Education

In Malay, Orangutans Means ‘People of the Forest’

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The dust has settled at the resorts in Sharm el-Shaikh, Egypt, as delegates of countries and corporations leave the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The only advance made in the final agreement was for the creation of a ‘loss and damage fund’ for ‘vulnerable countries’. However, despite being hailed as a breakthrough, the deal is little more than the financing of the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage agreed upon at the COP25 in 2019. It also remains to be seen whether this new financing will in fact be realised. Under previous agreements, such as the Green Climate Fund established at the COP15 in 2009, developed countries promised to provide developing countries $100 billion per year in financing by 2020, but have failed to meet their stated goals. At the conclusion of COP27, the United Nations expressed ‘serious concern’ that those past pledges have ‘not yet been met’. More importantly, the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan notes that a ‘global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investment of at least $4–6 trillion a year’ – a commitment that is nowhere in sight. The International Energy Agency said that, in 2022, annual global clean energy investment will remain below $1.5 trillion. This is ‘record clean energy spending’, they announced, and yet, it is far below the amounts that are required for a necessary transition.

‘A fund for loss and damage is essential’, said the UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the conclusion of this year’s summit, ‘but it’s not an answer if the climate crisis washes a small island state off the map – or turns an entire African country to desert. The world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition. … The voices of those on the frontlines of the climate crisis must be heard’.

One of those voices is that of the orangutan, the great ape of the Bornean and Sumatran forests that the Malays call the ‘people of the forest’ (in Malay, orang means ‘person’ and hutan means ‘forest’). According to the International Union for Conversation of Nature’s Red List, the Bornean, Sumatran, and Tapanuli orangutans have experienced sharp population declines and are now categorised as critically endangered – the phase preceding extinction in the wild. There are less than 800 Tapanuli orangutans in existence, with the overall population of orangutans falling by almost half in the last century. They are given no voice in our climate debates.

In 2019, the United Nations released a shocking report that showed the near extinction of one million of the world’s eight million animal and plant species, including the loss of 40% of amphibian species and a third of all marine mammals. As part of its findings on biodiversity and ecosystems, the authors wrote that ‘species that are large, grow slowly, are habitat specialists or are carnivores – such as great apes, tropical hardwood trees, sharks, and big cats – are disappearing from many areas’. The situation is bleak, they warned, ‘unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss’.

What is driving this biodiversity loss? The report includes a long list in which one word comes up over and over again: deforestation. In a landmark publicationThe State of the World’s Forests 2020, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) noted that an astounding 420 million hectares of forest cover had been lost since 1990, although the rate of deforestation has declined from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s to a mere 10 million hectares per year between 2015 and 2020. Forests cover about a third of the global land area, over four billion hectares. Half of the forests are relatively intact, while others – notably the rainforests – are in danger of being destroyed.

Just weeks after his re-election, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who will take office as the 39th president of Brazil in January 2023, returned to the global stage at COP27. He arrived along with a number of leaders from Brazil’s indigenous community, including federal deputy for the state of Roraima, Joênia Wapichana, and three newly elected members of Congress: Célia Xakriabá (federal deputy for the state of Minas Gerais), Sônia Guajajara (tipped to head a new Ministry of the Indigenous People), and Marina Silva (Lula’s former environment minister who is likely to resume the position). At the summit, Lula affirmed Brazil’s agreement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia to set up an ‘OPEC of the rainforests’, made last year at COP26 in Glasgow. More than half of the world’s rainforests are in these three countries, which are rich with resources that have been mined to profit multinational firms at great cost to the environment but have failed to advance the social development goals of their own citizens. ‘It is important for these three countries to strengthen their strategic alliance in order to increase their influence in climate change negotiations at the global level’, said Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan (Indonesia has sought to create several cartels, including one with Canada for an OPEC-like body of nickel producers).

The scale and speed at which the global rainforest is being pillaged is alarming. In 2021, the world lost 11.1 million hectares of rainforest cover, roughly the size of the island of Cuba. To put it in football terms with the World Cup underway, the world lost 10 football pitches of rainforest per minute. Brazil, under Jair Bolsonaro, witnessed the greatest devastation of any country last year, with 1.5 million hectares lost. These old forests, dense with vegetation and animals, are now gone. ‘We are going to wage a very strong fight against illegal deforestation’, Lula said at COP27.

Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia are not alone. The Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, chaired by Ghana and the United States and made up of 53 countries, has made bold pledges to end deforestation. Ahead of COP27, Colombia’s minister of environment and sustainable development, Susana Muhamad, announced the creation of an Amazon Bloc made up of the nine countries that share the region’s rainforest (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, and French-occupied Guiana). Norway, meanwhile, has said that after Lula takes office it will resume providing funds to Brazil for rainforest protection, which had been suspended during Bolsonaro’s presidency.

The Brazil-Democratic Republic of Congo-Indonesia approach is designed in the framework of mitigation, adaptation, and investment, not through the empty conversation of the COP. Indonesia’s deputy minister for environment and forestry management, Nani Hendriati, explained how the country would promote ecotourism in the mangrove forests through a ‘blue carbon’ approach to ensure that tourism does not tear up the mangroves, seeking to halt the longstanding and rampant deforestation in the country (for example, 40% of Indonesia’s vast mangrove system was destroyed between 1980 and 2005 alone). New initiatives in the country, for instance, promote crab farming in the mangroves rather than allowing their destruction. In this spirit, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo took world leaders to plant mangrove seeds in the Taman Hutan Raya Ngurah Rai Forest Park during the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, which took place after COP27.

Such photo opportunities are important if they genuinely seek to shine a light on the problem of deforestation. However, no such light was shone on the multinational mining companies who have destroyed tropical rainforests around the world. A recent study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America examined the impact of industrial mining on deforestation in tropical regions. Looking at a selection of 26 countries, the researchers found that industrial mining in Indonesia accounted for a staggering 58.2% of the total deforestation in these countries between 2000 to 2019. However, in a concerning move, Indonesia’s government passed a new mining law in 2020 that allows permits for mining to be extended with little or no environmental regulation. ‘When the mining concessions increase’, said Pius Ginting of the NGO Action for Ecology and Emancipation of the People (AEER), ‘it drives deforestation and results in a loss of biodiversity and fragments the habitat [of animals and people]’. Indonesia revoked about two thousand mining permits this year, but this revocation is mostly due to the regularisation of the permit system, not greater regulation for environmental protection. Pressure from people’s movements in Indonesia as well as from the catastrophic impact of the climate and environmental disasters have put the government on notice about its proximity to and intimacy with multinational mining companies.

Meanwhile, the question of the orangutan remains unanswered. An academic review of the $1 billion spent on orangutan conservation from 2000 to 2019 found that ‘habitat protection, patrolling, and public outreach had the greatest return on investment for maintaining orangutan populations’. However, these funds have not accomplished much. The key issue of ending deforestation – including halting the expansion of palm oil, pulpwood, and logging plantations in Borneo and Sumatra – is off the table. How much attention will be paid to these matters at the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is to be held in Montreal (Canada) from 7–19 December? Will anyone listen to the voice of the orangutans?

In October, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, told a townhall of civil society organisations in Washington, DC that the IMF ‘is indeed supporting biodiversity. For instance, we have economists that are able to measure the monetary value of an elephant and the value of a whale’. Georgieva’s comments echo an observation made by Karl Marx in volume one of Capital (1867): ‘In England, women are still occasionally used instead of horses for hauling canal boats, because the labour required to produce horses and machines is an accurately known quantity, while that required to maintain the women of the surplus-population is below all calculation’.

What is the monetary value of an orangutan, let alone the survival of the planet? The ruling class might be able to calculate those values, but it is clear that they are unwilling to foot the bill to save the planet.

Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research newsletter

End of Ethics

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4 mins read

Ethical progress produces a beneficial form of dogmatism. A normal, healthy society does not debate whether rape and torture are acceptable, because the public “dogmatically” accepts that they are beyond the pale. By the same token, a society whose leaders speak of “legitimate rape” – as a former Republican congressman in the United States once did – or of tolerable torture is exhibiting clear signs of ethical decay, and previously unimaginable acts can quickly become possible.

Consider Russia today. In an unverified video that began circulating this month, a former mercenary from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group is accused of switching sides to “fight against the Russians,” whereupon an unidentified assailant smashes a sledgehammer into the side of the mercenary’s head. When asked to comment on the video – posted under the header “The hammer of revenge” – Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s founder and a close ally of Vladimir Putin, replied that, “A dog receives a dog’s death.” As many have observed, Russia’s behavior is now identical to that of the Islamic State.

Or, consider Russia’s increasingly close ally, Iran, where young girls who have been arrested for protesting the regime are reportedly being married off to prison guards and then raped, on the grounds that a minor cannot legally be executed if she is a virgin.

