By Chandrasena Maliyadde
Perhaps, microcredit to some and microfinance to others is the term used, misused and abused in many recent discourses on economic recovery, after the COVID 19 pandemic. Policymakers, practitioners, economists, researchers, analysts, think tanks, banks, financial institutions, journalists, chambers, and INGOs are among the discussants. They explain and argue the importance of micro credit in alleviating poverty, uplifting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and empowering women (as if they were not already) for the purpose of enhancing the contribution, employment and social welfare status of the low-income category of the population. MSMEs, indeed play a major role in most economies, both developed and developing, in creating jobs and reducing unemployment. Thus, they contribute to national income, employment, productivity and entrepreneur development.
The agencies and individuals involved in promoting, facilitating and providing “microcredit”, turn around the term in many dimensions to see the vistas of it. Some say it is not microcredit but micro- finance; some are worried about its nature; others discuss types, composition, with or without collateral, which should or can best deliver, the role of the government, the Central Bank, banks and financial institutions, and NGOs, for what purpose, at which interest rate and so on. According to them, the MSMEs and lower-income categories are badly in need of financial assistance and to be more specific, extended credit facilities on concessionary terms.
Several discussants beat the number of potential beneficiaries! The banks and financial institutions have, on the other hand, come out with a series of concessionary credit schemes under names never heard. They claim to be the first, to be the highest, to be providing the best terms, to be the most convenient, to be the easiest access, and to be leading in assisting MSMEs and low-income category. The credit they claim for their contribution in providing financial assistance to this category is much higher than the volume of credit they provided. If one analyses the schemes and statistics provided by banks and financial institutions and the figures published by the Central Bank (CBSL), no more financial need of this category is left unmet. Banks, Financial institutions, CBSL, policymakers and the Government happily talks of their achievements and success in providing credit facilities to low-income categories. But, the intended beneficiaries are not happy. Why?
The answer lies in the following section of an advertisement published by one of the benevolent banks in a daily paper. This depicts how a Micro Finance recipient begins and ends his/her entrepreneurship.
“Whereas Mr./Ms.……………………has made default in payment due ………………………………on the development loan facility extended and the Board of Directors of……………….Bank ………., do hereby resolve that the property and the premises ……………………….mortgaged …………………..be sold by Public Auction ……………………for the recovery of the said sum………………………….”
As students of economics, we learned four factors of production, namely Land, Labour, Capital and Entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur is a person who takes a risk and combines the other three factors of production – land, labour, and capital – to earn a profit. The most successful entrepreneurs are innovators who find new ways to produce goods and services or who develop new types of goods and services to bring to market. Entrepreneurs are a vital engine of economic growth helping to build the largest firms in the world as well as the small businesses in our neighbourhood. The payment to entrepreneurship is profit. Most MSMEs and low-income category enterprises in Sri Lanka are not making profits. The explanation lies in the lack of entrepreneurship. Only a fraction of MSMEs and low-income category are entrepreneurs. To our policymakers, CBSL, banks, donors, project staff, NGOs and many others, each and every individual in the low-income category who starts up a business or a production is an entrepreneur. In their eyes, the only issue faced is the shortage of capital. This is a misconception. The issue is not lack of capital but the absence of entrepreneurship. When the government, a Bank, an NGO or any other financier extends credit facilities and financial packages, MSMEs are mushrooming. But rarely found an entrepreneur among them.
The majority of those in the low-income category have access to land. It is the land inherited, gifted, transferred, titled, leased or encroached. They have their family labour. Two vital factors of production, land and labour are available free. The opportunity cost of these factors is not reflective in their cost calculation. Earnings, minus payment of interest, are profit for them. So, they are in business but do not sustain their venture long. Then they seek concessionary financing. They pay the interest and capital installments during the initial period and then only the interest and then nothing. Then they resort to distress financing. This is the saga of many low-income category entrepreneurs. Banks and financial institutions have no mechanism to assess the project viability and the entrepreneurship of the borrower. They go by the cash flow statement and the collateral. They are worried about the repayment.
