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Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore - Happy Independence Day

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Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore - Happy Independence Day

Post by The Alchemist on Sat Feb 04, 2017 12:58 pm

Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore
Published on January 30, 2017
Eranda Ginige
Founder of Social Enterprise Lanka | Former Head of Partnerships and Innovation at the British Council in Sri Lanka

If I had a dollar for every time somebody said “Sri Lanka should be like Singapore”, I’d be a rich man. The odd thing is most of those people have never visited Singapore. Somehow we are made to believe Singapore as the perfect development standard, a Utopian state where everything is so organised, a chewing-gum-less world, and a heavenly place where its people live happily ever after. But that’s a different debate.

There is an urban myth that the father of Singapore Mr. Lee Kuan Yew saw the great city of Colombo in the 1950s and vowed to make Singapore modelled after it. I’m yet to see any proof he ever said that. The closest statement is him saying that “the British left behind a sound social and economic infrastructure (in Ceylon)”, which is debatable. The iron-fisted patriot who ruled Singapore for over 30 years has been rather critical about Sri Lanka’s choices time after time. He clearly learned from our mistakes, but it’s naïve to say that Singapore was modelled after Colombo.

It’s easy to be a genius in hindsight. LKY’s choices were as risky as Banadaranaikes’ or Jayawardane’s or Premadasa’s; his contemporaries. Different circumstances lead to different outcomes. All we can do is learn from the past. And the one lesson we can learn from the past is that no country can copy another country’s development. Perhaps we should stop trying to be like Singapore or the USA or China, instead start creating our own identity of development. Here are three places to start:

1. Understanding who we are

Whether you like it or not, and unlike many other countries, Sri Lanka has a long history. Over 2,600 years of written history is no joke. It’s a fascinating and complex history corroborated by ancient engineering marvels and artistic masterpieces. Despite the current lack of support by the government, the known history and pre-history keeps revealing a sophisticated ancient civilisation which dates back to at least 6,000 years. If Rome had as much history as we do, we could’ve seen how brilliantly they would market it. When many young nations are desperate to make-up history, it’s too bad most of us are ashamed of ours.

A nation with such a long history is bound to be superrich with culture and traditions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should dwell in the past glory. But without deep understanding and appreciation of everything that makes us, it is impossible to shape who we want to be. No matter how much we try to ignore, the fact is that over the millennia and through war and peace, the people of this country had evolved into a unique identity of coexistence. I don’t understand why Sinhala-Buddhists and Tamil-Hindus can’t live in one country, when the Hindu gods have been living peacefully inside Buddhist temples for centuries.

All our cultural activities and traditions are a beautiful mix of different ethnic and religious systems. Which is why every Sri Lankan must learn their history and cherish their traditions. Some people ask, if Singapore could become so developed starting later than us, why couldn’t we do the same. I remind them that we had a 30 year long war. Some people talk as if we never had such a war. But that’s just fooling ourselves. The war really happened and it’s a part of our history. A learned Professor asked me recently why can’t Sri Lanka be like Japan? My answer was Japan’s war ended 70 years ago, and our war ended just seven years ago.

A nation is built by its people, by the people who love their country and want to see it prosper. The unmistakable quality of Lee Kuan is his deep love for his country. We have made a generation of Lankans who do not love their country. We habitually insult our country, constantly degrading it against other nations. Can we expect any genuine effort to build our country, if we don’t believe in it? If we are not proud of it? If we are not inspired by it?

Nation building must start by building its people.



2. Agriculture-first economy

If we study our history even superficially, it’s obvious that our core-strength is in agriculture. We have been perfecting it for at least 6,000 years. There was no reason for our ancestors to build such massive lakes and so many of them, an advanced irrigation system if we didn’t have a large agriculture sector. We can estimate how large the population would’ve been to have the need to cultivate such vast fields.

Even the colonists knew the best way to exploit this country is agriculture. But here we are trying to become a trade hub like Singapore. Desperately trying to build industrial cities and ports. The previous government went on a weird Western-Chinese hybrid development model building highways cutting across paddy fields. Every government failed to craft an authentic Sri Lankan development agenda. Sri Lanka is not China and never will be. China’s history, it’s resources, it’s people and their aspirations are different from ours. And it’s okay to be different.

I’m not saying all of us should wear a loincloth and get into mud. What we need to do is transform our agriculture sector. The gentlemen who wear ties, jackets and pure-white national costumes in the parliament should first of all understand that there is no shame in farming. We need people who understand the history, resources, geology, geography, climate, and the people of Sri Lanka. Instead of trying to build a “new” Sri Lanka, we need to build the “real” Sri Lanka. I have seen vast fields of farms in scorching deserts in the middle east. There is no excuse to stop farming in droughts. I wonder what our ministers and government officials learn when they are sent on foreign trips on public money.