Or, consider Israel, which proudly presents itself as a liberal democracy, even though it has gradually come to resemble some of the other fundamentalist-religious countries in its neighborhood. The latest evidence of the trend is the news that Itamar Ben-Gvir will be a part of Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government. Before entering politics, Ben-Gvir was known to display a portrait in his living room of the Israeli-American terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounded 125 others in Hebron in 1994.

Netanyahu, who was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister before being ousted in June 2021, is fully implicated in this ethical decay. In 2019, the Times of Israel reports, he called “for a fight against rising Muslim and left-wing anti-Semitism in Europe, hours after the [Israeli] government published a report that said the far-right posed the greatest threat to Jews on the continent.” Why does Netanyahu ignore far-right anti-Semitism? Because he relies on it. The Western new right may be anti-Semitic at home, but it also staunchly supports Israel, which it sees as one of the last remaining barriers against a Muslim invasion.

Unfortunately, all this is just one side of the story. Ethical decay is also increasingly apparent in the “woke” left, which has become increasingly authoritarian and intolerant as it advocates permissiveness for all forms of sexual and ethnic identity – except one. The sociologist Duane Rousselle has characterized the new “cancel culture” as “racism in the time of the many without the One.” Whereas traditional racism vilifies the intruder who poses a threat to the unity of the One (the dominant in-group), the woke left want to do the same to anyone who has not fully abandoned all the One’s old categories of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. All sexual orientations and gender identities are now acceptable unless you are a white man whose gender identity corresponds with your biological sex at birth. Members of this cisgender cohort are enjoined to feel guilty just for what they are – for being “comfortable in their skin” – while all others (even cisgender women) are encouraged to be whatever they feel they are.

This “new woke order” is increasingly discernible in absurd real-world episodes. Just this month, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania planned to sponsor a student-organized event for all those who are “tired of white cis men.” The plan was for attendees to “come paint & write about” their frustrations with “comfortable in skin” white men. Following an outcry and charges of racism, the event has since been postponed.

There is a paradox in how woke non-binary fluidity coincides with intolerance and exclusion. In Paris, the prestigious École Normale Supérieure is now debating a proposal to establish dormitory corridors reserved exclusively for individuals who have chosen mixity/diversity (mixité choisie) as their sexual identity, in order to exclude cisgender men. The proposed rules are strict: anyone not fitting the criteria would be prohibited from even setting foot in these corridors. And, of course, such rules would open a path to even tighter restrictions. For example, if enough individuals define their identity in even narrower terms, they presumably will be able to demand their own corridor.

Three features of this proposal are worth emphasizing: it excludes only cisgender men, not cisgender women; it is not based on any objective criteria of classification, but only on subjective self-designation; and it calls for further classificatory subdivisions. This last point is crucial, because it demonstrates how all the emphasis on plasticity, choice, and diversity ultimately leads to what can only be called a new apartheid – a network of fixed, essentialized identities.

Wokeism thus offers a quintessential study in how permissiveness becomes prohibition: under a woke regime, we never know if and when some of us will be canceled for something we have said or done (the criteria are murky), or for simply being born into the forbidden category.

Far from opposing the new forms of barbarism, as it often claims to be doing, the woke left fully participates in it, promoting and practicing an oppressive discourse without irony. Though it advocates pluralism and promotes difference, its subjective position of enunciation – the place from which it speaks – is ruthlessly authoritarian, brooking no debate in efforts to impose arbitrary exclusions that previously would have been considered beyond the pale in a tolerant, liberal society.

That said, we should bear in mind that this mess is largely confined to the narrow world of academia (and various intellectual professions like journalism), whereas the rest of society is moving more in the opposite direction. In the US, for example, 12 Republican senators voted this month with the Democratic majority to codify the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Cancel culture, with its implicit paranoia, is a desperate and obviously self-defeating attempt to compensate for the very real violence and intolerance that sexual minorities have long suffered. But it is a retreat into a cultural fortress, a pseudo-“safe space” whose discursive fanaticism merely strengthens the majority’s resistance to it.

This piece was originally published in Project Syndicate

The mismatch between grades and knowledge

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4 mins read

With students heading and parents worrying about impending school exams in a month, it is not a waste of time to delve into why students are in school and why their child may be having some common anxiety among others, such as handwriting difficulties or the understanding of maths concepts. What are some ways how to support them?

One of the things expected of teachers, perhaps of parents too of secondary school students, is fast, fluent, legible and neat handwriting. Teachers require students to be able to take down class notes quickly. Secondary school is ruled by time constraints, class periods, and the need to move from one subject or task to another quickly to cover the curriculum. Not every school has students with laptop computers, or are allowed in class.

Neurodiversity or neurological differences exist not only in society but also among students. They are not to be rejected but respected, just like any other human variation including diversity in race, ethnicity, gender identity, or religion. Human variation exists;

Students no exception. Thus some students have difficulty with Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (the three R’s).

Handwriting

Handwriting is just one part of literacy. When students enter secondary schools there is a noticeable variation in their handwriting skills.

In primary school, when I was a student, there was the Handwriting book, unheard of today.  Thus students may have two styles of taking notes and writing. One is produced quickly, called the rough Note Book, used for note taking and might appear untidy, but still legible to the student, the other is a good quality script, used for more formal purposes.

Teachers reading answers of a poor handwriting student whose writing is illegible, due to handwriting or spelling or both, may have to guess the word(s).

Theories for bad handwriting

Various theories are proposed as the underlying cause of handwriting difficulties. Some focus on the student whereas others locate the problem within the structure of the education system, like inadequate teaching, a failure to provide opportunities to consolidate learning and missed opportunities to practice, especially during COVID-19.

Research shows us handwriting that is legible and written at an age-appropriate speed. An average secondary student produces legible handwriting in Year 11 at 16 words per minute, whereas a Year 7 student does it in 13.8 wpm.

We need to discount other factors including underlying learning difficulties, fatigue, whether English is the second language and whether students know what they want or need to write. Besides, in Secondary Schools, they don’t have the time to teach handwriting in other curriculum contexts.

Hand-eye coordination is required to develop fluent writing, besides letter formation and organisation. This condition is called “dyslexia” which can also cause difficulty reading numbers and following word problems. 

Possible intervention to prevent bad writing

  1. Visual focus
  2. Letter Formation
  3. Organisation
  4. Technology

Poor in Maths

There are a number of reasons why a child/student may be having problems with Mathematics at school. These vary from low motivation caused by Maths anxiety to a poor understanding of how to apply and perform mathematical operations.

But sometimes, the root cause of underperformance is something quite different, like motor skills difficulty. The medical term is “dyscalculia”, which some individuals struggle with performing basic calculations and having trouble manipulating numbers. This condition can cause to “re-order digits” when solving problems correctly, but recording the answer in the wrong way. They may even skip a step or struggle to focus and be unable to re-check their work when they have finished a problem. The real reason is that they become distracted by number formation that they make careless errors or get the steps in an equation in the wrong order.

Maths is poorly understood by children in Schools

Maths is mostly poorly understood because pre-school maths, is about practical problem solving, noticing patterns, recognising shapes and learning to count, mentally. While Secondary School Maths instruction becomes abstract. It often focuses on rote learning and solving equations, “think arithmetic and times tables”.

Many students complain that Maths is boring. They do not see the point in learning Algebra, or Geometry or they may not be able to do basic Arithmetic when answers can be found using a calculator or a computer.

Number crunch is all around us today. Being able to work with them quickly and efficiently is a skill. Calculations in Arithmetic is a usual or normal in many professions, especially in carpentry to retail jobs. But Mathematics is much more than Arithmetic. It is identifying the problem and selecting an appropriate approach to solving it, but following the proper order of operations.

Students are marked not only for getting the calculation right but to show how they arrived at their answer. There are children who leap to the correct answer intuitively but cannot analyse how they got them.

The main cause of disillusionment with Maths

Anxiety is the main cause of why students “freeze” in Maths exams. They can have difficulty finding a way to “visualise a problem”, leading to anxiety, sometimes “over anxiety,” thus making careless mistakes due to stress.

Many students have a very short “attention span”. Maths requires concentration. Attention difficulties can affect Maths skills. If a student drifts in and out of attention, they might find it difficult, if not challenging, to follow a teacher’s demonstration. Maintaining focus without distraction is a problem for certain types of learners, hardly explained by teachers.

Thus it is to these students that teachers should devote their attention. Students in turn should find a way to form an interest.

Why is education a mismatch between grades and knowledge?

The skills that students possess with grades and market requirements are at variance. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (3 R’s) are very basic for today’s world. The lack of effective communication, strategic thinking, abstraction and research skills are the main causes of today’s educational mismatch. The educational system is an effective vehicle for producing the skills required to maintain growth in the economy and productivity. There is either a vertical mismatch when the level of education required for the job is more than that necessary. There is a horizontal mismatch when the field of study and the job is at variance. The lack of coherence between required and offered education levels causes the disparity.

