30th April 2000
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Millennium magic spreads to ME Exchanges

Millennium Information Technology (MIT) has clinched a deal to link six Middle East stock exchanges recently, a company official said.

The stock exchanges of United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Muscat will be linked via the Internet, which enables them to do cross border trading. The service is expected to be officially launched by end June or July.

MIT also successfully installed a new Net enabled trading system for Mesdaq - Malaysia's stock exchange specialising in growth and technology companies.

MIT used their unique software product, the Dynamic Business Innovator (DBI) to link the Mesdaq Order Routing and Execution system (MORE).

Stock exchanges worldwide face a problem whenever they want to update/change their software, as the software code has to be re-written to suit the rules and regulations of each exchange. Traditionally, this would have taken a minimum of nine months. DBI is developed so that the business rules can be re-typed in English and the software re-configures itself to suit the business rules, MIT Chief Tony Weerasinghe told The Sunday Times Business in an interview.

"This means an exchange can be set up and running within days." DBI can also be personalised - the front end can be personalised to suit each individual trader's needs, without touching a single piece of code.

"We believe our software is one of the first in the world," he said. 

He refused to disclose the value of the contract but said, "our software cost more than Rs. 150 mn."

MIT has also been shortlisted with E-bay to bid for a Net based auctioning system hosted by Singapore Technologies Telemedia. Weerasinghe is confident of securing the deal, as MIT is capable of doing B2B (business to business) and more suitable to Asian countries, unlike E-bay which is strong in B2C (business to consumer) and is more suited towards the West.

MIT is also doing another project where they gather feedback from stock exchanges worldwide and forward it to their Singaporean client who hosts the site. In turn, the Singaporean company forwards the information to brokers and traders worldwide.

Recently, Sun Microsystems, announced plans to set up a joint venture in Sri Lanka with MIT.

"We are winning projects on our own steam. We are not tying up with anybody we are bidding by ourselves," Weerasinghe said.

MIT's profits have been doubling since commencing operations in 1996. Chief Financial Officer, Dr. Anush Amarasinghe said that MIT's 1999/00 profits are between US$ 1.5 mn to US$ 2 mn. "We firmly believe our revenue streams would continue to double this year as well," he said.

There are speculations that MIT's shares are trading in the gray market at US$ 5 - US$ 6 each. "Offers have also come to buy MIT at values which will make us easily the largest Sri Lankan company in terms of our market capitalisation," Amarasinghe said. He also hinted that a 10 percent stake of the company may change hands with an international IT company in the coming weeks.

MIT has also re-structured its ESOP scheme by setting up a Trust. The three trustees include MIT's non executive chairman, Herman Zeiglaar, a senior partner of a law firm and a senior partner of an audit firm.

On the directors' recommendations, the company will issue new shares to the Trust. The Trust would then allocate shares to employees at a significant discount to the present market price. The employees can then sell their stock during MIT's proposed IPO, re-pay the company the value at which they obtained the shares and keep the remainder as profit, Amarasinghe explained. However, shares are distributed on an employee's performance. Last year, MIT privately placed their stock at US$ 3 each (24 times its P/E) and raised US$ 10 mn to finance a software development camp in Kotte. Investors have an option of converting their stock to ordinary shares at US$ 4.50 if MIT achieves its projected revenue targets this year. The placement put MIT's market capitalisation at US$ 30 mn. MIT's present market capitalisation is around US$ 50 mn.

Dreams that fetch fortunes 

Her erotic perfume tickled his senses, taking him to an exotic dream. 

Every little perfume bottle has a dream trapped in it. It is the dream that sells. And it is the dream that makes the scented liquid so popular and the dream can fetch a fortune, provided it is good.

It is the dream that makes the blend of scents stand out amongst many millions of fragrances that we come across. 

The burning of incense in religious rites of ancient China, Palestine, and Egypt led gradually to the personal use of perfume in ancient Greece and Rome. 

