Saturday, January 30, 2016

A visionary statement for once by the Head of the Private Bus Owners association

I note that BUS GAMUNU said in yesterday’s paper, covered in both the English and Sinhala medium, not to reduce the price of fuel until the traffic problems are solved.

Why is this? The simple fact is that when this Govt. reduced the fuel prices immediately upon being elected, the usage went up so much, usage translates into more travel in proportion to the increased sales, and this immediately lead to huge traffic jams, and was the start of the terrible snarls which are now the order of the day.  

Worse, we expected oil import bill to fall with the huge reduction in the price of fuel, but it actually went up due to the surge in consumption, and in effect the amount of money spent on fuel did not even go down, dispelling the assumption that people will have MORE disposable income to do other things. Actually matters were made worse, and in hindsight it was the wrong thing to do, though tell that to the people.

If we did not reduce prices, we would be in a much healthier balance of payments position today, further the traffic jams would be loess and so less waste of time commuting. Then there will be les pollution, and less breathing related illnesses. The Government would have added billions into their coffers to reduce the budget deficit.

It is therefore very mischievous of AKD the leader of the JVP to demand an immediate price reduction, as it is only a political statement that will go against grain, of responsible fiscal management. It is time the Media expose this charlatan for what he really is, namely a mere opportunist, nothing more nothing less.

Once his true colors are exposed, we can return to the real world, and take the needed action to improve the economy and NOT to make it worsen, in the manner he is expecting.

Rhetoric being part of the Sri Lankan story is difficult to comprehend. It is time for the media to act responsibly just as the PM said in parliament. They are making statements that affect Sri Lanka adversely so it best that they even desist. Is this reporting irresponsibility due to ignorance or another agenda, which the PM seems to think it is part of the opposition plan to use the media as the whipping boy inflaming rational tensions the Govt. had hoped had been settled. Media MUST take their fair share of the responsibility in developing this Country, and to that end I hope first they understand where they err.    

Friday, January 29, 2016

The farce that is the Central Bank of Sri Lanka – latest tragicomedy!

The mere mention of a mystery white knight come to save the bacon of the ETI Group of Companies from insolvency is the financing of US$100M from some Australian source adds to the hilarious story of the US$500M pumped in by a mysterious Belgian Investor to save the rupee.

What is this money? Is this ill gotten gains? Or mythical concepts to buy more time? I don’t know. However it sure smells a rat. Just like the Entrust case that is still not properly explained, namely when was this flagged, and why was it not out in the open earlier? How many skeletons are still lurking in the CB vaults waiting to be opened?

A significant task of the CB is to protect the people’s hard earned saving from scam artists, and those who take other people’s money, therefore have to be regulated, and the CB cannot hide under the umbrella of non regulated institutions, as they must be aware of all the goings on.

News items only giving half the story like in this case, does not bode well for the confidence of the citizens on its institutions, as who knows what might lurk in the shadows of these scams, completely eroding the confidence in the Financial sector per se. Is it kept under wraps just because of the worry of exposure on the whole financial system? I don’t know, I wish I did for the sake of the innocent saver.

It is agreed that the level of financial savvy of our people is so pathetic, that scam artists sprout daily into the open to fleece money from people. It is important to educate people on this aspect of planning so they don’t lose their shirt on bad investments.

How do we build the lost confidence when we don’t have faith in the guardians of our money? We are at a cross roads, that we have to tread carefully to determine where we emerge unscathed, especially in the new volatility of the markets.

Who comes next? If I have already discounted ETI, and ENTRUST? Is it THE FINANCE CO?

It seems that our financial journalist are not sufficiently versed in the nuances of explaining such stuff, due to their lack of competence in the subject matter. It is time they too wake up and do some serious reporting rather than add fuel to the already crop of divisive race based policies, which the PM pointed out yesterday is reflective of how much sour grapes are out there on Govt. policy. 

This is why the media is NOT credible!

Reading this article in today's Ceylon Today, horrified me, as it is blatantly wrong, and could not possibly be true. If the SLN uses 15% of the total fuel consumed in the Country, tehn if you add what the Army and Air Force consume, you are getting to 30% of all fuel.

When you take the annual fuel consumption into account, then 15% amounts to US$ 500M which is quarter of the whole defence budget. We know the largest component is wages, so on that score too it just cannot be true, as we have to ad the Army and Air Force consumption pattern as well.

All I would say is as per a previous report here, that there is huge wastage by the forces of the funds allocated to them, and as they have nothing better to do they take it upon themselves to spend the money to the fullest in only ways they know how to do!,

Is it a typo, where it should read 1.5% of the fuel. I think even that could be high!

When you dont have a population who cannot understand this the media gets away with murder and people start to use this item to make statements based on this incorrect news, and so the Sri Lanka disease of exaggerate and progress gets further ammunition from this source.

MOD Budget is NOT a holy cow! It is treachery at its highest level.

I have alluded to the fact that the top brass in the Tri Forces now spend their days standing behind their ministers on parade like peacocks and don’t really do anything else that is relevant to the security of this Country, let alone any assistance in developing the nation to the next level.

In short they are wasting the Nation’s wealth, and NO ONE dare question, as it sounds anti-patriotic. This is the height of absurdity. The Finance Minister, increased the allocation in the last Budget, instead of reducing it by at least Rs25B, worse they are continuing to build an extravagant HQ in Pelawatte. Why? Because the opposition will arouse the passionate but nonsensical masses that the security of this Country is threatened. What utter rot!

