why I accepted their invitation to be the Chief Guest and to moderate the media symposium. Here is a short excerpt from what I plan to say tomorrow. Hopefully the full speech will be published.

Promoting exports v restricting imports

Posted on November 4, 2016  /  0 Comments

Ahilan Kadiragamar is an articulate spokesperson of the Collective for Economic Democratisation in Sri Lanka. Therefore, I looked forward to an exchange of views on the proposed economic and technological cooperation agreement (ETCA) with India, organized by the Church and Nation Committee of the Sri Lanka Methodist Church. The slides that I used are here. It was a little disappointing to hear that the alternative policies being advocated by these well-meaning people boiled down to import controls and juche. The problem was encapsulated by a question from the audience: In which countries are these import control policies being implemented?
There is proof that the government of Sri Lanka pays attention to international benchmarks. When the ITU’s Measuring the Information Society Report showed that Sri Lanka had some of the lowest mobile voice charges in the world (p. 102), the government took prompt action by increasing taxes on voice, SMS and value added services by 80 percent and on data by 160 percent (even though Sri Lanka was not as low as for voice, but the prices were in the low range). The logical conclusion is that they want the people to decrease use of voice and data caused by these low prices. But they want to use public funds to develop ICT based services, as indicated by the 479 percent increase in the vote of the Ministry of Telecom and Digital Infrastructure.
As part of the Inclusive Information Society research, we at LIRNEasia were in the process of interrogating the labor force and related data. Then there was this headline about there being no need for one million jobs when only 400,000 people were unemployed. Two days later, the op-ed refuting the absurdity of comparing one million over five years target with a static unemployment figure was published. As can be seen, having the data ready was extremely helpful for the quick response. If we are to escape from the middle-income trap and get established on a high-growth trajectory, it is imperative that all sectors of society understand the importance of creating jobs with the characteristics demanded by our young people and by the women who are sitting out the job market.
Last week, there was a two-day gathering of young politicians from Finland and Sri Lanka outside Colombo, in Usvetakeyiyava. The only common factor was age. Both sides had multiple political parties represented among them. I was asked to discuss the current political and economic situation in the country. I discussed some of the key challenges that we face, but which our political system does not give much weight to, except perhaps the first two, since 2015.
The two-day workshop (Oct 17 & 18, 2016) in Moratuwa, invited Sarvodaya members from Batticaloa, Colombo, Gampaha, and Kegalle Districts. These participants have first-hand experience responding to the 2016 Western floods & landslide and the 2015 Northeast floods, in Sri Lanka. The objective was to share their tacit knowledge on taking a holistic and practical approach to responding to crises. Then give them the tools to analyze the experience to develop the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) themselves. To that end, we applied community engagement social practices methods for analyzing the knowledge to realize the design parameters for developing the Sarvodaya Disaster Response SOP.