|Wednesday, 26 November 2003|
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The plight of the elders in Sri Lanka is very pathetic. Although the retired public servants are getting a monthly pension, it is hardly sufficient for their existence. There are anomalies in the payment of pensions. The Government has so far not taken any action to rectify these anomalies. The retired private sector employees get only the EPF and ETF benefits when they retire. The lump sum amounts they get as EPF are deposited in Fixed Deposits in Banks and live on the monthly interests they receive on these Deposits.
Now the interests paid on the Fixed Deposits have been reduced by nearly half as a result of the reduction of interests rate from 14 per cent to 8 per cent. The result is that this category of elders are finding it difficult to meet their ends. There is another category of elders who have served the country as casual labourers like carpenters, masons, helpers, domestic servants etc. who are not covered by the EPF and ETF benefits. When they become old and feeble and cannot work any longer, their livelihood become miserable. Due to obvious reasons, now it has become difficult for the children to look after their old and feeble parents. Hence these elders are forced to beg on the pavements lying on the ground like stray dogs and cattle.
In Canada, all the citizens above the age of 65 years are called "seniors". They are paid a monthly allowance of thousand dollars which is equivalent to SLR 70,000. The train and bus fares are charged at half rate for these seniors. All their medical bills including the By-pass surgery are paid by the State. Wherever any fee or any charge is levied, these seniors are given some concession. These welfare schemes for the seniors are only a part of their Human Resource Management.
Canada is a fully developed wealthy country whereas Sri Lanka is a developing country. Sri Lanka cannot afford to give our seniors all those benefits. However, we Sri Lankans should learn from Canada how the Human Resource should be managed by the State. By treating the elders as seniors and treating them in that Canadian manner, there is a motivation for the younger generation to work hard to develop the country because they know when they grow old and feeble the State will help them for their existence.
Therefore, I suggest the following in order to get these elders (seniors) out of this pathetic situation.
1. Increase the monthly pensions of the retired public servants and also rectify the anomalies in the payment of pensions.
2. State should built and maintain more Homes for the aged or encourage the NGOs to do that and also increase the grants given by the Social Services Department for the Homes for the Aged.
3. It should be made compulsory for the elders (seniors) who are above the age of 65 years to obtain the Special Identity Cards issued by the Social Services Department.
4. The train and bus fares should be charged at half rate from these seniors on the production of these Special Identity Cards.
5. Special attention should be paid for these seniors at hospitals and clinics and other Government Institutions when they attend them on the production of these Special Identity Cards.
6. The interests on Fired Deposits and Savings Deposits of Seniors should be increased.
A. L. J. RANASOORIYA,
The Finance Minister in his budget proposals has announced that Rs. 4,500 million due to employees lying in dormant EPF accounts will be transferred to the Government. This is daylight robbery. Not only EPF even ETF has large sums of money in dormant accounts. These moneys have not been claimed due to ignorance.
These two institutions have a moral obligation to write to the employees concerned and to the persons nominated by the employee to receive these contributions requesting them to claim this money. The assistance of the contributing employer too could be sought to get in touch with those who are legally entitled to these funds. To withdraw these funds without any attempt to communicate with the rightful owners is immoral. This is a practice adopted by foreign banks. I have no right to analyse the legality of this transfer, as the Finance Minister is a lawyer with a very high reputation. In my view, the 12 per cent EPF contribution included in this Rs. 4,500 million is the entitlement of the employer who contributed this money, in the event the employee does not claim it.
To justify this robbery, the EPF should at least publish in newspapers the employee/employer details relating to the funds that are transferred to the Government enabling the rightful owners to claim their money. Hopefully someone will get a court injunction preventing this transfer. Sadly a Trade Chamber has already spoken in support of this budget proposal.
Jayalal T. Abeywardane,
Being a former employee of the Council, I was shocked to see the state of the affairs of the Council, when I visited Town Hall, a few days ago, regarding matters pertaining to my former employment.
