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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, August 06, 2005

New guidelines coming on buffer zone

South Asian Media Net: 04/08/2005"

A new set of guidelines with a strict ban on new dwellings within two hundred metres of the beach front yet giving greater ‘flexibility’ for construction in safer areas, will be gazetted by the end of this month.
The President’s senior advisor Mano Tittawella told the Daily Mirror yesterday that “there will be flexibility provided there is safety where constructions are concerned”.

Mr. Tittawella who is also heading a committee appointed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga on reviewing the 100 metre construction ban on the beach front said the recommendations received Cabinet approval two weeks ago.

New guidelines for coast conservation will be made into law soon, he said adding there would be wider consultation at the district level on the matter.

Mr. Tittawella said the coast conservation guidelines are reviewed annually but the Department could not do it this year due to the tsunami. When contacted Coast Conservation Department Chief R.A.D.B. Samaranayake said new guidelines impose a strict ban on dwellings within 100-200 metres of the beachfront.

“There would be a strict ban on all the new dwellings including those of fisher families within the 100- 200 metre zone”, Dr. Samaranayake said.

Asked how practical it would be for fisher families to live away from the beach, Dr, Samaranayake said the fishermen are allowed to set up structures relating to fishing and storing facilities including fisheries harbours within this area.

“It is only the dwellings that are not allowed. All other structures are allowed within the 200 metre zone”, he said.

However there are other exceptions especially in the Eastern province where there is a scarcity of land, he said. “Housing projects are allowed within 200 metres of the beach if they are above the five metre contour area”, Dr. Samaranayake said.

Such projects would have to get permission from the Coast Conservation Advisory Council first and they would be studied on a case-by-case basis before the green light is given to put up houses.

He said hotels that have suffered less than 40% damage of the total investment are allowed to do repairs while the severely damaged will be provided with alternate lands from the declared tourism zones. Dr. Samaranayake said there are already some 26 tourism zones declared by the Ministry from which land will be allocated to hoteliers.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

You Blog, We Blog: A Guide to How Teacher-Librarians Can Use Weblogs to Build Communication and Research Skills

Teacher Librarian: TL Magazine: by Theresa Ross Embrey
The global reach of the World Wide Web helps create connections between many people with diverse opinions and interests. This strength, combined with the ease of publishing to the Web when compared to traditional publishing endeavors, and the ability to reach a large audience have fostered a phenomenon known as weblogs. Weblogs, or blogs for short, are a cross between a diary, a web site, and an online community. Blogs are built using specially designed software that makes creating and updating a web site quick and easy. As a result, blogs are informal, frequently updated and often chock full of the humor and personality of their creator/moderator.

Blogs have existed on the Internet for several years now. But it has only been in the last several months that they have increased in popularity. This rise in popularity has resulted in new words being added to the English language: blog – a weblog; blogging – the act of creating a blog; bloggers – individuals who create blogs; and the blogosphere – the connected realm of blogs that exists on the Internet and is accessible via links to other blogs, specialty search engines and blog indexes. As this form of communication flourishes, other jargon will surely come into existence as well.

Blogs started out as personal communication tools that could provide Web commentary on social issues and other topics of interest to the blogging community. Blogging was quickly picked up as a distribution tool for technologists, who use their blogs to distribute source code for software, provide bug reports and comment on the state of technology and society. Some examples of this phenomenon are Little Green Footballs’ blog, Scripting News, and WriteTheWeb.

More recently there has been a surge in the number of professional blogs. Several professional journalists have blogs, including Andrew Sullivan and Iain Murray. Noah Shachtman reports that several journalism schools are including blogging in their online journalism classes for the fall of 2002 (Shachtman, 2002).

Part of the spread and popularity of blogs are due to the fact that they are often interactive and community forming. There are even some library blogs that are collaborative, like the Handheld Librarian. Collaborative blogs, i.e. blogs with multiple contributors, are supported by much of the blogging software available today. Other library blogs include The Shifted Librarian, Library Stuff, and Library News Daily. There are so many library blogs now that Peter Scott, Internet Projects Manager at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, is compiling an index of them.