Granted the largest allocation is for wages, and they are certainly not low, which again has sucked out some needed hands from the pool of potential private sector workers needed to fill the 250,000 job vacancies.

Frankly give me 50 drones and a couple of lap tops, and I can protect the whole country from terrorism from internally sources or external threats. I need a few weapons that can be fired from the drones too, but I don’t need an Army of 400,000 servicemen. No way Jose!

In today’s ADA paper there was the statement that 250,000 Archeological Sites in Sri Lanka are protected by 100 people. Hey, come on! Use the forces to guard our heritage from looters and bounty hunters bent on stealing the remaining artifacts. It is really that simple. Why are we paying huge salaries for people to play mock warfare and parade around, and most of all waste a lot of very scarce money, that can be put to good use.   

Warfare is now sophisticated and can be done remotely. If you use personnel to fight ground warfare the results are that you incur high causalities against determined and organized terrorists. The best course on that is just to change the hearts and minds of potential terrorists and your problem will go away.

Seriously though in a Country that has 250,000 vacancies, having an equal amount of people surplus to requirement is a hold on this Country’s growth, and is definitely a barrier to growth and development. What is more treacherous, I cannot even contemplate!

It is time to reduce Govt. waste, and this item is ripe for serious pruning without any deleterious effects on the National Defence. We find ourselves in a precarious position due to the profligacy of the MR era spending on loans!        

Wildlife Park Wardens – Train them as the CEO of the park and there will be an immediate improvement.

Park Wardens should empowered to run their parks for a period of time say 5 years, and their performance judged in a similar way that Estate Superintendents are evaluated. Not only will they responsible for Revenue but also the P&L account of the Park.

Like the large Estate Companies there are rules that the Superintendents have to adhere to, and within them they are allowed certain freedom to operate, and there are performance measurements that can be used to garner their ability and bonuses and rewards can be given accordingly.

One area that has not been explored are night safaris, as they are deemed to be an infringement of the animals freedom. I know Park Rangers in almost all the parks, and know the abundant wildlife that come out at night, and can be seen on full moon or through night vision goggles. I propose 5 nights a month be reserved for two parties each with a maximum of 5 persons per party, for a limited 5 hour period, charging Rs10,000 per head for a night safari, be it local or foreign. This will minimize interference but add Rs 500,000 a month to the coffers which can be used for a specific purpose in improving the viewing experience.  

Only they will know where if any a inside park bungalow can be built, and submit proposal for its construction, along with all the environmental safeguards to protect both man and animal leaving no carbon footprint.

Most importantly NO POLITICAL INTERFERENCE can be tolerated be it on jobs in the service, or transfers or even special privileges, as that is what is holding back capable people from taking on these challenges, and you are just left with typical Govt. servants who will make a bee line home each week to be their families, spending as little time in the Parks as they can, as they know their performance cannot be measured in any satisfactory way and promotions and transfers are politically motivated!

Maintenance of the jeep tracks is very important, and even here, it takes too much paperwork to request improvements that can take place years after the originator has left the park being transferred elsewhere. So there is NO accountability and therefore no one is bothered.

As seen from above, the whole system is a shambles. Examples from South African Private Game Parks should be emulated, where sustainability is a must for them to survive, ensure species survival and an incredible tourist experience.     

Sustainable Tourism – not if the current mob are left in charge!

Following on from my previous blog entry, on using Sri Lanka Wildlife as one aspect of our attraction to tourism, there is NO PROPER COORDINATION between Tourism and Wildlife in order than the Tourist Experience is maximized and is built on a firm foundation for growth.

Sri Lanka Wildlife, could and must sell itself, and instead it is being sold down the toilet. Foreigners and Locals go through the same ticket counter, but pay rates that are 25 times as much as a local pays. I know the tour party includes the usual two locals, being the tracker and driver, but they should NOT have to wait hours to get in. The maximum acceptable time is 15 minute wait, and there HAS TO BE an accounting of that to know how the service provider is doing in each of the National Parks, so the park Warden can make the necessary changes.

Then there is the maximum holding capacity of a park for optimum enjoyment of the Tourist and of least irritation to the animal or bird, who they come to see! When that is exceeded the Park closes. In order NOT to disappoint, there is a definite supply and demand issue to enter, market forces must take over, where passes for particular days are sold in advance for a premium, which should be the same cost for a local or tourist and that is for a vehicle.

No doubt, the Safari Jeep companies may buy all these in advance NOT permitting anyone else to get in, and then charge an exorbitant rate for the Tourist, (foreign or local) to use their services to enter the park, and no one else has the pass to enter. That is actually a problem that must be addressed to get at a fair solution, but where the Park and not the Company make the financial benefit from this supply demand imbalance.

Then we MUST have sufficient Park Rangers to accompany and if rationed like this, I believe there has to be one per vehicle, so that all rules inside the park can be obeyed. Currently, due to shortages of Rangers in most parks, five vehicle convoys are assigned to one ranger, an impossible task. THE RANGER IS THE CAPTIAN OF THE SHIP not the Jeep driver! Only then will speed limits and noise pollution be controlled.

