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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, May 06, 2006

Training can make a bottom-line difference

Daily Mirror: 05/02/2006" By Dinesh Weerakkody

Often Sri Lankan managers think training is development. To me training is basically the formal activity that generally occurs in a classroom or elsewhere whereas development is broader. For example, one of the key functions of managers is to develop people. That development may manifest itself in different ways. It may occur through on-the-job coaching, performance appraisals or development planning discussions.

In the new economy good talent is a requisite for company survival. Yet the leadership pipeline in most companies have run dry. Winning companies however have recognized that there is a war for talent and have developed a framework firstly for assessing and then a process for developing their very own internal pipeline of leadership talent via training and development interventions. Now for companies to make that transformation they need to understand how to increase their organizational competence through training, development and then to measure the impact of those interventions. In high performing companies, individual training and overall development activities are integrated into a cooperative whole, Conceptually and practically they are linked as a single comprehensive agenda. Elsewhere they often turn into a tug-of-war between finance and HR –each trying to out do the other.

Often Sri Lankan managers think training is development. To me training is basically the formal activity that generally occurs in a classroom or elsewhere whereas development is broader. For example, one of the key functions of managers is to develop people. That development may manifest itself in different ways. It may occur through on-the-job coaching, performance appraisals or development planning discussions.

Then a question that is frequently asked is development more effective than the traditional classroom training? Actually, they go hand in hand. We should start with development planning, collecting facts and data about a person’s performance, competencies and other related behaviours. Based on this we then set stretch targets based on the desired performance standards and behaviours. Training then, is an activity or a solution (among others) to address the gap between current and desired performance standards and behaviours.

The impact of Training and ROI
Then how do companies measure the impact of training? There are many ways. But the problem is that many companies don’t measure training effectiveness because they find it too difficult. I often refer to Donald Kirkpatrick’s model, which classifies various ways in which you can measure the effectiveness of training. Kirkpatrick identifies four levels. The first level focuses on attitude. Often we perform this type of evaluation by handing out an evaluation form (happy sheet) at the end of a training program. From this we can assess how participants felt about the training. The second way is to measure knowledge or skills acquisition and this is fairly simple.

For example, at the end of a Product Knowledge Training Program we can have people undertake an examination to test their acquisition of knowledge.

Similarly, we can use role-plays to assess whether people have developed the required skills during a training program. The third level of evaluation really concerns the way that behavior changes after completing a particular program. Companies often perform level 1 and 2 measurement but stop there. However, evaluating training effectiveness at level 3 is not as difficult as it may appear. Many companies are beginning to identify, measure and develop competencies to drive performance standards.

They look at people who do well in their jobs and identify and observe the behaviours that they demonstrate, rather than focus on knowledge or skills alone. In other words, a person may be very knowledgeable and/or skillful, but may not apply the knowledge and skills on the job in the required way. Competencies involve the behaviours, or the application of the knowledge and skills in ways that drive desired levels of performance. Progressive MNCs like GlaxoSmithKline, for example they train Sales Managers to observe their Sales People in the field. They look specifically at the way that sales people behave when conversing or working with customers and how this differs from in the past. They look at the improvements in their behaviour and how that behaviour has changed as a result of the training. Finally, Level 4 evaluation focuses on the Rupee impact that the improved behaviours have on the business. Therefore by following a structured process a company can measure the impact of their training investments and also to asses the potential of their staff.

However in practice for proper measurement, firstly HR professionals must have a concept of the full HR value proposition and secondly have the ability to measure their specific value added elements. Most importantly the CEO of the company must come to terms with the fact that today’s businesses compete as much on the strength of their human capital as on that of their financial resources. In the final analysis this human capital resides at all levels of the firm, but it takes good leadership and strong HR practices to fully develop and enable it.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

No Thriposha for 60 percent

Weekend Standard: 22/04/2006" By Suranga Gamage

More than sixty percent of the low income mothers who had been recommended by doctors to receive the nutritional supplement, Thriposha had failed to obtain the product in 2004 as the programme did not produce the required quantity, an audit report reveals.