Educational blogs
A number of educators have already embraced blogging and are active bloggers. Here are some links to a few on the Internet: Blogging from the Barrio: A Tech Sensei’s Blog from Chicago’s Barrio of Pilsen, K-12blogWrite, and Schoolblogs. Some schools are using the blogs as an electronic alternate to school newsletters for parents and area residents while others are internal communication tools aimed at teachers and administrators.
But blogs could be so much more. How about incorporating blogs in a lesson plan on using search engines, on using news aggregators, or evaluating online resources? Or in a journalism class on detecting bias? Or in a computer class on how to document code? Here is an example of how one class used a blog to communicate what they learned about Tudor Exploration in their social studies class: Tudor Exploration. Schoolblogs has many other examples as well. If as a librarian you helped students find resources for a history blog like the Tudor Exploration one mentioned above, the blog could turn into an online history fair.

How can you and your students get started?

First, you will need a connection to the Internet, a web browser and some blogging software. Then, you will need a plan. Will you collaborate with an English teacher as part of a writing project? Or with a social studies teacher on watching and commenting on elections or the current political environment? The opportunities are only constrained by your imagination and the needs of your school’s curriculum.

Let’s take an example. Say you are working with the school’s science department on an ecology project, like the study of a local river. Students could create a blog to track their daily/weekly observations of the river in question after explaining their hypothesis in their first blog post. They may also use a news aggregator, like that included in Userland’s Radio, to track local news item that are relevant to their project (possibly online newspaper stories on dumping of wastes into the river) and post those to their blog. They may also post to their blog links to other sites on the Internet that reference the river’s history, impact on the community, etc. These web links could come from the local historical society’s web site to a doctoral dissertation a graduate student in environmental science did on river ecologies. The students would not only learn about river ecologies as part of their science unit, but also develop information literacy skills for the 21st century.

Blogging software

Blogging software allows a blogger to create a blog without knowing a lot of HTML or working with complicated web templates. Blogging software, unlike web editors like Front Page, is easy to use and is designed for frequently updated pages. Many blogs are updated daily and often have multiple updates in a single day. However, you don’t need special blogging software to create a blog. Some bloggers use straight HTML to create their blogs. For those of us who are scared away by lines of code, here are some examples of and places to get blogging software that help make the creative process of publishing a blog a little easier:
Live Journal:
Moveable Type:
Radio (Userland):
Blogger, Userland’s Radio, Live Journal and Schoolblogs also provide hosting on their server for you. With Moveable Type, you will need access to a server of your own to use the software.

Resources for Bloggers
There are numerous tools on the web for bloggers. Below are descriptions of the more popular ones:
Blogdex is the ultimate index to blogs on the web, with categories that include “fresh” and “all-time.”
Daypop is a search engine that searches news items and blogs. It also keeps track of the most popular items each day.
Weblog Bookwatch tracks the popularity of books mentioned in web logs using the Amazon.com book number that is built into Amazon.com URLs.
Voidstar RSS-ify is a tool that allows you to turn a weblog into a RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed. RSS feeds are the road maps used by news aggregators to collect resources on the web.
YACCS is a tool used to allow others to comment on your weblog.
Now that you have the resources and tools to create a blog for your library or class, you deserve some recognition. Discover The Bloggies. The Bloggies are an annual award for web logs, entering its third year. They currently don’t have a category for student blogs, but with the increasing attention blogs have received they may be adding categories in the future.
Shachtman, N. (2002, June 6). Blogging goes legit, sort of. Wired News. Retrieved June 6, 2002 from http://www.wired.com/news/school/0,1383,52992,00.html.

Additional readings
Very few books have been published about blogging. Most of the information about this practice and trend has appeared in the blogs of bloggers and a few articles in the traditional news media. However, that’s about to change. With the publication of the titles listed below, blogging moves into society’s mainstream.
Bausch, P., Haughey, M., & Hourihan, M. 2002. We blog: Publishing online with weblogs. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons
Blood, R. 2002. The weblog handbook: Practical advice on creating and maintaining your blog. Cambridge, MA: Perseus
Blood, R., & the Editors of Perseus Publishing. 2002. We’ve got blog: How weblogs are changing our culture. Cambridge, MA: Perseus
Powers, S., et al. 2002. Essential blogging. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.
Stone, B. 2002. Blogging: Genius strategies for instant web content. Indianapolis: New Riders.

Theresa Ross Embrey is the Automation Coordinator for the Chicago Library System, a consortium of libraries that includes private and public school libraries, college and university libraries, the Chicago Public Library and special libraries in Chicago, IL. She can be reached at ross@chilibsys.org.