The Safari Jeep Mafia is extremely powerful, especially in Yala and it is detrimental both to the animal, and the tourist experience. This is something that needs immediate addressing, as previously political patronage, made it very difficult for the Park Warden who should be the King of his Park, enforce rules to protect both Tourist and Animal, and maximize the unique experience of that park. At present the only measure is Park Daily Revenue, not the sustainability of the Park or the Wildlife who reside in it, who should take priority.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

These senile barbarians are talking whilst the Industry is losing! (WILDLIFE)

It is a very sad state of affairs when peacocks attend parades, just to preen themselves in front of the public, but actually they have nothing useful to say, and they don’t know their subject matter AT ALL.

This was the case the other day, when the CITES Secretary General was in town to add support for the Sri Lankan initiative to destroy the Bood Ivory in public.

The National Parks MUST BE given out to a professional team to manage. The receipts, from Park Entry going direct to the Treasury and the Expenses coming out of the Treasury MUST BE STOPPED. There is NO accountability at ALL.

Give me the task of running the parks, taking the revenue, but also maintaining, restricting entry etc. I will save money and I will improve the tourism product by leaps and bounds. These old fogies have NO CLUE how to do it.

The link above is about the massive corruption of the Construction of the special place for wild elephants, and I am privy to information that this pen that people had said was so SECURE that NO elephant could ever get out, HAS ALREADY BEEN BREACHED, and not a word has come out of the facts, as the officials are embarrassed beyond belief and are worried about the scandal affecting them. It is all about cheap work, and as usual, Sri Lankans making money from using cheap construction materials and the officials turning a blind eye to it. SO GET RID OF THE SYSTEM THAT ALLOWS THIS!

I can pay for 50 Vets for the department. Currently the department has only 5 VETS and they cannot be everywhere, and so many animals die, including Elephants. WHY IS there NO stink about this? The powers that be want an easy life that’s why.

I will restrict park entry, I will have in park camps that will increase revenue NOT in Yala, but there are others that MUST take the pressure off of Yala. These are just a few ideas, but I can give more if I have time to research this subject and increase net income and have the jewel of the tourist trade, so they all go home happy. Now they are miserable – too many jeeps, too many touts, and a very inadequate park ranger contingent, with no investment in toilets and vitiation points, and other basic wildlife amenities. 

Banks – it is time we force them first to reduce spread by reducing lending rates!

If you read my previous blog post you will realize how detrimental Sri Lanka banks have been to the growth of Sri Lanka. Ironic isn’t it, because if you listen to a pompous banker, you would think they are solely responsible for all the growth. Actually the way they have squeezed money out of people is just unforgivable.

Now they make at least Rs1Billion a day (gross) on just holding the remittances from expatriates for an additional 3 days, before putting it into their accounts, and many keep lakhs in current accounts to benefit the banks.

No wonder they can waste money on branches, AC and high salaries they pay themselves from these super profits, that they even hide from the tax man by wasting on over the top expenditure. It is simply a jobs for the boys kind of club.

It is time for them (and I believe we are over-banked in terms of competition) to reduce their costs, reduce their salaries as the market rate is MUCH less (tell the banker that!) 

They can only do this if they are forced to reduce spread, and give the saving to the investor, who borrows to build their business. It’s a no brainer, to realize that that is one easy way to spark and spurt investment in the Sri Lanka economy, without costing the Govt. a cent.

Just imagine, even I would at 8% borrow to improve my dairy herd, thereby increasing milk production, and reduce the need for expensive low quality powdered milk imports from New Zealand. I hope the reader realizes that at 12% I just cannot make the investment work, but at 8% I can.

I am recommending that there is a provision in the Constitution to force all banks to do so for the benefit of the Country. Their inbuilt profitability when compared with their peers overseas is just not acceptable, though it is common practice in Sri Lanka.

First I would as a Govt. say we are going to have it written into the Constitution, so they will hopefully, act in time to make the change before that is done, and prevent this by taking action in advance to remove that allegation.

We must look at all areas that are barriers to growth, and whilst the Finance Ministry is obsessed with improving the ease of doing business index there are more important matters that WILL ACTUALLY EASE DOING BUSINESS!!

Banks have taken the easy way out – BUT at a huge cost to SL growth rate!

I went to meet our Corporate Relations Manager of the Bank with whom we have most of our dealings with negotiate a substantial loan to purchase a very good quality German Machine to be used in our business.

BTW it is not my business, though I act as the sole executive director of the Company, in which I do not have an ownership interest.

WE wish to finance 80% of the value of the Investment in the machine from this Machinery Mortgage loan which we hope would be passed to us at a favorable rate of interest. I have to prepare detailed budgets and cash flow forecasts for the Bank on how we intend to fund the loan interest and capital, and of course we are put through the ringer, as the Manager says, he puts this project proposal to the independent lending committee who look at all the documents, guarantees, and charges on assets to minimize their risk of loss.

So we were told that this committee has not knowledge of the client and will independently asses the viability of the project, and will only grant the loan upon their being confident that the risk is worth lending to!

By the way, I just heard that the offer price the supplier has given us which expires shortly, if not agreed upon by us by the due date will expire and the Euro price of the machine will go up by 5% immediately. So with the mortgage loan what is the bank worried about as they can easily sell this machine for a lot more than the loan amount too!

I am highlighting this to compare with the massive burst of 100% leases granted by the same and other banks with their eyes closed on cars in the last 3 years, amounting as much as Rs100B, hence the glut of cars and absolute nightmare on traffic, which additionally has a negative effect on SL’s growth rate.

This machine will allow us to get export orders as the quality of our labor force is excellent and well trained in this field, and will no doubt help the SL economy in many respects as we employ 100 skilled machine operators, mechanical and electrical staff to operate our business.

