Which College Degrees Get the Highest Salaries?

Which College Degrees Get the Highest Salaries?

Which College Degrees Get the Highest Salaries?

Which College Degrees Get the Highest Salaries?

If you’re a college graduate, you likely went to school to pursue an important passion of yours.

But as we all know, what we major in has consequences that extend far beyond the foundation of knowledge we build in our early years. Any program we choose to enroll in also sets up a track to meet future friends, career opportunities, and connections.

Even further, the college degree you choose will partially dictate your future earning potential – especially in the first decade after school. If jobs in your field are in high demand, it can even set you up for long-term financial success, enabling you to pay off costly student loans and build up savings potential.

Data Backgrounder

Today’s chart comes to us from Reddit user /r/SportsAnalyticsGuy, and it’s based on PayScale’s year-long survey of 1.2 million users that graduated only with a bachelor degree in the United States. You can access the full set of data here.

The data covers two different salary categories:

Starting median salary: The median of what people were earning after they graduated with their degree.

Mid-career Percentiles: Salary data from 10 years after graduation, sorted by percentile (10th, 25th, Median, 75th, and 90th)

In other words, the starting median salary represents what people started making after they graduated, and the rest of the chart depicts the range that people were making 10 years after they got their degree. Lower earners (10th percentile) are the lower bound, and higher earners (90th) are the upper bound.

College Degrees, by Salary

What college majors win out?

Here’s all 50 majors from the data set, sorted by mid-career median salary (10 years in):

Based on this data, there are a few interesting things to point out.

The top earning specialization out of college is for Physician Assistants, with a median starting salary of $74,300. The downside of this degree is that earning potential levels out quickly, only showing a 23.4% increase in earning power 10 years in.

In contrast, the biggest increases in earning power go to Math, Philosophy, Economics, Marketing, Physics, Political Science, and International Relations majors. All these degrees see a 90% or higher increase from median starting salary to median mid-career salary.

In absolute terms, the majors that saw the highest median mid-career salaries were all along the engineering spectrum: chemical engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and aerospace engineering all came in above $100,000. They also generally had very high starting salaries.

As a final note, it’s important to recognize that this data does not necessarily correlate to today’s degrees or job market. The data set is based on people that graduated at least a decade ago – and therefore, it does not necessarily represent what grads may experience as they are starting their careers today.

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Image: on 20th May heavily armed Sri Lanka military patrolled outside TNPF office for the 3rd straight day, tweeted @TnpfOrg.
Sri Lanka Brief25/05/2020
In a series of tweets Tamil National People’s Front has reported continuing police harassment by the police against people, party members, and lawyers who appeared on behalf of the TNPF to argue against the quarantining of 11 party leaders and organizers by the police.

Tamil National People’s Front@TnpfOrg
On Monday, at around 7 pm, 8 farmers walking on the street in Chempiyanpattu, Vadamaraachchi were beaten with wires and poles by Navy personnel and men dressed in civvies.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
See Tamil National People’s Front’s other Tweets

Tamil National People’s Front@TnpfOrg
On Monday, at around 7 pm, 8 farmers walking on the street in Chempiyanpattu, Vadamaraachchi were beaten with wires and poles by Navy personnel and men dressed in civvies.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Tamil National People’s Front@TnpfOrg
Three Tamil men travelling in a three wheeler in Urumpirai last night were stopped by the Army for not wearing masks properly. After allowing them to proceed Army personnel chased them down, stopped them and beat the men.
See Tamil National People’s Front’s other Tweets

Tamil National People’s Front@TnpfOrg
Three Tamil men travelling in a three wheeler in Urumpirai last night were stopped by the Army for not wearing masks properly. After allowing them to proceed Army personnel chased them down, stopped them and beat the men.

Tamil National People’s Front@TnpfOrg
They were handed over to Koppay police with the Army alleging the men attacked Army personnel. The 3 men were arrested and produced in court for obstructing duties of the Army. They were ordered by Jaffna Magistrates Court to be remanded till Tuesday.
See Tamil National People’s Front’s other Tweets

Tamil National People’s Front@TnpfOrg
House of Roy Dilaksan—lawyer who appeared on behalf of the TNPF to argue against the qurantining of 11 party leaders and organizers of —was attacked by unknown persons. Another lawyer was threatened recently.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Tamil National People’s Front@TnpfOrg
The gates, motorcycle, and doors were slashed with swords by unknown men who entered the premises on Friday night. A junior lawyer related to the case was also threatened by Army in Jaffna town this week. Around 20 Tamil lawyers appeared on behalf of the party in this case.
See Tamil National People’s Front’s other Tweets

Tamil National People’s Front@TnpfOrg
Officers of the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) visited the home of our Visuwamadu coordinator, Yogan, this week and questioned him on last year’s Maaveerar Naal commemorations

Tamil National People’s Front@TnpfOrg
House of Roy Dilaksan—lawyer who appeared on behalf of the TNPF to argue against the qurantining of 11 party leaders and organizers of —was attacked by unknown persons. Another lawyer was threatened recently.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
See Tamil National People’s Front’s other Tweets
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Maligawatte Tragedy; Indicators Of A Systemic Failure