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Learning & Technology Blogs

Learning & Technology Blo... E-learning Development Gateway:
This webpage links to a large number of weblogs dealing with learning and technology. It is provided by George Siemens, an instructor at Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. His blog (elearnspace blog, which is not listed, is found at: http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/

Learning & Technology Blogs

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Dealing with tsunami child victims

Daily News: 02/08/2005" Under Tsunami(Special Provisions) Act No. 16 of 2005

THE Tsunami (Special Provisions) Act, No. 16 of 2005 came into operation on June 13, 2005.

PART II of the Act makes special provision with regard to the care and custody of children and young persons who have been orphaned or left with a single parent, consequent to the tsunami. The Act defines a 'child' as a person under 18 years and a 'young person' as a person between 18 and 21 years.

The reference to a 'child' and to a 'young person' hereafter, will be to those who are within the respective age groups referred to above and who were orphaned or were left with a single parent as a result of the tsunami.

The Act provides for a highly protective regime for these children and young persons and is based on some fundamental principles. These are that -

* they need special treatment and counselling in view of the trauma they have undergone;

* such treatment and counselling should be provided early and will help to negative adverse effects that could otherwise be carried on to adult life;

* the one year period during which they are placed in foster care should be used to ensure that such treatment and counselling is provided;

* monitoring of foster care will enable an assessment to be made of the suitability of foster parents to be adoptive parents, if they ultimately wish to adopt the child;

* a one year foster care period should precede adoption;

* young persons should also have the benefit of foster care since this age group is often in need of emotional and financial support. Placing them under foster care does not detract from their rights as majors but merely offers support;

* placing these children in institutions should be avoided because they need a family and home environment.

Who can be placed under foster care?

The following can be placed under foster care -

* An orphaned child;

* The child of a single parent who cannot care for the child and who wishes to place the child under foster care;

* An orphaned young person who wishes to be placed under foster care;

* A young person left with a single parent and who is in need of care and protection which such parent is unable to provide, if the young person wishes to be placed under foster care.

The National Child Protection Authority (hereinafter referred to as the NCPA) is the Guardian of every child who is an orphan and of every child left with a single parent and who is placed under foster care by that parent.

The NCPA is the Guardian of such children even if they are in the custody of any other person or in an institution.

This is to ensure that these children are adequately cared for and that current custodians and thereafter foster parents are accountable to the NCPA for what they do with these children.

The NCPA will endeavour to find foster parents for these children.

It is the duty of the NCPA to ensure that every child who is not under foster care is provided with adequate care, custody, protection and education and any special care that may be required in view of the emotional trauma suffered. It is the duty of the NCPA to find suitable foster parents for such children.

Will the NCPA act on behalf of young persons?


Requesting foster care

Children who are orphans - the NCPA will be responsible for finding foster parents;

Children with single parents - the parent must inform the NCPA before December 13, 2005 i.e. within six months of the Act coming into operation, if the parent wishes the child to be placed in foster care;

Young persons - the young person who wishes to be placed in foster care, must inform the NCPA of that fact.

The address of the NCPA is No. 330, Thalawathugoda Road, Madiwela, Sri Jayawardenapure, Kotte.

Is it compulsory for a current custodian to apply for foster care of the child in their custody?

No. A current custodian can choose not to be a foster parent. In such an event, the child could be placed in foster care with others.

What is the position of young persons who are placed in foster care?

Young persons are those between 18 and 21 years and are therefore persons who have reached the age of maturity.

While in foster care, they will receive the care of the foster parents, but do not give up any of the rights of elders. Requesting foster care is a matter of choice left entirely to the discretion of the young person.

Who can apply to be a foster parent?

Any person including an individual who is registered as a current custodian may apply to be a foster parent. Couples are preferred.

However, a single parent will be considered if it is in the best interests of the child.

Can an institution apply for foster care?

No. Not even an institution that has registered as a current custodian can apply for foster care. The reason for this exclusion is that it is considered extremely important to place children within a family environment.

Making an application for foster care

An application to be a foster parent/s must be made to the Magistrate's Court within whose jurisdiction the applicant/s reside/s.

In the case of a current custodian, the application should be made within one month of being registered as a current custodian.

A copy of the application must be forwarded to the NCPA along with additional information required under the Act.

The application will then be evaluated to assess the suitability of the applicant/s to be foster a parent/s.

Evaluation is done by a specially constituted Foster Care Evaluation Panel in terms of criteria set out in the Act and a Home Study Report. The criteria in the Act are designed to address the best interests of the child.