The litany I have to say is that Banks as a rule give corporate borrowers, those who are the BIGGEST contributors to Sri Lanka’s growth rate, a very hard time in both assisting with loan financing and also with having to mortgage every thing they owe, at high interest in order to finance Company investment which inevitably leads to growth and more importantly adds to the growth of the Economy proper.
It is important therefore that the pundits who are talking of bringing foreign investment to Sri Lanka, first assist tired and tested local companies to expand where they have the knowledge and wherewithal to do so without being treated like lepers, and beggars at the mercy of usurious banks that have not only made surplus profits forever, they employ the best of the Country, who are paid the highest wages, but who could if they were working in non bank industry, have contributed more to the Nation’s Economy, as the Private Sector, and export industry CANNOT match the salaries paid by the banks for these staff.

A bank job is at the top of the job desires, and then the Govt. job, the growing Private Sector Industrial and Commercial come way behind in people’s perception of good jobs, when they are the main contributors to the engine of Sri Lanka growth.

SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE and needs to be fixed FIRST before any of the PM’s grand plans for the future can even start to show results.

So I have now found fault with the Banks on many scores and accuse them of treachery to Sri Lanka:

1                   Lending to rich jokers to drive Benzes
2                   Extracting usurious interest rates from borrowers, which stifle growth, and prevent many profitable ventures from even starting.
3                   Request for too many conditions in lending, especially having to mortgage personal property of directors to lend to Companies.
4                   Having too much of a spread between borrowing and lending rates, affecting both savers and borrowers, the beneficiary being the bank.
5                   Grabbing the best and brightest from the pool of labor, into wholly unproductive work that mutts can actually do.
6                   Having done this for 60 years banks have been the direct result that SL per capita is NOT US$10,000 today.
7                   Sri Lanka has good entrepreneurs who the banks should have lent to , instead politicized borrowers have taken money and disappeared affecting their bad loan proportion that directly affects good borrowers who are thus penalized.

It is time to change the Bank culture drastically. Firstly educate their new intake on how a country can grow in the 4th Industrial Revolution. They have to be more liberal to lend to small entrepreneurs for say boutique hotels, small businesses that have good ideas, and the like. These ARE NOT traditional businesses but those of the new growth industries, and the whole fuddy duddy bankers are still living in their cocktail party circuit not realizing the world has changed as they are secure in high salaries and pensions!  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tourism Industry – need for real understanding of the potential tourist first

This is the fifth in a series of blog entries these few days trying to give the reader an alternative approach to managing and promoting tourism in the 4th Industrial Revolution, as our decision makers are still stuck in the first Industrial Revolution!

The above link from yesterday’s Huffington Post a very popular blog, says it all. Why is it that we must try and brand promote the Country spending billions, when in this day and age a good product promotes itself, with the best promoter being the SATISFIED TOURIST who will go back to his home Country and sing the praises that will bring 5 more, its that simple. Promotion is done because the product is poor and needs a fillip. In Sri Lanka’s case of course it is to line the pockets of some so called ‘big whig’ who lobbies to get the account for some foreign agency, with promises of unlimited international travel.

So let me recap what I have tried to illustrate in the previous blog postings.

In 2016 the costs of entry into being a tourist supplier is minimal, thanks to the Internet. This is a threat to the established travel and hotel brands, who are trying to use the National Tourism budget to muscle in to use their clout to influence TOP decision making. That is plain wrong, and it time these traitors from the Minister down are just blown out away!

Take the Rs 10B budget and divide into 10 and spend it locally in 10 identifiable zones that have potential, but need a makeover. That is to primarily assist the small hotel restaurant owner, and tour guide and infrastructure providers to GIVE WHAT THE TOURIST WANTS it is that simple.

Some possibilities of zones that can be developed by educating the small business owner, and providing public toilets for starters are: Kalpitiya Area, Pinnawela, Arugam Bay, Ella, Kuchcheveli, Mannar, Tangalle, Habarana, Jaffna Islands, and Wellawaya/Buttala. Now has anyone even thought of that mix?

Once that is done, a good product will bring repeat business 10 times over, and the same tourist will come more often, and spend more time and money, having had the best experience in their lives.

Don’t forget we don’t need to travel anymore, as we can see the world from the Internet. We therefore travel NOT to see the world, but to enjoy our quality of life. After all there are traffic jams in their home country, so they don’t come to SL to be stuck in traffic. Some have a Rolls Royce in their garage, and come here to go in a Tuk Tuk!! Something our bloated faces of pompous arrogance don’t understand.

My advice is free, but it will create at least 5,000 millionaires in Sri Lanka. The greedy top brass don't want that to happen, they want more for themselves and thereby destroy the whole tourism Sri Lanka product.  


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Blood Ivory – the Schemers see money up in smoke literally!!

Crushing of 100s of TUSKS today

The subject of today’s main news story has even hit the National Geographic!

Killing of Elephants anywhere in the world is illegal. So when this consignment of  Ivory from about 360 Elephants who had been killed, and sent via Kenya (elephants killed were believed to be in Tanzania) to Colombo, in transit to Dubai or some other destination for sale, was detected in 2012, it caused all sorts of day dreams amongst a lot of crooked people in Sri Lanka. Remember MR was in power so it was fair game to make money out of anybody’s or for that matter animal’s loss!