Maligawatte Tragedy; Indicators Of A Systemic Failure

logoCondemned to poverty by birth and condemned to death by destiny. This is the long and short tale of the three women who fell victim to a human stampede. They were part of the sudden surge of people who rushed to receive the give-away by a charity minded person. Their quest was not for self-aggrandisement or extravagance but to seek temporary relief from damned poverty. Several others also had been injured in this incident which was reported to have taken place on 21st May 2020, in Maligawatte, a locality with a high population density, in the District of Colombo.
The timing and the manner in which this charity hand out had been organized is a matter for the law enforcement authorities to pursue. This column is aimed only at examining the causal background for this disaster. The stampede being the proximate cause.
‘Forcible’ Confinement
In political philosophy, there is this hypothesis called, the social contract. Historically, a compact between the ruled and their ruler, defining the rights and duties of each – in today’s terms the government and the citizens. The latter voluntarily trading obedience and, to some extent their freedom, in return for being taken care by the State.  
The social contract idea has jurisprudential implications wherein the concept of rights and the limitations that may be legitimately placed on them assume relevance. An interesting analysis can be made in this context vis a vis the continuing state of lockdown. The confinement of a people against their wishes and the consequential fallout socially, economically, mentally and the general wellbeing. Of course, no one discounts the fact that it is of utmost importance to take appropriate measures to wipe out the pandemic. 
Successive Government Failure
Apparently, an evaluation of the micro-economic resilience of the people when under lockdown has not taken place especially, of those who are self-employed, daily wage earners etc. The action plan of the Authorities should have considered the economic vulnerability of such people and, those bordering on destitution? Proper planning would have addressed the issue of how they were going to cope, self-organise and adapt to this new situation?
As is seen in many other countries, we too have a State system which is welfare based. Therefore, as a responsible government it should ensure proper health, education, employment and most importantly, the social security of its citizens. Special focus has to be given to the citizenry who are unable to avail themselves of the minimal provision for a decent life. Again, an opportunity for a critical analysis of the impact of the lockdown on the meaningful functioning of a welfare state.
What is Social security? One description is “any government system that provides monetary assistance to people with an inadequate or no income”. If adequate monetary assistance had been provided during the lockdown, people would not have suffered financial constraints. Moreover, they would not have gone to receive the tuppence that was given as charity? 
Sri Lanka embraced the welfare state concept way before independence providing food subsidies, free rice, free education, and free healthcare to all. Due to inefficiency and persistent corrupt practices an effective system failed to take root. This systemic failure is not the responsibility of this government alone but of all previous governments too.
Truth About Maligawatte
To properly understand the Maligawatte incident it has to be seen in this background. It will be an understatement of the truth and an undermining of intelligence to superficially examine this event from an ethnic angle or only as violation of curfew laws or as irresponsible behaviour at a time of pandemic.
The problem of not providing the citizens their basic necessities for a reasonable living knocks hard on the door of this failure. Let’s defer for the moment the other areas of health, education, transport, infrastructure etc. for which it is responsible. The public is reasonable in asking, to what extent has the responsibility of the State been discharged?
Moral Conflict
Which reigns supreme, necessity or the law? Consider the priority of a person whose stomach is burning in hunger or the grief-stricken mother who gives the teat instead of food to satisfy hunger of her crying baby because there is no baby food. Would not they say, “damn the exalted law?” Where does one strike the equilibrium in this moral conflict? Consider the humanitarian issues faced by the people who are deprived of their living under locked down. Unable to venture out for work to earn their daily bread to feed themselves and their families. This condition has been continuing for nearly two months.
They ask, “what do you expect us to do?  Are we to die at home along with the family or look for whatever possibilities that will satisfy our hunger?” How will the mother whose breasts are dried of milk because of lack of food, breastfeed the crying infant? What does one expect from that mother other than finding some means to feed herself and the infant? If Covid 19 may kill, hunger certainly kills. Of what concern is the law for those in this predicament. How reasonable is it to stringently enforce the laws on such people without adequately providing for them? To hell with social contract and welfare state, the sufferers would say.
Financial Pressure
The local grocer has ceased giving groceries because the outstanding had not been settled for over a month. The loan shark is demanding his interest for the loan taken for consumption. The landlord is abusing the tenant for non-payment of the house rent. The sick is struggling to buy his compulsory medications. The fear of the accumulated water and electricity bills. What does one expect these people to do?
Studies have found that financial-related stress can increase anxiety, depression and physical issues such as headaches, backaches, ulcers, increased blood pressure and more. 
Is it not reasonable for a person who is shackled by poverty, burdened by responsibilities and deprived of livelihood because of the lockdown to rush at anything that will relieve him? It would be like seeing a flicker of light when in absolute darkness. The public questions if the responsibility of this calamity falls squarely on the government for its failure to holistically address the issues attendant to a lockdown.

Read More

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Continuing need to keep independent commissions independent

Continuing need to keep independent commissions independent

by Jehan Perera-May 25, 2020, 8:30 pm

The direction of Sri Lanka’s democratic process hangs in the balance. As many as seven cases with regard to the general elections and the presidential decree dissolving parliament are pending before the Supreme Court. The outcome of the judicial decision may decide whether Sri Lanka will continue to be governed by the president and caretaker cabinet until the general elections actually take place to bring in a new parliament. The Constitution has set a three-month limit on such an arrangement sans a parliament.

Elections, at which the people’s representatives are elected, is the lifeblood of democracy. The Sri Lankan voters look forward to elections at which they can vote for those they believe will deliver the best results to them and to the country. The limit placed on a country functioning without a legislature is that experience down the ages has shown that there needs to be a system of checks and balances if democracy and freedoms are to survive.

The position taken by the Election Commission at the ongoing judicial hearings in the Supreme Court has been that elections cannot be held on June 20, which was the date set by the Election Commission itself. This would be the second time that the Election Commission has balked at conducting the elections on the date that has been set. The first occasion was when the date for the elections was set for April 25 by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa when he dissolved parliament on March 2 with the power vested with him by the 19th Amendment to the constitution.


Under ordinary circumstances, the postponement of general elections would be viewed most unfavorably by the general population. However, on this occasion, most people appear to be taking a more nuanced approach. They wish to elect a parliament that represents their best interests at the present time. But they also see justifiable reasons to postpone the general elections for reasons of public health in the context of the increasing Coronavirus infections. The problem is that the continuing postponement of general elections has given rise to a constitutional issue that is now before the Supreme Court.

If the general election had taken place on the date of April 25 set by the president the issue of the new parliament not being summoned within three months of the dissolution of the old parliament would not have arisen. However, two factors intervened to put the onus on the Election Commission with regard to conducting the election on the due date. The first was the rise in coronavirus infections that could potentially have wreaked havoc in the country as it has in other far more developed, countries whose political leaders did not act with promptness to lockdown their countries. The second reason is that the Election Commission’s appeal to the president to refer the matter at an early stage to the Supreme Court for a judicial decision was turned down.

In these fraught circumstances, the Election Commission had no choice but to take action on its own, unguided by the collective wisdom of the Supreme Court. It has deemed both April 25 and now June 20 to be unsuitable due to health related concerns associated with the coronavirus spread. However, the Election Commission’s conclusion that the health situation in the country does not permit elections to be held at an early date, such as June 20, has been contested by the Director of Health Services, Dr Anil Jasinghe. The government’s Health Director has become a prominent public personality on account of giving regular updates on the prevailing health situation to a general population waiting anxiously for further edification.


The information is readily available that the number of daily new infections has been ranging in recent weeks from between 10 to 20 per day. But sometimes it may be more even exceeding 50 this past Sunday even though the country was put on a 48-hour curfew in all parts of the country. It has been reported that about a fortnight ago the Election Commission had consulted health experts, election staff from both head office and the districts, and civil society monitors about the possibility of holding early elections. The difficulty of holding early elections due to the continuing curfews, restrictions on travel between districts and spread of the infection loomed large at those discussions.

It appears that the position taken by the Election Commission with regard to its inability to conduct the general election on the scheduled day of June 20 has been received negatively by the government. The government position is that elections should be held as early as possible. The Election Commission is being subjected to criticism by government supporters. It has been accused of anti-government bias on account of it even objecting to the Rs 5000 payment being made by the government to marginalized and poor families to help them tide over the prolonged lockdown.

However, the attempt being made to portray the commissioners as being biased against the government is not fair. What the Election Commission objected to was not the grant of the Rs 5000 at all, but the politicization of this grant. The election law states that once elections are declared that it is incumbent on the Election Commission to ensure that state resources are not utilized for political purposes. There was evidence that some of the ruling party politicians were attending the events at which this money was being given and claiming that it was due to their intervention that the people were receiving it.


The ability of the Election Commission to make decisions that can be displeasing to those in power is that it is empowered by special protection available to it by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. This constitutional provision gives protection to the three-member Election Commission. They are appointed by, and accountable to, the Constitutional Council, which is a ten-member multi-party body, including three civil society members. The commission members are therefore protected from the danger of being summarily dismissed or transferred if they displease those in power.

Unlike members of the Election Commission, members of the public service are one step removed from the protection afforded to members of the independent commissions, such as the Elections Commission, Human Rights Commission and Public Service Commission. This may account for the difference in position with regard to the health consequences of early elections taken by the Elections Commission and the Director of Health Services. The latter would invariably be more exposed and vulnerable to political pressure.

In a time of crisis there is a tendency for governments worldwide to demand more power to act quickly and even to bypass systems of checks and balances. In this context, it is important to continue to seek the strengthening of independent decision making bodies whose selection has been through an inclusive process. In Sri Lanka the key institutions that require such support are the independent commissions appointed under the 19th Amendment.