According to the report only 4,465 MT of Thriposha out of required 10,440 MT was produced mainly due to lack of machine capacity as only 5,542 machine hours had been utilised while the requirement was 19,220 machine hours.

Due to the shortcomings in the production process some stocks of Thriposha had to be re processed resulting in non Distribution of Thriposha in November 2004, the report said.

The Thriposha Programme was managed by the Co-operative American Remittance Anywhere (CARE) prior to 1987 and thereafter it was entrusted to a private company.

Under the budget 2004, the government had allocated Rs. 570 million as recurrent expenditure and Rs. 80 million capital expenditure to the Thriposha programme.

A total sum of Rs. 9.7 million had been paid to the management company in 2004, which includes salaries, fixed management fee and distribution charges.

The report further said that even though it was expected that the Soya beans, which is the main ingredient to be purchased locally, more than 95% of the total Soya bean requirement was imported even exceeding the prices approved by the Cabinet Approved Tender Board.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sri Lanka draws up new laws to regulate NGO's giving micro-finance

LBO: 21/04/2006"

Sri Lanka is drawing up a new law to regulate micro-credit organizations scattered around the county.

The legislation will cover thrift units operated by co-operative societies, thrift associations in the Samurdhi income support program of the government and other non- governmental organizations in the sector.

"At present no one knows how many NGO's (non governmental organizations) are involved in micro-finance or their asset base," says H M Gunasekera, Additional Director of Development Finance, of the Finance & Planning Ministry.

"The Department of Census and Statistics is conducting a survey with the Central Bank to assess how many are involved and their asset base."

Several thousand micro-credit organization scattered around the country not only lend to the public but also raise money from them.

Gunasekera says regularizing the institutions, taking them towards credit ratings would not only help the depositors but also give access to the organizations to get more funding.

Several international lending agencies led by the ADB, which is putting in 77 million dollars, are standing by with about 100 million dollars for micro-finance activities.

Developing the regulatory framework is also part of the project.

The German agency GTZ has pledged 4 million dollars, Italian Government 8 million dollars and the Sweden government 4 million dollars.

The government says many micro-finance organizations badly need management expertise, better infrastructure including information technology.

The proposed law would also impose audit requirements, and push the sector towards better corporate governance.

Gunasekera says the additional funding is expected to create 200,000 new micro-enterprises employing 250,000 persons.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka – 15 Months On

The Cud: By Hamish Milne

Having read the May 2005 article by Mahesh Markus in The Cud, and travelled to all the same areas he mentioned, I hope that people might be interested to know a little about how things have developed in the 15 months since the tsunami.

Earlier this year I travelled to Sri Lanka on a study tour to look at the post-tsunami recovery in the south-western area of the country. I was particularly interested in the way recipients of foreign aid were re-creating their lives and how they feel about the countries that have helped them recover from this major disaster. The project was part of my involvement with the Vincent Fairfax Fellowship Program run out of the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney.

Sri Lanka is a small, tear-drop shaped island geographically positioned off the southern tip of India. The tsunami approached from the east, wrapped around the southern tip, and headed north reaching as far up the western coast as Colombo. It therefore had a direct impact on approximately two-thirds of the coastline.

I concentrated on the south-western region for two main reasons. Firstly, security concerns essentially prevent westerners from travelling to the north and east of the country. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) control these parts of the country, and travel warnings were specifically issued by the Australian High Commission weeks before I travelled.

The second reason was population density. Slightly smaller in land area than Tasmania (about the size of the US State of West Virginia), Sri Lanka has approximately the same population as Australia (20.5 million). The highest density population is in and around Colombo, and the population is very dense all the way along the south-western coast down to Galle and beyond. A combination of population density and low-lying terrain meant that the south-western region was highly impacted by the tsunami and consequently attracted a large amount of foreign aid-related projects.