During the Middle Ages Crusaders brought knowledge of perfumery to Europe from the East. After 1500 Paris was the major centre of perfume making. Since the early 19-Century chemists have produced thousands of synthetic scents. In the 20 Century perfumes for men and women, mostly a blend of natural and synthetic scents, are produced by prominent fashion designers and jewelry manufactures.

In Sri Lanka, aroma applications have been mentioned from the dawn of history in the form of naturally scented and scent induced oils. However, perfumes themselves came into the picture only after the first invasion. 

Today, perfumes play a vital role in our social life. However, the market for the dream is still small, but growing fast. Sri Lankan expatriates and tourists bring most of the perfume used here. Most of them are often cheap fakes as many are not aware of the pleasures of a good dream. And the popular misconception that good perfumes are expensive and the lack of knowledge have also contributed to the low usage. 

But a few posh sales outlets that mushroomed in recent years are slowly changing the market. One of the more popular outlets, The Perfumery has become a success story, offering an array of internationally renowned brands including its most recent addition, the Boucheron collection from the French Jewelry house Boucheron. The collection boasts five breath-taking fragrances for men and women. The collection includes names such as Jaipur and Jaipur Shaphir. 

A unique feature of the perfume is its container. As the manufacturer is a jewelry house, their bottles also reflect jewelry designs. 

The head of The Perfumery, Manu Handani said that their internal selling style and their low pricing strategy were the main factors to the perfumes' success. He said the interaction provided in The Perfumery outlets let the customers select from a wide array of fragrances. He says aquatic fragrances were popular amongst Sri Lankans. Among names, he said that Hugo's BOSS was the all time favourite. 

What is the difference between Perfume, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, and Eau de Cologne?

"The differences are simply a matter of the amount or concentration of oils in the fragrance. These oils are called "juice." The highest concentration of "juice" is in perfume (or parfum). Next would be Eau de Toilette, and finally Eau de Cologne," he said.

Auditors query CDL Accounts

Despite Colombo Dockyard Ltd.'s (CDL) 1999 financial statements have been qualified by auditors its expenditure to the tune of Rs. 252 mn have been called into question, auditors KPMG Ford Rhodes Thornton & Company said.

The Sunday Times Business understands the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating the company but SEC officials declined to comment, when contacted.

"The company incurs expenditure on business promotion. In view of the limited information available with the company, consequent to the confidential nature of the transaction, we were unable to sufficiently satisfy ourselves with regard to such expenditure incurred by the company on completed contracts reflected as Business Promotional Expenses," the auditors said expressing their opinion on the financial statements. 

Business promotional expenses of Rs.115 mn had been charged in arriving at the operational profit for 1999. The auditors also said they were unable to satisfy themselves about payments made on incomplete contracts at the year end, amounting to Rs. 137.6 mn, classified as Deposits and Prepayments. "Payments were made under the delegated authority of the Board of Directors," the auditors stated.

But CDL Managing Director Dr. S.M.B. Obeysekera told The Sunday Times Business, the contents of the annual report were discussed and approved by the shareholders at the Annual General Meeting.

While auditors questioned the company's charge of Rs.115 mn Business Promotional Expenses to its profit and loss account, shareholders question whether the Inland Revenue would allow such expenses to be deducted in arriving at taxable profit. However Mr. Obeysekera said there were no tax implications as the company was on a Board Of Investment approved tax holiday.

Meanwhile CDL's turnover declined 15.25 percent to Rs.2.82 bn for the financial year 1999. Profit after tax fell 9 percent YOY to Rs. 315 mn in 1999. 

Analysts said the company had been affected by the lack of orders for new boats from the Sri Lanka Navy in 1999. The navy is CDL's primary customer in the ship building segment.

The company's major shareholders include Onomich Dockyard Company Ltd (51%), Mr. D A D S Wickramanayake, Bank of Ceylon, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Employees Provident Fund, HSBC International Nominees Ltd-Chase Manhattan Bank, Deutsche Bank AG-Bankers Trust Co. Genesis Emerging, Mr. M. M. Udeshi and National Development Bank of Sri Lanka-Mouldex LIM.