Inside Story: Rogue Academics in Sri Lanka

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8 mins read

This investigative report is open for response as the accused have been named by the reporter-editors

As funny, stupid and pseudo-intellectual as it may sound, the above title of this article is not what I initially intended to give it. The originally intended title is along the lines of “A Case of Serial Plagiarism…” or something like When the Vice Chancellor is a Plagiarist – more on this in the later parts. Now welcome to some enlightenment.

Presented below is a summary of findings we had the misfortune to make after having a compelling urge to study the academic profile of this intellectual from South Eastern Sri Lanka: Professor Aboobacker Rameez. A. Rameez is currently the Vice Chancellor of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka since 2021 and a professor in sociology at this higher education institution since 2019. Some readers would also be familiar with the name from many op-ed articles he has authored for Colombo Telegraph, references to which can also be found at his Google Scholar profile page and Research Gate profile – maintained for a delicate balance between keeping it clean and being still stocked with stuff, reportedly due to Webometrics ranking requirements. Some of his newspaper-published scholarly works being listed in these research database profile pages were published by the online Tamil news website jaffnamuslim.com.      

While lacking the necessary tools and this being a pastime activity triggered initially by personal pursuits, and despite the attempts of the university administration headed by A. Rameez himself to repeatedly deny information on his publications he used for his promotion as a professor by merit in response to right-to-information requests, we were still able to find to our own shock and surprise the fact that serious acts of plagiarism and academic-mafia-like practices had been freely allowed in the most carefree ways.

Evidence in summary:

  • A. Rameez stole nearly 80% of the abstract of a published journal article covering actual research conducted in Nigeria and he published it as an abstract of his own work carried out in Sri Lanka
  • A. Rameez stole written content from another published, properly peer-reviewed Scopus-indexed journal article and composed about 3-pages long content, without a single modification, for his own article submitted to the journal run by his own faculty

A formal complaint regarding this matter has been made to the Council of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka via the Registrar of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka. All the council members of SEUSL have been presented with evidences of these offenses, which are termed Research Fraud in the language employed by UGC for describing offenses of this nature.

An extended summary of our findings is presented below for the amusement of the general public who are contributing financially and in various other ways directly or indirectly for the proliferation of activities of the sort that is being reported here.

  1. A. Rameez plagiarized nearly 80% of the abstract of O. Odaman et al. (2014)

A. Rameez, being the primary and corresponding author has published an abstract in the South Eastern University Arts Research Session 2015. The title of the Abstract is “Ageing and Health Seeking Behaviour: A Medical Sociological Approach to Nintavur Divisional Secretariat, Sri Lanka”. The following table shows a side-by side comparison of passages extracted from the abstract submitted by A. Rameez for publication against the abstract of a research article that had already been published.

Rameez et al. (2015)Odaman et al. (2014)
It focused on the most common health related problems of elderly: revealed where the elderly goes to seek medical care when sick, and those financially responsible for his/her medical needs.It focused on the most common health related problems of the elderly; revealed where the elderly goes to seek medical care when sick; and those financially responsible for his/her medical needs.
The findings show that, the majority of the elderly persons had age associated physical illnesses such as blood pressure, cardiac problems, diabetes, joint pains, kidney infections, cancer and tuberculosis that take a long time to heal.Majority of the elderly persons (62.7%) had age associated illnesses such as blood pressure, cardiac problems, diabetes, joint pains, kidney infections, cancer and tuberculosis that take a long time to heal.
More elderly males than female counterparts were found to have patronized traditional healers, resorted to self medication using local herbs or visit chemists’ shops whenever they were sick.More elderly males than their female counterparts were found to have patronized traditional healers, resorted to self medication using local herbs or visited chemists’ shops whenever they were sick.
This research suggested that, the government should puts in place programmes that would ensure good health behaviour and elderly people should be provided free, accessible and comprehensive health care in hospitals and other health care centres.It is recommended that elderly people should be provided free, accessible and comprehensive health care in hospitals and health centers because they would utilize the health services when available, accessible and affordable.

Notice that the work allowed to be published by the editorial committee of the Book of Abstracts of South Eastern University Arts Research Session (2015) makes the suggestion, as an outcome of the supposed research findings, that the elderly people should be provided free healthcare in Sri Lanka! We believe that it’s needless to say that unlike in the case of Nigeria, the Governments of Sri Lanka have been providing free healthcare for all of its citizens in all of Sri Lanka not only at the time this abstract was being presented and was being issued in print, possibly out of public funds, but since long before that until now and far into the future for sure.

If word counts are to be used as a crude estimate to indicate the severity of the rogue academic conduct with such a shallow level of sophistication in carefree plagiarism, we observe that of the 185 words that have been originally used for composing the abstract of Odaman et al., the abstract of Rameez et al. employs more than 80 percent of the words (149 out of 185) to compose itself.

The abstract published by Rameez et al. can be found in the Book of Abstracts published by SEUSL on 22nd December 2015.

This abstract can also be found at http://ir.lib.seu.ac.lk/handle/123456789/1532

The figure below portrays A. Rameez in the act, with hijacked text highlighted in yellow:

The work published by Odaman et al. can be found here. The article has been published in Vol. 7, No. 1 (2014), pp. 201-210 of International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities (ISSN 2248-9010 (Online), ISSN 2250-0715 (Print)).

The figure below shows how A. Rameez et al. did a stealth-mode robbery of the intellectual effort of Odaman et al., with the stolen text highlighted in yellow:

Anyone serious enough to access and look at the actual content of Odaman et al. would appreciate the true effort the original authors have put into their work despite what the title and abstract look like. And those familiar with social sciences will admit that often text itself is the very embodiment of ideas.

  1. A. Rameez published a journal article with 3 pages long content stolen straight from a journal article by Hazleton & Kennan (2000)

A. Rameez, being the sole author has published an article in KALAM -International Research Journal, Faculty of Arts and Culture, South Eastern University of Sri Lanka, Volume X Issue 1, 2016. The title of the Article is “Disasters and Social Capital in Sri Lanka: A Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis”.

A. Rameez’s Publication is available at http://ir.lib.seu.ac.lk/handle/123456789/5251  (available at SEUSL e-repository).

The figure below of the article by A. Rameez, with the stolen content highlighted in yellow, should indicate the proportionality of the content discovered to have been stolen word-for-word from just one single source (other stolen content not indicated):

A. Rameez has plagiarized for his publication from here (Scopus entry: Here )

A. Rameez’s publication (Page numbers 05 to 08 highlighted in Yellow) has copied the above mentioned publication by Vincent Hazleton and William Kennan (Social capital: reconceptualizing the bottom line; Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 2 . 2000. pp. 81-86) word for word from page numbers 82-84.

The figure below shows the proportionality of the content stolen word-for-word from the work of Hazleton & Kennan, with the portions in yellow being the stolen content.

Of about nine pages of writing contributed by A. Rameez for this journal issue, about three pages come straight from the composition of Hazleton and Kennan verbatim, even with citations as they appear in the work of the original authors, but without being listed in the list of references of the publication by A. Rameez! For example, we see the original article of Hazleton from year 2000 referring to articles by themselves from 1993, 1998 and 1999; but the article by A. Rameez only has the one by Hazleton from 2000 in his list of references, meaning that the readers (and obviously the reviewers of this SEUSL journal) would have no idea what those articles of Hazleton from 1993, 1998 and 1999 actually were/ are. Other examples include such questions of curious readership of Rameez on where they can actually locate the original works referred to as Monge (1987), Garfinkel (1967) etc., all of which, interestingly are properly listed at the end of the original, genuine work of Hazleton and Kennan (2000). Apart from this 3 pages long direct stealing of written scholarly work by Hazleton and Kennan that I have brought to light here, there are various other curiosity-provoking pointers to other possibly interesting findings that are possible from a thorough investigation on the rest of the 6 pages of this publication by A. Rameez; one such pointer for example is the curious question of what exactly Portes published along with Landolt in year 1996.

These two items above bring to light the evident lack of academic honesty & integrity on the part of Prof. A. Rameez and the evident lack of scrutiny and review practices of any level of rigor concerning the two publications above. It is interesting to note that we don’t see A. Rameez having published any work on healthcare seeking behaviour of the elderly other than the single abstract above plagiarizing the work of Odaman et al. It is also interesting to note that A. Rameez obtained his M.Phil. degree in 2010 by writing a dissertation titled “The Role of Social Capital in Disaster Management: A Study of a Tsunami Affected Coastal Village in Eastern Sri Lanka”, a work possibly very similar in theme to his publication in item 2 above (Disasters and Social Capital in Sri Lanka: A Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis); yet we find him after five years with the necessity to plagiarize to produce 3-pages long content for a journal article on a related topic.