We need a bold-new vision to become not just self-sustainable in food but also to be South Asia’s most innovative centre of agriculture. The factories we need are not some Chinese plastic manufacturers next to Hambantota port, but factories that make modern tools to increase agriculture productivity and the supply chain efficiency, and factories that make serious value-added agri-products. We need a group of entrepreneurs who can make innovative food and food-based products to compete with global brands. This is where the government needs to heavily invest in, not in building mega-cities or ports or highways. The one industry that will never go out of business is the food industry. That’s how we can create a million new jobs. Why is it so hard for our leaders to understand that?




3. Economy for the future

Highways and mega-cities are nothing new. We are chasing obsolete development symbols and standards. Highways maybe new to us, but it’s an old technology built for the dying fossil-fuel economy. The USA is struggling to maintain its highways. Mega-cities with concrete structures are so old and dysfunctional. We are already 30 years behind the game, and trying to replicate 100-year-old-failed development models is useless .

We need to build a vision for Sri Lanka to meet the global challenges and opportunities of the next 100 years. Instead of trying to catch-up, we need to innovate for the future. The future cities are ‘Sustainable Cities’, not mega-cities. The future roads are made of solar panels and have wider bicycle lanes, not highways. Future consumer is an informed buyer who wants their food to be organic. We have the opportunity to build a global brand for Sri Lankan agri-products by making them organic, ethical and sustainable.

Perhaps we need to stop using the old development indicators, or at least not be blind-sighted by them. In pursuit of higher GDP, desperate to get ahead of others in the list, we tend to lose sight of what is more important to us and what is more suitable for us. I know this is an impossible feat for the pundits who have been moulded in the obsolete Smithsonian economics. Let’s face it, all you people have so far failed to come up with a working solution. That’s why we need a new generation of modern leaders who are sensitive to the world’s and Sri Lanka’s biggest problems, those who understand the new and future realities, and are brave enough to disrupt age-old systems. The current political and corporate leaders are too old for the job.

Globalisation is dying. It has failed to deliver its promise of global prosperity. Instead it has created a vicious cycle of ever deepening inequality, injustice and environmental catastrophe. The unprecedented wins of Brexit and ‘Make America Great Again’ are the undeniable evidence of this new trend. Thanks to technology, the once thought globaliser, countries are now turning inwards. In a virtually connected world there is no need for globalisation. The simplest example is language. It was once thought that English will be the global language. But we are now experiencing communication independent of language. We don’t need to know English to read a website anymore, and soon we will not have the need for a common language. A worldwide renaissance of national identities is in the making. We can start early, or wait for another twenty years before we realise it’s too late.

We don’t need to be like Singapore, or like the USA or like China. We need to be like us. We need to build our own version of Sri Lanka. Let’s stop the meaningless comparisons. Let’s get out of the global rate race. Let’s start loving our country, our history, our culture and our people. Let’s be brave enough to build our own version of developed Sri Lanka.

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Re: Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore - Happy Independence Day

Post by yellow knife on Mon Feb 06, 2017 7:24 am

Should Sri Lanka be ever like Singapore ? I doubt...


Above mentioned three facts are correct and the same is said in How Asia Works...



Today many writers argue that both Singapore and Dubai are mere shipping hubs and not worthy role models to be copied.

Before one gives full credit to LKY one must study Stamrod Raffles. His influences on Singa is neglected by many who just believe in LKY.

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, FRS (6 July 1781 – 5 July 1826) was a British statesman, Lieutenant-Governor of British Java (1811–1815) and Governor-General of Bencoolen (1817–1822), best known for his founding of Singapore. He was also heavily involved in the conquest of the Indonesian island of Java from Dutch and French military forces during the Napoleonic Wars and contributed to the expansion of the British Empire. He was also an amateur writer and wrote a book titled The History of Java (1817)



Thanks Alchemist for sharing this....

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Re: Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore - Happy Independence Day

Post by කිත්සිරි ද සිල්වා on Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:27 am

Why because; we do not want to be anybody else except being only Sri Lankan.

(Mediocrity is rife and when that is in the front seat, no one wants to change the status quo, simply because then you do not have to be competitive and no accountability too. Contacts and influences will get you to wherever you want to reach without betting even an eye lid)
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Re: Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore - Happy Independence Day

Post by puliyanam on Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:27 am

The Alchemist wrote:Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore
Published on January 30, 2017
Eranda Ginige
Founder of Social Enterprise Lanka | Former Head of Partnerships and Innovation at the British Council in Sri Lanka

There is an urban myth that the father of Singapore Mr. Lee Kuan Yew saw the great city of Colombo in the 1950s and vowed to make Singapore modelled after it. I’m yet to see any proof he ever said that. The closest statement is him saying that “the British left behind a sound social and economic infrastructure (in Ceylon)”, which is debatable. The iron-fisted patriot who ruled Singapore for over 30 years has been rather critical about Sri Lanka’s choices time after time. He clearly learned from our mistakes, but it’s naïve to say that Singapore was modelled after Colombo.