The MR regime is now proved as the one that has had the worst negative environmental impact of any ruling period in the history of Sri Lanka. Even the devastation of forests by the British to plant coffee was of a lower order during a particular reign.

There was therefore a rush to sell this contraband. (yes - contraband that a nation determined was game enough to be auctioned for private pleasure) It was fortuitous therefore that this did not get into the wrong hands, especially of avaricious priests who head temples, who love to show off such splendor to their slaves who pay homage and absorb every word said, no matter how unfailingly against the philosophy.

Many excuses were made to hold on to this and quietly dispose of this, but fortunately the Govt. changed, and with it the attitude of the authorities, who did not want the Country designated as a pariah state. (something MR wanted for notoriety value)

It is therefore with pleasure that I am able to say, that all of this will be crushed in full public view in Galle Face this morning, and there will be some religious ceremonies to remember the elephants who gave up their lives for this. I understand the final disposal will be done under close scrutiny and the nation will gain the respect of the world to drawing a line in the sand, hopefully as much publicity too, of the fact that it is NOT worth killing anymore elephants, as all who do so wantonly will only have to answer for their bad karma in this life, well before entering the next one! I commend the GOSL (SL Govt.) for this step, and I hope the people will reduce their desire to profit from this trade. 

Tourism the real secret to real growth is “The Experience”

When I showed a colleague the previous blog entry of what the independent traveler wants, I was told that only cheap tourists come there, and don’t help the Industry to grow at the speed and level that is needed.

I couldn’t disagree more. If one looks at the normal evolution of the product Ella is now ready for the next level, if the stakeholder can only improve upon the experience and is given ON SITE TRAINING on how it should be done, as I suggested in the previous BLOG. We just have NOT been able to leverage this unique location of outstanding beauty into an exclusive retreat of high quality.

Firstly it is the infrastructure, without a responsible local authority to look into the water supply, roads and trekking paths, mountain bike trails etc. you cannot attract the high net worth. It is all about word of mouth NOT advertising. A project undertaken from the AD budget to sort this out will be more long lasting than the cost to some foreign agency for promotion!!!!!

Today, whilst the B&B double room rate hovers from Rs4,000 to Rs10,000 there, just the dinners at the restaurants normally can run to Rs10K per head with the liquor. So again it is NOT the type of accommodation alone that has the value added, it is the spending in Restaurants and AMBIENCE which our decision makers don’t understand. If we concentrate on REDUCING NOISE, MAKING THE PLACE CLEAN, PROVIDING AMBIENCE, you will have tourists with minimal carbon footprint who will take the train to Ella and spend a week enjoying the clean air, good food, and surrounding countryside.

Is there anything more you want from a tourist? You create employment for the people for miles around, and for local craftsmen to develop their crafts to boot. It is a responsible sustainable tourism dream that has YET TO rub off on these mandarins in Colombo, who if truth be told, don’t have a clue about what I am talking about.

I am using Ella as an example, but I can quote 20 more off the top of my head that have NOT suffered the blight of the 5 star curse. Arugam Bay is another and so on. If we develop these gems sustainably one at a time, there is no stopping Sri Lanka. Curiously it is the foreigner who is doing the best in this tourist product too, as he is more aware of the need of the tourist and is able to offer exactly what they are looking for. Shame on you MANDARIN for letting the side down yet again, depriving Sri Lankans of the opportunity to develop the unique home grown Tourism model that is sustainable and can weather the ups and downs of the world economic tantrums. If only our own Czars spend the money available wisely to develop tourist infrastructure we will have a different story to write about.

Tourism – the whole top tier are out to lunch – time for new blood

Why is it that in Sri Lanka, entry into any field is almost prohibited until one is just about to croak. It is the same with Tourism. With a fossil for a Minister, who puts his neighbor business tycoon (as if Harry does not have enough on his plate to sign every check in his mighty empire) in a senior Advisory role, and another Chum as senile as they go Paddy in another top position, and are deal making to determine who gets the lucrative account to “Advertise Brand Lanka” to the world.

Have any of you guys understood what the future of tourism is. Air B&B has rocked the hotel industry, such that every little guy with a decent home, and a UNIQUE SELLING POINT can skin the Hoteliers alive. So stop picking up on a market you don’t know anything about, and plan on putting those Multi Billion Budget in improving our local product NOT of the billionaires but of the small one USP product owner.

To give you an real example to illustrate my point, at Ella there are many homestay lodgings which are catching on a small community of bed and breakfasts are sprouting up. They are pretty disorganized but have stunning views and great location for hiking and trekking and even mountain bike riding. However it caters for all ages including families. These small business owners have no clue about the basics of what tourist expect, of course some are learning on a job, but are still a little slow on the uptake.

A great place to start are the reviews of the properties where people stay, and one can get an idea of how grossly out of touch our people are about why a tourist comes to such a beautiful location. I bet none of the above jokers mentioned on the first paragraph have even physically checked the web sites of these places, nor even the reviews of the visitors, the good and the bad!

NOISE is one of our main problems, and CLEANLINESS follows soon after that! We must educate our hosts, (owners of boutique type hotels also) that visitors prefer peace and quiet and not the sound emanating from the privte quarters of the owners or caretakers, who sometimes have little children crying and lot of loud music blaring. We are a race that does not care about others, being very insensitive. A case in point being the loudspeakers blaring out of mosques at the most inappropriate times as well as canned pirith from temples on awful loudspeaker systems that even turns off people who really love to listen to pirith. YOU GET MY POINT.