So, to witness the post-tsunami recovery, the highly populated Galle region was the best area for me to visit.

After spending a few days in Colombo making contact with foreign aid agencies, I travelled south by train to Hikkaduwa. Taking the train was not only a much cheaper alternative than hiring a driver, but it was an opportunity to see the landscape and get a feel for the extent to which the rail system had returned to normal.

From the train window I studied the scenery for any signs of tsunami recovery or damage. Without knowing what had been there before, it was really hard to discern the difference between development and post-tsunami recovery. In fact, for a considerable distance I could not identify anything specifically as tsunami-related at all. This was perplexing as I understood that the train ran close to the coast.

In due course it made perfect sense. Firstly, as the wave moved further north its power was diminished so that the water surge was less destructive. Secondly, the damage is ‘hidden’ to a certain extent because so much of the materials from destroyed houses have been salvaged. This is certainly evident once you get to the coast as many of the temporary houses include recycled timber in their construction. Thirdly, Sri Lanka is a lush country with high rainfall and rich vegetation. In the 15 months since the tsunami, plants have simply grown back to conceal a lot of obvious damage.

As I headed further south, and the train line started to run closer to the coast, it did became more obvious that the building of housing in particular was tsunami-related. Whole coastal fishing communities, for example, have been moved inland to new housing developments as a no-building zone for housing has been declared along much of the coast.

It was also noticeable from the train that a considerable amount of work was being done on bridges across rivers. Prominent signs indicated that these projects are funded from foreign sources and managed by foreign building companies. This activity in itself constitutes a massive amount of resources being injected into infrastructure.

As the water rushed up rivers and then back out again, bridges all along the coast were damaged and many destroyed altogether. On the Galle Road heading south from about Ambalangoda onwards, there are several places where the road detours sharply around building sites for new bridges causing all sorts of challenges for the drivers of vehicles great and small. I say ‘challenges’, because it is a national sport to see how far one can travel before applying the brakes!

One of the lasting images from the footage beamed around the world from Sri Lanka immediately after the tsunami was the red passenger train derailed by the surge, lying on its side surrounded by devastation. When I alighted from the train in Hikkaduwa I was met by the sight of several carriages from that train, that have been set up adjacent to the station, preserved as a permanent memorial.

Later on when visiting some World Vision building sites, twisted and displaced tracks were clearly visible lying next to the new track. In rebuilding the railway, clearing the debris was secondary to getting the infrastructure back in place.

Hikkaduwa is a seaside tourist village with a wide range of accommodation from backpacker hostels to luxury resorts. In most places it is business usual. Walking along the beach one can see evidence of rebuilding and, in some places, where a site has simply been cleared for future development.

The Hikkaduwa Aid Information Centre and the Hikkaduwa Development Foundation have already been relocated to Galle. I took this as a sign that things have almost returned to normal. However, about 1.5 km inland there is a World Vision Taiwan site that houses a large number of dislocated people.

This camp is situated adjacent to the Gangarama Maha Vihara Buddhist temple - probably the same temple mentioned by Mahesh in his article. Now there is a significant camp situated there with semi-permanent wooden buildings and shared facilities. 150 people live here in the shadow of the temple waiting for permanent housing to be built.

In Hikkaduwa, I met a young man who lives in this camp. Harshan lost his pregnant wife, his mother and grandmother in the tsunami, as well as many friends from his village. He now drives a three-wheeler (or tuk-tuk) for a living. He used to work as a sales assistant, but the business was destroyed and has not been rebuilt. Harshan was renting a house before the tsunami and finds himself, along with thousands of others, ineligible for permanent housing in his own right because he did not have a house before. He now awaits a house to be built for rental.