The eligibility criteria for microfinance are poverty, being in the low-income category or a small businessman and being a woman. It is true that a poor individual who used to carry a box of ointments on his head and wandering on his foot has built up an empire. It does not mean that every man who carries a box on his head would end up as a business tycoon. Women are indeed honest, do not take alcohol, do not smoke, do not gamble, do not misuse funds and repay the loan promptly. They are all good deeds but do not mean that every woman is a successful entrepreneur. Those in the categories mentioned above deserve a decent livelihood. But it does not mean that they all can become successful entrepreneurs and are eligible for microfinance. But those who promote facilitate and provide microfinance, believe these good deeds as eligible criteria. They have failed to identify potential eligible entrepreneurs and promising projects for microcredit. This is reflected in the frequent failure of many micro small-medium business ventures. They cannot resist and survive the vagaries of climate change; they are not capable of identifying a product, quantity, standards, design, market needs, market size, regularity, and timing; they lack knowledge, information, technology and more the entrepreneurship. This is good breeding grounds for our policymakers and all other microfinance lovers. The lucky guy who manages and has the patience to undergo all the harassment involved in microfinance will get the facility and copy the neighbour. This is why you see many retailers, poultry producers and pumpkin growers around; suppliers/producers surpass the buyers. Competition among producers will end up with crashing of some if not all and with disputes or as the latest trend with a death.
When we travel outstations, we identify some places with particular products such as pottery, lace, silverware, cane, handicrafts, cotton products and coir products. Most of these products are not chosen but inherited by tradition coming over generations. Access to information, technology, design, packaging, market is denied to the low-income categories. They, therefore, go by tradition, what is familiar to them for generations, what is produced by the neighbour, what is promoted by extension workers, etc. They are not competent in identifying the right product for his enterprise. They produce but do not find a market for their products. For them, famous Say’s Law “Supply creates its own demand” is valid. Say’s Law was promulgated by J B Say, the French Economist in the 18th Century but rejected long before. These types of producers are the so-called eligible borrowers for microfinance providers.
From time to time, government on the Central Bank, to a particular ministry’s donor-funded Project or an NGO comes out with a package of financial assistance for the benefit of MSMEs and low-income category. This category includes cultivators (peasants and farmers include), home gardeners, smallholders, self-employed, micro, small-medium entrepreneurs, and beneficiaries covered by poverty alleviation programmes. They all display similar characteristics and face similar issues. They all line up and come out with a project seeking financial assistance. Policymakers and others involved in microcredit provide consultancy, counselling, advice, instructions, guidelines to this category of beneficiaries on wiser use of financial assistance. Financial needs of this category take a multiple nature. It may be individual, family, social or business need or a mixture of several. They seek financial assistance for a project but use to meet any or all of these needs. Their project never existed or existed but not survived. They wait for another project or a scheme to appear to secure financial assistance and they succeed and settle the encumbrances remaining from the previous scheme. Being blessed by reaching middle-income level by statistics rather than by performance, the country has lost access to foreign-funded projects. But, the country is blessed by frequent elections which come with many packages of new schemes to assist MSMEs and low-income category and write off existing burdens.
We, benefactors, preach to this category of beneficiaries on wiser use of financial assistance they receive. We are the people who involve in preparation of national budget or the ministry budget leaving handling of the family budget in good hands of our wives. We are the people who wisely use some financial benefits entitled to us. For instance, we are entitled to obtain a distress loan. We take it to settle the medical bills of our “ailing grandfather” who has left us many years ago. We use the money and buy a good sound system. We are unable to make ends meet with the remainder of the salary after deduction of interest and the loan installment. We go for a second distress loan to meet the funeral expenses of the same grandfather. We don’t offer merits to our late grandfather. We are rolling before the sound system, while the grandfather would be rolling in his grave.
Low-income category entrepreneurs including MSMEs do not have the capacity, access and information to identify a viable product. The product in demand, quantity, quality, standards, volume, price, regularity, timing, access to market, new ideas and technology, knowledge, skills and skills development, designs, packing and packaging (presentation), market needs are essential ingredients to identify the right product. One would say why not? Google provides all such information. Of course, Google provides but our prospective clients do not receive. It is due to non-availability of power, internet facilities, computers, IT knowledge, and language barriers. The use of obsolete or inappropriate technology results in low productivity, low quality, and high rate of rejection, higher costs and a reduction in market competitiveness.