Under these circumstances, it is evident that the intellectual con artist who produced the two fraudulent publications above is guilty of one of the gravest academic offenses: Plagiarism. Being non-hesitant, uninhibited and not-insightful about copying the published, reviewed works of other academics and scholars is a major evidence of academic bankruptcy of the person in concern. With such a history of Research Fraudulence, Professor A. Rameez being a Vice Chancellor of a Higher Education Institution, and thereby being the head/ chairperson/ overseeing authority/ supervising authority on almost all of its academic, academic-administrative and academic-disciplinary matters, can severely affect the academic and administrative integrity of the institution in question. This can lead to demolition of high standard academic culture, accountability and transparency in research and dissemination and the quality of the academic programs offered at the University.

Questions for the readers are below:

  1. What are the roles played by editors and reviewers (if any) of books of abstracts and journals published by the Faculty of Arts and Culture of SEUSL?
  2. What are the impacts on the undergraduate education and examination processes in this Sri Lankan state university
  3. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  4. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  5. When an academic in general belonging a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  6. What are the impacts on the postgraduate education, postgraduate research programmes and examination processes in this Sri Lankan state university
  7. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  8. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  9. When an academic in general belonging a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  10. What are the impacts on the academic administration processes including recruitment of BEST OF THE BEST academic staff and appointment of directors & heads of various divisions & departments at this Sri Lankan state university
  11. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  12. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  13. What are the impacts on the disciplinary processes in academic matters at this Sri Lankan state university
  14. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  15. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?

Birthday – Is It A Reason for Celebration or A Cause for Concern?

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People all over the world celebrate their birthday, some people with pomp and show and others in a quieter manner depending upon their position in society and their affordability.  Of course, some people also celebrate religiously.

While this is normal practice, with celebrations being accompanied by cutting a cake, blowing candles and wishes of greetings coming from friends, dear and near ones, in a subconscious mindset, it is inevitable that thought would creep into the mind of the individual celebrating the birthday that he/she is advancing in age, causing a level of anxiety about the longevity of life. Of course, this may happen particularly in the case of senior citizens and perhaps not so much amongst the youngsters who could be thinking that a lot of time is still ahead of them and they need not be unduly concerned about this.

In such circumstances, one wonders whether a birthday should be a matter of celebration or concern about advancing age.  Perhaps, the birthday celebration could satisfy the ego of the individual when others extend wishes and greetings and make him/her feel that he/she has lived well.

Per se, there is really nothing wrong or objectionable about celebrating the birthday of an individual.  However, long-term thinkers would inevitably wonder what is there to be celebrated. When the birthday happens, it is really a calendar event and is nothing beyond that. Days come and nights fall and life goes on in whatever way and whatever day it is, whether a birthday or any other day.

All in all, one may even wonder that Remembrance Day after the individual passes away (even though that would also be a calendar event) is more significant than a birthday celebration. On Remembrance Day, the descendants and others still living would judiciously and carefully evaluate the life content and life process of the person and would pay their respect accordingly in the manner that they deserve.

In the case of birthday wishes, the extent of wishes could largely be dependent on the wealth of the person celebrating or the position held by him/her in business or job.   If and when this would slip away due to superannuation or any other reason, the number of birthday wishes would reduce sharply, which could cause pain for the person celebrating.

However, such a possibility would not be there in the case of Remembrance Day. Finally, can we say that birthday celebration is carried out in a vacuum with no real significance and remembrance day is more meaningful,  being observed with respect and being shown with a greater sense of truthfulness and sincerity?

The Importance of Incorporating Foresight in Tertiary Education Curricula

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The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision…Helen Keller

Ever since the dawn of this century, we have had unprecedented upheavals in geo-politics, public health, warfare, rapid technological advancement, the threat of nuclear destruction, all of which heralded a portentous unpredictability.  When one considers that all this happened within a span of 22 years, our natural reaction should be that we are living, as the ancient curse goes, “in interesting times”.  The snag is that although interesting, these times can turn disastrous with ineptitude or mismanagement.  Global governance is no longer governance but global administration that requires preparation for the unexpected with which we can face the growing complexity and critical uncertainty that lie ahead. Already, there are signs of things to come as many challenges we currently face show ominous prospects of worsening.

Weaponizing Education

Our tertiary educational curricula – be it in the fields of medicine, engineering, architecture and urban planning, international politics and economics, and business management – which prepare the thinkers of the future, need to be “weaponized” with a discipline that inculcates a strategic mindset in our current and future generations. What is required is familiarization of the young with foresight which is a compelling strategic requirement that could effectively preclude the disasters that we have endured over the past two decades from returning, and enable us to counter the high degree of uncertainty surrounding changes to the future context. From both a pedagogic and practical sense, “foresight” is a generic and overarching word comprising what the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) calls “a range of methodologies, such as scanning the horizon for emerging changes, analyzing megatrends and developing multiple scenarios, to reveal and discuss useful ideas about the future…foresight is about combining methods of future work with those of strategic management. It is about understanding upcoming external changes in relation to internal capabilities and drivers”.

All the fields mentioned above are usually encapsulated in composite entities whether they be instrumentalities of State or corporate entities. Within this incorporation are two prominent categories of foresight that should be introduced in a progressive education system – market foresight and strategic foresight.  Panu Kause, writing to Aalto University states: “market foresight is about the consideration of possible and probable futures in the organization’s relevant business environment, and about identifying new opportunities in that space. I prefer Market Foresight as a phrase over an earlier concept of Industry Foresight. This is simply because thinking across current industry boundaries is today an important source of innovation.

Strategic Foresight is a concept I deem synonymous with Corporate Foresight. It is about mirroring the possible and potential futures against the understanding of organization-specific capabilities, and those of one’s competitors. Ultimately, Strategic Foresight is about the strategic choices you make based on this combination of external and internal insight”. 

The main focus of foresight should be on building the future of the entity one serves.  However, it does not necessarily involve the seeking of definitive norms or answers that can be applied to the future with precision, as the future is neither predestined nor fully disclosed.  It is only partially observable through instinctive intelligence.  Therefore, no one can get the future exactly right, but one could certainly expand the horizon of plausible measures and developments that could be considered with scenario planning.  One of the corollaries to market foresight and strategic foresight is strategic planning, although foresight per se would not constitute the only measure to be taken in the formulation of a strategic plan.  Foresight merely paves the way to an effective strategic plan by bringing to bear multiple alternative futures and their implications. For these multiple alternatives to emerge there need to be key questions asked that relate to the not-so-obvious factors on the horizon that need to be unmasked so as to reveal and challenge potentially fatal assumptions and expectations built into current policies and plans.

Foresight Deconstructed

When deconstructed into an educational plan for universities and other institutions of higher learning, the first subject that comes to mind is horizon planning, which involves looking for and researching the factors of change that are already signalled with a view to developing methodologies that could counter their potential future impacts.  The second area involves drivers of change which would enable the professional and the academic to identify the most significant and unexpected potential changes.  The third is the development of plausible pictures or stories of what the future will bring or how the future will look like with a view to studying, exploring, and learning from the scenarios that are developed.  This is called scenario planning.

The fourth area is looking at opportunities and challenges within and outside the box as well as without a box.  The fifth requires a perspicacious look at what action could be taken to forge ahead with effective policymaking.  This is followed by extrapolations (evaluations with available facts and data); interpolations (estimates made without data or facts); forecasting and predictions. While forecasting involves the development of linear projections or estimations of future events whose outcomes are uncertain, predicting is undertaken with the use of precise estimations. The sixth area of discipline in the foresight process would comprise engagement in what are called “war game simulations” which are simulations of competitive engagement and settings (in the corporate sense) and simulations of different military operations (in the military sense).

The seventh area is “backcasting” which involves defining a plausible future at the outset and working one’s way backwards from that point with a view to connecting the future with the present. The eighth is the use of roadmaps which could track milestones of progress in advance.  The eighth area is the process of looking for low-probability high-impact events which are called “black swans” by some.  Conversely, high probability low-impact events should also be taken into consideration. These two categories are also called weak signals and wild cards. Finally, there is the important factor of collecting information with a view to identifying patterns and connecting the dots.

There is also The Delphi Method which is “ a structured and interactive forecasting activity that relies on a panel of experts. The experts answer questionnaires and argue different positions. This is usually done over a few rounds. During this process, the range of answers narrows down. This is based on the reassessment of given arguments and consensus-building. In the final round, the group of experts converges toward a final, “correct” answer about the future”.