Like many Sri Lankans affected by the tsunami, Harshan wears a brave face and is getting on with his life. It was a long drive back to Galle from Seenigama where he picked me up in his three-wheeler, and our conversation eventually led to more personal reflections. He talked about the sadness that he feels for the loss of family and friends, as well as the uncertainty and level of despair about his future now that he lives in the camp. He stressed that while the roads and villages look relatively clean and tidy, it will take a lot more than bulldozers and brooms to remove the memories and fear from the survivors.

Harshan also reflected on the inequity of the aid coming into Sri Lanka. Seenigama is a classic example of this. With a charitable organisation already based in the village prior to the tsunami (the ‘Foundation of Goodness’), and existing links to various organisations including the Australian High Commission, Seenigama has received a large amount of aid from all over the world. The village has been rebuilt and developed well beyond where it was before December 2004. A combination of good luck and entrepreneurial flare by the founder of the Foundation of Goodness has placed a spotlight on Seenigama that does not shine as strongly on neighbouring villages. It is no wonder that the children of Seenigama have referred to the tsunami as ‘the golden wave’.

Elsewhere in Sri Lanka, in the north and the east, the problem of meeting the needs of people displaced by the tsunami is compounded by the fact that there are already a large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the internal conflict. These areas were already strained in terms of infrastructure and resources pre-tsunami, and have consequently been the focus of many international aid efforts. Ethnic, religious and economic differences have been a fact of life here for a long time. Now there is added friction between the existing IDPs who live in semi-permanent camps and the tsunami victims who now live in new camps with decent facilities.

Throughout the south-west, while there may be a handful of people still living in tents, people have generally been allocated temporary accommodation in similar wooden houses to those I saw in Hikkaduwa and elsewhere. That does not mean there are no longer tents around the place.

On the contrary, tents can be seen up and down the coast serving two purposes. Firstly, some of the fishing folk who used to live right on the seashore and have generally been moved inland have kept their tent to use as a base for their fishing but, importantly, they continue to stake their claim in case the government changes its mind about allowing people to live within 100 metres of the shore.

Secondly, they have tended to be the focus of foreigners looking for people in need. I heard several stories of foreigners driving from village to village distributing cash to people living in tents. In Galle, there are a few tents that are used by ‘baby-food beggars’ as the focus of their hard-luck stories. Often drug-addicts, they try to persuade foreigners to purchase powdered milk for their babies and then sell the milk back to stores.

One morning I travelled to Weligama, a village east of Galle, to see houses being handed over to their new owners. I was met at 6am outside my hotel by Major General (Retd) Kamal Fernando and his team who had already travelled one and a half hours from Colombo by minibus. ‘The General’, as everyone called him, has redeployed himself to run Help-Sri Lanka Consortium, a consortium of three charitable organisations that have joined forces to provide permanent housing.

It was an important day; a Danish man was visiting the new village of ‘Minnesota’ to open houses which had been sponsored by his company back in Denmark. Despite the carnival atmosphere of flags and traditional dancers, however, there was a degree of unrest. A large number of houses looked finished and people wanted to know why they were not all being handed over on that day as well.

The trouble was ultimately due to the fact that the government had placed pressure on the consortium to make 50 houses available in time for the 1-year anniversary of the tsunami. In readiness for this deadline, lotteries were conducted to work out which families would be given a house, and then the actual houses were allocated.

Of course, this externally ordained deadline was ultimately impossible to meet – but the government officials still pressed ahead for a ceremony and associated kudos. 50 families were handed keys to their houses which they promptly handed back. From what I heard during my visit, this scene was repeated in several places across the south-west.

The bustling city of Galle was my next stop. Galle is another place from where desperate images were beamed across the world. In particular, the central bus station resembled a torrid river log-jammed with buses, debris and people fighting for their lives.

Today, things have returned to normal. In the composite picture (below) one can see the bus station on a typical day - a bustling hub of activity. In the background is the old Fort that dates back to Dutch colonial days, and in between, is the famous Galle International Cricket Stadium.