Successive governments since independence have introduced many schemes, institutions, programmes, projects and officers with the mandate to assist, advise, train, disseminate, share, demonstrate, and promote MSMEs and raise the economic status of low-income category. There are armies of advisors, extension officers, technical officers, development officers and field officers. Yes, the personnel are present but the service is absent. There are Departments, Agencies, Boards, projects to provide information and advice on plants, planting materials, planting techniques. But their presence on the ground is absent. We have Research institutions for almost every crop. They are in air-conditioned rooms with IT facilities and access to the latest knowledge. They can claim the credit for having the lowest productivity in respective crops. While the countries started plantation after Sri Lanka enjoy higher productivity in tea, rubber, coconut, field crops, spices we take the pride for our historical achievements. We have failed to improve the cost efficiency, standards, timing to suit the market. Most of the agencies walk with the producer up to the harvest and leave him high and dry. Because marketing is outside their perimeter.
Activists, policymakers, practitioners, academics, donors, NGOs, project managers, including Prof. YUNUS, think that lower-income categories have land and labour but not capital. But what they do not have is entrepreneurship. Every poor man or Each MSME is not an entrepreneur. This is why most of them fail. Professor Muhammad Yunus, who is widely known as “Banker to the Poor” established the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1983, fuelled by the belief that credit is a fundamental human right. Grameen Bank is treated as the model for microcredit. He received the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for founding Grameen. But critics say that this model has actually created a debt trap for some of the poor it tried to help. There were also isolated reports that lenders had repeatedly harassed borrowers, and that some of those who had defaulted had been forced to sell their organs to pay back the loans.
Low-income categories and MSMEs encounter many issues as described above. This is due to lethargy, and lack of coordination among supporting and facilitating agencies in the field. Each agency is working in isolation. They do not communicate, consult and deliver one single message. They confuse rather than facilitating. MSMEs and low-income category entrepreneurs do not have access to supporting agencies, such as ITI, IDB, and National Design Centre. These agencies have survived for decades; they have been conducting research; presented papers in Conferences; conducted fairs and exhibitions; awarded certificates and cups for the best entrepreneurs; they have built up modern facilities and new buildings for themselves; promoted their officers; have been exposed in a foreign land; Directors have become Directors General. They celebrate their mere existence with Anniversary events at public expenditure. But, the impact made on the ground is nil or little. Intended beneficiaries of their services are not even aware of the very existence of them.
Successive governments have provided employment to graduates as development officers. This move has elevated unemployed graduates to underemployed graduates. But, the livelihoods, earnings and the living standards of the low-income categories have not been elevated.
Officers, researchers, policymakers, bankers, lenders go by poverty line. Those who are below the poverty line are poor and in the low-income category and eligible for microfinance. Economists and policymakers look at the poverty line calculated by Statisticians and boast that poverty has come down to 4% of the population. But they fail to look at the waistline of the people living in the periphery. That will say ratio of the poor is 40%.
Chandrasena Maliyadde has served as a Secretary to three Ministries before his retirement. He is currently a Vice President of Sri Lanka Economic Association and a University Council Member. He can be reached via email@example.com
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‘Professor of English Language Teaching’
It is a pleasure to be here today, when the University resumes postgraduate work in English and Education which we first embarked on over 20 years ago. The presence of a Professor on English Language Teaching from Kelaniya makes clear that the concept has now been mainstreamed, which is a cause for great satisfaction.
Twenty years ago, this was not the case. Our initiative was looked at askance, as indeed was the initiative which Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare engaged in as UGC Chairman to make degrees in English more widely available. Those were the days in which the three established Departments of English in the University system, at Peradeniya and Kelaniya and Colombo, were unbelievably conservative. Their contempt for his efforts made him turn to Sri Jayewardenepura, which did not even have a Department of English then and only offered it as one amongst three subjects for a General Degree.
