Development plans for what?

by Dr. C. S. Weeraratna

(January 04, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) According to former Prime Minister Rathnasiri Wickramanayaka, the government appears to have no effective plans. I think that there are plans but these are not effectively implemented or some plans are not effective. He cited the ‘Api Wawamu Rata Nagamu’ project as an example. That programme promotes the cultivation of crops but there is no effective plan to market the produce. The National Agricultural Policy, with 22 strategies was brought out in 2007. Subsequently, the programme titled "Api Wavamu Rata Nagamu" was launched. However, we still produce only about 60 per cent of our basic food requirements and import the balance at a cost of around 120 billion rupees annually. Even kurakkan and green gram, which can be easily cultivated locally, are imported at a cost of around Rs 25 and 10 million respectively, and we still talk of "Api Wavamu Rata Nagamu".

Some Sri Lankan economists are of the view that the average agricultural labour productivity is at a low level. This can be attributed to many factors which are beyond the control of the farmers. Among these are inadequate water supply, drought/floods, decreasing soil fertility due to soil degradation, lack of better crop varieties, pest damage etc. Added to this, is the ineffective implementation of plans. One of the objectives of the National Agricultural Policy was to enhance the income and living standards of the farming community. If this policy had been effectively implemented, it would have certainly increased the productivity of the agricultural labour in the country. .

Following a steep rise in wheat flour prices, people are being asked to increase consumption of rice and to reduce consumption of bread and other wheat flour based products. The recent floods in the country have affected the Maha crop to a considerable extent and it is likely that there will be a shortage of rice in 2011. It is imperative that the Ministry of Agriculture implement an effective plan to meet a possible rice shortage in the coming months. Many alternatives are available to meet the food/rice (calories) requirement of the people. Among these are cereals such as kurakkan and legumes such as green gram, black gram and pigeon pea, and root crops such as manioc, sweet potato and other yams. All these crops can be grown locally. Or like in the case of eggs and coconuts, will the Trade Ministry simply import rice?

The Ministry of Trade is going to construct the largest rice mill in Asia in Sri Lanka. A few years ago, when the late Kingsley Wickramaratne was the Minister of Trade he got a large rice mill constructed in Hambantota. This mill remains closed. This mill can be used to process paddy instead of constructing another rice mill.

Milk Production:

A few years ago Chairman of National Livestock Development Board, instead of implementing a plan to upgrade cattle in Sri Lanka by promoting an AI programme country wide, imported foetuses of improved cattle at a very high cost. This has not brought any appreciable increase in milk production in the country. Now, a minister is planning to import camels to increase the milk production in the country!

Ineffective Plans:

Some ministers come out with ineffective plans. There was a news paper article recently that the organic fertiliser manufacturing units were to be established in each district. Apparently the minister has not considered the cost of transporting the organic fertilisers and its application. Probably he is unaware that around four tons of organic fertilisers have to be applied if the nutrients in 100 kg of urea are to be supplied by organics.

The annual coconut production was 2.8 million during the period 1962-64 and even during the period 2000-2008 the average annual production is 2.7 million The extent under coconut has dwindled during the last decade Thus, the numerous plans/projects implemented during the last two decades to improve the coconut sector have not produced any positive results indicating that the plans to improve coconut production in the country were either ineffective or not implemented effectively.


We spend a large sum of money on importing petroleum. The cost of importing petroleum in 2009 was around Rs. 300 billion. A high expenditure on petroleum will widen our annual trade deficit. In many other countries such as China, Thailand, Philippines etc. action has already been taken to reduce fuel/ power consumption and cut down on waste. If we reduce our energy consumption by 10%, it will result in a saving of at least Rs. 30 billion. However, the government has not taken any effective action to reduce fuel consumption in the country and produce bio-fuel which many countries are using in vehicles. An inter-ministerial committee report submitted on the use of bio-fuel in Sri Lanka a few months ago appears to be shelved. The present policies of the government with regard to vehicles imports will definitely increase the expenditure on fuel and the government will jack up fuel prices to cut down on losses causing COL to rise further.

As stated in the long-term generation expansion plan of the CEB, the share of hydropower is estimated to reduce from 40.2% in 2007 to 19.5% by 2020, while coal-fired thermal generation is estimated to reach 70.9% by 2020. Dendro power (power generated from bio-mass) and solar power are cheap sources of electricity but are not effectively used and not included in the long term plans of the CEB. Last year there was a proposal to sell electricity to India but now we are told that the electricity prices are going to be increased!

I think it is not only the ministers who are to be blamed for this sate of affairs. The secretaries, chairmen, heads of department et al who are involved in the development/ implementation of plans are also responsible.

It is high time the ministers took a realistic/critical look at the development plans of the government which is trying to make Sri Lanka Asia’s Wonder.

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