Thinking big to think small
During the post Second World War phase of human development on our
planet Earth, we observed the “Big is better” dictum ruling its
Holistic empowerment of communities
and their participation in development vital. AFP
Most countries that found riches through extraction of much valued
resources of oil, minerals and forests also sought to have the tallest
buildings on Earth, the largest shopping malls and the biggest theme
parks. Movement of global investment capital and consumer spending based
on unreal ‘to be earned incomes’ was rapid and fast with
info-communication technology innovations facilitating it. Transferred
with the capital flows were the mega models of resource extraction and
off- scale development, into some of the developing countries as well.
This was true until recently, when we realized its folly with the
crash of the biggest ever real estate boom in the USA, fall of large
financial institutions and corporations the world over, massive losses
in jobs and livelihoods due to closure or downsizing of large industrial
complexes and the like.
We talk today of the merits of green buildings, carbon neutral cities
and tourist destinations, foliage gardens on the surrounds and top of
high-rise buildings, making available potable water through desalination
of sea water, harnessing alternative energy sources such as solar, wind
and bio fuels.
Nanotechnology, biogenetics and the like of more efficient adoptive
technologies are being talked about as ‘saviour’ options giving us,
humans hope for a future. We are told that this will be a future tougher
than the past, with global warming impacting on sea level rises with
inundation of low lying areas.
Climate change researchers tell us that we will see increased
incidence of natural disasters such as droughts, floods, earth quakes
and the spread of new diseases of epidemic proportions we today call
pandemics, that will impact on the rich and poor nations and citizens of
the world alike.
We also are sensitized to how the ages of human evolution that took
hundreds of thousands of years of gradual formation until the last
century; i.e. the pre-historic, stone, agricultural and industrial ages,
thereafter took on a path of exponential transformation.
With only decades defining their fast-forward formation, the ages of
information technology, globalization, knowledge and creativity
descended on humankind with meteoric proportions and speeds. Several
futurists have attributed the phenomena of the rise of fundamentalism
and the emergence of terrorism as an outcome of the human mind’s
inability to keep pace with the rapidity of these transformations, often
creating states of chaos and conflict.
After 30 years of conflict and a war on terror ending in Sri Lanka,
there seem to be some who are bent on thinking that it is time for us as
a nation to catch up on lost time.
That we must take on projects that will bring fast and rapid returns
to ensure that our people will not have reason to doubt the ability of
our leadership and the Government to deliver them the fruits of big time
That we must rush into inviting the petro-dollar type capital
floating around and go in for mega developments, glitzy and
demonstrative of what some may call a ‘developed’ country.
We recently read reports quoting our investment promoters and tourism
policy makers talk about mega investments from mega sources, for making
sure that all of Sri Lanka’s past follies will be put right with it
becoming another Singapore or a Hong Kong.
On the other hand, policies outlined and statements of the Head of
State emphasize the need for Sri Lanka to have a model of development,
where a holistic empowerment of communities and their participation in
development is highlighted.
Correcting the current regionally skewed distribution of benefits of
development, attaining self- sufficiency in agriculture to support our
food needs with least dependency on imports, better value-addition in
our exports and ensuring environmental and socio-cultural sustainability
are the other key directions.
Such a model based on the ‘Sufficiency Economy’ principles, assumes
the participation of the majority to pave the way for a more profound
path of development that can be on-scale and sustainable providing
direct benefits to stakeholder communities, different to the dominant
model of ‘investor takes it all’ operated mainly with wage workers and
crumbs of CSR dropping on the communities.
Our own brand
The positives we as a nation have, when we come out of the negatives
of the past 30 years of internal strife and conflict, are that we have
retained a good part of the country’s green cover and we have a good
majority of the citizenry yearning for lasting peace, sensitive to the
need for rebuilding unity and for creating a tolerant and caring
We have retained what most other countries have lost in their quest
for fast-paced growth in the past, in uncontrolled urbanisation.
We still have our ethos and cultural values in tact, needing a
rational stimulus to make them take firm root again. What we need now is
to buy-in and share the vision of a Sri Lanka that we can all be proud
A Sri Lanka that will learn from the follies of others, obtain the
support of others who want to genuinely partner in our progress, take
the hard road to build on our strengths and shoulder responsibility
ourselves for paving our way ahead.
We shall need to think big to be able to retain our uniqueness, to
think out of the box and think afresh to be able to bring true meaning
to what will be valued in the future by the rest of the world; a unique
and truly Sri Lankan brand of Sri Lanka.
Useful web addresses:
International Institute for Sustainable
Development - www.iisd.org
Munasinghe Institute for Development
(Sustainable) - www.mindlanka.org
Sustainable Development (Small is Beautiful) -
World Business Council for Sustainable
Development - www.wbcsd.org