Ironically, the most dogmatic defence of this exclusivity came from Colombo, where the pioneer in English teaching had been Prof. Chitra Wickramasuriya, whose expertise was, in fact, in English teaching. But her successor, when I tried to suggest reforms, told me proudly that their graduates could go on to do postgraduate degrees at Cambridge. I suppose that, for generations brought up on idolization of E. F. C. Ludowyke, that was the acme of intellectual achievement.
I should note that the sort of idealization of Ludowyke, the then academic establishment engaged in was unfair to a very broadminded man. It was the Kelaniya establishment that claimed that he ‘maintained high standards, but was rarefied and Eurocentric and had an inhibiting effect on creative writing’. This was quite preposterous coming from someone who removed all Sri Lankan and other post-colonial writing from an Advanced Level English syllabus. That syllabus, I should mention, began with Jacobean poetry about the cherry-cheeked charms of Englishwomen. And such a characterization of Ludowyke totally ignored his roots in Sri Lanka, his work in drama which helped Sarachchandra so much, and his writing including ‘Those Long Afternoons’, which I am delighted that a former Sabaragamuwa student, C K Jayanetti, hopes to resurrect.
I have gone at some length into the situation in the nineties because I notice that your syllabus includes in the very first semester study of ‘Paradigms in Sri Lankan English Education’. This is an excellent idea, something which we did not have in our long-ago syllabus. But that was perhaps understandable since there was little to study then except a history of increasing exclusivity, and a betrayal of the excuse for getting the additional funding those English Departments received. They claimed to be developing teachers of English for the nation; complete nonsense, since those who were knowledgeable about cherries ripening in a face were not likely to move to rural areas in Sri Lanka to teach English. It was left to the products of Aluwihare’s initiative to undertake that task.
Another absurdity of that period, which seems so far away now, was resistance to training for teaching within the university system. When I restarted English medium education in the state system in Sri Lanka, in 2001, and realized what an uphill struggle it was to find competent teachers, I wrote to all the universities asking that they introduce modules in teacher training. I met condign refusal from all except, I should note with continuing gratitude, from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, where Paru Nagasunderam introduced it for the external degree. When I started that degree, I had taken a leaf out of Kelaniya’s book and, in addition to English Literature and English Language, taught as two separate subjects given the language development needs of students, made the third subject Classics. But in time I realized that was not at all useful. Thankfully, that left a hole which ELT filled admirably at the turn of the century.
The title of your keynote speaker today, Professor of English Language Teaching, is clear evidence of how far we have come from those distant days, and how thankful we should be that a new generation of practical academics such as her and Dinali Fernando at Kelaniya, Chitra Jayatilleke and Madhubhashini Ratnayake at USJP and the lively lot at the Postgraduate Institute of English at the Open University are now making the running. I hope Sabaragamuwa under its current team will once again take its former place at the forefront of innovation.
To get back to your curriculum, I have been asked to teach for the paper on Advanced Reading and Writing in English. I worried about this at first since it is a very long time since I have taught, and I feel the old energy and enthusiasm are rapidly fading. But having seen the care with which the syllabus has been designed, I thought I should try to revive my flagging capabilities.
However, I have suggested that the university prescribe a textbook for this course since I think it is essential, if the rounded reading prescribed is to be done, that students should have ready access to a range of material. One of the reasons I began while at the British Council an intensive programme of publications was that students did not read round their texts. If a novel was prescribed, they read that novel and nothing more. If particular poems were prescribed, they read those poems and nothing more. This was especially damaging in the latter case since the more one read of any poet the more one understood what he was expressing.
Though given the short notice I could not prepare anything, I remembered a series of school textbooks I had been asked to prepare about 15 years ago by International Book House for what were termed international schools offering the local syllabus in the English medium. Obviously, the appalling textbooks produced by the Ministry of Education in those days for the rather primitive English syllabus were unsuitable for students with more advanced English. So, I put together more sophisticated readers which proved popular. I was heartened too by a very positive review of these by Dinali Fernando, now at Kelaniya, whose approach to students has always been both sympathetic and practical.
I hope then that, in addition to the texts from the book that I will discuss, students will read other texts in the book. In addition to poetry and fiction the book has texts on politics and history and law and international relations, about which one would hope postgraduate students would want some basic understanding.