Improve domestic capital base – ADB

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has urged the government to expand the role of the domestic capital market to raise capital formation. 

Although the government had been actively pursuing financial sector reforms to mobilise capital, "the role of the domestic capital market remains modest and the development finance institutions are still the major source of long-term finance," the Manila based Bank said in a report released last week. 

DFCC Bank and National Development Bank, the two biggest development banks, currently provide the majority of long-term loans to Sri Lanka.

"To foster private sector growth in the economy, the government must develop market based financial institutions and instruments through financial sector reforms," the bank said."

The ADB said a medium-term strategy for fiscal consolidation should include eliminating distortionary taxes, improve tax administration, re-structuring public debt, expanding public sector reforms, and reducing defence and security related expenditure.

ADB together with the IMF and World Bank have previously urged the government to reduce the number of tax concessions granted to selected sectors as well as foreign investors. 

ADB said the reform agenda should include streamlining government organisations, progressively retrenching or re-deploying employees in public institutions and agencies, and ensuring that provincial councils and local governments benefit from a clear delegation of authority.

"Public administration reforms are expected not only to promote private sector development, but also reduce the fiscal deficit," it said.

In the face of modest prospects for traditional agro products and labour intensive manufacturers and increased competition from regional producers "the government must re-orient the existing production structure towards higher value added activities. To achieve this objective, human resource development is critical."

ADB commended Sri Lanka for attaining remarkable social progress during the past decades. However, the ADB says human resource development 'needs to be strengthened to provide necessary skills for the current needs of the economy'.

Major policy initiatives need to focus on building closer links between education and training and the labour markets, improving healthcare to meet the requirements of a growing aging population, and developing a social security system to help vulnerable and poor groups, ADB said.

New head for SEC

The market's watch dog which operated headless over the last couple of months has finally appointed Dr. Dayanath Jayasuriya as its Director General. 

Dr. Jayasuriya's appointment was recommended by the Securities and Exchange Commission and his appointment approved by the Minister of Finance, The Sunday Times Business learns. Dr. Jayasuriya is a doctor of philosophy and was formerly a state counsel.

Too long deteriorating external finances

Recognising a problem is the first step towards its solution.Those who stubbornly refuse to admit that there is a fundamental problem are not likely to take steps to resolve it till it reaches crisis proportions.This is as much true in business life as in personal life.It holds an equal validity in national economic policy. In fact wise leaders foresee problems and take policy measures to avert impending disasters. 

As a nation we are a complacent people, hoping for the best and lulled into complacency by any favourable feature. Some economists have interpreted Sri Lanka's modest economic growth to a sense of complacency that gripped the country when its economy was relatively well off in the first decade after independence. The large foreign exchange reserves accumulated during the war years, no defence expenditures to speak of, low level of unemployment and a small public debt,were the favourable conditions, which made us complacent. It was only when the terms of trade turned unfavourable and a foreign exchange crisis gripped us that we awoke to the need to diversify the economy by industrialising. Not having the resources at that time we clamped on controls on imports and foreign exchange, which hardly helped the situation. All that is history. But it appears we have hardly learned from our own experiences.We remain a very complacent nation even in the face of difficult situations , economic and otherwise. 

This month's Focus on the economy is indeed revealing of our external financial situation.Yet how many are really alive to the situation? What have been the policies adopted in the last year to stem the declining trend? Are we happy to note some improvement since the latter part of the year and let international forces shape our destiny? 

There have been expressions of increasing investment in Sri Lanka, particularly by the International Finance Corporation.They have announced a likely investment of over US $ 100 million in the next year or so.Tea prices are on an uptrend, some of our industrial exports are showing signs of a modest recovery, tourist earnings increased last year. Are these favourable developments likely to lull us into inaction? 

There are unfavourable signs too.The Maha paddy crop is estimated to be low, tea production appears to be declining this year, the share market has collapsed, tourist arrivals are falling and the likelihood of foreign investments materialising is very much dependent on the domestic investment climate improving and local entrepreneurs making substantial investments themselves. 

