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How realistic is the CoL allowance?
When President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as Finance Minister, delivered
the 2008 Budget speech in Parliament, there was a thundering applause from the
government benches. That was when he disclosed that all public servants would be
paid an increased cost of living (CoL) allowance of Rs. 2,500 with effect from
January 2008. The proposed increase is Rs. 375 per month.
Retired public servants are paid a monthly CoL allowance of Rs. 1,062.50 at
Although there was no specific mention of any increase in the CoL allowance of
pensioners, it is presumed that their CoL allowance would also be increased by
Rs.187.50 from January 2008, as has been done during the current year.
The increase of Rs. 375 is hardly sufficient to meet the increased expenses of
milk powder alone. The price of a packet of milk power has gone up by Rs. 60.
The prices of all essential commodities have escalated in geometric progression
in the recent months: Electricity, water and medical bills have shot up as well.
In fact, the CoL index computed by the government warrants a monthly CoL
allowance of at least Rs. 6,000. If so, how realistic is the present CoL
allowance of Rs. 2,500 in the case of public servants and Rs. 1,062.50 in the
case of pensioners.
Trade unions recently clamoured for a salary increase of Rs. 3,000 expecting
immediate relief. Pensioners in particular appealed to Minister Karu Jayasuriya
reminding him of the election pledges given during the presidential election
campaign. Some pensioners who have faith in him sang hosannas through the
readers’ columns of national newspapers extolling, his ‘overtly’ magnanimous
qualities. They have been proved wrong. Their appeals have unfortunately gone
unheeded. God save the pensioners! Long live the cabinet of 109 ministers!
An aggrieved pensioner
of and by sound. That’s what I call the incessant loud, indecipherable and
meaningless incantations that emanate from the Buddhist temple loudspeakers and
the street comer Buddha statue loudspeakers.
If these loud and intrusive sounds are meant to drown out every other sound and
promote Buddhist principles as the loudest and so the best, then they have
succeeded partly, but certainly at the expense of a large minority, if not the
majority, who are irritated, disturbed and annoyed at the nuisance these
The original offenders, since it is an offence, were the mosques, with their
early morning call to prayer, and since such devices did not exist in the times
of the prophet, its usage, though initially an advantage, has now lost its
relevance. It is the same with other purportedly religious cacophony.
Modern day provides for personal options when practicing religion, without
intruding into others’ lives. Radio, TV, CD, DVD and other forms of electronic
media provide access to any religion at any time. Why then loud speakers? Early
morning bana has been available on radio for well nigh 40 years.
It is a statement that reverberates very loud and clearly that the law can be
broken in the name of religion. I cannot single out Buddhists or Muslims.
Christians, of various denominations, too during times of feasts and other
merrymaking and observances use loudspeakers, without concern to the public at
large, as do the Hindus, but to a lesser degree.
Using loudspeakers in the name of religion therefore becomes a common factor,
the most significant being that the majority appears to impose their will on the
minorities, as was done similarly with language some time back. The result of
which is now evident. Can we not learn from our mistakes?
If the government departments propagate the use of loudspeakers for their
routine functions, it then becomes legal de facto.
Offending sounds come in various forms in addition to religious use, lottery
vendors, loud radio use, neighbours’ dogs, vehicle air horns and exhausts,
musical shows and industrial noises from various factories.
It is basically their levels that are offensive and a nuisance. Laws to
prosecute such nuisances are available, though their enforcement is visibly
It must also be noted that all of these sounds, especially those from
loudspeakers, are offensive not only to humans but to the avifauna as well. I
would invite scientific conformation of this.
Indiscriminate use of loudspeakers and proliferation of sound without concern to
others is very uncivilised, besides being illegal. I would welcome any
enactments that ban the use of loud speakers, and I exhort the government to
first show intent by enforcing the already existing nuisance laws.
D. M. Balasuriya
To whom it may concern!
Existing power devolution is sufficient
A fact that people in Sri Lanka do not appreciate is that there had been
devolution of power from the colonial times in this country.