This correction will give you a satisfied customer who will recommend his friends and stay for longer, and btw these are people most concerned about the carbon footprint too! Will try to reduce environmental pollution on all fronts.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

VIRUSARA – A day of DUKBARA – Time to stop TOM FOOLERY

On an event that concluded about 4 hours ago

They came from far and wide, transported in Army or forces provided buses, some having had to leave places like Kebitigollawa at 2am and others from as close as Battaramulla taking an expensive 3 wheeler to get to Temple Trees by 1pm, when they should have been seated. A light refreshment offered till start time of 3pm.

Thousands, perhaps 5,000 perhaps more, to this Mahinda Rajapakse dansal hall at Temple Trees in hope and expectation. They were NOT told what they would get, but as they were next of kin of dead soldiers in battle, mothers, ill with diabetes or pressure, fathers sick with kidney disease or heart disease, young widows who had to leave their pre-teen kids at home under someone else’s care, fearing for their safety on this journey amongst strangers trying to chat them up, they all braved trying conditions to come for what they believed was, an event they would receive a worthy token of remembrance in memory of their loved one who perished, and about whom they shed a tear every night.

What was the reality, they left at 6pm having sat in those uncomfortable chairs, for 5 hours, EMPTY HANDED. Why did they come they asked themselves. Who were the TOM FOOLS who persuaded them to give up their time for a long journey to Colombo and back? the whole trip taking more than 24hours in some cases, and where are the toilets, when you are old you gotta go and the people responsible for your journey have not thought about that!

How can you be so cruel? The peacocks on display on the front row nere had a care in the world for your suffering, as they had no clue, that you had suffered so much for so little. They must be dreaming in Technicolor, if they think you all came, because you wanted to be present at the event. OH NO, THEY COULD BE SO WRONG in their assumptions.

Only 100 or so received the card, and what is the card for if they were not compensated for their time too. Maybe they get the pension of the dead soldier, and powers feel they jolly well turn up because of that! NO WAY JOSE, that is a facile argument. We are not a Country bent on taking our people for a ride, but then again maybe not! that is the role of the Govt. to fool all of the people all of the time!

Perhaps the PM who was inside Temple Trees did not attend the function, because he was most aware of the waste of time and money, that the forces are currently good at with no war on, and this is a good example of why the forces budget needs to be cut considerably as it is run by idiots thinking all the people are also idiots.
This is a clear example of what is wrong with Sri Lanka. They just don’t think of the people they are supposed to help. This mother from even as close as Battaramulla, waiting for the son who was not killed to pick her up through the chaotic traffic, had some toes removed due to diabetes, so she was in acute distress, and was exhausted and disappointed, feeling she had been completely had! She thought she would get something in recognition of the sacrifice her son made for the Country.

Instead she had to sacrifice a day with a high cost to attend a useless gathering, with nothing to show for it. For all his sins, this is where Mahinda Rajapakse scores, as he would have ensured that they would at least leave well fed, and with drink, and if lucky even with a Rs5000 note, the least for their troubles. I am not saying that is right. I am saying we MUST NOT WASTE the time of our citizens in things that only we get credit for, with much publicity. No reporter using self censorship, will criticize the forces for organizing such a disastrous and uncaring exercise in futility.

This is what this women asked for, to tell the world what kind of crap the jonnies on duty, and in charge are doing for the money the tax payer pays them. They should be sent home, or better sent to work in the paddy fields to pay for their crime.

You can bet your bottom dollar that these 5000 families will go back home and relate this travesty to their kith and kin, and it will create 5,000 more enemies of the Govt. for the incompetence of the Tri Forces, and the relevant authorities tasked with this event. The President should know. The PM already knows what a waste of time these tamashas are, and does not want to add spice to the already hot butter cuttle fish!

All the forces commanders were present so they should all hang together.

At least each family member should have been assigned a duty officer to be their chaperone, to whom all their concerns would be relayed, and who should have been tasked to take care of their every need if they were dragged all this way. That way all needs will be met, and an allowance given to attend. I repeat, the fact they draw a pension is not right that they are dragged to waste their time. The pension is an entitlement that the soldier was promised, to serve his country in the knowledge that his family will be taken care of if God forbid he got himself killed in action.

So where are the apologies, if no one has complained? The people will not complain for fear of losing benefits, or being black balled in future, so they return home in silence, but shout they will to all who wish to hear them, swearing with all the Gods in tow, to destroy the leaders who make such decisions so they will never rise again.

We love to open new things and brag about them, but we don’t half know how to maintain them

Sri Lankans are the world’s worst at maintaining anything. It is almost as if they are blind to maintenance. In London a very high service charge on a property means it holds its value and rises faster in value, and benefits the owner, as the place is maintained up to a very high standard. In Sri Lanka, people complain about the Condo fees, and so those with the lowest Condo fees just look like a slum, and no one wants to live in them, and so their value DOES NOT RISE and the owner wonders why!

In the same vein, there is increasing traffic on the Southern Expressway with the huge increase in the number of expensive cars in Sri Lanka with no where to test their quality except for the Southern Expressway! But just look at the state of the Road, an absolute and utter disgrace, and something must be done!

Why are those entrusted with this job, and being given the budget with sufficient revenue coming in ( not enough to repay the interest and capital) but enough to maintain. It is because the person in charge and those under him are LAZY and no one is held accountable, (another SL problem) as everyone passes the buck. Until we have hard task masters at senior positions in Govt. to enforce standards, discipline we will forever remain a failed state.

