Sri Lanka Archives — Page 5 of 57 — LIRNEasia


The government predicted rainfall more than 150 mm on the 25th of May. Over 500 mm of rain fell. Technically, they were not wrong (550 mm is within the range of “more than 150 mm”), but obviously, forecasts like this might as well not be made. [an error was corrected in the above para] But it is wrong to condemn the Met Department which operates even without Doppler radar, though they have been talking about it since 2012. But as discussed below, Doppler radar is old and can only tell about large rain drops.
As Sri Lanka is drying itself out after yet another disaster, people are beginning to ask what went wrong and what could be done better in the future. Some of the comments are not fair, for example the comparison of the Bangladesh and Sri Lanka responses, but most are useful. Every disaster must be treated as a learning opportunity. First, let’s get the Bangladesh comparison out of the way. Once a cyclone forms, its track can be seen from satellites.
Unusual discussion Usually, what gets discussed on TV talk shows are big political issues. Somewhat unusually, the Derana Aluth Parlimenthuva Program focused on economic issues yesterday. My expectation was that it would be on the big news stories: oil tanks, India, growth rates, etc. I talked about the recently gained GSP Plus concession. This allows Sri Lankan firms to export some 6000 products into the EU, duty free.
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Pathfinder Foundation organized a roundtable on social market economy and SMEs in Colombo today. Among the Sri Lankan research that was shared was a shortened version of a slideset from our 2011-13 research program. With regard to social market economy, I said that the German model could not be transplanted here. Lacking their almost religious fiscal discipline, we were likely to create an even bigger mess by guaranteeing social and economic safeguards in the Constitution. Their model rested on tripartite decision making system that gave a powerful role to trade unions.
The ill-considered proposal in the 2017 Budget to compel all e commerce transactions to be conducted over a yet-to-be-designed government platform has come up for discussion again. Lahiru Pathmalal, CEO of Takas, one of the Sri Lanka’s more visible e-commerce businesses had this to say to the Sunday Times: “What is ideal is a tax holiday for e-commerce/tech related business that makes heavy investments into growth,” he said. “There has been discussion in regard to travel related booking engines being taxed such as AirBNB and Bookings.com. I believe taxing of booking engines is be ill timed,” he claimed.
The second panel was on digital rights and multistakeholderism. I did not think there can be much debate about a Rorschach inkblot so I devoted only one slide to it and made some passing comments, which still managed to elicit some response from the people who live under the protection of the concept. Digital rights was where the robust exchange occurred. Not because of the relatively uncontroversial issue of governments being prevented from arbitrarily shutting down the Internet and the underlying telecom networks that I proposed. But it was because one of the panelists proposed the wholesale importation of the European data protection regime and rights such as the “right to be forgotten.
The sane faction of the opponents of trade liberalization had organized a Citizen’s Commission to work up a report on what Sri Lanka’s national trade policy should be. But it was not a qualified or balanced Commission, with only one economist (even that, an ideological economist, as evidenced by the manner in which he introduced me) and one person with experience in international trade. Every single protectionist appears to have been invited to present their views before the Commission. I was preceded by one of the leaders of the anti-CEPA protests in 2010. There is value in these kinds of fact-gathering and report preparation activities outside government.
In 2008-2010, LIRNEasia conducted a major research program on knowledge to innovation in solid waste management. Building on that knowledge base, a new campaign that seeks to draw on the best-available technical expertise and community engagement was launched on the one-month anniversary of the garbage mountain collapse in Meethotamulla: The campaign was formalised on 14 May in recognition of the one month anniversary of Meethotamulla. It is a joint effort by LIRNEasia, Sarvodaya and the Federation of Sri Lankan Local Government Authorities to find solutions for disposing our waste without harming people or the environment. There are many commendable efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle waste at the source, but very little attention is paid to the regulation of waste disposal sites. The campaign hopes to fill that void.
Yesterday, a woman journalist from a Sinhala weekly newspaper called me to seek comments on appropriate phone use. I asked why. She said that excessive phone use had caused a man to kill his wife by knifing her. She wanted to write a piece about appropriate phone use, with quotes from me. I said many things in response.
The tragedy of a garbage mountain slide generated a great deal of interest in solutions for the solid waste disposal problems in Sri Lanka. Given prior work in this area, we were ready. Here is Dr Sujata Gamage on Face the Nation on TV1: Part 1 and Final Segment.
On Thursday, 04th of May 2017, I will be speaking on the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement between India and Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Jaffna Managers’ Forum. The talk will begin at 4.30 PM at the Euroville Conference Hall in Nallur. In addition to addressing the concerns of the opponents, I will be presenting ideas on why we need trade agreements to make it possible to participate in global production networks. The slides are here.
Sri Lanka’s unemployment rate is low (4.4 percent in 2016), yet its youth (15-24 yrs) unemployment rate is 22 percent. Unemployment among the more educated (above GCE AL) is 8.3 percent, almost double the overall rate. The participation of women in the labor force is 34.
Pathfinder Foundation and Carnegie India organized a conference on connectivity. I was asked to speak on air connectivity, which I was happy to do, it being a rather neglected subject. The paper is still not ready for prime time, some of the data not having yet been provided by the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka. But here is the conclusion: There may be marginal possibilities for increasing passenger and freight movements between India and Sri Lanka through reforms in air travel and visa policies which could possibly be included in the proposed Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA). The construction of additional international airports, such as those in Jaffna and Trincomalee, where significant Sri Lankan Tamil populations live may also contribute.
It’s been a few years since LIRNEasia had funded research on waste management. But that does not mean that the knowledge that was accumulated has gone away. In the context of increased salience of knowledge on waste management, Human Capital Research Team Leader Sujata Gamage has been much in demand. Here is a voice clip, in Sinhala, that was broadcast and is making the rounds in social media.
In the course of preparing for a talk, I was entering household expenditure data on communication-related activities into a spreadsheet that contained data from the 2009-10 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). In the three years since 2009-10 many things have happened to expenditure patterns, but one thing jumped out. In 2009-10 a household reported an average expenditure of LKR 382.72 outside the home per month. In 2012-13, this had declined to LKR 17.
Fernando, L., Perera, A. S., Lokanathan, S., Ghouse, A.