UNP cleansed of those ‘against Buddhism and only for minorities’ – Ravi Karunayake

25 May 2020

Sri Lanka’s former finance minister and senior United National Party (UNP) leader Ravi Karunayake said his party had now been cleansed of those who had been “speaking against Buddhism… and standing up only for the minorities” in a press conference this morning.
“The UNP is now completely clean of any allegations of speaking against Buddhism, of speaking for extremists and of standing up only for the minorities,” Karunanayake told reporters.
His comments come after Sajith Premadasa, leader of the UNP, said the party will have a new “vision and outlook” and pledged to “give the top most priority to the security of the Sinhala Buddhist motherland” in the wake of a presidential election loss last year.
“The UNP is an old party that was created by D S Senanayake, Dudely Senanayake and J R Jayawardene,” added Karunanayake. “It is our inheritance to protect. If [party leader] Ranil Wickremesinghe had not been lenient with the dissenters and controlled the party with a tight fist, those problems would not have arisen.”
The UNP suspended parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake earlier this year for statements “made against Buddhism and Buddhist monks”.
Though the UNP lost presidential elections in November to Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), both parties campaigned on staunchly Sinhala Buddhist platforms, vowing not to prosecute Sri Lankan troops accused of war crimes and extensively paying deference to senior Buddhist clergy.
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COVID-19 fallout: Support agriculture but not on old lines

COVID-19 fallout: Support agriculture but not on old lines

This is not the first time the Central Bank has spoken aloud on the need for introducing new technology to the country’s agriculture. Practically, in every annual report it has

produced in the last two decades, the bank has emphasised on the need for improving agricultural productivity through new innovative practices – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara

The Central Bank guiding on technology in agriculture

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The Central Bank in its Annual Report for 2019 has published a box article on why and how Sri Lanka’s agriculture should adopt new technology (pp 60-2). This is its informed response to the popular public opinion now pretty much in vogue in the country.

That public opinion seeks to establish that Sri Lanka is an agriculture-based country from time immemorial, it should go back to its roots and re-establish agriculture, especially the paddy farming and other food crops, as the country’s main growth driver and wealth creator. This has become the catchword after the country was locked down to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and internal marketing system that had worked well up to that time had got virtually disrupted.

Because of the logistical problems faced by other food exporting countries, the import stream of agricultural products too had been reduced to nothing. There was panic buying of food items by almost everyone in fear of an oncoming grave food shortage. This is understandable because without foods, no one can survive.

Capitalising on these fears, the anti-trade lobby that included some mainstream economists as well got itself worked up and succeeded in penetrating the chief policy making body of the government to get its view carried by them.

Protecting agriculture

That took the form of imposing restrictions on the importation of food items in the guise of protecting the farmers, on one side, and developing a domestic agricultural sector, on the other. The buzzword was that Sri Lanka should not import anything that it could produce here locally.

Now, this has been elevated to a mass drive in which everyone is having a home garden in the backyard to make the family self-sufficient in food items and re-cultivating abandoned paddy fields in urban areas to assure food security to Sri Lankan people. These are laudable goals and no one can have objections to them. But if it is done on old lines, its ability to rescue the country as planned is limited. That may be the reason for the Central Bank to talk about the need for introducing new technology to develop the country’s agriculture on modern lines.

Central Bank has cautioned the Government in the past too

However, this is not the first time the Central Bank has spoken aloud on the need for introducing new technology to the country’s agriculture. Practically, in every annual report it has produced in the last two decades, the bank has emphasised on the need for improving agricultural productivity through new innovative practices.

For instance, the Annual Report for 2000, while recognising the need for protecting farmers, had warned the government that it should not be done through high import duties or their ad hoc changes. Pursuing such a policy would result only in hiding the inefficiency in the sector and burdening the consumers.

Instead, a consistent and predictable policy environment had been suggested by the bank. Such a system, while generating an efficient resource allocation, would encourage all those who are involved in the long supply chain in agriculture to come up with a long-term sustainable agricultural development strategy. This supply chain includes, according to the Central Bank, not only the farmers but also all the input suppliers, lenders, traders, stockholders, millers, and finally industrialists who would use agri-products as industry inputs (p 36).

What the Central Bank had implied had been that removal of any of these key players would result in permanently damaging the agri-ecology of the country. And that is what we have done in the past by demonising, especially, input suppliers or paddy millers through malicious propaganda. And those propaganda have forced them to spend time and use their money to defend themselves rather than for coming up with suitable strategies.

Low productivity in agriculture

The box article in the latest Annual Report has tried to tackle the problem of low productivity in agriculture through the adoption of innovative technologies.

Sri Lanka had been an active player of the Green Revolution in 1960s that was successful in pushing the agricultural output to high levels to meet the rising demand for same by ever rising mouths in the world. The new practices involving high-yielding varieties, chemical fertiliser and pesticides and expanded irrigation systems had transformed the country’s agriculture significantly.

Fourth Industrial Revolution and agriculture

However, a worrying factor has been the virtual stagnation of the agricultural productivity in the country in the past few years, says the Box Article. To overcome this, it has suggested that Sri Lanka should go for ‘smart farming’ in which limited resources are used in the most efficient and effective manner to produce the maximum output possible.

Smart farming sits well with the new technologies that are being introduced in the new Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR that the world is going through right now. Sri Lanka which is still in the initial stage of the Second Industrial Revolution or 2IR should make a ‘leap-frog’ exercise over the Third Industrial Revolution or 3IR to 4IR which had been advocated by the Institute of Policy Studies in its State of the Economy Report for 2019 released some six months ago. I have reviewed it in a previous article in this series available at http://www.ft.lk/columns/Presidential-aspirants-and-voters-Read-IPS-s-SOE-2019-before-you-make-your-next-move/4-688892.

When inputs are in short supply, use them efficiently and effectively

In my view, this box article should be read by everyone who has agriculture and its future close to his heart. The article has documented all the new developments that are presently taking place in the sector, what they have in store for all the stakeholders in the sector, how Sri Lanka should move forward in developing a sustainable agricultural sector. It is much more than having home gardens and re-cultivating abandoned paddy fields, albeit they are also useful to create public awareness. But they cannot offer a potential growth driver and wealth creator to Sri Lanka.

What is needed is to adopt systems that would use the limited resources efficiently, that is, using the least to produce the most, and effectively, that is, what is being used would deliver precisely what they were expected to do. This is the foundation of smart farming in a world in which inputs are in short supply and should be used with care and caution.

Paddy farmers are over-users of inputs

Sri Lanka’s paddy farmers are known for overusing water, fertiliser and pesticides. I have commented on this in a previous article in this series and branded rice as a water-guzzler (available at: http://www.ft.lk/columns/Resolving-the-paradox-of-rice-poverty-amidst-plenty/4-658623).

According to the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute, the practice of complete flooding of paddy fields to rid them of weeds has caused the use of some 2,500 litres of water to produce just one kg of rice. Out of that, the actual amount which the rice plant use is only 1,432 litres and the balance 1,000 odd litres are wasted.

Since water is not available aplenty, pretty soon the world will drive itself to the wall: no more water is available and therefore no more rice for filling those increasing number of mouths. Similarly, fertiliser is used excessively or without reference to the need of the rice plant at the particular stage of its development.