Evaluation Panels will function at provincial level and each panel will consist of the Chairperson of the NCPA or his nominee, a nominee of the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians, the Provincial Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services or his nominee, a psychologist and a psychiatrist nominated by the NCPA and the Provincial Director of Education or his nominee.

The foster parent has the same responsibilities as a natural parent. Therefore, it is the duty of a foster parent to provide all care and protection and to exercise control and discharge obligations including that of providing education and any special care that may be needed in view of the emotional trauma suffered.

Duration of the Foster Care Order

In the case of a child, a Foster Care Order will be valid for one year at the outset. An Order may be renewed every year until 21 years but after the initial one year, an application for adoption, if made, will be given preference.

In the case of a young person the Order will be valid until the person reaches 21 years or an earlier age that may be specified in the Order.

The young person can always indicate the period for which he desires to have foster care because no foster care order will be made without the consent of the young person.

Functions of Monitoring officers

The Monitoring Officer is required to monitor the performance and discharge of the duties and obligations imposed by the foster parent/s and to submit quarterly reports to the NCPA.

The Officer is required to consult the foster child or young person as well in submitting the report. These reports are required to be evaluated by the Evaluation Panel.

Powers of Monitoring Officers

Monitoring Officers have the right to enter premises in which the child or young person is resident and to question any person/s. Obstructing a Monitoring Officer in the performance of his duties is a punishable offence and in such an event, the Magistrate's Court may also revoke the Foster Care Order.

Monitoring of foster care is considered to be extremely important in view of the possibility of abuse of care.

A Foster Care Order can be revoked by Court if care is unsatisfactory. In such an event the Court is empowered to order alternate care.

The Act recognises that any person including a foster parent may make an application under the Adoption of Children's Ordinance, for the adoption of a child.

An application for adoption may be made by a foster parent or any other person and may be made after nine months of the making of the Foster Care Order. Such an application must be made under the Adoption of Children Ordinance and to the District Court within whose jurisdiction the child is resident.

No adoption is permitted unless a child has first been placed under foster care for one year. The reason for this is that a child who is under emotional stress needs counselling and treatment for trauma and this should be imparted at the earliest.

Care and protection can be monitored during foster care to ensure that special counselling and treatment is given. After adoption there is no monitoring and there can be no assurance that these children will receive the required counselling/treatment.

What happens if there is more than one application for the same child?

The court will make a determination having regard to the best interests of the child.

Applicability of provisions of the Adoption of Children Ordinance

Section 3 of the Ordinance sets out certain restrictions to the making of an Adoption Order and section 4 sets out the matters regarding which the court must be satisfied before making an Adoption Order. These provisions continue to apply to these applications as well.

In the case of a child under ten years, an Adoption Order can be made only with the consent of the NCPA.

In the case of a child who does not possess a birth certificate, the court is required to specify in the Adoption Order, the date of birth of the child. Where the date of birth is not known, the probable date of birth as certified by a Medical Practitioner is required to be stated.

After making the Adoption Order, the court is required to direct the Registrar General to issue forthwith a certificate of birth to the child.

(Ministry of Justice and Judicial Reforms)

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

TRADA International features on Newsnight

News - TRADA International features on Newsnight - askTRADA - All you need to know about timber...:Head of TRADA International, Lionel Jayanetti, was interviewed on BBC 2’s Newsnight on 6 January 2005 discussing the company’s earthquake-proof building system in the context of the tsunami disaster in Asia.

The interview with Mr Jayanetti formed part of the programme’s opening report and centred on the Jakarta summit, discussing the needs for short-term aid and long-term reconstruction in the countries devastated by the tsunami. The relevance of TRADA International’s recent work, particularly the UK Department for International Development (DFID)-sponsored projects on timber pole and bamboo construction in Sri Lanka and India, has been brought into sharp focus by the disaster and the company is working with DFID and others to support the reconstruction efforts.

TRADA International has been involved in development projects funded by DFID for the past 20 years. Its aims are to develop programmes which promote and support sustainable livelihoods, and to increase the access of the poor to safe, secure, durable and affordable shelter.

In February last year a bamboo-based building system developed by TRADA International in partnership with the Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute (IPIRTI) withstood a series of full-scale earthquake resistance tests carried out in collaboration with the Central Power Research Institute (CPRI) in Bangalore. Film clips of the testing were shown on Newsnight.