What is not well known is that the playing surface of the Stadium, and much of the surrounding area, is below sea level.

On the western side (right of the picture) is a river/canal that flows immediately into the Indian Ocean and on the eastern side is the harbour. When the wave came from the eastern side, it swept straight through the markets into the bus station area and back along the main roads for several kilometres.

Inside the Fort, there was some damage from water that entered through the two main gates at the northern, land-facing end, but the wave itself did not come over the wall or appear to damage it in any way. A shopkeeper in the Fort told me that residents only knew something strange was happening because water spouts emitted from the old drains several feet into the air.

During my visit to Galle in January, the only tangible sign of the tsunami was the fact that the markets have not been rebuilt. Temporary shops have been erected in the back-blocks of Galle that are not satisfactory at all. The bus station, however, is back to normal. The hospital that Mahesh spoke of is fully operational, and the Stadium is hosting cricket once more. There was even an elephant polo tournament on the greens in front of the Fort.

Facing south from the Fort walls I watched a sunrise and a sunset from the same spot; there is nothing between the Fort and Antarctica. As many people do, locals and tourists alike, I stared out to sea and tried to picture it rising in the way that it did in December 2004. It is very hard to imagine such a thing happening in this beautiful place.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Substandard conditions for institutionalised children in Sri Lanka

WSWS: 15/04/2006" By Kalpa Fernando

A report released in February documented the appalling conditions facing many thousands of Sri Lankan children who have been institutionalised in government and privately-run homes.

The report, entitled “Home Truths—Children’s Rights in Institutional Care in Sri Lanka”, was compiled by the organisation Save the Children, with support from the Canadian International Development Agency. The research was conducted in 2005 and involved a survey of 329 institutions, housing 15,068 children aged from 4 to 19 years throughout Sri Lanka. The institutions ranged from state-run facilities such as remand homes for child offenders, certified homes for victims of abuse and orphanages, to voluntary homes run by charities and religious organisations.

The document stated that “the conditions for children in state-run institutions were extremely poor” and noted that there is “a gap in the government’s declared policy and performance”. It also indicated that the conditions in many of the private institutions surveyed were little better.

A section entitled “Quality of Care” stated: “Examples of poor quality physical care included: lack of a balanced, varied and nutritious diet that regularly included protein, fruit, or vegetables; insufficient, poor quality, unattractive and unfashionable clothing; less than the minimum requirements in relation to sleeping arrangements, building and storage for children’s belongings; and poor sanitation leading to poor hygiene.

“In addition to overcrowding, in many state institutions there was poor sanitation and inadequate supplies of basic necessities such as water soap, and tooth paste.... As a result, skin diseases were common among the children.”

The researchers also reported that “some children slept on cement floors in cold or in damp corridors in the rain”. In the North-East province, 38 percent of the institutions did not provide beds for children. Even where beds were provided, only 49.5 percent of children thought they were “adequate.” In the North-Eastern and Southern provinces, more than 50 percent of the institutions did not have areas for the children to play.

Due to substandard conditions, children in the worst institutions continuously suffered from medical problems. However, they were afraid to report illnesses, the researchers found, because “they felt that the staff assumed they were faking.” Often, no proper medical treatment was available. Cases were uncovered where other children had been instructed to care for sick children.

Education was also neglected. The report stated: “Education was not provided consistently to a high level throughout the institutions surveyed. There were no facilities or environment suitable for studies. No methodical records of the children were kept. There was no planning for the care and development of individual children.”

In the certified homes as many as 31 percent of the girls had been admitted due to abuse—often by family members or relatives. But no adequate specialist care was found to exist. Overall, counselling services were available in only 16 percent of state-run institutions.

The report quoted from interviews to show how the mental state of the children was being affected by the conditions in the institutions. Examples of what children told researchers included “we sleep like dogs”, “getting tasty food is a real problem”, “we cannot ask for fish or meat in our meals”, “there is no-one to tell our sorrows” and “does protection mean keeping us caged?”.