Conclusion

It would be interesting to try the aforesaid deconstructed elements in toto, if only as a pilot project in an institute of higher learning on current crises and what they portend –  on how the invasion of Ukraine by Russia would affect future trends of invasion elsewhere in the world; how the COVID-19 pandemic (and the spread of other contagious pathogens that have already caused epidemics in the 21st century) would affect future public health and medical issues; how another 9/11 attack could be thwarted; how the financial crash of 2008 could be relegated to the dustbin of history, never to come back; and how to run the world more effectively in the future.

Arguably, the greatest disaster we face is the climate crisis where foresight has worked and outcomes have been both forecasts and predicted. However, the lack of political will and other intervening factors such as economic and labour considerations have thwarted the way forward towards mitigating the problem.  At the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP 26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held last year countries were asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets that align with reaching net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century. In order to achieve this goal countries will need to: accelerate the phase-out of coal; curtail deforestation; speed up the switch to electric vehicles; and encourage investment in renewables. In many countries exactly the opposite seems to be happening.

Of the big polluters, only Britain and Australia have presented new climate targets. The United States and China have not submitted anything, while the European Union is working on a redefinition of the National Voluntary Contributions to reflect the additional cuts that will result from plans against the energy crisis and to release Russia’s gas.

So much for foresight.

China’s Path to Socialist Modernization

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The Communist Party of China (CPC) held its 20th National Congress from October 16 to October 22, 2022. Every five years, the delegates of the CPC’s 96 million members meet to elect its top leaders and to set the future direction for the party. One of the main themes of the congress this year was “rejuvenation” of the country through “a Chinese path to modernization.” In his report to the congress, Xi Jinping, the CPC’s general secretary, sketched out the way forward to build China “into a modern socialist country.”

Most of the Western media commentary about the congress ignored the actual words that were said in Beijing, opting instead to make wild speculations about the deliberations in the party (including about the sudden departure of former Chinese President Hu Jintao from the Great Hall of the People during the closing session of the congress, who left because he was feeling ill). Much could have been gained from listening to what people said during the National Congress instead of putting words in their mouths.

Socialist Modernization

When the Communist Party took power in China in 1949, the country was the 11th poorest country in the world. For the first time since the “century of humiliation” that began with the British wars on China from 1839 onward, China has developed into a major power with the social situation of the Chinese people having greatly improved from their condition in 1949. A short walk away from the Great Hall of the People, where the congress was held, is the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, which reminds people of the immense achievement of the Chinese Revolution of 1949 and its impact on Chinese society.

Xi Jinping became the general secretary of the CPC at the 18th National Congress in 2012 and was elected president of the People’s Republic of China in March 2013. Since then, the country has gone through significant changes. Economically, China’s GDP has almost doubled to become the world’s second-largest economy, growing from 58.8 trillion yuan in 2013 to 114.37 trillion yuan in 2021, and its GDP expanded at a rate of 6.6 percent per year during the same period. Meanwhile, the country’s per capita GDP almost doubled between 2013 and 2021, with China approaching the high-income country bracket. In terms of the world economy, China’s GDP was 18.5 percent of the global total in 2021, and the country was responsible for 30 percent of world economic growth from 2013 to 2021. China also manufactured 30 percent of the world’s goods in 2021, up from more than 20 percent in 2012. This adds to the decades of historically unprecedented growth rate of 9.8 percent per year from 1978 to 2014 since the launching of economic reform in China in 1978. These economic achievements are historic and did not come without their set of challenges and consequences.

While delivering the report at the opening of this congress, Xi spoke about the situation that the Chinese people faced a decade ago: “Great achievements had been secured in reform, opening up, and socialist modernization… At the same time, however, a number of prominent issues and problems—some of which had been building for years and others which were just emerging—demanded urgent action.” He went on to talk about the “slide toward weak, hollow, and watered-down party leadership,” pointing out that “money worship, hedonism, egocentricity, and historical nihilism” were the deep-seated problems in a development process that was “imbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable.” These are significant self-criticisms made by the man who has led the country for the past decade.

Corruption

A decade ago, in his speech at the 18th CPC National Congress, outgoing Secretary General Hu Jintao mentioned the word “corruption” several times. “If we fail to handle this issue well,” he warned, “it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state.” Xi Jinping’s first task after taking over as general secretary of the CPC was to tackle this issue. In his inaugural speech as the party head in 2013, Xi said he was committed to “the fighting of tigers and flies at the same time,” referring to the corruption that had spread from the high echelons down to the grassroots level within the party and the government. The party launched “eight-point” rules for its members in December 2012, to limit practices such as inconsequential meetings and extravagant receptions for official visits, and advocated “diligence and thrift.”

Meanwhile, a year after the launch of the “mass line campaign” by Xi’s administration in June 2013, official meetings were reduced by 25 percent in comparison to the period before the campaign, 160,000 “phantom staff” were removed from the government payroll, and 2,580 “unnecessary” official building projects were stopped. Over the past decade, from November 2012 to April 2022, nearly 4.4 million cases involving 4.7 million officials were investigated in the fight against corruption. Party members have been investigated. In the first half of this year alone, 24 senior officials were investigated for corruption, and former ministers, provincial governors, and presidents of the biggest state-owned banks have been expelled from the party and given harsh sentences, including life imprisonment.

Hu Jintao’s comments and Xi Jinping’s actions reflected concerns that during the period of high growth after 1978, CPC members grew increasingly detached from the people. During the first months of his presidency, Xi launched the “mass line campaign” to bring the party closer to the grassroots. As part of the “targeted poverty alleviation” campaign launched in 2014, 800,000 party cadres were sent to survey and visit 128,000 villages as part of this project. In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, China successfully eradicated extreme poverty, contributing to 76 percent of the global reduction in poverty till October 2015.

Beyond the party’s self-correction, Xi’s strong words and actions against the corrupt “flies and tigers” contributed to the Chinese people’s confidence in the government. According to a 2020 research paper by Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the overall satisfaction with the government’s performance was 93.1 percent in 2016, seeing the most significant growth in the more underdeveloped regions in the countryside. This rise of confidence in rural areas resulted from increased social services, trust in local officials, and the campaign against poverty.

Right Side of History

At the 20th Congress, Xi Jinping reflected on the history of colonialism—including China’s “century of humiliation”—and the implications this would have for China going forward. “In pursuing modernization,” Xi said, “China will not tread the old path of war, colonization, and plunder taken by some countries. That brutal and blood-stained path of enrichment at the expense of others caused great suffering for the people of developing countries. We will stand firmly on the right side of history and on the side of human progress.”

Chinese officials routinely tell us that their country is not interested in seeking dominance in the world. What China would like to do is to collaborate with other countries to try and solve humanity’s dilemmas. The Belt and Road Initiative, for instance, was launched in 2013 with the purpose of “win-win” cooperation and development and has thus far built much-needed infrastructure with investment and construction contracts totaling $1 trillion in almost 150 countries. China’s interest in tackling the climate catastrophe is evidenced by its planting of a quarter of the world’s new forests over the past decade and in becoming a world leader in renewable energy investment and electric vehicle production. On the public health side, China adopted a COVID-19 policy that prioritizes lives over profit, donated 325 million doses of vaccines, and saved millions of lives as a result of this. As a result of its initiatives in the public health sector, the average life expectancy of Chinese people was 77.93 years in 2020 and reached 78.2 years in 2021, and for the first time, surpassed life expectancy in the United States—77 years in 2020 and 76.1 in 2021—making this drop “the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”

China’s communists do not see these events without putting them in the context of the long process undertaken by the government toward achieving and ensuring their social development. In 27 years, China will celebrate the centenary of its revolution. In 1997, then-President of China Jiang Zemin spoke about the two centenary goals—the 100-year markers following the founding of the Communist Party (1921) and the Chinese Revolution (1949)—that “underwrite all China’s long-term economic planning programs and contemporary macroeconomic policy agendas.” At that time, the focus was on growth rates. In 2017, Xi Jinping shifted the emphasis of these goals to the “three tough battles”: to defuse major financial risks, to eradicate poverty, and to control pollution. This new congress has gone beyond those “tough battles” to protect Chinese sovereignty and to expand the dignity of the Chinese people.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Global warming and consumer energy bills

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We are changing when we see our climate change. Climate has changed when our Earth has warmed and cooled over centuries. But in the past century, another force has started to influence climate. That force many believe is the interaction of mankind on our environment. We make it happen more rapidly than past natural events. This does not mean other natural causes don’t exist. It means that the effect of natural causes is too small or they occur too slowly to make an appreciable difference.

Young people the world over, shall we say the developed world, are the forerunner activists of climate change. They have the strongest belief about climate change and they are in need to take action immediately. Recently, we saw two youth trying to galvanise action in their known way of tossing a can of tomato soup at a Van Gogh painting at the National Gallery, London. They were part of the “Just stop oil” demonstration in the UK who want to voice their grievances, their theatrical agitation against fossil fuel extraction.