The test building resisted seven repetitions of a typical Zone 5 earthquake, the highest in India and equivalent to 7 on the Richter scale, as well as a replication of the notorious Japanese Kobe earthquake (Richter 7.8), without any damage whatsoever.

On the Newsnight programme Mr Jayanetti stressed that a key aspect of the company’s work was in training local people in the building system, to create safe and affordable housing using local resources. This approach promotes the use where appropriate of timber poles, a by-product of good plantation forestry practice, and bamboo, the fastest growing woody plant on the planet.

For further information contact TRADA International on 01494 569600, or email


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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Tsunami Evaluation Coalition

HIC - Info Centre:

Background to the Coalition

Early in January 2005, in recognition of the enormous added value of joint evaluations to the humanitarian sector, OCHA and WHO together with the ALNAP Secretariat began to discuss how best to coordinate evaluations of tsunami response. The intention was twofold:

1. To promote a sector-wide approach to evaluations of the tsunami response in order to optimise sector-wide learning.
2. To develop procedures for the future establishment of an evaluation coordination mechanism that could facilitate such an approach.

An interagency and donor meeting was subsequently convened in Geneva on 23 February 2005 to discuss how best to develop this approach. At that meeting participants agreed to constitute an evaluation coalition (subsequently named the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition, or TEC) guided by a Core Management Group. It was also agreed, among other things, that the ALNAP Secretariat would act as the coordinating mechanism for the initiative.

This role was approved by ALNAP's Steering Committee on 18 March 2005, when it was agreed that the Secretariat would perform this function until 31March 2006 through the employment of a Coalition Coordinator. This is in line with Coalition commitments to publish an end-of-year synthesis report in January / February 2006 as well as to coordinate a corresponding series of learning initiatives in partnership with other agencies. The Coordinator will also manage the production of the Online Forum and the evaluation map.

In support of the establishment of a sector-wide approach, the Coalition has drawn on lessons from the recent IDP Synthesis Study, as well as the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda and the work of the World Bank / ProVention Consortium on lessons learned after major natural disasters.*

Related Articles

Evaluation Of The Adequacy, Appropriateness And Effectiveness Of Assessments In The Decision Making Process To Guide The Responses To Assist People Affected By The Tsunami PDF (37 KB)

Evaluation of Needs Assessment PDF (50KB)

Evaluation of the International Community’s funding of the Tsunami Emergency Response PDF (34 KB)

Evaluation of the Impact of Tsunami Response on Local and National Capacities PDF (74 KB)

Concept Paper and Terms of Reference for Evaluating The International Community’s funding of the Tsunami Emergency and Relief PDF (184 KB)

Concept Paper and Terms of Reference for Evaluating International Community’s Funding of the Tsunami Emergency and Relief PDF (194 KB)
Useful Links

Tsunami: Would we do better next time?www.odi.org.uk/annual_report/ar2005/page13_tsunami.pdf

Evaluation of the Impact of Tsunami Response on Local and National Capacitieshttp://www.odi.org.uk/alnap/tec/pdf/capacities_cfp.pdf


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Public-Private Partnership for Growth and Development

The Island: 31/07/2005" By Kanes

Private-Public Partnership for Development was the theme at the Annual Sessions of the Sri Lanka Economic Association (SLEA) held two weeks ago at the BMICH. Has this partnership worked in the crucial area of infrastructure/public utilities that is the key to growth and development? Although Sri Lanka liberalized its economy and has unleashed the market forces to play a greater role in resource allocation, the development of infrastructure/public utilities has not matched the rapid increasing demands of the open economy. For instance, the importation of vehicles has increased rapidly but the roads have not expanded to accommodate this increase resulting in major traffic congestions.

Sri Lanka on average has been spending 3.5 per cent of GDP on infrastructure development. However, in some years it has been very low because the capital expenditure of the government is always the victim in a budget balancing exercise and the cuts it has suffered during the last two decades has been significant and thus seriously affected the on-going infrastructure development activities. In countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, 6-8 per cent of GDP is allocated for infrastructure development. Due to massive budgetary problems at the time of the North/East war, the government decided that the private sector should be invited to play a role in infrastructure/public utilities development. The infrastructure/public utilities earmarked for private sector participation were ports, telecommunications, power, roads, railways, water, etc.