I think the relevant quote goes something like this

According to Lee, when Ceylon gained independence in 1948, it was the classic model of gradual evolution to independence. Ceylon was Britain’s model Commonwealth country. He says, after the war, Ceylon was a good middle size country with fewer than 10 million people. It had a relatively good standard of education with two universities of high quality in Colombo and Kandy teaching in English, a civil service largely of locals, and experience in representative government starting with city council elections in the 1930s.

"From Third World To First - The Singapore Story: 1965-2000" published in 2000 by Times Media Private Limited and The Straits Times Press"
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Re: Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore - Happy Independence Day

Post by yellow knife on Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:59 am

Thanks Puli

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Re: Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore - Happy Independence Day

Post by balapas on Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:36 pm

I did not think the govt is this bankrupt. I hope president will shoot down this stupid idea by the Finance minister. ( we had many such instances) This will cause chaos if implemented. Basic salary of a govt servant is about 30% of the total salary imagine how managing the cashflow will be for people who has to pay debt etc.

රාජ්‍ය සේවකයින් සදහාවූ වැටුප මාර්තු මාසයේ සිට කොටස් දෙකකට ගෙවීම කෙරෙහි මුදල් අමාත්‍යාංශයේ අවධානය යොමුව ඇතැයි වාර්තා වේ.ඒ අනුව මූලික වැටුප පමණක් වැටුප් දිනයේ ගෙවීමට කටයුතු කරනු ඇතැයිද අනෙක් දීමනා හා අතිකාල මුදල් ඉන්පසු මාසයේ 05 වෙනි දින හෝ 10 වෙනි දින ගෙවීමට කටයුතු සූදානම් කරන ලෙස ආයතන ප්‍රධානීන් දැනුවත් කිරීමට නියමිතයි.

මේ සදහාවූ නීති මාලාව ලබන සතියේ සියලු රාජ්‍ය ආයතන වෙත ලබා දීමට මුදල් අමාත්‍යාංශය තීරණය කර ඇතැයිද පැවසේ. රටේ පවතින දැඩි මූල්‍ය අර්බුධයෙන් රට ගොඩ ගැනීම සදහා රාජ්‍ය සේවකයාද කැපවිය යුතු බවට නැවුම් තේමාවකින් මෙම වැඩ පිළිවෙල ක්‍රියාත්මක වෙනු ඇති.

http://www.lankanewsy.com/archives/4756

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Re: Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore - Happy Independence Day

Post by balapas on Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:24 pm

Certainly not Singapore maybe towards a failed nation by the looks of it

EPF, ETF, GRATUITY බද්ද අප්‍රේල් 01 වැනිදා සිට ක්‍රියාත්මකයි !!

EPF, ETF, GRATUITY බද්ද අප්‍රේල් 01 වැනිදා සිට ක්‍රියාත්මක කරන බව මුදල් අමාත්‍යාංශය පවසයි. මේ අනුව අදාල ක්ෂේත්‍ර සදහා රජයේ හා පෞද්ගලික අංශ සේවකයින්ගෙන් 10%ක මුදලක් බදු වශයෙන් කපා ගැනීමට නියමිතය.

ලංකා සම සමාජ පක්ෂයේ ප්‍රධාන ලේකම් මහාචාර්ය තිස්ස විතාරණ මහතා ඊයේ පැවැති මාධ්‍ය හමුවකදී ප්‍රකාශ කළේ මෙම නව දේශීය ආදයම් නීතිය ජාත්‍යන්තර මුල්‍ය අරමුදල විසින් සකස් කළ එකක් බවයි.

http://www.colombotoday.com/29207-2325632/
http://epaper.ceylontoday.lk/TodayEpaper.php?id=2017-02-05

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Re: Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore - Happy Independence Day

Post by කිත්සිරි ද සිල්වා on Tue Feb 07, 2017 6:42 pm

This itself shows why we will never be  a developed nation.
(Not taking responsibility for any action  and blaming another is typical Sri Lankan).
balapas wrote: මෙම නව දේශීය ආදයම් නීතිය ජාත්‍යන්තර මුල්‍ය අරමුදල විසින් සකස් කළ එකක් බවයි.
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Re: Why Sri Lanka will never be Singapore - Happy Independence Day

Post by malanp on Wed Feb 08, 2017 7:32 am

The problem lies with the mindset of every sri lankans.. we sri lankans collectively closer to donkeys  whereas singaporens  collectively close to humans..

Our donkey mindset lacking individual decisions, we are good at doing what next door man doing, so new ideas or new innovations never created by us.. mostly our lives are dominated by politicians, monks and third grade media..

and the list goes on....

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