The problem is when who we think should take responsibility is informed about it, he or she passes the buck saying it is not their responsibility. There is ONE answer to this.

ALL GOVT. SERVANTS must have a list of what they are held accountable for. Then they can be held to account. SO why not start writing this list. I have already suggested a list of work for the Chief of Staff for the PM starting with the fact that he cannot attend any events, but be in his office, with all his staff from 8 am to 10 pm every day, (staff can be on a roster) so that the work can be managed and executed. So for example he gets a complaint on the above issue, he knows who to call, make the request, and tell them to report back with results in 3 days, and there is a follow up of this, and a personal FINE for any delay.

Just think how the system will change overnight! A sea change. Administratively the State is simply pathetic, with NO ONE doing what they should be, and instead complaining about the other person, for not doing their job. If we each complete the tasks assigned us, this place will change fast. 

The Tourism Experience – a cinch for the savvy small business!!

Gone are the days of the package tourist being of value to the host Country. The tourist is transported in a Coach, spends 70% of his waking hours in Sri Lanka in the coach, never manages to intermingle with the locals, contributes hardly anything to the hotel which sells the room at rock bottom rates, and goes back not having contributed at all to Sri Lanka. This goes for all packaged products, be they from Japan, China or Europe.

On the other hand the independent traveler, those who benefit the small one hotel owner most, searches on line, looks at reviews as his main guide to the quality of the experience at the lodgings, makes his own bookings, and comes on a holiday, willing to spend far more money than the aforementioned.

Reading the schizoid article above, it reflects that attitude of the Industry people that bear NO relation to reality.

Until there is a national policy on what type of tourist we would like to attract, there is no point in the State getting involved. All they should do is provide services to the people in the industry, to better manage their product whatever that maybe. The owner of a small three bedroomed establishment, restaurant owner who caters to tourists, masseurs, chefs, a tour guide, the hire car driver, the tourist police, the ticket seller to archeological sites, the person managing the paid toilets (we don’t have any yet) for the convenience of tourists who don’t have anywhere to pee at present in public places. These service providers need to be given classes, given certificates of proficiency, ( I know some of it happens but is totally insufficient as the course teachers don’t know the subject matter)

So before REGULATION COMES EDUCATION, as you cannot impose the will on a person who does not understand why! Frankly the big boys like JKH and Aitken Spence, Jetwing, Hemas, and such like don’t contribute a dime to the tourism industry, their import component decimates the value added component.

It is time to first look at the product that has the highest value added and a couple of the above have establishments that are in this league, and then spend resources in assisting those in that business to improve their quality, as it will provide an IMMEDIATE return on investment, (within a year) as compared with silly destination marketing campaigns that are merely padding the wallets!  

Lets Rehabilitate the Rehabilitation Ministry!

What business has the Rehabilitation Ministry got to do with building the houses for the 65,000 displaced families? Playing GOD is not what they should do, they should find a livelihood for these people. Building homes for them will not solve the problem it will create more problems.

Sri Lanka’s biggest problem is the lack of mobility of its labor force. All Sri Lankans want to live in a Castle of their own on Terra Ferma. That is part of the Sri Lankan disease! So spending a Billion dollars building a cookie cutter house for each looking exactly alike seems to be Govt’s answer to this supposed problem! Wrong WRONG WRONG~ !!!!!!!!!!!!

Each family has a different problem, and you cannot solve them all equally. See what happened when the Govt. gave land to landless and just settled them in huge agricultural schemes. The have planted themselves there and will not move even though they are starving, and broke, and there are 250,000 vacancies elsewhere that cannot be filled. NO DIFFERENCE WITH THIS LOT.

Now Hirdaramani’s have built a Rs450M factory in Mullaithivu which the President opened yesterday, and that is the best thing that happened to those fortunate enough to get employment there. Start by looking at the living conditions of these people as an example, and see if they can be accommodated so they don’t have a long commute to work, and at the beginning provide them with rented accommodation, building flats (not high rise with lift, just three floors, for 150 families with one working at the complex, and build a satellite town around the factory as the main employer.

You will automatically provide employment for at least two more people of that family, running a shop, working in an eatery, hair salon, internet cafĂ©, post office, nurse in the local hospital, security guard, day labor on construction sites etc. How much will this cost? Much less than the 300M all imported and borrowing financed option as detailed below, quite succinctly in Namini Wijedasa’s article in the Sunday Times.

Just think about it 3 bread winners instead of one in the 65K houses! Soon you will see them driving around in Altos!

It is a no brainer, to do a step by step approach, rather than be forced into a stupid mega project just because we need to appease some foreign Tamil Lobby who don’t have one care in the world for Tamils, in Sri Lanka, but to justify their pathetic existence in the West. At least if they integrate with the host community they will wean themselves off of this inferiority complex. 

Broaching the subject of some Mirissa Hotels/Restaurants turning away locals

Whilst the Constitution is quite clear on the topic of discrimination under any grounds, establishments can enforce a code of conduct that applies to all. So some clubs are members only, or some areas are for members only. In other places, there is a minimum dress code, At the Hill Club in Nuwera Eliya, a jacket and tie is a must if dining there, though I believe National Dress of your Country is acceptable!