We cannot be happy about the current economic situation.We certainly cannot be complacent about it. There is a need to respond to the international challenges facing us by gearing our domestic policies to enhance our international competitiveness. 

Business and human rights 

By S.S. Wijeratne 
An interesting report titled "National Economic Value of the Business Sector in Sri Lanka", which was published recently by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, highlights that the private sector - both formal and informal - accounts for 78% of the national prodution in the Sri Lankan economy while the government sector contributed only 22%.

The formal corporate sector directly contributed 40% of the government revenue in 1998. The employment share of the private sector in 1997 consisted of 76.4% of the labour force as against 23.6% of the public sector.

These figures clearly establish that the present Sri Lankan economy is a fully fledged private sector driven economy in contrast to the state driven economy of the first three decades after independence. The role and responsibility of the business sector towards social development should accompany this exponential growth in economic power. Sustainable development, with due consideration to environment, ecology and human rights is no longer the monopoly of governments but an important adjunct to private sector driven economic growth.

The social responsibility of the business sector assumes even more significance, to use the current international mantra, in the globalized world. The transnational corporate giants - three of whom are reported by the UN to be richer than all the least developed countries in the world - straddle the globe with indistinct fixed abodes. Consequently, it is difficult to monitor their national social responsibility.

1n contrast, the national corporate behemoths, that are often the local arms of the transnationals who generate profits within national boundaries, have a more direct responsibility towards social and human rights issues than ever before. The mission statement of business written in 1970 by Milton Friedman that "the one and only social responsibility of business is to increase its profits" is still considered valid but inadequate. Business, as could be seen from the Chamber report is the fountainhead of jobs, taxes and the engine of growth in Sri Lanka. Business cannot continue to prosper by remaining indifferent to environmental degradation, ecological disasters and human rights issues in the surrounding community.

'The global business leaders have already articulated the need for change. George Soros had cautioned that "the doctrine of Laissez-faire capitalism holds that the common good is best served by the uninhibited pursuit of self-interest. Unless it is tempered by the recognition of common interest.... Is liable to break down". The chief Executive of BP Amoco speaking in 1998 stated "we (business) are part of society and have some responsibility to contribute to its positive development. That covers such issues such as human rights."

The mission statements of many transnationals now reflect this change in attitude towards corporate responsibility for human rights. The classical market fundamentalist dictum was, if business looks after profits and generate employment, the social rest, like equal opportunities and respect for human rights would automatically follow. This dictum is already revised by many transnationals like Levi Strauss, Reebok, The Body Shop, Royal Dutch Shell, Nokia, Statoil, and British Telecom who have adopted corporate codes incorporating human rights principles. The mission statements of many of these giant firms openly support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thus, Royal Dutch Shell in their social mission statement in1998 uneqivocally stated that the company will "engage in discussion on human rights issues when making business decisions".

Rethinking capitalism 
Communism ideally had a vision of equality but collapsed, as it did not have a mechanism to deliver on its ideals. The totalitarian disregard for individual human rights made the system oppressive and unbearable. Capitalism triumphed with a proven mechanism of effective delivery, but sadly lacked a vision of equality or sense of purpose other than to make more and more profits.

It is in this context, that the new gurus of capitalism have grafted human rights, environmental and ecological responsibility to the good governance codes of the business houses during the past five or six years. If the business houses, who sit at the top of the commanding heights of the economy, remain aloof without being pro-active on human rights issues, they are bound to go down on the same road as Communism but this time for different reasons. Engaging in the human rights discourse is therefore a competitive survival strategy.

The face of business has changed radically during the past few years. The biggest business today is intellectual business. Agriculture and industry plays a secondary role but is radically transformed by the infusion of intellectual capital. Biotechnology and robotics are already having a profound influence on the traditional sources of growth and wealth. The knowledge based industries including IT depend on the intellectual and skill potential of the human beings. It is true that for some time the corporate leaders were emphasizing that people were their best assets, not machinery, land or money. If human intellectual capital is the primary asset, the corporate responsibility to promote the rights of the humans should become the integral philosophy of business leaders.

