Brave planning and management needed to put Sri Lanka Back on its Feet

Priyantha Hettige

We, in Sri Lanka, need to take stock of where we are. We need to seek and find business opportunities and find matching resources that are currently available, in order to get to where we want to go; to achieve our economic and political objectives. Sri Lankans must pull themselves out of this calamity quickly.

We must develop a clear vision of the modern society we want to be, and what Sri Lankans must do to get there. We need to identify the resources and means to implement a new long-term plan to recovery and reach a good standard of development. The stinking holes that pass for public toilets have to go, for example.

What are our priorities? We must encourage and develop income generating projects, but also pass laws that strengthen all the necessary legal and financial controls which will help stop pilfering and corruption. All areas of business activity must contribute to fund raising for this development activity. It must be a group effort to raise Sri Lankan finances to enable further development according to what is considered priority and expected profitability.

We need to develop “niche” activities which add to our commercial and industrial base, and which, coincidently, provide skills-based jobs. For example, Sri Lanka was a producer of barbed wire. There may be opportunities for liaison with Indian industry to finish products, assemble machines or add value to a product.

All imports need to be examined to evaluate the possibility of manufacture here, to save import expenditure and create jobs. We see lines of Sri Lankans seeking work abroad. But many interesting employment opportunities can and should be created here. Sri Lanka needs a broad manufacturing and industrial base as a form of economic strength.

Sri Lanka needs to broaden its fields of expertise. We need workshops where skilled toolmakers and pattern makers create high value work. We need metallurgical laboratories to identify metals and their structure. Britain was investing in dockyards located near Ukrainian steelworks; there is a shortage of ship building and repair yards world wide – why not build them here? If so, we need certified welders and people with weld certification competence.

Building and construction projects are riddled with opportunities for siphoning off materials and money. Look at the contract signing procedures for constructing the expressways for example. Therefore, independent quantity surveyors and contracts engineers need to be trained and employed by project owners to monitor and ensure contract fulfillment before final signoff and payments are made. You can see many roads are partially constructed but remain unfinished, all around the country, due to contract management failure. This is an inefficiency drag on the whole country. It is certainly due to legal failure in the area of contract agreements and legally, contractually agreed obligations. After the formalizing of a contract, professionals are needed to administer the contract. But there may be a lack of incorruptible contract engineers or managers and quantity surveyors who are willing to invoke the law on contractual matters to get fair judgments and fair and correct legal assessments of the respective party’s obligations and responsibilities.

It is the sovereignty and will of the people to unite and help achieve the goals of creating a modern bright, clean, colourful, well laid out and pleasant environment for a modernized society. These already exist in some countries and can be used as models.

To achieve this or any portion of this, the whole working population needs to understand and be willing to add their support to these projects: to commit to these development goals. Management needs to be supportive and proactive in this endeavor otherwise, it can all fall back into the same old bad habits. It has to be a combination of selling the concepts of development to the workforce, and bullying to get things done and finished: democracy at work but submitting to the tyranny of finance and the marketplace – customer satisfaction.

Looking around the world, we see great strides achieved by others; wonderful examples of well designed, well thought out housing, leisure and entertainment living spaces along with a big effort to not impinge on nature with urban sprawl. Why not go out and see what is good around the world and copy it instead of repeating the same mistakes others have made before us? Places of employment needs to be close to living spaces but not actually in them. We need that separation. We need intelligent urban planning to create pleasant living spaces for ourselves and our children. Please see this effort as an opportunity, and at this late stage we ought to benefit from the best design ideas of others.