Required Policy Framework

In the 1980s various approaches for private sector participation in infrastructure emerged in the world. They ranged from service contract (concession, lease, franchise) to Build Operate Transfer (BOT) to Build Operate Own (BOO) type arrangements. The World Development Report of 1994 gives a good description of these techniques. The International Financial Institutions argued that private sector participation in infrastructure could lead to delivering less expensive and reliable services to the people at large. However, in order to realize these benefits the government had to create a conducive legal and regulatory framework (contract, property rights, competition, and so on), and ease risk perceptions that hinder investment. It was also argued that BOO/BOT is an innovative approach compared to sovereign borrowing and debt financing — it induced financial ‘additionality’, technology transfer, and skill development that offset any disadvantages the technique possessed.

Accordingly, in the early 1990s, the Secretariat for Infrastructure Development (SIDI) and the Private Sector Infrastructure Development Corporation (PSIDC) (with adequate funds for private investors to borrow) were established in Sri Lanka. In the mid-1990s the SIDI was absorbed by the BOI and renamed Bureau of Infrastructure Investment (BII) with additional powers. Sri Lankan public utilities have been traditionally overstaffed and functioned as dispensers of subsidized services. Thus, the political risks were on the high side and there was a case for considering modalities of introducing private partnerships that involved less political risks. At least as an interim step before adopting of BOT which required a change in the status quo, was the creation of a new regulatory framework. But Sri Lanka embarked on ambitious BOT projects in the power and roads sectors before getting the legal and regulatory framework in place.

Progress and Problems

If we take stock of the progress in infrastructure/public utilities development over the last 10-12 years, with private sector involvement, it is far from satisfactory. Of course there are some success stories such as the telecommunications, Colombo Port, and the Sri Lankan Airlines but these were not BOO/BOT arrangements and involved developing a public-private partnership via divestiture of shares below 50 per cent to the private sector. But if we examine the BOO/BOT type of projects the record is unsatisfactory.

A number of problems can be identified. First, the fundamentals governing the basic legal framework for inviting the private sector for infrastructure development was not in place. There has not been political and economic stability for large scale private investment to take place. In such an environment, the question of political commitment to go ahead with a project under different political regimes has remained a question. Second, the institutional and regulatory framework to govern the public-private partnership has been far from satisfactory; and the risk minimizing strategy has been inadequate. It appears that these areas have been gradually evolving with ups and downs with the changes in political regimes.

In regard to the first, the best example is the Trincomalee coal power plant project that was negotiated before the change of government in 1994. The earlier government gave the winning bidder – Mihaly International Canada – a one year period of exclusivity to prepare a comprehensive feasibility study. This was done by issuing a Letter of Intent to the company. However, the new government that assumed office decided to terminate this exclusivity indicating that they had failed to meet the conditions of the contract. Although the LOI did not constitute a legal obligation on the part of the government to enter into an implementation agreement, the lack of a formal legal agreement to back the documentation procedure led to a dispute between the government and Mihaly, with the company threatening to claim US $ 150 million as damages and compensation. A more recent example is the row over the fuel subsidy claim from the Treasury by the Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) where the privatization agreement under the previous government is subject to different interpretation by the LIOC and the Treasury.

The institutional structure to promote a private-public partnership had many shortcomings and they were not fully addressed by the BII either. First, the decision making process was plagued by political interference because the structure was not streamlined. Second, the coordinating network with other agencies such as the Urban Development Authority, Road Development Authority, line Ministries, Labour Department, etc., was not effective; and third, the institutions did not have the statutory authority to take decisions on tariff or pricing policy and left such decisions to be made by sub-committees appointed by the Cabinet. Consequent to these shortcomings, projects have been manipulated by various technical and non-technical committees and as a result some projects got delayed or halted.

Designing a suitable regulatory framework has also been a problem. Designing a workable regulatory framework requires considerable skills and expertise given the realities of regulatory failures ranging from regulatory capture to lack of constant regulatory innovation with increasing competition. Besides, regulation can sometimes distort competition by its impact on incentives, varies according to the public utility, and costly to set up and often fail to achieve the goals. Regulatory bodies such as the Sri Lanka Telecom Regulatory Authority, National Transport Commission, etc., were subject to political interference and could not function as workable independent regulatory bodies. The electricity sector still does not have a proper regulatory body. During the mid-1990s even designing workable power purchase agreements and risk allocation between the public and private sector were not satisfactory in the power sector. Consequently, establishment of most thermal power generation plants got delayed. The fate of the Colombo-Katunayake highway is another good example of messing up of the contract with the private partner.