Good corporate governance and good business are synonymous. Good corporate governance includes sustainable business and respect for universally adopted principles of justice, human equality and transparency. Neither the governments nor the corporate giants can shy away from the responsibility for human values. The development of information technology closed the era when government and corporate sins were hidden under the rug. The civil society organizations and the media keep eternal vigil on the surreptitious deviations of both business and government from international standards. The Eppawela phosphate debate is a good example.

Think globally act locally
During the past few years the business leadership in Sri Lanka had evinced hitherto unseen interest in community related issues. Traditionally, the business houses have been selectively philanthropic and mostly supported glamorous sports promotion projects, which had inherent advertising value for their products. The larger issues of the environment, ecology and human rights received only minimal attention. There were reasons for this aloofness. Firstly, environmental and human rights issues were not in the main agenda of business until recently. There were no international advocacy groups who campaigned to include human rights and environment issues in the codes of business conduct. Secondly, it was the responsibility of governments to protect and promote these rights. Only the governments could make and enforce laws in accordance with international humanitarian laws. Thirdly, the business sector was excluded from getting directly involved in socio-political actions. They were at best expected to be only financial contributors to political campaigns.

The situation is fast changing. The Chambers of Commerce and Industry are increasingly involved in training and development of human resources and initiating research projects. The leading business houses of Sri Lanka fund the Business Development Centre and the Institute for the Development of Commercial Law Practice (ICLP). ICLP Arbitration Centre promotes international commercial arbitration in Sri Lanka. The business sector is yet to get directly involved in expanding the programs in the Universities by establishing endowment chairs like in the developed countries. However, the majority of the 240 information technology institutions are set up by the private sector on a profit-making basis.

The business community's initiative to launch a bi-partisan approach to national issues has succeeded even though it is too premature to predict the outcome of the government-opposition talks. The business community should not withdraw to the background now that the political rivals are talking. They should assemble resource groups and technical expertise necessary in the conflict resolution process. They should prod the parties if they are to slacken in their consensual approach.

The private sector involvement in supporting human and environment rights institutions and organizations is grossly inadequate when considering the importance of the business sector in the country today. The non-governmental organizations concerned with important subjects of child protection, elders' rights, environmental protection, eco-tourism or poverty alleviation mostly depend on contributions from foreign funding sources. They are often maligned for this. 

There is intrinsically nothing wrong in receiving foreign funding by the NGOs or international assistance by the government. Sri Lanka is still a poor country despite its laudable human development credentials. But increased interest and support from the national business houses in civil society issues would give these organizations a different national dimension and a wider credibility. The business community, the present economic leaders, would also be discharging their social responsibility. The Sri Lankan business houses should also formulate mission statements incorporating their commitment to the principles of equal opportunity, universal declaration of human rights, ecological preservation and environmental protection. 

They should adopt social auditing of their performance in relation to social responsibility. The Body Shop, a pioneer in adopting social auditing has included in their mission statement, one of the strongest corporate statements on human rights, which is worthy of emulation. The Body Shop states "Raising awareness of human rights at every level will empower individuals and communities. We aim to educate ourselves on human rights issues and to use our influence and our trading relationships to promote respect for human rights. We will campaign passionately for human rights where we believe our involvement contributes to positive change."

The writer is the former Senior Legal Counsel, UNHCR, Geneva and presently the Secretary General of lCLP Arbitration Centre and Committee Member of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
Focus on the Economy {tc "Focus on the Economy "}

Reserves, trade gap, currency drops

Years External Trade deficit BOP deficit Exchange Rate Assets on Current 

US$Million Account

1994 2874 -1559 -860 49.42 1995 2902 -1505 -786 51.25 1996 2717 -1334 -677 55.27 1997 3132 -1225 -393 58.99 1998 2907 -1157 -289 64.59 1999* 2582 -1294 -778 70.08 

Source: Central Bank of Sri Lanka *provisional data 

By Nimal Sanderatne
Ostensibly there is an upturn in our external position.Exports and tourist earnings are increasing.