But as is known climate is an especially difficult issue to mobilise public opinion, especially in the present context of high energy prices in Britain and around the world. Voters it seems, are in no way enthused about climate change at present. There is a big gulf in public perception of the urgency of climate change, when their energy bills, to keep themselves warm during winter, has trebled since 1 October 2022,with Energy Companies in UK increasing prices and the Government having to increase the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) to £2,500 until April 2023.

The main renewables – solar and wind do not produce heat leaving UK households highly dependent on gas boilers. But renewables are helping to limit price rises for electricity, as they reduce the amount of gas needed for electricity generation.

What then would help lower energy bills?

The longer-term solution for energy bills, climate change and geopolitical risks from Russia, according to Paul Massara, ex CEO, Npower, is greater investment in energy efficiency programmes.

With the UK Government’s Bill Support ending in April 2023 all eyes and ears are not on Climate Change, but on the money households and businesses would need to spend on energy. Whilst macroeconomic stability is the new priority of the new Government of PM Rishi Sunak, a precondition to economic growth.

Industrialisation: Did Sri Lanka Miss the Bus for Ever?

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Even before the independence, most Sri Lankan political leaders believed that industrialisation was the solution to stand up as an advanced nation and create gainful employment for its citizens. To this end, the Industrial Corporation Act was passed by the State Council in 1944. Mr J R Jayawardena had moved a motion in the State Council requesting to prepare a Comprehensive Development Plan to industrialise the Country. These initiatives show that Sri Lankan Political leaders had conceived the idea of industrialisation and realised its importance for economic modernisation much before other developing countries. Most Asian countries, including the Indian Sub-Continent, imported a significant share of industrial goods from the West.  As industrialisation was initiated much before other developing countries, Sri Lanka could have replaced the imported goods in this region with “Made in Ceylon.” At that time, Sri Lanka had potential and comparative advantages, such as a solid foreign exchange reserve to import machinery and technology, locational advantages, including the best international seaport, relatively good physical infrastructure, educated labour force, and professionals etc., to industrialise

The Journey Towards Industrialization

The initiative for industrialisation paralleled the independent movement. British planters probably were not interested in diversifying their investment in Sri Lanka due to the uncertainty created by the independent movement. Most Sri Lankan capitalists had invested heavily in the plantation sector, a lucrative and well-secured investment. Also, the local capitalist class did not have much experience or exposure to industrial ventures. However, most members of the state council and the first parliament were from the capitalist class, favouring private sector ownership of properties and business ventures. The left-wing politicians, who were very active in Sri Lankan Politics, had exposure to the industrial economic environment in Europe. But they supported the idea of state ownership or the communal ownership of industries. Under these circumstances, private capital was not readily available for the industrial sector.  Hence, the first-generation industries, such as the Kankasanturai cement factory (1950) and the Valachchanai paper mill (1955), were started under government ownership during the UNP government, though they advocated for private ownership. Whatever the reason, since the inception of industrialisation, the establishment of large-scale enterprises has become the government’s responsibility.

Though industrialisation was on the national economic and political agenda, D. S. Senanayake, the first prime minister’s vision was to revitalise the glory of the golden era of the ancient Sinhala civilisation in the dry zone, based on agriculture, especially paddy cultivation. Therefore, the industrial sector and industry-related infrastructure did not receive much attention. And a significant share of resources was diverted to the Dry zone-colonization program and consumption subsidies. Dudley Senanayake, and Kothalawala, the successors of DS Senanayake, also did not change the above policy and continued along the same line till 1956.

Paradigm shift

In 1956 S W R D Bandaranaike became the prime minister who advocated for a middle path and a mixed economy. He believed in a planned development with the state ownership of major enterprises. Accordingly, a Ten-year Perspective Plan was formulated with the assistance of local experts and world-renowned economists, such as Garner Myrdal and Joan Robinson. Mr Bandaranaike’s Government’s upper echelon was a mixture of different political ideologists; the majority consisted of a breakaway group from the United National Party, who believed in capitalism, Members of Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, who believed in communism, and various other patriotic groups. As such, his party had no consensus on many policy matters. Though Bandaranaike advocated for a socialist economic policy, the left-wing parties in the opposition considered him a traitor for trying to weaken the left-wing political movement. They did not cooperate with the government programs. Trade unions backed by left-wing parties were a pain in the neck for him. Due to his patriotic and racialist policies, minorities were also kept away from him. Against this backdrop, he confronted many issues between the groups of the ruling party and the opposition parties.

 Also, after 1957, the plantation sector could not generate adequate foreign exchange, and the trade deficit increased and started depleting the foreign reserves limiting the import capacity, which hindered the implementation of the ten-year plan.  Ethnic tension was also amplified simultaneously. Under these circumstances,10 Year Development plan was not implemented as envisaged. With the assassination of Bandaranaike in 1959, the development plan found its natural death. However, in line with the state ownership concept, the Colombo seaport, airport, and Passenger transport were nationalised.

If not for the problems created by trade unions, left-wing parties, and ethnic conflicts, implementing the 10-year plan and the industrialisation process could have taken off the ground as the local and world economic environment was conducive for that. This seems a significant loss of opportunity in our industrialisation and economic advancement journey. However, it has not been discussed much by politicians and economists.

In July 1960 general election, Mrs Bandaranaike led the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. She secured the required majority in the parliament to form a government without the support of the left-wing and other minor parties. But she also faced numerous issues with the trade union actions supported by left-wing political parties, hampering the performance of state-owned enterprises. As a compromise, in the latter part of her tenure, she formed a coalition government with left-wing parties, but it could not survive for long as the right wing of her party broke away from the government. However, during tenure, some of the activities included in the 10-year plan were carried forward, and Mr Bandaranaike’s’ pro-socialist vision and the policy of nationalising important ventures were continued. The nationalisation of the petroleum industry is one of the challenging activities during this period. Several new industries were also established with the assistance of the USSR and Socialist countries. Sugar, Steel, and tire are a few of them. Nationalised ventures, as well as newly established industries, were brought under state ownership. People’s Bank and Insurance Corporation were also found to fill the significant gap in financing facilities in the local economy. While large-scale industries and financial services were state-owned, assistance was extended to privately owned small and medium enterprises in this industrialisation phase. In 1964, a national-level industrial exhibition was held in Colombo to celebrate and demonstrate the achievements of industrialisation targeting the 1965 general election.

Ups and Downs

 However, the 1965 General Election did not give the required majority to Mrs Bandaranaike to form the government. Mr Dudley Senanayake formed the UNP government with the support of seven minor parties. During the period, ventures such as Ceylon Electricity Board and Sapugaskande Oil Refinery were commenced as state-owned enterprises. By this time, state ownership of large-scale commercial ventures had become an accepted norm and no debate on private vs public ownership. Even the UNP, the party that advocates for the capitalist mode of production, complied with this norm. However, Dudley Senanayake’s government’s highest priority was agriculture, especially paddy farming. In addition to the smallholder farming system, he attempted to bring wealthy individuals and the corporate sector into agriculture by alienating large blocks of land and supporting to import of agricultural machinery. This program was greatly influenced by the international movement of the green revolution. However, his government did not make significant structural changes in the economy and continued the industrialisation process with a low profile. 

With the collision of left-wing parties, Mrs Bandaranaike came into power again in 1970 and introduced a significant and far-reaching shift in the overall economic policy. Her government prepared a 5-year development plan focusing on the agriculture and industry sectors. However, before implementing the 5-year plan, the world price hike of petroleum and staple foods created a foreign exchange crisis. It compelled the introduction of import restrictions, much more than the usual tariff protection. Except for most essentials, all other imports were banned or restricted. It aimed to produce almost everything locally to substitute imports and save foreign exchange. This created a void in the market for essential food items and consumer durables such as electronic items, clothes, building materials, agriculture and industrial tools, toys, communication items, and many more. Although the government had followed the industrialisation policy for over a decade by that time, the country did not have the capital, technology, preparedness, and capacity to shift into a rapid industrialisation phase to keep abreast with the vacuum created by import restrictions. Also, it did not have sufficient foreign exchange to import modern machinery and plants to produce quality goods to fill the void.

 In addition to the global economic crisis, ever-increasing youth unrest also reached its climax in 1971 and revolted against the new government without giving a breathing space. In response, the government hurriedly launched several reforms and high-priority programs. One was the “Divisional Development Council” program to employ youths. Capitalising on the scarcity created by import restriction and tariff protection, this program implemented many small and medium-scale enterprises as cooperative ventures to produce consumer goods based on local raw materials endowments. This program did not benefit from modern technology and produced high-cost inferior goods.

