Fools’ Paradise


The recent catastrophe we were compelled to experience did not happen without any warning. It was there all the time but only a few noted it and there was nothing that could be done as they were not in positions of influence in diverting the state administration away from that destructive path. Even in a small and simple family, the continuity of inadequate revenue causes numerous shortcomings and can end in a tragedy.  When the sources of inputs and their efficient use is prevented,  negative developments concentrate and snowball to end up in an avalanche, rolling out menacingly crushing everything and everyone in the path.

Ours is a country with favourable geographical conditions which gives us the best gifts of nature that many other countries do not have and yearn to have. The present crisis we are going through is the outcome of our negligence preventing timely action in areas which contribute.

Natural Transition

The passive nature of our society that prevailed was not something unusual as our minds are indoctrinated  by Buddhism that compels the sufferer to resign to his or her fate as ‘karma’. It was further complicated by the ‘underdog’ mentality that prevailed for thousands of years by through feudalism.

This system with its monarchs, feudal lords and petty officials prevailed right throughout, when the last King of the country was removed because there was no vacuum created, the lords and the petty officials were there continuing the policy. It did not matter as there was a monarch far away dictating terms, through those lords, who were still around, owning the lands and making the best use of those.

The children of these lords and the new rich commercial elite had their children educated in England and when they came back, they came with new political doctrines, and became freedom fighters. It became a very natural development for the British masters as the local intelligentsia that developed fitted very well in organising the local people who did not see any negative signs. The children of the new rich became more revolutionary and they were the only force that could stand against the current remnant version of the feudal lords, who became a logical force that would enter politics and fill the need for a flexible buffer between the Government and the bottom level people who were mainly rural.

It was the main feature that prevented the emergence of a more radical force.  The British educated radicals tried to be more aggressive, but did not get a perch among the masses that had more acceptable and known leaders who could easily dominate the passive people who were fairly comfortable in their self-sufficient rural regions.

This caused the people to be suspicious about their socialist comrades who had exposure to teachings of scholars like Karl Marx and Fredrik Engels, followed by more recent thinkers like Lenin who became the first to carve an Administration for a large country like Russia, and in the presence of all the traditional world powers developed it became a world power that showed signs of problems to old world powers. Encouraged by this, the Sri Lankan radicals tried to win the hearts of the rural people, but due to their lack of tact, they could not make any headway.

That was why leaders with their traditional backgrounds could not be simply shaken off, just like that. Die-hard operators ensured support to traditional candidates and prevented the rural believers from reaching the radicals. Now, when we look back, we can see why the majority of voters did not develop as a rational lot.

False values

In 1948, at the time of our getting Independence we had a population of just a little over seven Million. Compared to what we have now, which is 22.2 Million a staggering threefold increase. It is not just a small comfortable country anymore! Even the solutions are creating unmanageable problems like what we have been facing lately.

If planning was done to meet requirements considering all possible eventualities, would we have got in to this mess? This explains that plans made and executed were never  near the expected targets. What’s clear now is that, we did not have any checks and controls to find out whether the inputs had really been productive. Therefore, it is clear that  all those who were responsible might have been busy trying to survive looking after their own skins only. Although the outside world would have seen the offices and the officials really busy on the surface the most important matters would have been completely neglected. The Government Service has been reduced to a system of ‘Pen Pushers’ for whom the evaluation committees and meetings could have been just some unavoidable ritualistic necessities. The result was a ‘Fools’ Paradise’.

That can be the only logical answer to the failures that had grown to this magnitude. It is a question of responsibility and accountability. Now, no one is either responsible or accountable for the crisis that has become reality for the citizens.

It is totally because of the absence of serious monitoring of development efforts and the progress made. Now the disaster has already been created and there is no way of escaping. The state administration that should have ensured strength had become aimless and clueless. It is definitely the result of the absence of objective-oriented planning and the supportive implementation and monitoring to evaluate the achievement of progress. If a serious study is conducted, it shall be convincingly proved that all the failures can be identified by one technical expression like national productivity, which has to be established before everything else.

As a whole, it is essential that the National Inputs become productive and that shall happen only if the National Product is more than what the Nation spent in achieving that. This is what happens when that vital aspect is not known. All the services of the Administration shall have a cost and when applied, that should have solved a wide volume of objectives. If the problems are solved that shall be a better position. But, if the same old problems keep on surfacing, it means that the national Inputs had been in vain.

Even if the monitory aspect has been solved, if the aspect in converting has been a total failure, how can the efforts be successful? How many kinds of human resources cause expenditure daily consuming time and energy. Do we have a guarantee that all those efforts are real and meaningful and the efforts should bring in results? To be more elaborative, let us take the officials engaged in planning, they are supposed to prepare a plan for the conversion of all paddy lands that have been abandoned for years, how many aspects come into the picture. costs in organisation, mobilisation of farmhands, action plans and work to match the time lost etc. will have to be sorted out. The strictest adherence to commencement of work and arrangement of activities will become essential. What will happen if one or several components in the plan could not be fulfilled. It can be detected only if proper monitoring has been maintained.

Seriously concerned

If the valuable line agencies of the Government Administration like the Agrarian Services Department had been seriously concerned, the potential of cultivations could have been well within the seasons and the land could have been utilised.

If there was a system to ensure that no paddy lands have been allowed to go fallow, all those paddy lands could have been productive and   that would have prevented ‘Rice Imports’ from other countries. If our fisheries were made full use of, there would not have been any need to import fish from other countries.

We are in a background where we can produce all the tropical and some of the temperate zone vegetables that can be exported if we produce in the scales needed. 

Now let us take the main issues. No foreign exchange …! Because as per plans, there were no exports and no import substitution was achieved, while not having means to build up foreign exchange reserves. The available foreign exchange reserves were utilised without any control?  Where lies the mistake?

The Commercial Bank expected to open the Letter of Credit simply opens LC because the client is a good party. If one goes to yards where imported used vehicle  parts are stored, anyone can find enough examples of items like axels, chassis and even complete sections of vehicles imported and sitting around there for years. The free economic practice created this problem. If we had strict exchange control measures such blunders could have been avoided

We have been living in a hallucinatory dream all this time, while shying away from the scary indicators that became scary die to our own lethargy and the false confidence we had developed over the years retarding our skills and the enthusiasm.

It is high time all servicemen and women are subjected to an appropriate Capacity Building Training Programme.

By Ananda Ariyarathne