We are told that substantial foreign investments are likely to flow in soon.All these,if they are correct or if they materialize should be a boon to the economy.

Yet the statistical picture we have of the recent past,and even the current situation,gives us little reason to feel comfortable about our external trade and balance of payments situation.Let's have a hard look at the facts. 

Our export earnings in the first two months of this year increased by 14 per cent,compared to the first two months of last year.Both industrial and agricultural exports have increased by around the same extent.

An increase of 14 per cent would normally be considered a good performance.Yet this is not so.The comparison is misleading.The first two months of last year witnessed a very poor export performance.Therefore the growth in exports,compared to those two months is at best a catching up of lost ground. 

This is clear if we consider the absolute figures.In the first two months,export earnings were US$ 758.6 million.If our exports continue at this level our total export earnings for the year would be about US$ 4552 million.

This is less than our export earnings in either 1997 or 1998.

Therefore a continued improvement is needed in our export performance to register a meaningful growth of export earnings.We hope the improved export performance is a sign of such an improvement. 

Industrial exports appear to be regaining some of their lost competitive edge.Both garment and other industrial exports are regaining lost ground.

Tea prices are showing promise and indications are that there would be an improvement in tea prices owing to a reduction in global tea production.

However, a danger sign has appeared with the fall in tea production in the first few months.Tea production was about 8 per cent lower in January this year compared to January 1999.

Indications are that the first quarter's tea production would be lower than that of the same period last year.If production falls this year, when prices are likely to be good,then the price advantage would be lost on us. 

If our trade performance would at least come up to the levels of 1998 it would be a relief to our trade balance and balance of payments. 

Increased export volumes of manufactures and improved prices of tea would be necessary to achieve this. 

If we look at the export earnings of the last three years we do not see a vibrant growth.In fact in the last few years there has been no growth in exports,unlike in the previous years.In 1997,our exports earned US$ 4639 million,it increased somewhat to US$ 4735 million in 1998 and declined to US$ 4600 million last year.

No doubt international factors, over which we had little control, were mostly responsible for this state of affairs.The question to ask is whether we have responded to these adequately and whether we are in a position to take advantage of the current global economic recovery? 

Tourist arrivals and earnings increased last year.The country is estimated to have earned US$ 263 million.This is about 15 per cent more than what we earned in 1998.Yet if one looks at the last five years, there has not been any significant gain.

The hard fact is that our tourist earnings in 1998 was the same as in 1995. In both these years we earned US$ 230 million. We can only hope that the increased earnings are indicative of an upward trend. Unfortunately this may not be so.Tourist earnings in the first two months of this year show a decline. 

Our trade balance has shown a continuous series of deficits for the last two decades.

Recent trade deficits have been between US$ 1157 to 1559 million.[see table] Despite the reduced exports, the trade deficit was contained somewhat last year owing to lower import prices especially of consumer goods and reduced imports of raw materials and capital imports. 

Yet it was a high US$ 1294 million.The reductions in imports last year reflected the lower level of economic activity and expectations. 

Our external reserves are the most discouraging.The decline in external assets reflects very clearly the poor performance in our trade and balance of payments. 

Balance of payments deficits on current account have been between US$ 289 and 860 million. In 1999 it is estimated to reach around US$ 778 million. 

Consequently the country's foreign assets have declined from US$ 3132 million in 1997 to US$ 2582 million at the end of 1999 and has dropped further to 2540 million at the end of January 2000, a decline of 19 per cent compared to the position an year ago. In fact this is the lowest level of reserves since 1994.[see table]. 

The weaknesses of the economy and its manifestation in our external trade performance has led to a significant depreciation of the Sri Lankan Rupee.

Between 1994 and April 14 2000 the rupee has depreciated by as much as 49 per cent in terms of the US dollar. 

In such a gloomy picture of our external finances,one bright spark remains.

That is our external debt service ratio. While the absolute foreign debt has risen from US$ 8298 million in 1994,to a little over US$ 9000 million,the debt service ratio has remained around 11 percent,a very manageable proportion of our export earnings. 