The problem with us is the present generation that controls the media, whether
printed or electronic, does not know the history and culture, or even the
political and social aspects of the country – simply because they have not been
educated in history at school since 1970s.
For instance, a person born in 1970 is 37 years old today, and is almost
entering the middle age in his life. But being brought up, especially under
‘open economy,’ he hardly understands the ‘life and times of the Lankans’ prior
to 1977. It was truly a quite different world to that of today.
Can he or she believe that in 1970 a gallon of petrol (4 1/2 liters) was only Rs.
4 and the return air ticket to London was only Rs. 4,000 with all the comforts
including hotel accommodation at transit?
An ordinary village family could manage a week with about Rs. 25 because of the
rice ration book with coupons. With that, all the essential commodities
including rice, sugar, dhal, Maldive fish could be obtained from the
co-operative shop, subsidised at a very low price.
Every citizen, irrespective of age, could enjoy this benefit of the rice ration
card, which had to be handed over to the food controller when going abroad for
long durations, exceeding one year.
With respect to devolution of power, members of all the local government
institutions throughout the country are elected by the popular vote. These are
governed by various political parties representing the prominent ethnic group of
For instance, Jaffna Municipal Council is not run by the Sinhalese of the south
but by Tamils of the north. Until he was gunned by the LTTE in 1975, Alfred
Dureiappa (SLFP) was the Mayor in Jaffna.
Today, local government institutions in the north and east are not functioning
due to the prevailing conditions of terrorism.
The power of Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) is today in the hands of
minorities, especially when considering that Colombo is not only the capital of
Sri Lanka, but also the heart of all Sri Lankans. We have had different mayors
in CMC representing different ethnic groups and political parties: For instance,
Rudra Rajasingham in early 50s and Dr. N.M. Perera (LSSP) in 1955 and also,
several Muslim mayors (UNP).
Similarly, the power of the other municipal councils, urban councils and town
councils, village councils of the country are governed by the prominent ethnic
group of the area.
So, it is worth mentioning here that the British, who carved the nine provincial
units in about 1887, did not devolve power to the provinces, but only to the
local government bodies. This was done in order to make sure that there was no
interference or hindrance to the civil administration of the country. To make
sure the smooth functioning of the local bodies they were tactful and
intelligent enough to decide on the devolution unit based on the extent of the
country and the affordability and essentiality of the staff for the management
of the same.
But the devolution of power for the provinces has become the topic of the day,
which could have been implemented by the British in 1887, if they thought and
felt that it was reasonable and suitable for a country like Sri Lanka.
All citizens have witnessed what is happening in Parliament and the country, and
how the minority MPs are behaving from time to time, even without the proposed
Anybody can imagine the future trends and possibilities as well as the
consequences that could crop up once the so-called devolution of power takes
place. Then the consequences of curtailing the powers of the President and the
present legislature and judiciary will be felt.
All S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike policies were centred around making Sinhala the
official language of the country, which helped him (SLFP) to come to power. The
Sinhala Only Act was passed in Parliament in 1956 by Prime Minister
Bandaranaike. Being born in 1956 and also being an advocate of federalism, how
dare Mangala Samaraweera preach us on the implementation of policies of the SLFP!
The present day media operators are clueless about these things which happened
about 50 years ago. The present generation, which I mentioned at the beginning,
are hell bent in making Mangala Samaraweera ‘a card board hero’ for the new
The minority Tamils, with their aspirations, have become ‘a supreme lot,’ not
only for the politicians and most of the media personnel, but also at the same
time they all have developed a ‘Prabha–phobia’ that they are rather reluctant or
scared to publish direct news affecting LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in
‘Come, behold this world, how it resembles an ornamented royal chariot in which
fools flounder, but for the wise there is no attachment to it’ - Dhammapadaya
To keep CoL at a low ebb
Inflation is known by civil society as the upward movement of the prices of all
goods. It could be caused by the shortage of goods or by the surplus of money in
the hands of the citizenry.
With a surplus of money chasing a short supply of goods, the inevitable result
is the escalation of prices. Workers will agitate for more. Farmers will jack up
prices of their produce. The net result will be that the government, banking and
lending institutions will be activated to finance the need.