Aggravating their mental stress, between 30 and 50 percent of the children in the surveyed facilities had been institutionalised for longer than three years. A large number of the children had little contact with their families due to distance. Some 36 percent of the children in the Southern province institutions and 31 percent in the Western province were from other areas of the country such as the North-East. In other cases, homes had a policy of restricting or blocking parental contact.

The report documented the reasons why the children were living in the facilities. Poverty was the primary cause. With 45 percent of Sri Lanka’s population living on less than $US2 per day, thousands of families simply cannot afford to raise their children. In the North-East province, about 40 percent of the children were from poverty-stricken families, while another 14 percent had been institutionalised because their family had been displaced by the long-running civil war in the region.

Forty percent of the children in institutions in the Western province and 20 percent in the Southern province were also from poor families. Other reasons for institutionalisation, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, desertion, petty crime or being orphaned, also related to poverty.

The report also found that most the staff did not have childcare training and were not paid sufficiently. Out of some 3,000 employees, only 200 staff members had a degree and just 30 had higher qualifications. Over half or around 1,700 staff had not completed advanced-level high school.

As for pay, about 1,750 were paid less than 3,000 rupees ($US30) a month, with another 700 receiving between 3,000 to 6,000 rupees. At least 60 were classified as unpaid workers and over 100 were paid less than 1,000 rupees a month. Just 400 were being paid 6,000 rupees a month and only a handful received what could be considered a living wage.

As a result, staff turnover was high, children suffered abuse including corporal punishment and the inadequate resources allocated for their care were often pilfered.

The conditions facing institutionalised youth are just one example of the indifference the Sri Lankan ruling elite has toward the children of the poor.

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of children endure deprivation and oppression. A 1999 National Survey on Child Labour sponsored by the International Labour Organisation—the last such survey to be done in Sri Lanka—found that as many as 926,037 children under 15 were working. Over 230,000 child labourers were not attending school. As many as 60,000 children dropped out of school each year, the survey found, mainly due to poverty.

In the face of these conditions, President Mahinda Rajapakse of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) has cynically declared 2006 as the “Year of the Child”. Speaking on February 1, he said: “We consider the provision of adequate pre-natal nourishment to every Sri Lankan child to be born; ensuring a healthy life to every child that is born; the establishment of a suitable environment that will be conducive to the development of these children; and ensuring their safety and protection; as the responsibility of the government and state.”

Despite the rhetoric, Rajapakse’s 2006 budget made no extra funding available for state-run institutions for children. Just 200 million rupees ($US2 million) has been allocated for the refurbishment of privately-run homes, but the money is to be shared between facilities for children, the disabled and the elderly. A nominal 200 rupees per month allowance will be paid to the families of newborn children—an amount which is not enough to pay for even a week of milk at the current prices.

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tsunami recovery programmes: Slow action leads to more poor, jobless

Sunday Times: 16/04/2006" By Dilshani Samaraweera

More than a year after tsunami aid flooded the island, studies show ‘build back better’ will never happen unless some corrective action is taken, fast.
“There has been some livelihood recovery but not much evidence of ‘building back better’,” said Paul Steel, associate fellow, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) at a recent press briefing to launch a report on tsunami recovery.

‘Livelihoods in Post Tsunami Sri Lanka: Building Back Better?’ is the second IPS research report on tsunami recovery and is based on a stakeholder workshop in December last year. The report shows that Sri Lanka’s aspiration to ‘build back better’ could end up nothing more than another catchy advertising jingle.
Over one year and millions of dollars of tsunami aid later, tsunami victims are either as poor as they were before the tsunami, or worse off. The aid dollars have not built a ladder to climb out of poverty.