Apply inputs according to the needs of the plant

At present, water, fertiliser and herbicides are managed generally at macro level according to the general needs of the rice plant. However, at micro level, these have to be done by reference to the specific needs of the plant when it is producing tillers or initiating panicles.

This can be done just by looking at the field but by measuring and assessing the needs of the rice plant. To do so, sensors are being used by modern farmers to release the exact amount of water and the correct type of fertiliser. This is not a complex technology that can be used only by farmers in developed countries. Sensor technology is in common use today and therefore can easily be accessed by farmers in emerging economies as well.

If the farmers could minimise the use of inputs and use them by reference to the need of the plant, its effectivity is to increase yields and consequently their incomes as well. This is the effective protection that can be given to farmers who are being harassed by vicissitudes of markets, weather and adverse Government policies.

A weed chipper that does not use herbicides

Since there is a growing global concern about the use of herbicides in agriculture, scientists have been focussing on herbicide-free weeding methods. In this connection, agricultural engineers at the University of Western Australia together with those at the University of Sydney have invented a weed-chipper that uses sensors to detect weeds and remove them from the fields without damaging the plant or the upper soil of the field.

It uses commercially available sensor-fitted arms similar to tines in a fork to scrape the weeds and then bury in the field to provide additional organic fertiliser to the plant. A Western Australia based manufacturing company is to produce and supply these weed-chippers to the market soon (available at: http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/2020022411870/australian-farmers-reap-rewards-weed-chipper).

This is a breakthrough technology and once its benefits are known by farmers and consumers, it is inevitable that it would soon catch-up in a world now wary of hazardous health effects of the use of herbicides in agriculture.

Developing drought resistant paddies

Scientists in IRRI and in leading universities are now engaged in developing water-efficient paddy cultivation methods. IRRI has come up with an ‘alternative wetting and drying’ method. In this method, a field is flooded for a few days and after that water is used up, kept it dry for a few more days before it is flooded again. This method is to save about 30% of water normally used in paddy farming without affecting the rice yield.

Another method suggested is sprinkling water to the field producing ‘aerobic rice’ just like watering a leafy vegetable field. This would save water up to 50%, but there would be a reduction in the output by about 30% (available at: http://irri.org/blogs/bas-bouman-s-blog-global-rice-science-partnership/does-rice-really-use-too-much-water).

Hence, it is useful in cultivating paddy in relatively water-scarce regions. But scientists in the University of Western Australia or UWA have attempted at developing a new rice variety which is drought resistant so that it could alleviate drought stress (available at: https://research-repository.uwa.edu.au/en/publications/advances-in-drought-resistance-of-rice ). This is the best method of cultivating rice in arid places like Hambantota or Mannar districts in Sri Lanka.

Improve farm practices

The productivity of Sri Lankan farmers can be improved significantly through a change in farm practices. Sri Lankan rice farmers have mostly picked the skill either from their elders or from peers; in most cases, they are guided by marketers of weedicides and pesticides. Hence, they lack the skills in scientific farm management.

As a result, there is a tendency for overusing inputs like freely available water or purchased inputs like fertiliser or pesticides. Any entrepreneur who is not conscious of his costs is likely to end up as cost-maximisers and in bankruptcy. Then it boils down to making farmers aware of the proper way of cultivating paddy in order to maintain a higher yield level continuously.

Rice as an industrial input

Rice is now used increasingly as an industrial raw material in other parts of the world. Rice straw which is presently wasted or burned down in fields is a good raw material for paper manufacturing; it is estimated that every kilogram of rice also produces 1-1.5 kg of straw which is a high harvest. Paper manufacturing using rice straw pulp can be started as a cottage industry by imparting the needed technical knowhow to villagers.

Rice can be used as malt for producing wine, whiskey and beer. This will open a good export market for Sri Lanka rice which cannot be exported as a food due to the shortness of the grain. Rice bran can be converted to rice bran oil, an alternative edible oil. Rice milk, like soy milk, is a substitute milk for those who have lacto intolerance.

Proteins isolated from rice can be presented as supplementary protein capsules like the fish oil capsules available in the market today. Rice can also be used for producing perfumes, a natural variety that will have a good attraction.

Hence, taking initiatives to develop Sri Lanka’s agriculture is a laudable goal. But it should be done not on old lines but on modern lines. In this context, the box article published by the Central Bank in its Annual Report is an eye-opener for all.

(The writer, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, can be reached at waw1949@gmail.com)

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Elilini Hoole & Defamation By Several News Outlets

Elilini Hoole & Defamation By Several News Outlets

logoThere are several untruths in newspapers and websites about my daughter. Mawbina and Ceylon Today (20 and 21 May, 2020) lead the pack attacking my daughter and me. Journalistic ethics was abandoned in not seeking evidence or asking me before going to print. Ceylon Today and other newspapers too were so careless that they did not even get my daughter’s beautiful Tamil name right.
Elections are due. There is cheating usually. But when the Election Commission (EC) points out errors, politicians usually withdraw whatever it is that is illegal they are doing. Then they do it again. We write again. Etcetera. There is never any punishment. The exercise is a joke, a pretence at self-congratulating ourselves on our democracy.
For the first time, however, there have been attacks on those running the elections. It is as if to tell the Commission, “If you crack down on us, we will attack you, remove you from the Commission, slap defamation suits on you, etc. Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera and Angajan Ramanathan have taken the lead in threatening the Commission for doing its work.
The two offending articles of 20 and 21 May 2020 in Ceylon Today were written outside the organization and given to the editor Mr. Jayanth Sri Nisanka. His role is not particularly innovative and involves reprinting articles from Mawbina a newspaper committed to one side in the upcoming elections. I understand reliably that the article was given to him by those he cannot disobey, and he was told to print it. So when senior writer Ananth Palakidner interviewed me about the defamatory passages and wrote my responses, it was rejected. The article I questioned is sacrosanct. So I telephoned Sri Nisanka and asked him if I had no right of reply. He argued that Palakidner is just a journalist there. I then said I could write. He then told me to write and imposed restrictions. I hope my reply will appear.
The same stubbornness is seen in The Island of 19 May. It claimed very untruthfully that “EC staff protested against their [my daughter’s and my] presence; they claimed Hoole’s daughter had not undergone quarantine after returning from the UK [My emphasis]. Sources said that she had been allowed to undergo self quarantine at her Jaffna residence.” When I protested, on 21 May, the Editor, Prabath  Sahabandu, obfuscated saying “Prof. Hoole is obfuscating the main issue. He does not deny our report. He admits that his daughter underwent quarantine only for two weeks.” On the contrary, his report said my daughter had not undergone quarantine. I venture that he knew that most readers will not bother to go back to the original to check. Journalism seems to have intellectually castrated the once honest editor who seems so keen to carry out the agenda of a particular political party orchestrating this campaign against me to curtail the freedom of the EC to conduct a free and fair election.
Enter Elilini into the Imbroglio
Elilini Hoole is my loving second daughter. Elilini means “She who has beauty.” Our children take pride in saying, say in Elilini’s case, I am Appah’s favorite second daughter, aren’t I?” and I agree. 