The government, however, has the responsibility to keep living costs at a low
ebb, while simultaneously developing the economy. Infrastructure facilities such
as roads, bridges, waterways and irrigation tanks and reservoirs have to be
repaired, maintained and expanded to meet the envisaged expansion. Even
buildings have to come up. All such activity will need money, which will flow
into the hands of the citizenry finally.
With money weighing heavy in their pockets, they will be more lavish in their
spending. The hawkish trader and shop keeper will draw up prices on everything
within their reach, compelling the government to contemplate legislation to jail
profiteers to curb the offence.
The development of this country and its economy, unfortunately, has taken a
political twist bringing on criticism from many quarters, though one would
expect cooperation in the onerous task of developing this country.
Some media institutions, though registered as national newspapers, conduct
themselves like political party papers emphasising the resultant increase in
costs of goods, without explaining to its readers and the ignorant that the
phenomenon is the consequence of development funds flooding the money market for
the development of the country’s economy and not wanton reckless spending.
The political opposition has made it a hurdle to acquire political mileage
though it is caused in the government’s attempt to develop the economy.
It was indeed surprising to read a newspaper carrying a criticism by a person
described as a senior consultant economist, sporting a PhD accusing the
government of fiscal profligacy. The development of the homeland of all Sri
Lankans is thus being politicised.
To finance development, the state has to raise money through direct and indirect
taxes, or borrow from foreign sources. Interest rates move up. The borrower will
resent it, but the lender revels in it. If the lender is in business, he will
invest it in his business to expand. If not, he will deposit the proceeds in a
bank that will not keep the money idle in its vault but lend or invest it in
some lucrative venture resulting in the economy getting a push-up. The critics
are those politically opposed to the government, though the reality is that they
are putting obstacles in the path of development of the homeland.
Unfortunately, this country is a democracy in which all propositions, good or
bad, are opposed. Commercial banks always have their eyes and ears open to grab
at a windfall. Similarly, another bank is paying attention to its agricultural
clientele in Homagama. It will snowball with the economy moving up. The Mahinda
Chinthana is showing results. The banks have reversed their modus operandi and
now dole out interest free loans to those venturing out in agriculture or
When the People’s Bank was first opened on the instigation of the late Phillip
Gunewardena, then Agriculture Minister, to stimulate farming, those who manned
the Bank believed that the institution’s profit was the preponderant motive in
A poultry farmer who put out approximately 5000 eggs a day with a output of 200
broilers a week had to mortgage his farmland and other property for a measly
loan of Rs. 5,000 at the preposterous interest of 15% subject to a penalty rate
of 20% in the event of default or delay.
Those who moan over the cost of living should know that the bugbear manipulating
prices is the politically manipulated trader. That ruse will not live long, for
it will be swamped by the rapidly growing economy.
Business Today top 10 awards – Shocking win for Distilleries
Most of the English dailies gave a lot of publicity to the Business Today awards
ceremony when the 10 top corporates selected by such magazine were felicitated
at the Presidential Secretariat.
It is understood that even the President himself made a brief appearance just to
give away the awards for the 10 ‘top’ corporates.
It appears that Business Today is only looking at the financial performance of
the companies and does not take into consideration important elements such as
corporate governance, business ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
If these important factors were taken into consideration, Distilleries
Corporation of Sri Lanka (DCSL) and Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) could not have
got into the top 10.
Anyway even leaving aside CSR, it is shocking how Distilleries, which is under
investigation by Customs for a massive duty fraud, was selected as the number
one company out of the top 10 companies of Sri Lanka. This speaks well for the
corporate governance in Sri Lanka.
I am appalled that the other respectable corporates who were featured accepted
their awards without having the strength of character to reject this award.
It is reported that an official from Business Today who spoke on behalf of the
company made a plea to the audience to support their three magazines, stating
that only Sri Lanka Insurance, which is a group company of Distilleries,
advertises in its new political magazine, TARGET. Is that any clue as to how the
selections were done?
– Lilani Lokuhettige