Similarly, I do hope whoever teaches about Paradigms in English Education will prescribe a textbook so that students will understand more about what has been going on. Unfortunately, there has been little published about this but at least some students will I think benefit from my book on English and Education: In Search of Equity and Excellence? which Godage & Bros brought out in 2016. And then there was Lakmahal Justified: Taking English to the People, which came out in 2018, though that covers other topics too and only particular chapters will be relevant.
The former book is bulky but I believe it is entertaining as well. So, to conclude I will quote from it, to show what should not be done in Education and English. For instance, it is heartening that you are concerned with ‘social integration, co-existence and intercultural harmony’ and that you want to encourage ‘sensitivity towards different cultural and linguistic identities’. But for heaven’s sake do not do it as the NIE did several years ago in exaggerating differences. In those dark days, they produced textbooks which declared that ‘Muslims are better known as heavy eaters and have introduced many tasty dishes to the country. Watalappam and Buriani are some of these dishes. A distinguished feature of the Muslims is that they sit on the floor and eat food from a single plate to show their brotherhood. They eat string hoppers and hoppers for breakfast. They have rice and curry for lunch and dinner.’ The Sinhalese have ‘three hearty meals a day’ and ‘The ladies wear the saree with a difference and it is called the Kandyan saree’. Conversely, the Tamils ‘who live mainly in the northern and eastern provinces … speak the Tamil language with a heavy accent’ and ‘are a close-knit group with a heavy cultural background’’.
And for heaven’s sake do not train teachers by telling them that ‘Still the traditional ‘Transmission’ and the ‘Transaction’ roles are prevalent in the classroom. Due to the adverse standard of the school leavers, it has become necessary to develop the learning-teaching process. In the ‘Transmission’ role, the student is considered as someone who does not know anything and the teacher transmits knowledge to him or her. This inhibits the development of the student.
In the ‘Transaction’ role, the dialogue that the teacher starts with the students is the initial stage of this (whatever this might be). Thereafter, from the teacher to the class and from the class to the teacher, ideas flow and interaction between student-student too starts afterwards and turns into a dialogue. From known to unknown, simple to complex are initiated and for this to happen, the teacher starts questioning.’
And while avoiding such tedious jargon, please make sure their command of the language is better than to produce sentences such as these, or what was seen in an English text, again thankfully several years ago:
Read the story …
Hello! We are going to the zoo. “Do you like to join us” asked Sylvia. “Sorry, I can’t I’m going to the library now. Anyway, have a nice time” bye.
So Syliva went to the zoo with her parents. At the entrance her father bought tickets. First, they went to see the monkeys
She looked at a monkey. It made a funny face and started swinging Sylvia shouted: “He is swinging look now it is hanging from its tail its marvellous”
“Monkey usually do that’
I do hope your students will not hang from their tails as these monkeys do.
Little known composers of classical super-hits
By Satyajith Andradi
Quite understandably, the world of classical music is dominated by the brand images of great composers. It is their compositions that we very often hear. Further, it is their life histories that we get to know. In fact, loads of information associated with great names starting with Beethoven, Bach and Mozart has become second nature to classical music aficionados. The classical music industry, comprising impresarios, music publishers, record companies, broadcasters, critics, and scholars, not to mention composers and performers, is largely responsible for this. However, it so happens that classical music lovers are from time to time pleasantly struck by the irresistible charm and beauty of classical pieces, the origins of which are little known, if not through and through obscure. Intriguingly, most of these musical gems happen to be classical super – hits. This article attempts to present some of these famous pieces and their little-known composers.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D
The highly popular piece known as Pachelbel’s Canon in D constitutes the first part of Johann Pachelbel’s ‘Canon and Gigue in D major for three violins and basso continuo’. The second part of the work, namely the gigue, is rarely performed. Pachelbel was a German organist and composer. He was born in Nuremburg in 1653, and was held in high esteem during his life time. He held many important musical posts including that of organist of the famed St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He was the teacher of Bach’s elder brother Johann Christoph. Bach held Pachelbel in high regard, and used his compositions as models during his formative years as a composer. Pachelbel died in Nuremburg in 1706.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D is an intricate piece of contrapuntal music. The melodic phrases played by one voice are strictly imitated by the other voices. Whilst the basso continuo constitutes a basso ostinato, the other three voices subject the original tune to tasteful variation. Although the canon was written for three violins and continuo, its immense popularity has resulted in the adoption of the piece to numerous other combinations of instruments. The music is intensely soothing and uplifting. Understandingly, it is widely played at joyous functions such as weddings.
Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary
The hugely popular piece known as ‘Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary’ appeared originally as ‘ The Prince of Denmark’s March’ in Jeremiah Clarke’s book ‘ Choice lessons for the Harpsichord and Spinet’, which was published in 1700 ( Michael Kennedy; Oxford Dictionary of Music ). Sometimes, it has also been erroneously attributed to England’s greatest composer Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695 ) and called ‘Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary (Percy A. Scholes ; Oxford Companion to Music). This brilliant composition is often played at joyous occasions such as weddings and graduation ceremonies. Needless to say, it is a piece of processional music, par excellence. As its name suggests, it is probably best suited for solo trumpet and organ. However, it is often played for different combinations of instruments, with or without solo trumpet. It was composed by the English composer and organist Jeremiah Clarke.
Jeremiah Clarke was born in London in 1670. He was, like his elder contemporary Pachelbel, a musician of great repute during his time, and held important musical posts. He was the organist of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral and the composer of the Theatre Royal. He died in London in 1707 due to self – inflicted gun – shot injuries, supposedly resulting from a failed love affair.
The full title of the hugely famous piece known as ‘Albinoni’s Adagio’ is ‘Adagio for organ and strings in G minor’. However, due to its enormous popularity, the piece has been arranged for numerous combinations of instruments. It is also rendered as an organ solo. The composition, which epitomizes pathos, is structured as a chaconne with a brooding bass, which reminds of the inevitability and ever presence of death. Nonetheless, there is no trace of despondency in this ethereal music. On the contrary, its intense euphony transcends the feeling of death and calms the soul. The composition has been attributed to the Italian composer Tomaso Albinoni (1671 – 1750), who was a contemporary of Bach and Handel. However, the authorship of the work is shrouded in mystery. Michael Kennedy notes: “The popular Adagio for organ and strings in G minor owes very little to Albinoni, having been constructed from a MS fragment by the twentieth century Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto, whose copyright it is” (Michael Kennedy; Oxford Dictionary of Music).
The classical super-hit known as ‘Boccherini’s Minuet’ is quite different from ‘Albinoni’s Adagio’. It is a short piece of absolutely delightful music. It was composed by the Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini. It belongs to his string quintet in E major, Op. 13, No. 5. However, due to its immense popularity, the minuet is performed on different combinations of instruments.
Boccherini was born in Lucca in 1743. He was a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart, and an elder contemporary of Beethoven. He was a prolific composer. His music shows considerable affinity to that of Haydn. He lived in Madrid for a considerable part of his life, and was attached to the royal court of Spain as a chamber composer. Boccherini died in poverty in Madrid in 1805.
Like numerous other souls, I have found immense joy by listening to popular classical pieces like Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, Albinoni’s Adagio and Boccherini’s Minuet. They have often helped me to unwind and get over the stresses of daily life. Intriguingly, such music has also made me wonder how our world would have been if the likes of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert had never lived. Surely, the world would have been immeasurably poorer without them. However, in all probability, we would have still had Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, Albinoni’s Adagio, and Boccherini’s Minuet, to cheer us up and uplift our spirits.
The Tax Payer and the Tough
By Lynn Ockersz
The tax owed by him to Caesar,
Leaves our retiree aghast…
How is he to foot this bill,
With the few rupees,
He has scraped together over the months,
In a shrinking savings account,
While the fires in his crumbling hearth,
Come to a sputtering halt?
But in the suave villa next door,
Stands a hulk in shiny black and white,
Over a Member of the August House,
Keeping an eagle eye,
Lest the Rep of great renown,
Be besieged by petitioners,
Crying out for respite,
From worries in a hand-to-mouth life,
But this thought our retiree horrifies:
Aren’t his hard-earned rupees,
Merely fattening Caesar and his cohorts?