Elilini is reading for her doctoral degree at Jesus College, Cambridge. She was stuck there with no classes but huge living expenses eating into her savings for studies. Then our High Commission wrote to all Sri Lankan students registered with them, asking if she would like a seat on one of two special flights they were arranging. She signed up. My only role was in paying the Rs. 225,000 airfare. She was quoted Rs. 7500 a night as hotel rate during quarantine. She agreed. One negative was that she who had had no COVID and had been in isolation at Cambridge was now packed in violation of the 1 m distancing rule and possibly exposed because every seat on the flight was occupied. 
She landed on 4 May. On landing she had to stand in line close to others for 6 hours and undergo fumigation. She commented to friends on Instagram that she had been sandwiched like sardines and fumigated. The intellectual level of comments is such that the commenters thought she was complaining against the airline not serving her smoked salmon. Someone said they had google-translated fumigation and salmon.
The EC Chairman was in an imbroglio over allegedly asking government help to get his son down and talking to the President about election matters. Apparently after speaking to Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, he had forgotten to switch off his phone and as a result some subsequent conversations were recorded. So some thought I was in the same boat and reporters called me. I think they gave up on finding I had done nothing wrong.
Elilini was then taken to the hotel. The nightly rate was Rs. 12,500 a night. The surcharge was because the quoted rate of Rs. 7500 was for those sharing a room with another. Anyway, she was happy with that rate at Jetwing with its good food delivered to her door. She paid Rs. 175,000 for her 14 days.
Two-weeks later (18 May) she was released after a negative COVID-test and paying a hotel bill for Rs. 175,000. 
Elilini was never told to self-quarantine. On the contrary, the certificate  signed by Lieut. Gen. de Silva and Dr. Anil Jasinghe said “she underwent the necessary quarantine process.” 
Anil Jasinghe’s Lack of Professionalism
As Elilini had been fully cleared by Dr. Jasinghe, from the hotel I took her to office where I had work. In Ceylon Today of 21 May, Dr. Jasinghe accuses me of lack of ethics for having gone to office with my daughter. 
A note from Dr. Jasinghe on Health Ministry websites states that, 
“If the Quarantine Centre is issuing a certificate when releasing from the centre, [the certificate] should mention that the person is subjected [sic.] to mandatory home quarantine for another 14 days under the supervision of Medical Officer of Health.” 
Dr. Jasinghe and Liet. General de Silva have signed Elilini’s certificate against Jasinghe’s own rule with no mention of self-quarantining. They had also forgotten to complete the certificate with dates, making it worthless. Ten years from now with another COVID-19 outbreak (God forbid!) she can use the certificate to say she has been cleared.
Moreover, even though Jasinghe now says a second quarantine is necessary, another part of the Health Ministry website says contradictory things about “Who should be home-quarantined/self-quarantined.” It states that 
1. “A person who have [sic..] returned to Sri Lanka from overseas with in [sic.] the last 14 days” must self-quarantine. 
2. A person who had maintained close contact with a suspected or diagnosed case of COVID-19 with in [sic.] last 14 days.
Elilini had returned more than 14 days earlier. She had not been in close contact with a suspected or diagnosed case of COVID-19. 
She needed no self-quarantine according to Jasinghe’s website. Period. She had finished her quarantine according to the certificate he signed. Period.
Lack of professionalism is an ethics violation. So also is using ungrammatical language that people cannot understand. Untruthful claims that she had been instructed to self-quarantine when released also shows a lack of professional ethics. When Jasinghe himself signed an undated certificate that did not say anything about self-quarantining as he required, how is he so sure that his staff at Jetwing Blue followed his instructions on telling those released from quarantine that they should self-quarantine?
The Elections
Medical opinion from those like Jasinghe will be key in deciding when to hold elections. However, consider that on 18 April 2020, Defence-Secretary Kamal Gunaratne stated firmly that until COVID is curbed, curfew cannot be lifted. He ruled out an early lifting of curfew. Additionally, Chairman Deshapriya had written to P.B. Jayasundera saying that for elections to be held in time for the new Parliament to meet on 2 June, election-preparations had to begin on 20 April. This is the same Dr. Jasinghe, who on 20 April, lifted curfew saying everything was fine even as COVID kept growing, apparently, as hinted by Deputy Inspector General of Police and attorney-at-law Ajith Rohana, our new heroes in Sri Lanka, the men of the armed forces (the navy in particular), are contracting COVID-19 in a big way. Sex workers and clients are at risk he says. Does this have a connexion to soldiers tending to visit prostitutes? Can we rely on the professional advice of those whose voice is their master’s voice in taking crucial election decisions?
I put in a memo to the EC on my concerns. The EC is mindful of seeking a wider opinion of medical expertise and decided at the meeting on 11 May as I recall to seek opinion from a wider  range of medical expertise including the WHO on the conditions under which elections can be conducted.
The Car
I had Election Commission work in Colombo so I used our Jaffna-Office car (not the Jaffna Assistant-Commissioner’s car as Ceylon Today and many websites reported). I get a travel allowance but cannot use public transport as I usually do as there is none and there is COVID. Nor can I use my private-vehicle during curfew. The Constitutional Council recommended special transport for me; the EC by resolution asked me to use the Jaffna or Kilinochchi car. Ceylon Today calling this corruption is defamatory.
Fully Cleared
Elilini’s certificate completely cleared her: “She underwent the necessary quarantine process.” Hence when going to work, I took Elilini with me. It triggered unnecessary, horrible panic – a sad state for a Commission that needs balanced, rational thinking. The Chairman knew that Elilini had been in quarantine. I had told him of the Rs. 175,000 we had to pocket out for the hotel.  When it was alleged by staff that she had come skipping quarantine, he could have corrected that. Surely spraying the whole office needed high-level permission. He now says no one asked me to leave office. True, but what does it mean when everyone upon seeing me runs away? What does it mean when Rizan Manzil, the Chairman’s Coordinator, conveyed to me from the Chairman that we, including our driver, had to go into quarantine? Effectively we were told not to come back. I did go back long enough to pick up my computer and leave a copy of de Silva’s and Jasinghe’s certificate for the Chairman.

I was told that the meeting of 20 May was being cancelled. I went straight to Jaffna, stopped multiple times en-route by soldiers with our number plate and instructions to check us. That information must have come from the Commission. Chairman Deshapriya later informed me it was a misunderstanding, but it was too late for us to return to Colombo.
The morning after arriving in Jaffna, many police-officers, the MOH, and PHI came home. The police party included Jaffna’s HQI Fernando. He must have been involved on orders from Colombo – unless he visits the home of every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes from Colombo. According to the MOH, quarantine is under his purview, yet the police insisted we home-quarantine. Apparently if we had stayed in Colombo home-quarantine would have been unnecessary, but a Jaffna rule on district-crossing kicked in and Elilini is in self-quarantine. But not me. Inconsistencies galore!
Strangely, the police took my driver away from my home to the police station and asked him over three-hours where and where I had gone in Colombo. The DIG was blasted by the Chairman asking if they wanted to interfere with the Commission. On the Chairman’s demand the driver was taken in a car to his home in Changaanai.

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The Olympics Games post-COVID-19: Can we afford it?

The Olympics Games post-COVID-19: Can we afford it?

The Olympics is about the spirit of humanity, but can the world afford it?

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The world was shattered when the Japanese Prime Minister announced that the 2020 Olympic Games would be postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If we track back, since the modern Olympics started in 1896, the games have had to be postponed only on three occasions – 1916, 1940 and 1944 and that was due to World War I and World War II. In my view no one ever dreamt that a coronavirus would bring the world to a halt and the Olympics would have to be postponed.