This time, the government’s policy did not encourage private sector investments in large and medium-scale industries or foreign private investment. It may be due to the influence of the left-wing parties of the coalition. Running Hotels and restaurants, importing building materials, textile vehicles, tractors, fibre, yarns, and many more commercial activities came under the government monopoly or ownership.  Most of the Sri Lankan capitalist class were land-owned planters. Under the Land Reform Act, the government took over lands exceeding 50 acres. Very little compensation was paid much later, making them a capital-less class. Also, they feared the nationalisation of businesses. Despite the high demand, the local capitalist class have neither the capital nor the interest to invest in industries. As options were limited for luxurious life and lavish expenditure during that period, landowners could have invested in import substitution if; compensation was paid at market value immediately, a private sector-friendly policy was adopted, and the boundaries of nationalisation were explicit. Under this political and economic environment, the country lost the best opportunity for private sector participation in industrialisation.

Under these circumstances, mushrooming enterprises emerged in every nook and corner of the country as self-employment and small and micro enterprises, but many were unviable. These industries became highly inefficient, leading to low quality, high costs, scarcity and finally, misallocation of resources. These massive sacrifices of the producers and consumers could have been a long-lasting success if profit-motivated private sector participation was enlisted, and doors were opened for the technology transfer. Further, the support, including tariff protection, should have been limited to a specific period to selected industries with comparative advantages enabling them to pass through infancy without external competition. However above industrial policy created a greave dissatisfaction among the people, and the government lost the 1978 general election, rejecting the approach by most of the people.   

Out of Gear- The Trade Liberalization  

As discussed, the journey towards industrialisation in Sri Lanka commenced before independence, becoming a high priority from the 1960s to 1977. It got in top gear during 1970/77 but with poor strategies. Without using the lessons learned from that strenuous journey, the trade was liberalised entirely in 1978, making the three-decades journey into a U-turn.  All investments and sacrifices made by the government and people to become an industrial nation became futile. Some of those industries did not have the scale of economies as they were targeting only the local market. Some industries could not meet the local demand as their scale of operation was too small. The technology was archaic, and the raw materials were of low quality. Therefore, most of those local products could not compete with the imported items in terms of price and appearance. Without killing the entire industrial sector, the government should have supported a few more years to some infant industries with the potential for success in a competitive environment. But in the trade liberalization, the government considered only the political interest, neglecting the interest.

After trade liberalisation, import and trading became prominent and popular economic activities in the country. Consumer preference changed from local products to imported, while investors changed their role from producing to importing and trading. Furthermore, the agriculture and industrial workforce shifted to trade and service-related activities. Small and medium entrepreneurs also moved to service sector activities such as transport, petty trading, restaurant management, personnel service etc. The banking system also changed its focus from industry and agriculture to imports, the service sector, and trade activities, which are less risky and more profitable. The industry and agriculture sectors lost policy support and human and financial resources.

Producing locally involves complicated issues such as trade union problems, land problems, technology issues, approvals, permits, paying bribes to authorities, ransoms to hoodlums etc.  Some large-scale manufacturers converted their factory buildings and other assets into stores and showrooms of imported goods. Even the government-owned large-scale industries, such as tire, steel, textile, condensed milk and powdered milk, sugar, cement, paper, petroleum products, etc., also found it challenging to compete with the cheap, nice-looking imported items. Hasty and overnight import liberalisation killed not only the infant industries but also the traditional cottage industries, such as sleeping mats, mattresses, pottery, blacksmith, toys, handlooms, vehicle repairs, lorry bodybuilding, etc., which were there for many centuries. Those disappeared from the economy as cheaper, attractive alternatives/ substitutes were available.

Despite the trade liberalisation, the government followed the privatisation policy of state-owned enterprises. Furthermore, the government dismantled some ventures, such as the marketing department, paddy marketing board, paper corporation, steel corporation, Lanka-Loha, etc., which had been established to provide essential services and inputs to support local industries. If not for wilful dismantling, some of those ventures could have been sustained without government support, even after the trade liberalisation. If transparently done, privatisation could have been a good opportunity for the government to eliminate some nonessential enterprises established under the closed economy but could not run on a commercial footing under international competition.

But due to the various malpractices, privatisation became a horrendous exercise. It paved the way for some business cronies to loot public assets. Ownership of these assets was not transferred to genuine industrialists but to the hands of government supporters looking for some fortune to become rich overnight. Most of these factories were looted by new tenants/owners and abandoned. Even though a few became successful entrepreneurs, they acquired those assets without capital outlay or much below the market price. Some got running businesses for a nominal fee or rent and had access to free working capital such as stocks of raw materials and finished products ready for sale. Genuine entrepreneurs who were not fortunate enough to enjoy such free or cheap capital found competing with lucky investors challenging and discouraging.

Privatisation was an emerging concept to reduce the burden on the government budget, improve the efficiency and quality of products and introduce the latest technology and management style of the local and foreign private sectors.  At that time, markets were not saturated for most products but were expanding rapidly due to the open economy. Therefore, the government should have encouraged and supported the private sector to establish new industries instead of haphazard privatisation of existing running businesses or importing cheap substitutes.  Privatisation should have been done carefully and transparently without distorting the investment environment. The privatisation was mishandled so the country couldn’t achieve its expected benefits.

 Ranasinghe Premadasa became the president in 1989 and was interested in poverty alleviation and rural housing. He identified the apparel industry as the most appropriate tool for sustainable (employment generation) poverty alleviation. His government launched the 200-garment factory program with an attractive support package to private sector investors to establish garment factories in rural and backward regions. This facilitated the rural women to be employed in their hometowns without migrating to Western Province. Hence real income increased, and their standard of living improved to a considerable extent. However, due to logistic problems, investors’ cost of production increased, and they lost the convenience and the timeliness of delivering finished goods and raw materials. The cheap labour could have compensated for high overhead costs in rural areas. But the labour regulation and the pressure from trade unions did not permit reaping from the cheap labour. Investors were forced to pay the same wages as in the western province. Further, finding suitably qualified managerial staff was also a constraint compromising productivity and quality.

As many developing countries entered the apparel market during this period, the competition was very high. Therefore, quality assurance and compliance with tight delivery schedules and production at competitive prices became a considerable challenge for manufacturers and exporters, losing the global market share. Some factories established in remote areas have now been closedown and concentrated again in the western province.

Countries like Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, and Indonesia used the apparel industry as a springboard to elevate as newly industrialised countries. They did not rely for many decades on the apparel industry. But even after 45 years, apparel remains Sri Lanka’s main export item because we have failed to use the apparel industry as the springboard to be a newly industrialised country. No other prominent industrial activity has emerged, at least to be on par with the appeal industry. Though many condemned it sarcastically, the dream of Mr Premadasa was for Sri Lanka to become a Newly Industrialised country by 2001. If not for the sudden assassination, he could have made a strenuous effort to achieve this goal.

 Since then, except for the privatisation of state-owned enterprises and support packages for foreign investment, there has been no specific policy support or programs targeting industrialisation. From 1994 to 2004, Mrs Kumaratunga’s government concentrated on poverty alleviation through the Samurdhi Program, peace negotiations with Tamil Militants, booting out state-sponsored terrorism, re-democratise the governance, promoting foreign investment in general without targeting any specific sector or sub-sector, or industry etc. Several state-owned enterprises were privatised during this period to reduce the burden on the national budget. In between this period, Ranil Wickremasinghe’s government, from 2002 to 2004, attempted to make far-reaching structural changes in the economy through its policy outlined in Re-Gaining Sri Lanka. Re-gaining Sri Lanka did not focus specifically on industrialisation but the overall restructuring of the economy and governing institutions, thereby reducing the government’s economic role only to regulate. However, people were not ready to face this shock of structural adjustments. The president dissolved the government at the beginning of 2004, and the Wickremasinghe government could not continue the process.

Immediately after the Tsunami catastrophe, Mahinda Rajapakse’ became the president in 2005. Due to the prolonged civil war, economic growth was slow for many years.  The power crisis was at the climax and road infrastructure was in very poor condition hampering industrialization. His immediate priority was finishing the civil war with LTTE and unifying the country. While fighting with the terrorists, he gave priority to resolving the power crisis and road infrastructure. Norochchoplai and upper Kothmale power plants projects commenced immediately and were commissioned to solve the power crisis.  A comprehensive road program, based on a 10-year plan was implemented. Three major expressways, namely the Southern Expressway, Outer Circular Expressway and Katunayake Expressways were commenced and commissioned. Further, Hambantota Sea Port and Airport were completed. In addition to the provision of infrastructure, the Strategic Investment Act was passed in the parliament to encourage foreign investments in a strategic nature. The Board of Investment was involved actively in promoting foreign investments. However, these physical infrastructures, legal provisions and institutional support have not been adequately used by investors. Capacity utilization of some infrastructure is still at a low level. Those are yet to be stimulants for industrialization. This shows that general support like BOI incentives, tax holidays and physical infrastructure alone can’t stimulate investment and industrialization.  There may be various other non-financial and non-physical constraints concerning the investment. Our position in the Ease of Doing Business index also needs to be improved.

