“We all need to do more than watch to make Sri Lanka a better place”

Wednesday, 3 July 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Dinesh Weerakkody talks about his new book titled ‘In the best interest of my Country’ and what motivated him to write over 500 articles over a period of 30 years. The book will be launched today, 3 July By Sonia Chinnaiyah Q: To begin with, where do you get your passion for writing? A: I remember as a teenager when I used to grumble about the state of the CTB buses and State medical services and my mother used to tell me, “You know, there is a saying that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. So, work hard and create the opportunities for yourself and make the country a better place.” I think that spirit has dominated my writing and working life. On the other hand, I have had a couple of authors in my family circles who have also inspired me to write. Q: What is so special about your fourth volume? A: The sole purpose to launch this book titled ‘In the best interest of my Country’ was a desire to translate a broad array of ideas into specific insights and implications for Sri Lanka. In addition, I consider this as a valuable chance to reach out to others, especially our younger generation who are also our future leaders and are probably unaware of the good opportunities in which they can start contributing in a small way. Therefore, I would like to engage them in my work. Q: What was the theme of your last three books? A: My last volume was titled ‘An Insight into the Economy’ and was published in 1996 and the second volume was titled ‘Selected Essays on Foreign Affairs Part 2’ published in 1993. My maiden attempt was in 1990 and was titled ‘Selected Essays on Foreign Affairs’. ‘Selected Essays on Foreign Affairs’ focused on the various facets of international affairs. Q: So what is the focus and main thrust of your current book? A: This book provides insights into many important national and business issues. There is also a desire on my part to share my academic and business experiences in order to help professionals in their own drive to deliver greater value to their organisations. The book comprises 54 economics and business articles published from year 1993-2013, 44 political articles published from year 1983-2013 and 100 HR and management articles published from year 1998-2013. The book also includes 51 interviews published in Business Today of leading local and international business personalities. Q: You have argued in your book that our education system kills creativity. How serious is this issue? A: It was an attempt to say that there are features of mass education, which influence against individuality and creativity. At the heart of my argument is a different comprehension of talent, ability and what drives people. Part of the transformation we need in education is to ‘think differently about talent’. That is what this book is all about. Q: You talk of our budget deficit in a couple of your articles. Do you have any suggestion on a number which we need to start bringing down our debt-to-GDP level? A: If we look at countries that issue their own currency and borrow in their currency, it’s hard to find any evidence that there’s ever a danger line. It turns out that Britain in the ’40s had a debt level substantially above what most have now. Fiscal contraction, as a top economist pointed out recently, is almost certainly self-defeating. Q: You have written a few articles about the EU financial crisis. Also as Greece can’t print its own money, what does a financial crisis actually look like in a country that controls its own currency? A: Interesting question because, if you control your own currency, you can keep rolling over the debt. So it’s actually a little hard to tell the full story. You could imagine a situation in which there is a level of debt that rises to a point where you start to think the government has a real incentive to rely on seigniorage rather than on future tax collection, and that usually leads to spiralling inflation because of fears of future money printing. You probably get high economic growth in that run because of a depressed economy. But then it can surely get out of control. Q: What do you think we should be worrying about in five years? A: I really think five years from now, climate change will start to become a lot more obvious and technology will change relationships and turn businesses upside down. Q: In your book, you argue that the digital revolution would change the way we do business and govern. Are you a technological optimist on this? A: We have to take advantage of the tools of technology – mobile, local, social, cloud and whatever techno savvy tools and adapt to make maximum use of it. We need to develop technologies that give us perfectly clean energy. I think for so long, as fossil fuels are cheap, people will use them and it will postpone a movement towards new technologies. Further, there’s geo-engineering, which we may eventually use out of desperation, but is full of unintended consequences and political questions. That won’t affect all countries equally. It will hurt some countries and help others. I’m a technological optimist and therefore, in my view, technology will help us to live better, feel better and live longer. Q: You have pointed out in your book that those who are disenfranchised by income equality or a lack of education will be further alienated if they need digital access? A: That concerns me all the time. That is one area where big companies can play its part. All our key stakeholders need to work together to carry our country forward towards inclusive and sustainable development for all our citizens irrespective of income level, social status, race, religion, gender to compensate for the three decades of lost opportunities. Q: Any final thoughts? A: People believe if you want to change the world you have to be like an ‘Obama’ or a ‘Nelson Mandela’. Ordinary people like us with lives that go up and down and around in circles can still contribute to real change.