Even though the world was in turmoil due to COVID-19, the reason for the initial outcry when the announcement was made on the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games was because the Olympics is not about sports. It’s actually about remarkable moments on the spirit of humanity that we would miss. Let me share one such moment – Mo Farah from Somalia.

Mo Farah

Let me share one of the greatest spirits of humanity that the world witnessed at the 2016 London Olympics. It was on a Somalian-born athlete named Mo Farah. He migrated to UK when he was just eight years old to join his father. He could not speak a word of English when he came to the UK. His middle school coach Alan Natskin helped him buy his first pair of spikes and taught him English. Many rebuked him for being Muslim and being black.

At the London Games when he won the Gold medal in the 5000m and the 10,000m events, with tears in his eyes he said: “I have proved I am a worthy to be a citizen of England,” and he went on to run a lap of honour draped in the British Flag. This is what makes the Olympics the most celebrated event.

It’s not the grand opening or closing ceremonies that people remember but the spirit of mankind to perform when everyone says you cannot. This is what COVID-19 took away from the world. But I guess this is the challenge in the ‘new normal’.

Can we afford the Olympics? 

If we analyse some of the recent Olympic Games in terms of costs, the 2004 Athens Olympics had an original budget of $ 4.8 billion. Finally the bill stacked up to a colossal $ 12.5 billion which shaved off two percentage points of EU GDP. Some say that the Olympics sunk Europe.

Detailed analysis brought about a thought that the games did not add value to brand Greece other than being cited as a case study around the world on how not to organise an Olympiad.

If we take the Beijing Olympics of 2008, the country ran up a staggering bill of $ 40 billion. When the analysis was done it was not a cost to the Chinese Government but an investment towards building the required infrastructure on the ‘urbanisation drive’ that was required for the 750 million Chinese who had come to live in Beijing from rural China. Hence the 40 billion dollar investment was part of the economic agenda rather than just a cost to staging the Olympics.

It is been said that the Olympics was used by China to tell the world that it is a free country devoid of communism and to fast track the development agenda of Beijing. The P&L of the Olympics was in the red as a standalone. But the Chinese economy was able to absorb the economic shock.

Cost of Japanese Olympics?

The estimated total cost of the 2020 Tokyo Games, according to figures released by organisers last year, was estimated to be around £ 10.3 billion. This included the estimated £ 22 million in additional costs for moving the marathon and walking events from Tokyo to Sapporo to avoid the summer heat.

There has already been criticism in some quarters that Japan’s spending on the Games has diverted money from reconstruction efforts following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. We saw a similar situation on China where a broader goal was sketched out by the Government but I guess we will have to use the data as it is. Some speculate that the real cost can be anywhere between $ 12.6 b and $ 25.2 b.

When an economy is growing this kind of economic shock can be absorbed but when an economy is hitting a recession at -5.2% as per the latest estimates from IMF, it means that Japan will sink in staging the Olympic Games. The only good news is that the projection for 2021 is +3% GDP growth but we will have to see if the cost of $ 15 billion on average has been factored into this calculations.

Japan reality 

Let’s accept it, Japan was not doing well economically even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy was registering a 0.7% GDP growth. The latest estimates predict a 0.7% contraction in Japan’s GDP in 2020, as the world reels from the impact of coronavirus. But, economists also warn that contraction could be as high as 1.5% due to cancellation of the Olympics.

The latest data from IMF says that Japan will de grow to -5.2% which means that many people will be out of jobs and companies will go bankrupt like what we saw last week in the US where the top retail chain JC Penney filed for bankruptcy.

For tourism alone the hit will be as high as £ 1.8 b, which points to the question whether the Government of Japan can afford the cost of $ 15 billion for the extravaganza of staging the Olympics for the world. So far the only country that made a profit from the Olympics is Australia in the year 2000 where before the start of the games all costs were covered. I guess the business model of pre, during and post needs careful analysis so that Japan can pick a few tips when staging the 2021 Olympic Games.

Apparently there is a study that has been done in Japan which show that in the long-term post the Games there will be a profit of $ 225 billion which is why the Japanese PM was reluctant to pull the plug on the games. However, this data is not in the public domain and so far no country has reported any such positive figures post staging the Olympics games, not even China post the Beijing Olympics where the famous Bird’s Nest stadium was converted into a university after the games. A study available in the public domain reveals that the loss to the Government of Japan will be as high as £ 11 billion due to the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19. The number on the loss to Japanese private firms is estimated at £ 6 billion which tells is the challenge the world will have to face in the Olympics to come in Paris – 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.

Olympics 2024 and 2028?

The latest update is that global growth in 2020 to fall to -3% GDP due to the pandemic whilst Japan will be hitting a -5.2% GDP growth whilst the country hosting the 2024 Olympic Games, Paris, is expected to de grow by -7.2% which means it is a severe recession.

In fact the impact will be higher than the Great Depression. I guess it will be interesting to see how the Government of France is going to take the bill of $ 15-20 billion in the backdrop of the unemployment, bankruptcy and high poverty situation.

The 2028 Olympics is finalised for Los Angeles. As per the latest estimates from IMF the US economy is said to de grow by -5.9% due to the pandemic. With almost 90,000 people already dead of COVID-19 and over 1.5 million people infected, it will be interesting to see what the reaction of the US Government will be given that UN employment numbers have already touched 20 million people.

The issue is, can a country afford a $ 20 billion investment to celebrate humanity or should the Olympics be remodelled?

Olympics remodelled? 

One option that the Government of Japan should reconsider is if the estimated costs of around $12.6 billion can be reduced with a remodelled Olympics that a typical post COVID-19 environment can shoulder.

This will include a dedicated location for a certain Olympics to be hosted for the next two Olympics, so that the overall hosting costs can be lower and the moneys invested can be recouped during a eight-year time period. For instance the location of the marathon; maybe the Olympics Tennis Championship can be hosted in Wimbledon, etc.

An alternate business model that a typical country that is staging the Olympics can pursue is where for a one-year time period, a country can be aggressively promoted to attract a tourism segment that will like to experience the venues that the 2021 Olympics will showcase to the world. This means an aggressive global marketing campaign that will need to make sure that the $ 15 billion target is covered via a ‘Pre Olympic traveller’ like what Australia did in the Sydney 2000 Games.

Thereafter, Japan ups its game and attracts a record set of visitors ‘During the Olympic Games’ so that it can make a profit from staging the games. The target group will be essentially ‘the people who wants to savour the Olympic atmosphere’. Finally, you have another segment of travellers who want to visit memorable locations where history was made and this segment can be attracted post the Olympic Games.

Economists at SMBC Nikko Securities had stated that postponing the Games would reduce the Japanese GDP in 2020 by some $ 6 billion. But, they added, the same amount would be gained when the Games were eventually held, effectively cancelling out the losses.

Fall out of industries 

Given the -5.2% GDP growth that is been projected for the Japanese economy to be hit, the key industries that will feel the impact are tourism and media.

The Japanese tourism industry is set to suffer as last year, Japan hosted 31.9 million foreign visitors, who spent £ 33.7 billion. This number is projected at -60% for this year as we speak. Hence we can estimate the number of hotel chains that will be in the red and the number of hospitality staff that will be out of work.

