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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. 

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sri Lanka needs a paradigm shift

Daily Mirror: 18/08/2006" Change the way we see the world By Deepika Gunasekera

I was inspired to write this article when I was reading the book of Stephen R. Covey’s “The7 habits of highly effective people”.

A paradigm is more commonly used today to mean a model, theory, perception or assumption. In simpler, words the way we see the world (not in terms of seeing something visually but understanding and interpreting). Paradigm shift is to “change the way we look at things”.

In a business sense, it could be applied as new thinking. You look at the big picture through a different point of view. This enables industries to grow and science to develop. According to Ptolemy the earth was the center of the universe. But Copernicus created a paradigm shift by saying that the sun is the center of the world. If Copernicus didn’t find that out what would the world be today? Many a great people who had changed the world and made a difference whether it is scientists, philosophers, politicians, businessmen they were “paradigm shifters”.

Sri Lanka needs to adopt this theory in business and politics as well. But the problem today is that we are frightened to take decisions for drastic changes as we are averse to changes. And we are rigid in our thinking. We do not look at things with an open mind. One has to be reminded that if there is no risk there won’t be any gain and higher the risk the higher the gain. However, it is sad to say that human resources with this type of talent are not given due recognition and put aside, as it’s a threat to the more traditional and conventional school of thought. I see a clash between these two schools in Sri Lanka mainly in the public sector as well as in the private sector.

Companies like Dialog, Ceylinco Insurance grow from strength to strength as they have adopted this technique of thinking out of the box. They make the seemingly impossible, possible. It’s also extremely important that all concerned parties understand the new wave of thinking in order to make it a success.

We have to start teaching this type of thinking techniques at school level as well as in the Universities. We should train our undergraduates as they are going to be our future leaders. Related subjects and case studies should be introduced to the university curriculum. A trained mind can do wonders. By introducing this type of thinking they will be able to contribute more to the ever-changing world today.

In Japan, the 5 S concept is taught at the pre-school level. And they have been successful. Why can’t we?

Covey also says efficient management is nothing without effective leadership. He goes on to say many a leader is stuck with day to day routine management tasks leaving little time for direction and effective leadership. Food for thought. Isn’t it?

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hope for Tsunami victims

Daily Mirror: 17/08/2006"

Fate determined that the seven members of Wilden de Silva’s family were to survive the tsunami of 26 December 2004.

With the first killer waves just one hour away, they set off from their home in Weligama on the Southern coast on a pilgrimage to Kataragama. They escaped the oncoming wave by driving inland – being among the survivors of a calamity that claimed nearly 40,000 lives in Sri Lanka alone. Their same fortune, however, did not befall their home – having borne the brunt of the tsunami, the de Silvas returned home to find one wall standing and everything washed away into the ocean.

Uprooted from their home and community, they were given a fresh lease on life when selected to be one of 100 recipients of homes built by the Galleon Tsunami Relief Fund at the Monrovia Estate, Rathgama. Monrovia is earmarked to be a 1000-unit housing scheme constructed by various companies and donor agencies. The Galleon project at Monrovia was coordinated by John Keells Holdings Limited on behalf of the Galleon Tsunami Relief Fund - established by Raj Rajaratnam for the purpose of rebuilding houses for the victims of the tsunami. Rajaratnam was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami struck and witnessed the widespread devastation. He has made a personal contribution of US $ five million to the fund. The fund is being administered in Sri Lanka by Hemas Holdings Limited, Singer (Sri Lanka) Limited and John Keells Holdings Limited. The recipients moved into their house as the country marked the first anniversary of the catastrophe – seven months later, the determination and resilience of the de Silva family, and that of their neighbours, is evident in the sheer normalcy that they have brought into their daily routines and lifestyles.

The residents of the Galleon housing scheme were drawn from several areas of the Southern Coastal belt -all of them forced by the tsunami to leave behind their neighbours, relatives and the houses in which they made homes for many years. Yet, new associations and liaisons have formed in the space of a few months – together in the tragedy, the people of Monrovia are today laying the foundations to a new plural community, based on a new set of shared values and beliefs.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Commonwealth insights into public-private partnerships on infrastructure development

Daily Mirror: 14/08/2006"

A three-day workshop will be held at the BMICH starting today (August 14) on building public sector capacities to implement successful public private partnerships.

The overseas institution involved in the workshop is the Governance and Institutional Development Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat (GIDD), which is responsible for Public Sector Development. Its mandate covers public sector administration, civil society and private sector institutions with public responsibilities GIDD has experience in helping countries develop their capacity in private public partnership (PPP).

GIDD’s partners are the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka and the External Resources Division. The purpose of the conference is to raise awareness amongst sector players, identify barriers, bottlenecks and opportunities and look at the way forward.The workshop will officially be inaugurated today with Minister of Investment Promotion and Enterprise Development Rohitha Bogollagama as chief guest and Secretary to the Treasury Dr. P.B. Jayasundera delivering the keynote address. BOI Chairman Prof. Lakshman R Watawala and Head Asia Pacific Region, Advisor for PPP of the Commonwealth Secretariat Dr Srinivas Sampath will also speak.

The workshop will cover a very wide range of subjects relating to PPP including challenges faced by the public sector, the regulatory framework, risk management, legal and contractual issues, inputs from the private sector project development, project finance for PPP and other related subjects.

The need for such a workshop is pressing as it comes at a time where all around the world governments have sought to secure greater participation of the private sector in infrastructure development. Governments have also loosened their grip on the provision of goods and services. The stage is therefore set for an effort to develop proper regulatory mechanisms and institutions so that there is fair competition, transparency and accountability.

An important point that needs to be considered is the successful track record of PPP in Asia. In the tiger economies of East Asia, which South Asian nations such as Sri Lanka have sought to emulate, successes were achieved through cooperation between the government, private sector and trade unions. This type of co-operation is called tripartite development. Hence the workshop will be a forum where discussions will be held and solutions will be arrived at that will answer many of Sri Lanka’s current bottlenecks, while identifying strengths that can be developed further.

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