Imagine you are a Restaurant or Hotel owner, catering mainly to foreigners, no matter in the past there were NO foreigners to cater to! You discover to your consternation, that most of the locals who patronize your watering hole, are rowdy, make passing comments of a lecherous nature to your foreign guests, first in Sinhala and then more boldly in English, while the foreigner could be French not understanding English, but still get the jist of it that you are being pilloried, much less talked about! What do you do? Especially as you get the feeling that your foreign guests become uncomfortable, and may wish to leave, depriving you of your clientele.

Worse you are registered with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and make your punitive taxes to them for that registration, and then you have the SLTDA officials descend on you and are reading you the riot act!!!!

If it was me I would certainly NOT be amused! I cannot tell Sri Lankans about manners, and risk a fight, perhaps a stabbing in the back! So I take the easy way out and tell my staff, NOT to allow Sri Lankans in or be choosy as to who you let in, so a Sri Lankan in a Benz car is fair game, but a yokel in a three-wheeler who looks more like a beach boy, out to pick a white bird, I refuse! 

What if I am wealthy enough to buy the restaurant but dress up like a beach boy? You know its appearance that counts! "Pretty Woman" the movie was the classic example when she was turned away from a Rodeo Drive shop in Beverly Hills, because the shop assistant unhesitatingly told her that there was nothing she could get in the shop.

Take it from me people are turned away daily from various beach-side eateries by the owners because they are a nuisance to the guests, no matter what guarantee there is in the Constitution, so is this making a mountain out of a molehill? 

If you want tourists, if you want your country to welcome tourists, the people in the host Country, must be welcoming, not pestering, so that they have a pleasant experience, otherwise they will not return. 

Like in my case I was mugged once and had to head off two attempted muggings in Rome, all in one day, so I will never go back to Rome again. Muggers were Eastern Europeans by the way!  We have afghan beggars/con artists these days, in case our dear Tourist officials did not notice. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Public Servants – surfing the web on tax payers’ money!

Do you want public servants to spend time on work other than that which they were hired to do? NO, and that includes surfing the web on their own tab or that of the State, or organization providing employment.

If 60% of Public Servants spend 2 hours on average on the Net on their own thing, it is addiction that you cannot wean them from. They have got used to it, and unlike private companies where you could lose your job, and in some they restrict internet usage, there is NO ONE supervising this, as many work without supervision.

New rules MUST be even included in the Constitution that says, that the State jobs are ALSO subject to redeployment at least, if not firing. In any case raising retirement age in the future to 75 must also be allowed without having to go for a Constitutional Amendment!

Productivity of state employees is bad enough. Senior managers have given up on trying to rein them in, as they see it as pointless, as most are transferred out of that position faster than the sleeping worker, who will continue after the boss! It is a vicious cycle.

RULES RULES RULES. They must be tightened, otherwise this free for all will kill the Country as a whole.

Go to any Divisional Secretariat, and the 35 staff who have assigned duties to help the public, a number that is common to almost all these offices, are NOT in their seats. Some are doing their own thing and the Divisional Secretary knows better than pull rank, in order to keep the peace. Even on PUBLIC day, when they MUST be in the office, no one enforces this basic requirement, inconveniencing the hapless public still further.

I am sure if the New Constitution stipulates the duties and responsibilities of the public servant, and they can vary, but MUST be clearly given to them in writing, the public can take them to Court, to enforce this if they fail, keeping them definitely on notice, that they can be taken to Court and they have to pay the Court Costs, and not the state. Wouldn’t that be a welcome change?

Unless we do something now and it is the opportune time to change the status quo once and for all, we are never going to get this Golden Opportunity Ever!

Let us first see the Houses that Rs2M built!

There is a proposal to have 65,000 prefab houses supplied from India, by Accelor Mittal the world’s largest steel producer, at Rs2M each.

Before we go any further let us see if it is at least livable in the conditions of the North and East where there is bright sunlight! A supposed solar panel is included too.

If it not livable then they can shove it, RIGHT! If it is then, why 2M when in fact I can have the same house from the same manufacturer at Rs500K? The difference is the proverbial commission!!! So something really sucks here!

How is Sri Lanka going to pay off the loan that has to be taken to build this? With all the loans currently falling due, little wonder that we don’t need any more we will find hard to pay. So just on that score just can it.

Then what is going to happen to the 65,000 families who don’t have a roof over their heads? Just give them to a cooperative to build a home of their choice, and for which only Rs500K will be disbursed, and the rest is up to the homeowner to supplement. That is fair. As NO ONE appreciates a free house, they do however if they have put in some of their own to build it, and they cannot blame anyone on shoddy workmanship.

Take a cue from the 50,000 houses built by India, and determine the pros and cons of that, and refine it to improve the standards, not exchange it for deal that impoverishes the Country, and gives a family a house that they would rather NOT live in. Have you even thought about the stigma attached to this, especially if in future, it has such a bad reputation, as not being livable and therefore NOT SALEABLE either! This is a VERY REAL possibility.

Don’t we ever learn? Will we ever learn? We just keep making the same mistake over and over again, and just don’t get it. Why opt for speed? It always results in bad choices. These are abodes we are talking of. Ones where people expect to live for 75 years at least! It is simply NOT possible to do this with these prefab furnaces! Ask Swaminathen to stay in it for a week as the first test, and see what he says, as he sure is in for a big whack of the slush fund.

Please let us NOT repeat the excesses of the past administration and finally make decisions that positively affect the people we are supposed to govern!