ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 20
Financial Times

Insanity of the private sector!

Last week’s headline of this column that read “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, was a quotation of Albert Einstein (1879-1955), the German born American Physicist, who developed the special and general theories of relativity and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 and was named by the Time Magazine as the Personality of the Twentieth Century.

Tea is our largest net value added export, where the game is yet played mostly unchanged on the same pitch. The failure to move away from tea as a commodity export to a lifestyle related product is evident.

The Star Bucks experience with coffee as a lifestyle product of high value has not sufficiently motivated the tea trading giants to try and position tea in a similar niche. This is despite the now acknowledged medicinal and therapeutic value of tea and the great traditions of tea drinking, coming from the colonial times and Asian and African ceremonial forms of consumption.

The tea industry has also failed to seek potential new opportunities in Asia, Middle East and even Russia. The high value spenders, leisure and new experience seeking tourists, newly developing retail markets in fast growing economies with a significant middle class, malls and shopping centres - now a playground for experience seekers and medicinal and the therapeutic added value seeking segments have been largely ignored. Promoting tea in association with sports, making teas more palatable to different markets by flavours and herbs that are acceptable to consumer pallets and promoting tea as a before and after a meal drink, key to good health, relaxation and companionship are yet to see an explosion in line with the potential.

Tourism is mostly yet a price-based cutthroat competition business intermediated through travel agents, positioning cheap holidays and sun and sand offers. Web marketing, seeking the high spending top end as well as new entrants like gap year students, mid career “gapers”, adventure and life style experience seeking travellers, women travellers, responsible and eco tourism related travellers have not yet been fully exploited.

Even when in our shores, we have failed to position and effectively market added value offers to visit interesting and unexplored areas, position local products and cuisine related experiences and local community interactive relationship derived experiences, leaving all these to the inexperienced and relatively untrained guides.

The sector with the highest inward remittances is yet playing the same old game of sending maids and unskilled men and women to Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean, along with those taking boat rides to be smuggled in Europe. Skilled workers and professionals are yet not a focus. Still more disheartening is that the alternatives of “care services – care of the body, mind and lifestyles” and the “Buddhism and meditation as a philosophy and practice of much value to affluent societies” both ideas developed during the time the former guru of tourism was engaged with the Chamber movement-remains in limbo along with the great new ideas of value addition through “economic diplomacy” developed during the same time.

Teaching and training new skills that are in demand in foreign employment and local services sector like IT, nursing and care of the elderly, skilled construction related workers and professionals like quantity surveyors, cartographers etc have been largely ignored. The communications infrastructure along with trained and qualified personnel with the required mindset and attitudes to fully exploit opportunities in Business Processing Outsourcing is not in place.

Branding Sri Lanka and brand marketing of Sri Lankan products are also in its infancy and attempted only by a brave few.

Despite the failure of codes of ethics and conduct, accounting and other standards and private sector charters, there is no action against the errant members of the professions and business.

No one is ready to practice social exclusion, social isolation though it is well known through research that in a country like Sri Lanka that these practices are more effective than policing, rules and regulations. Poison pen letters in wide circulation nor “exposes” in newspapers and magazines doesn’t work anymore in our society, especially the business circles, where the wrong doers and non compliant members hobnob and party with others with lofty ideals as if nothing has ever happened.

“In the twenty – first century, new ethical dimensions will soon be upon us, to join the familiar ones. The familiar ethical dimensions include ignorance, poverty, genocide, weapons of mass destruction, an exploding population, energy sources, environmental degradation, extinction of spices and languages.

The newer ones may include enhancing our evolution by rearranging our genes or implanting micro chips in our cerebral cortex. If we go there, we had better know what we are enhancing ourselves to. Is there a goal? ” writes Dwight E Neuenschwander in an article titled “Taking Einstein’s Ethics in to the 21st Century: Remember Your Humanity” a lesson and a caution for our private sector hopefully now trying to play a changed game.

Top to the page

Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.