It is agreed that Sri Lanka faced the Asian Crisis without too much adversity owing to certain special conditions.

That was in 1998. Did the fact that the Sri Lankan economy did not face the full brunt of the repercussions of the crisis lull us into a complacency and an inadequate response to the emerging conditions? Were we inadequately adjusted then to face the competitive situation that arose at the end of 1998 and continued till the latter part of 1999? In fact are we now prepared to face the international market place with other Asian countries having adjusted their economies and strengthened their competitiveness? 

If the economic recovery we are witnessing currently does not gain in momentum as the months roll by, the country's economic growth could be very inadequate to solve the problems we face as well as to continue to wage an expensive war. 

It must also be emphasised that the external downturn of recent years is a reflection of a weakening domestic economy too. 
Biz Broadsides by Rajpal A{tc "Biz Broadsides by Rajpal A"}

Do you have another word for shock therapy? 

Euphemism. Webster's defines the term as "the use of a milder word in place of a plainer but possibly offensive one.''

A globalised neo-liberal economic system exists on euphemisms. The Sunday Island of 23.4.2000 gives a good example of how the IMF stubbornly held onto certain policies of neo liberalization, that made nations such as Thailand and Russia collapse headlong into poverty in the recent past. Such policies were called shock-therapy.

Shock therapy! It was one of the boldest replacement words ever invented in history. In "shock-therapy'', which envisaged large scale privatization of public enterprises and the creation of a new elite economic oligarchy, there was one distinct attribute. Which is that there was more shock than therapy.

Globalization, I say, is the most subtle yet all- encompassing euphemism of all time. More about that later, but as a preliminary, its interesting to recall a TNL "Janahanda'' debate that was aired last week. In this confrontation. Professor Tissa Vitahrana and Ven Kamburugamuwe Vajira, were pitted against the duo of Nalin De Silva and Ven Bengamuwe Nalaka, and the dialogue was about the impending negotiations with the LTTE. But, when Nalin De Silva said at the outset that Norway's participation in the process of talks is all part of the global search for "hegemony by the capitalist club'', the debate for a while digressed into economics and globalization.

Prof Vitharana true to his leftist origins, agreed with Nalin De Silva that there is economic exploitation of the poorer nations, but proved that his grasp of neo liberal tendencies stops right there. Globalization, he asserted, was "a positive tendency wherein technology was making all nations participants in a profitable global system.'' Nalin de Silva's plain retort was that this was an extremely "bolanda kathawa.'' ( childish talk.)

So, Vitharana it seems was sold on the greatest euphemism of these times - -globalization, another word for the much plainer but offensive "global exploitation.''. 

When shock therapy was administered by the IMF on most developing economic systems, the advise was that there will be some regrettable outcomes in the process to stabilization . Stabilization? Another euphemism in itself, but it was suggested by the IMF and cohorts that a "social safety net'' was essential to catch people who were falling off the stabilizing economy! (Economies were supposed to "stabilize slowly after the shock therapy was administered.)

The concept of the "safety net'' gathered even more euphemisms onto itself. These were terms such as "selectivity'' and "targeting'' for example. All that this gobbledygook meant really was that a lot of people were going to get poorer, but that there was nothing that could be done a bout it, because that's the way the IMF and the World Bank wanted things. 

The manthra was that public spending was to be reduced because of the fact that it would otherwise "crowd out'' private investment, which means the bible of shock therapy was being impeded. Count another euphemism. 

But, with such euphemisms, and worse ones, people's heads were being captured, and these included some intelligent heads such as those of Tissa Vitharana, and other local economists for example. Apparently, some VVIP local economists have been saying that privatization should be carried out — and damn the consequences. These people reflect the tendency for some among us to be whiter than white— to carry out IMF policies with a vengeance that is even more ruthless that that of the IMF itself. 

Now, we hear vague sounds of more euphemisms such a economic democracy'' "investing in social capital'', which are all terms for guess what? Guess well, and you'll soon find out....


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