  Conclusion and Recommendations

During the 1970/77 period, the economic crisis and scarcity of goods generated a great enthusiasm to produce many things locally. Small and medium-scale industries emerged as self-employment and small and micro enterprises in every nook and corner of the country. In contrast, though the scarcity created by the 2020/22 economic crisis is much more severe than the above, there is not much attempt by the government or the entrepreneurs to commence industries or invest in the production economy. Consumers are interested in maintaining the same lifestyle as before the economic crisis, thinking it is a temporary issue. The business community is anxiously waiting till improves the foreign exchange situation to resume import business instead of diverting the excess liquidity for local industries. The government is also focusing its strategies on improving the foreign reserves through debt restructuring and controlling inflation by contracting the economy, which may give breathing space to continue with the consumption-oriented economy as usual.

The government’s strategy seems guided by the notion that this is a short-term problem of servicing external loans, which can be resolved by artificial and temporary measures to strengthen foreign reserves.  Those immediate solutions are necessary for a breathing space to lay the foundation for structural adjustments. But it seems all stakeholders are pursuing an elusive path without considering the need for structural changes.  Instead of believing in a single answer, we must adopt multi-faceted strategies to come out of the ramified economic, political, and social situation. The country needs strategies to have a positive trade balance and a balance of payment through export-oriented economic growth and higher purchasing power of the people, for which industrialisation, based on comparative advantages, is a must. Suppose the country does not embark on growth-oriented strategies during the breathing space. In that case, the country’s economy may get settled at a low equilibrium level (low production and productivity, low demand, low income, high degree of unemployment /underemployment, low imports, and exports etc.) It would be challenging to re-energise because the economic base, such as professional and qualified human resources, international business linkages, systems, procedures, and institutional arrangements, could become fragile over a long period.

Considering the limited land resources, Sri Lanka will not be able to produce essential food items such as grains, pulses, and lentils for mass consumption on the world market or agricultural/natural raw materials for large-scale worldwide industries. Therefore, exporting agriculture products and raw materials in large volumes has little prospect for exchange earning and employment generation.  Our strategy should be: (a) gaining a higher value in the export market by adding a high degree of value to the limited supply of local raw materials. (b) Knowledge and skill-based industries. (c) high-value products for market niches. (d) tertiary sector activities targeted local and international markets, (e) Import substitution if the market is large enough to have the scale of economies. Otherwise, attempts to replace all imports with import-substituting industries will lead to high costs and low quality. It will deprive local customers of benefitting from the international comparative advantages and, finally, misallocate scarce resources (f) produce human resources of medium and high-level professionals for the global labour market. (g) Produce for the broader international market using imported agriculture and natural raw materials like the 200 hundred garment factory program.  Four or five strategic industries/ thrust areas shall be identified for this program with due consideration to the following aspects: (1) industrial products with a wider local and foreign market (2) Internationally comparative advantages in terms of access to the market, raw material and other inputs, skills, expertise etc.

 The Backward and forward linkages of selected industries must analyse and identify constraints at each point of linkages and design and implement necessary interventions including incentives, legal support, and tariff protection for a definite period. Perhaps, the electronic industry, leather products, jewellery, vehicle components, and cinnamon and coconut-based products would be good candidates.  Sri Lanka has missed many buses from dawn to evening. However, a well-designed program without ups and downs for political gains would catch a late-night bus.

Sri Lanka And The Man Booker Prize 2022

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“ By cruel hands the sapling drops, in dust dishonour’d laid; so fell the pride of all my hopes, my age’s future shade”. ~ Robert Burns

Denis Nowell Pritt, a British barrister, once called Sri Lanka a beautiful but unhappy land.  It is difficult to disagree with this identifier even now. It is a land where the sad resonance of humanity, subjugated by three successive foreign powers, has sent waves of discontent to the shores of our conscience, forcing us to hide the pride of our heritage in an armour of cynicism.  Sporadically, and from time to time, as if in deliberate remonstrance, we have turned on ourselves. Shehan Karunatilaka writes about such an epoch in his book The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, a supernatural satire which has just won for him the coveted Man Booker Prize of 2022, much to the joyous pride and delight of all Sri Lankans, local or diasporic. His 2010 debut novel – Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew – won the Commonwealth Prize, the DSC Prize, and the Gratiaen Prize and was adjudged the second greatest cricket book of all time by Wisden, the independent voice of cricket. All this makes  Shehan a world renowned author and places him in the club of other South Asian Booker Prize winners of distinction such as Rushdie, Ondaatje, Roy and Adigar.

The Man Booker Prize is a literary award for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  The winner is decided by a panel of five comprised of authors, librarians, literary agents, publishers, and booksellers who are appointed by the Booker Prize Foundation and charged with choosing the best out of outstanding nominations submitted for their consideration.  The Chair of the panel explained: “ The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ was the ambition of its scope, and the hilarious audacity of its narrative techniques. This is a metaphysical thriller, an afterlife noir that dissolves the boundaries not just of different genres, but of life and death, body and spirit, east and west. It is an entirely serious philosophical romp that takes the reader to ’the world’s dark heart’ — the murderous horrors of civil war Sri Lanka. And once there, the reader also discovers the tenderness and beauty, the love and loyalty, and the pursuit of an ideal that justify every human life”.

This is not a review of the Booker Prize winning novel, as regretfully the book is not yet available in North America where I live.  Neither is this about the distinguished author.  It is rather about its interpretation and nuance, experienced through its theme along the lines of what Ann Patchett says – that meaning is made between the reader and the book, not the reader and author. In the book, as I understand,  Malinda Almeida (the eponymous Maali), a war photographer, gambler, and “closet queen” who is killed,  dismembered, and later dumped in a placid lake in Sri Lanka, is supernaturally resurrected and finds himself seemingly in what resembles a celestial visa office.  Having no idea who killed him in a country where revenge is settled by death squads, suicide bombers, and hired goons, Malinda embarks on a quest with the limited time he has – seven moons – to find out who killed him and also to contact the man and woman he loves most –  his lover DD and his best friend Jaki – and lead them to the photos that will bewilder and rock Sri Lanka. The book brings to bear various times in history where humanity inherits the loss brought about by egregious politics and the worse demons of our nature, which are presented in frightening testimony of loss and betrayal and feckless insouciance to human dignity and the value of life.   Some of these horrendous events addressed are “the barbarism of India up north in ’89, the cruelty of Tamils out east in ’87 and the savagery of Sinhalese down south in ’83”.

Karunatilaka’s book stimulates introspection.  Nira Wickramasinghe,  Professor in the Department of History and International Relations in the University of Colombo in her book Sri Lanka in the Modern Age – A History of Contested Identities (2006) says: “ The Sri Lankan post colony seems to have failed, in many spheres, to address its past without reproducing it. This predicament has hindered the adoption of any course that steers too far from its colonial and early postcolonial inheritance and has shaped the contours of post-independence development”.  Dr. Wickramasinghe goes on to say that one reason for this lack of direction is the failure of institutions of a liberal Sri Lanka which have failed to address all needs of the country be it the poor, the unemployed youth and minorities who have been deprived of the protection the State is required to provide under a social contract. Another reason is a lack of self vision and national identity which countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong had.  As far back as 1990 Rohan Guneratne in his book Sri Lanka – a Lost Revolution? The Inside Story f the JVP (1990) partly blames the dystopian inheritance of Sri Lanka’s violence to the failure of Sri Lanka’s academics and intellectuals who failed in two areas: the absence of an attempt to diffuse discord and the ensuing violence and carnage in the country; and the failure to document the tragedy.  He concludes that this weakness of planners and experts led to civil disturbance which went from crisis to crisis. 

Sri Lanka has gone through, in the words of Dickens “ the best of times and the worst of times”. The best times were before the country lost all sense of purpose, direction and dignity.  The country needs to get back to ushering in a different brand of politics devoid of partisan bickering and stultifying division. To bring on a democracy that would solve concrete problems. Children should be able to grow up and receive an education that would lead to career opportunities. In the ultimate analysis, it remains an enduring realization that Sri Lankans have the opportunity to make individual choices without the restrictions of class, religion, caste, race or ethnic group.

The dark wind that howls through our disillusionment must stop, even to catch its breath and allow the better angels of our nature to step in. Darkness must not keep our secrets hidden and we must let in the light.

Shehan Wickremetilleke drives a wedge of conscience into the reader’s mind and jolts him to reality. However,  it is the song and not the singer who won the prize. But the singer rendered his song melodiously.

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