Unless a bailout package is extended this segment of business will be at crossroads on how to prepare for the 2021 games. This is provided that there is no second wave of COVID-19 globally and if a vaccine comes into play by January 2021.

What many people forget is that even once the vaccine is developed and launched the production and logistical challenge to get the product to six billion people around the world will be a nightmare. Even a top company like Coca-Cola which makes a product available at arm’s reach will find it hard to shoulder.

It is reported that the 2020 Olympics have already generated record domestic sponsorship revenues of more than £ 2.3 billion which will not materialise now as the games are cancelled which will compound the -5.2% GDP performance of Japan in 2020. The good news is that by 2021 the Japanese economy is said to grow by +3% GDP as per the latest estimate by IMF. But speculation is that the recovery will be U shaped rather than V shaped.

Athletes – Sad story 

The pressure for the Olympics to be remodelled is strongest due to the following reason. Even though staging an Olympics costs about $ 10 billion to $ 40 billion during the last couple of games, sadly most athletes did not make any money. They actually do not make a lot of money off their sports outside of the Games either.

Fifty percent of track athletes who ranked in the top 10 in the US in their events earned less than $ 15,000 annually from the sport. COVID-19 will force the world to reshape and remodel and I guess it will be an opportunity for the Olympics to remodel too.

(The writer has a black belt in karate. The thoughts are strictly his personal views and have no links to the organisations he serves.)

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Image: Slippers left after the stampede on 21 May at Maligawatta, Colombo that killed 3 poor women who gathered to collect a few hundreds of rupees.

Sri Lanka Brief25/05/2020

Leader of the United National Party, Ranil Wickremesinghe, in a statement to the media, called upon the government to refrain from allowing the upcoming debt servicing to impact the lifestyle of the people of Sri Lanka.

Speaking further, Wickremesinghe explained that in the past several years debt servicing has been ongoing, but it has been done without any restrictions imposed on the goods and services in the country.

From now until 2023, Sri Lanka has debt servicing of up to US $10 billion. This year alone Sri Lanka has to pay US $3 billion in debt, and on a single day in October the country has to pay US $1 billion.
Wickremesinghe questioned the government as to where they will raise the necessary foreign exchange and whether or not they will be banning imports to finance these debts.

Highlighting that the price of goods was increasing and the government was unable to provide the public with the financial relief promised, Wickremesinghe urged the government to present their plan of action for economic recovery.

Drawing attention to the recent reports from international media organisation that several countries, including Argentina, have defaulted on their debt repayments. Wickremesinghe further explained that these reports have highlighted Sri Lanka as the only country outside of Latin America that is in danger of defaulting on their debt repayment.

Explaining that Fitch Ratings has already downgraded Sri Lanka, Wickremesinghe went on to state that Moody and Morgan Stanley are also in danger of downgrading the country’s credit rating. He went on to say that according to The Economist magazine, Sri Lanka’s economy is considered the most stressed economy in South-Asia.

Wickremesinghe urged the government to address these urgent financial concerns in the country, and present to the public the plans they have for fiscal policy and for revenue policy. He concluded by urging the government to allow the true facts of the current situation come out, and allow the public to know what remedy the government will pursue.

(Statement from the Leader of the UNP Regarding Debt Servicing by the Government/United National Party Central Media Unit.(

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Respected Islamic Scholar Dr M.A.M. Shukry Left A Legacy For Next Generation

logoAround mid-1970s respected Sri Lankan Islamic scholar Dr M.A.M.Shukry spoke on the significance of Ramadan at an Ifthar party organized by the Muslim Majlis of Law College. He dealt with every aspect of Ramadan, from modern point of view, citing verses from Holy Quran in Arabic providing English translation.
It was a very enlightening speech. After the party the newly arrived Libyan Ambassador to Sri Lanka Abdus Salam Miladi took me to a side and asked me who is this Dr Shukry and what his background
I briefed him and asked him why. He said I am an Arab, Arabic language is my mother tongue and I did Arabic language for my degree, but ashamed to say that I can’t speak the classic Arabic which he spoke. This young scholar is not only an asset to Muslims in Sri Lanka but worldwide.
This in a nutshell sums up the intellectual caliber of Dr Shukry early in life.
Those days Muslims used to invite speakers from Tamilnadu for Holy Prophet Muhammad’s birthday celebrations. However with the emergence of Dr Shukry, late M.B.M Maher and others this trend disappeared.
Dr Shukry was one of the finest and popular debaters in the Peradeniya University together with Dr Ameer Ali who, even today, does a yeomen service writing on burning Muslim and national issues of Sri Lanka from Australia.
His batch mate and former banker Muhammad Jaleel told me that in view of Dr Shukry’s popularity he invited him to Jaffna in 1962 for a Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) birthday meeting which was held at the Five Junction at main Manippai Road .Even today people talk about this lecture during which Dr Shukry compared Islam and communism shedding light on subjects which were not even thought about by others. 
He was the only student who did Arabic honors under Professor Dr S.A.Imam. Thus whenever the two were seen in functions his colleagues used to say there the Arabic faculty is there.
A fine product of Colombo Zahira College under eminent educationist A.M.A Azeez, Dr Shukry, after graduating with first class honors, went to Edinburg University in Britain where he obtained his PhD.
On his return he lectured at Peradeniya and Kelaniya universities before joining the non-fee levying Jamiah Naleemia in Beruwala, brainchild of late A.M.Azeez, where he made significant contribution to produce much needed Muslim graduates with Islamic background suited to serve the needs of the country in many fields.He remained there till he left us on 19 May 2020, regarded as one of the holiest days during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

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How will it be? Life after or life with Covid-19?

How will it be? Life after or life with Covid-19?


By Dr. B. J. C. Perera-May 25, 2020
Specialist Consultant Paediatrician

Whatever we do, it is not likely to just go away in a hurry; this little coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Little it may be but it certainly packs a punch. The experts are convinced that it will be around for at least a couple of years. The potential presence of this pestilence, especially with that well-recognised spectacle of its proven enhanced infectivity, will make it a perennial and even a ubiquitous threat for quite some time in the future. From a purely medical and epidemiological frame, even if significant ‘herd immunity’ develops as a result of large scale natural infection with the virus or because of the use of an effective vaccine, one has to keep in mind the tendency and capability of any type of virus to mutate. This little blight too might be quite capable of transforming itself into a slightly different type which might even negate the effects of ‘herd immunity’. Even if we are able to secure sufficient ‘herd immunity’, it will be needed for at least 80 per cent of the population to be immune, before it would be an effective weapon against this coronavirus. The animal llama, a furry smaller sized domesticated camel-like animal found mainly in South America, is thought to be quite resistant to this coronavirus. They produce antibodies known as nanobodies; the name being derived from the fact that these are much smaller than the conventional antibodies, which can effectively fight the virus. Once analysed and genetically sequenced, these nanobodies could be produced in the laboratory by genetic engineering and tested in humans. If found to be effective, these would be a powerful weapon against the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientific researchers are working tirelessly and diligently to find some way of dealing with the virus as well as the formulations of effective vaccines that could deal telling blows to the virus. If we are able to overcome this pandemic by some means, it will be life after COVID-19. If we cannot, then it will be a case of living with COVID-19. From all available indicators, it is more likely to be the latter.