Hong Kong based mega investor Gordon Wu said in 1996 that "Sri Lanka spends more time negotiating a deal than building the projects." This statement basically summarized the fate of most private-public partnerships in the area of infrastructure under BOT arrangements. This situation had not changed much over the years, so much so, the Secretary to the Treasury in his inaugural address to the SLEA Annual Sessions echoed such sentiments by stating that several projects that should have taken place some time ago are being implemented today and the government is spending more time on conceptualizing rather than realization of the dreams foreseen for the future (Daily Mirror, 18 July 2005).

Recognizing the need to get the act together and move forward in BOO/BOT projects an initiative was taken to create a good regulatory and legal framework that has a workable independence. Accordingly, a Public Utility Commission was established in 2002, which was basically a multi-sector regulatory authority – where all regulatory bodies for public utilities/infrastructure would be housed. The objective was to exploit the economies of scope in the regulatory process related to the degree of commonality in the objective (rights of way) and form (price cap) of regulation and was based on the assumption that public hearings, cost of studies, etc., are substitutable across sectors. It was supposed to be a skills-based institution with economists, lawyers, engineers and project teams incorporated into it.

Since the change of government in 2004, the Strategic Enterprise Management Agency (SEMA) has taken over the restructuring of public utilities/infrastructure. It seems to be toying with the idea of introducing the Temasek model of Singapore for restructuring some of the public utilities – run on a competitive and commercial basis without state interference or favours under state ownership. However, the plans of SEMA are not yet clear since private companies like Bharat Petroleum have been entertained on an ad hoc basis for restructuring a public utility such as the Petroleum Corporation. Furthermore, SEMA’s relationship with the Public Utilities Commission is far from clear.

But what is clear is the following – the problem in Sri Lanka is not the lack of private finances for infrastructure projects but managing the transition for private sector involvement. Sri Lanka has not been very successful in minimizing the teething problems in the transition and the required institutional, legal, and regulatory structures seem to be still evolving. If proper private-public partnership is to be introduced to infrastructure/public utilities, the government should engage in an open dialogue with the stake holders and civil society. It is only then that the teething problems could be resolved and implementation could be expedited with least political resistance.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

What Makes Irrigation Initiatives Pro-Poor

Poverty Development Gateway: "International Water Management Institute (IWMI) released their final synthesized report of ADB funded research Project 'Pro-Poor Intervention Strategies in Irrigated Agriculture in Asia '. The report titled as 'Poverty in Irrigated Agriculture: Issues Lessons, Options and Guidelines' synthesizes findings of study carried out in six Asian countries; Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam. Other reports and further information of this study can be found at web page of the project http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/propoor/ The International Water Management Institute is a nonprofit scientific research organization focusing on the sustainable use of water and land resources in agriculture and on the water needs of developing countries. Reports and information on other activities of IWMI can be found at main web page of the institute http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/ "

Contributor: Deeptha Wijerathna ( Member )
Published Date: July 21, 2005

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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Produce high quality tea to improve tea prices - IGG

Daily News: 29/07/2005"

THE Inter Governmental Group (IGG)on Tea has identified the need to produce better quality tea in order to eliminate the substandard varieties from the world market which will subsequently lead to higher tea prices.

Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tea Board, Niraj de Mel said that the Group agreed at the recent meeting in Bali, to appoint a working committee of at least six of the leading tea producers with one consuming country to work out an action plan based on ISO 3720 as the minimum standard to control excess supply.

"It was proposed at the recent international tea producer conference held in London early May to work out a mechanism to control production to correct supply-demand imbalance.

Sri Lanka's original proposal at the 15th sessions held in Colombo in 2003 to enforce ISO 3720 as the minimum standard for tea exports which was then not supported, was accepted wholeheartedly by all producers at the recent Bali meeting," de Mel said.

He called upon all stakeholders of the Sri Lankan tea industry to ensure compliance to the quality control measures already followed by the Tea Board to meet crucial decisions taken by producing countries.

He said the Sri Lankan delegation advised the group that value addition and diversity of tea grades largely assisted towards higher prices compared to other producing countries.

Among the other important decisions taken at the meeting were to expedite harmonising of the Maximum Residue Levels (MRL's) on pesticides.

Tea researchers from producing countries will meet shortly in India to work out a common mechanism to address this growing consumer issue. - (CK)

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