There is accommodation and there is road transport; we need to increase and improve train service with trains arriving more frequently – which no government to-date has ventured into – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
People/politicians of the country are famous for talking of the past. Yes this country was strong at independence. 72 years later we have come a long way with +/-. Now let’s forget the past and march towards the future.
To be a great country once again we have to get out of the debt trap. We got in to debt traps due to political reasons. All developing nations become prey to economically strong powerful countries who work with ulterior motives to benefit their own countries. The shortest/fastest method is to lend, sell their products and import products from the lent countries at cheaper prices. Politicians of the developing world do not have a country-first attitude as they get in to politics because there is no other job in the world where they can become rich at the expense of the uneducated masses by offering them food, clothing, and shelter. Now healthcare, pharmaceuticals, transport, and education have been made to jump on the bus.
The prime method of improving a country is to have an educated population. Politicians avoid education because when population gets educated the chance for the uneducated street walkers who are great orators proving the grand old statement ‘Empty vessels make the biggest noise’ will lose status.
The country and people are in a big mess. Politicians and public talk of a debt trap. How do we get out? The fast, short method is to cut State expenditure. Stop foreign borrowing. There is plenty of money in the banking sector. The most profitable organisations of this country are lending intuitions led by banks, finance companies and day by day, month by month lending mudalalies.
This is the only country that has no venture capital companies. We did have two. They were made public banks. If we are to develop we need State sponsored venture capital companies. Even Japan, USA or all developed countries have venture capital companies operating even now and Angel Funds are encouraged. Stock market grows and country grows based on stock trading.
To be a great country once again, we have to get out of the debt trap. We got in to debt traps due to political reasons. All developing nations become prey to economically strong powerful countries who work with ulterior motives to benefit their own countries. The shortest/fastest method is to lend, sell their products and import products from the lent countries at cheaper prices. Politicians of the developing world do not have a country-first attitude as they get in to politics because there is no other job in the world where they can become rich at the expense of the uneducated masses by offering them food, clothing, and shelter. Now healthcare, pharmaceuticals, transport, and education have been made to jump on the bus
It has been proved in the world that the communism concept of state organisations is a failure other than in Singapore/China where state organisations are managed and operated as private companies answerable to public. China has changed in to this concept. Some of the most powerful State-owned companies are managed by US-educated qualified professionals. They no longer have party members managing State business but are being paid an allowance to be at home. The private sector of China has come a long way supported by Government and EXIM Bank. Sri Lanka is so rich and powerful that our Central Bank, Ministry of Finance and politicians do not propose an EXIM Bank.
A fast way to get out of the mess is to people-ise all State ventures or make them Public/Private Partnerships PP/PPP. Write off all debt payment to Government. There is no point in maintaining government to government lending/borrowing and talking about crisis. 2020/21 to be a year to make state corporations profitable or liquidate them. Citizens of the country should not be compelled to support state inefficiency contributed by them as tax funding of export industry and import substitution industry must be encouraged but they must produce quality products at competitive prices.
Once upon a time government purchase was made mandatory for quality import substituted products tested and approved by CISIR/NBRO to compete with Chinese products. This system was blown out of the window by Open Economy and Open General License of 1978.
Another fast track method is to improve visitor arrival to the country with no restrictions. Visitors are permitted to enter the country on an online visa FoC. There are many private sites linked to the government site that charge $ 20 to $ 60 to issue the FoC Visa. Government regulatory authorities seem to ignore this. There is information that there are touts at immigration that take $ 20 to fast track visa through immigration.
All airports in the world are monitored by CCTV. Colombo Airport may be the only airport in the world where customs and immigration is not monitored by CCTV. Most of the surrounding countries now have Green Channel Visitor Bags pass through scanners to monitor smuggling. Colombo airport has idle scanners. Most airports of the world have separate counters at immigration for foreign/local/crew, diplomat passports. This country does not do so. Most of the time at peak arrival schedules immigration counters are not manned. Immigration officers are in a world of their own facing locals as well as foreigners.
As at present this country has the capacity to handle five million visitors. France with a population of approximately 70 million, handles 90 million visitors a year. Our pundits who deal with tourism and lay down rules and regulations to prevent visitor arrival must take France as a guide. 15 million adults with 1.5 million state employees or 1 in 10 pundits of this country lay down guidelines to prevent, not encourage. In our opinion, the Tourist Board/Tourism Promotion Authority must be liquidated.
Welcome to ‘So Sri Lanka’ is not a slogan that can be spoken about. All the good slogans that could and was used by Ceylon/Sri Lanka is being used by competitors as we did not have ministers and officials who could pick a slogan and stick with it. Advertising of country can be left to the tourism sector. Promotion by Sri Lanka Tourism has been a failure all the time due to high cost and solicitation. Most advertisements for the country are done on Facebook by satisfied visitors, Trip Advisor, and other sites. Now CNN as doing better and more productive advertising free of cost to country. None of them pick slogan ‘So Sri Lanka’ the most idiotic slogan this country has ever had.
Most rich to middle class visitors now do online bookings of air tickets and accommodation when they plan a holiday in addition to budget travellers. They have a choice of five-star to no-star, to home stay to lodges, to bed and breakfast to bed only, etc. There is no necessity to have Tourist Board classification or approval of such places for tourism officials be solicited to grant approval. If the organisations need they can request the State to grant a classification. Visitors know the price of accommodation around the world by use of technology.
Let visitors decide market price. If price and quality do not match expectation, they can move to another location. The State should step in to ensure refund is made if a dissatisfied guest needs to move out. East Coast has slum accommodation. That is what a visitor wants to experience a wonderful stay. Soft alcohol such as beer less than 5% strength should be available freely and sold only on production of passport and record maintained. Sale should be only in foreign currency. Excise Department should monitor sale.
There is accommodation and there is road transport; we need to increase and improve train service with trains arriving more frequently – which no government to-date has ventured into. Ministers involved in travel trade, transport, visit Fort Railway Station and check 0555 and 0700 trains on upcountry line. Budget travellers stand all the way as they are not used to pushing the way forward in entering a compartment as the Sri Lankans do. There are many touts exploiting visitors under the eyes of the Law Enforcement Authority at places of interest as well as Colombo. They speak many languages. Round them up, give them training and give them an ID card to be renewed every three years after a refresher course.
It is up to GoSL to get geared to welcome five million visitors a year in 2020/21 to make tourism the most profitable foreign exchange earner of the country without much effort and restrictions.