If such a threat remains and we have to live with this nasty little pest, life will then never be the same again. Social distancing and personal hygiene will necessarily have to be an everyday part of life. Wearing of protective facial masks would become as common as wearing clothes. Canisters and dispensers of chemical sanitizers will be found everywhere, even along our roads. There will be no major social gatherings and no major lavish celebrations of significant life events such as weddings and anniversaries. The dead would need to be buried or cremated with the attendance of rather minimum numbers of loved ones. There will not be a place for major political rallies where thousands gather, which many are likely to welcome as a much longed-for development. The entire passenger transport systems of vehicles of all types will have to be completely changed with a modular paradigm shift towards an entirely different functionality with drastic changes in operational details. Transportation to and from schools and universities will remain as an inexplicable Achilles heel in educational pursuits. Inland travel will necessarily need to be curtailed and the customary and friendly visiting to the abodes of relatives and friends, especially to the residencies of the elderly, will need to be significantly reduced. Out-of-home travelling of the elderly or those with other coexistent diseases that make them more susceptible to attacks by the virus will have to be necessarily limited. International travel for holidays and conventions will probably even be a thing of the past or at least be severely curtailed by necessity in the immediate future. Air travel will take an entirely new dimension and as a result expenses incurred in air travel would go through the roof. International tourism will take a near-lethal body blow and impose terrible hardships on those who make a living out of it. Going out of home for celebratory meals or just for enjoyment would need to be carefully assessed as to their real need. The entire education system; primary, secondary, tertiary and postgraduate components of the hierarchical structure of teaching and learning, will need a near complete transformation and revamping of their current status. On-line and distance learning will become a part and parcel of the entire education process. Virtual on-line or telecommunication based shopping may become the order of the day but some obvious changes in the logistics and packaging of home-delivered articles would become a dire necessity as well. Major sporting events will need to be very carefully organised and it may not even be possible to showcase them in the same formats that we were used to, right up to even as recent times as the end of 2019.

To complicate matters further, the coronavirus disease may begin to manifest certain unexpected complications like the multisystem inflammatory disorders or the likes of it, presently causing a lot of concerns in children with COVID-19 of the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States of America. Such complications, which may be totally unexpected, could strike quite unpredictably; changing the façades, aspects and the outcomes of the disease drastically. In the distant past there were Diphtheria Wards, Tetanus Wards, Polio Wards etc., in hospitals for specific ghastly and much-dreaded diseases. We may need to have COVID WARDS in our hospitals in the future. If the virus gets the upper hand and causes further mayhem, intensive care facilities could become inundated with COVID-19 sufferers who desperately need their facilities. Non-communicable diseases may even take a greater toll because resources may need to be diverted to look after cases of coronavirus infections. A time may come, if and when an effective vaccine becomes available, where mass vaccination initiatives against the virus would be the order of the day, even up to one’s old age.

The economic fallout will be tremendous and singularly mind-boggling. The adverse pecuniary implications are totally overwhelming. By virtue of the implementation by the state or through self-imposition of some of the restrictions mentioned above, many features of the economy of all nations will show up a topsy-turvy type of an entirely new and unpredictable outlook. Transnational investments will be severely truncated because of the uncertainties associated with the global economy. Migration out of the native country for better economic prospects will not be all that attractive to a lot of people in the not too distant future. Many jobs will simply disappear, as evidenced by the developing scenarios of the economies of many countries even now. This is especially so in services connected to tourism. These jobs and employment opportunities that have either disappeared or gone underground at the present time are not likely to reappear for quite a while, possibly for a couple of years. Money in the wallets will become quite scarce. It would be prudent to save what little money that one has got rather than to give in to the temptation to splurge it on non-essential commodities and ventures. Various types of industries will be severely hit by the economic recession that would invariably result as an inevitable cascading effect of the impact of the pandemic. The rich might somehow get richer but at the same time, the poor are likely to get poorer. The gap between the rich and the poor would widen quite significantly. Many countries, including Sri Lanka would be inclined to enforce an embargo on non-essential imports. That of course would be a thing that all of us should look forward to. Even now, the little virus has begun to sound the final death-knell for the so-called ‘open economy’.

Many countries would need to look seriously at agricultural pursuits in an effort towards being self-sufficient in foods. That of course, would be a most welcome development and the farmer would suddenly and most certainly become an indispensible cog in the wheel of sustenance of nations. It must be reiterated that self-reliance on foods that are grown in plenty in a country would be an invaluable step in a quest towards mitigating the harmful effects of any catastrophe. This applies even more so to a country like Sri Lanka, blessed with the most fertile soil imaginable. The many aspects of agriculture for our country has been so graphically pointed out by that doyen of conservation of flora, Emeritus Professor of Botany of the University of Peradeniya, Nimal Gunatilleke, in an article titled ‘Post-COVID land development agenda: Lessons from the past’, in The Island of 22nd May 2020. He has written, “Agriculture is in the vanguard of this development drive in order to be self-sufficient in a number of crops that can be grown in Sri Lanka. This initiative is expected to ensure local food security while at the same time, saving on valuable foreign exchange that would have to be spent on importing these food items as we had done in the recent past. We now have the potential and an excellent opportunity to develop our agriculture in an ecologically and socio-economically sustainable way learning from our past rich agro-ecological heritage while meeting the challenges of the post-COVID era”. All these are words of wisdom indeed; most suited for the future of living with COVID-19. Even at a household level, home gardens of vegetables and fruits would be a most welcome initiative, from many perspectives.

Education in all its forms will certainly need to undergo many changes, not only in the forms of delivery but also in a perceptible change in the dimensions of the availability of certain targeted areas and disciplines. Most forms of training for vocations would be determined by the ‘new world’ and the need for them in the future. The ultimate goals of all forms of callings, aptitudes and employment opportunities would be to put money back into wallets. Medicine and healthcare would always remain popular as well as essential disciplines, because of their inherent relationship to life, sickness and even contentment in human existence. The world would always need doctors, nurses and laboratory technicians. However, other fields that have hitherto remained in the shadow of disciplines that were considered popular and indispensible would quite fortuitously become the things for the future. All forms of Information Technology such as computer work, telecommunication fields, web-based on-line techniques, virtual designing, artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology, just to name a few, would suddenly become the things for the ‘new world’. Even teaching music through the web and freelancing in the on-line environment would become most attractive and lucrative pursuits. In the medical field, telemedicine would become a very significant portal of providing healthcare. Many of these have the added advantage, a considerably important one, of the real possibility of working from home.

True enough, it will definitely be a different world; a world that we need to cotton on to with resolve, commitment and dedication. It would be an absolute necessity for the survival of the species. Our planet earth, the world as we know it today, and the human race that consists of the major inhabitants of it, have shown repeatedly that all of them are unbelievably resilient in the face of disasters which are man-made or natural in their origins. History has recorded that this has indeed been the case over many millennia. Like the proverbial and enigmatic phoenix, we have repeatedly shown our ability to even rise up from the ashes. That is an attribute that has ensured the very survival of the genus Homo sapiens. This time too, we will emerge from this catastrophe; stronger, smarter and more powerful. We will need to think differently and out of the box, carefully assess our capabilities, weigh the chances and act resolutely on them. In such a perspective, COVID-19 is most definitely not the end of the world. All it would need is a trek in a different direction on our part, forgetting all other petty differences of colour, caste, creed, ethnicity, religion and even politics. As for Sri Lanka, the future would be in unity in the face of diversity. We need to rise up in unison and harmony against this blight that is the novel coronavirus.

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