“A majority of the people affected by the tsunami were poor before the tsunami. Now, at most, they are back where they started,” Steel said.
An estimated 150,000 people lost their jobs because of the tsunami. A majority of these people have now found some type of employment. But, notes the IPS report “incomes are generally lower than pre-tsunami”.
Over Rs 12 billion ($ 126 million) was committed for livelihood restoration and eight ministries and over 100 NGOs are trying to help people return to work – but some have been left behind.

“Some people will fall through the cracks ie, over 20,000 people are estimated to be sick and injured after the tsunami. There are also those who are too traumatised to work, or who need to care for others,” says the IPS report.
Although some, like construction workers, increased their earnings because of a tsunami housing boom, many others have not been able to earn more, even when lost assets were replaced.

In fact, a survey conducted six months after the tsunami, in six affected districts – Ampara, Batticaloa, Galle, Hambantota, Jaffna and Kalutara – indicates a trend showing the worse side. The survey shows the emergence of a new group of people – those people who do not have a regular source of income.

This category of no-income families was particularly high in Hambantota (49 percent) and Batticaloa (48 percent) and cuts across families that fell within rich, middle income and poor categories, before the tsunami.

Monthly incomes of families had also dropped in the six districts.
“The number of families who earned a monthly income over and above Rs 5,000 had dropped by 30-50 percent, with Jaffna district recording the highest drop from 54.1 percent to 2.1 percent,” says a paper by Ms Marit Haug and Mr Chamindra Weerackody.

Brewing social problems
The six-district study also found people were too lazy to work because it’s easier to live off tsunami aid. “In almost all the communities in which the study was conducted, laziness on the part of people, particularly the male population, to engage in productive activities, was reported,” says the report.
“Many are increasingly dependent on aid given, both in kind and cash by aid agencies and are not willing to revert to their former livelihoods. This state of apathy is partly attributed to the trauma that people experienced after the tsunami,” says the report.

The study also notes increased alcoholism, neglect of children and increased incidents of pregnancies among tsunami-affected families. These behavioural changes, says the IPS report will add to economic hardships.

Time for CSR
Tsunami affected micro-industries must get back to business for these families to get off the aid-drip and become self-sustaining. However, the tiny coastal businesses that produced coir, rope, carpets, reed mats, fishery activities, and foods, or ran small pettikades (box shops), are stuck in a low- value, low-income rut.

Tsunami rebuilding, says the IPS, should target boosting these incomes, if Sri Lanka is to ‘build back better’. Small businesses need to be linked up with markets to add value to their produce and to earn more. Input and support from Sri Lanka’s larger companies are urgently needed to do so.

“The lost assets of these families may have been replaced but they don’t understand how markets work. The NGOs also, for the most part, do not have this type of knowledge. So there is a real role for the private sector to play,” Steel said.

“For example, the largest beneficiaries from the low paid coir workers are the blue chip companies,” notes the IPS report. “While the private sector has been active in the relief phase of livelihood restoration, there is a need to extend this by engaging corporate social responsibility (CSR) in longer term livelihood recovery,” the report continues.

To grow, these informal domestic businesses need to come into the formal economy. “We need to create links between the households, companies, chambers of commerce and the banks, to link these household businesses with the rest of the markets,” says Ms Haug.

Learning to act fast
The IPS report highlights three areas that need immediate attention for sustainable tsunami recovery, or to ‘build back better’ in any real sense.
Local government needs to play a stronger role: IPS notes that local governments must do more to steer recovery from grass root level. “Local governments, with households, private sector and other agencies, need to drive local recovery and development,” it said in a statement.

Engage micro entrepreneurs more with the market: To climb out of a subsistence existence, micro businesses need to produce more value added goods that bring higher returns. “NGOs and others should encourage and support households to produce higher value added products that are demanded by the market. This requires more marketing and private sector skills,” says the IPS statement.

Greater fisheries management and investment is urgently needed : “There is a real need for managing fish stocks, strengthening fisher groups and investing in fishing infrastructure, such as harbours, especially in the East where they were lacking even before the tsunami,” the statement added.

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