The officials and the staff of the Council are totally disillusioned by the present state of affairs, which are being conducted by the administration. Politicization is the order of the day. All the good work that was done during the previous period have fallen apart. There is no discipline or progress by the present administration. A certain member of the opposition appears to be able to influence any contract or purchase of the Council. unless this member gives a nod, the Finance Committee headed by the Mayor does not give the approval, contractors and suppliers are totally frustrated by what is taking place. Many of them have no one to complain to, as they maybe penalized. The Provincial Council which is the supervisory body of all local authorities should immediately conduct an inquiry into what is happening.
The present Government which is trying to bring in new programmes to regain Sri Lanka are losing Colombo. it is high time remedial measurers are taken before the Colombo Municipal Council break down.
W. D. RANJITH,
Most important question in this national problem is, if those schools are considered as "National", why only certain categories of children are allowed to apply for Grade 1 admissions. Any child in this country should be allowed to make this application. How can a place in a "National" school is accessible only to children in close vicinity or old student's offsprings or brothers, sisters of the students of the school?
True, there is stiff competition for limited number of places and there should be an elimination process. Why not we introduce a lottery system? Nobody needs to turn to corrupt or fraudulent practices and the process would be straightforward and transparent. No problems to the children, parents, education authorities, CID, human right commission and judiciary.
It is high time some concerned parent go to judicial courts to seek legal redress for this unfair selection process.
Many letters have appeared recently commenting on the levying of a service charge on current accounts by Bank of Ceylon.
As a banker recently retired who is liable for this service charge, permit me to examine the likely reasoning for levying a service charge on current accounts which do not maintain a minimum specified balance during a month.
Before doing so, I wish to mention that I agree with the many previous writers that the Bank should have given adequate notice to all current account holders regarding the imposition of a service charge and the minimum balance to be maintained in the account to be exempt from this levy.
The main sources of income of a Bank are commission (and allied charges) and interest on advances. The State Banks are constantly pressurised by the Government and Central Bank to reduce their lending rates in order to accelerate investment and economic growth. The lending rate of a Bank is a mark up on its cost of funds which in turn is made up of two components, viz, financial cost of funds and administrative cost of funds. If either one or both these components could be controlled or reduced, the lending rate could be proportionately reduced.
The financial cost of funds is made up of interest paid on deposits. This factor could be reduced arbitrarily lowering the rate of interest paid on various types of deposits. However, in doing so, a Bank cannot fall out of line with the rates obtaining in the market as that would result in a flight of deposits and the erosion of its deposit base.
Administration cost of funds is made up of several factors particularly personnel, premises, equipment and establishment expenses. Cost of all these have gone up. Maintenance of Computer systems (both hardware and software) including many ATMs are high.
Let us examine the actual commission that is levied on current accounts not maintaining a minimum balance. On Personal Accounts, it is Rs. 50 per month, if a minimum balance of Rs. 2,500 is not maintained in Super Grade "A" and "B" branches and Rs. 1,000 in "C" and ASC branches. In the letter sent to customers after the increased service charge was introduced Bank has said "Bank has decided to revise the service charge to meet part of increasing maintenance cost of current accounts".
All services have price not only Banking and a free service will have to be subsidised from some other source. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board charges Rs. 50 a month as service charge from domestic water consumers. The monthly rental (which is a service charge) on a private telephone (Sri Lanka Telecom) is Rs. 450 a month.
Let us be reasonable and honest about this issue.
As an ICASL student I was sad to read the news item "Sri Lanka produces stunning results at CIMA exams". It is not the fact that CIMA students got good results, but the fact that we do not have the time to devote for studies unlike the CIMA students.
Training is compulsory to sit for exams. It's always a case of a deadline to complete the audit. So, we have to work beyond normal working hours. This so called training is not for our benefit but for the benefit of the audit firms. My friends studying for CIMA shuttle between tutors whilst we are slogging for our masters.
I appeal to the Institute of Chartered Accountants to do away with compulsory training, so that we too can devote our time fully for studies like CIMA students. We can undergo training after we pass our examinations.
This way the audit firms also benefit, as we are then more knowledgeable to carry out audits. The overall standards of audits will automatically improve.
The two letters (October 1 and 29) under the caption 'Eliminate the problem and not the dogs', by eminent veterinary surgeon, Dr. Ananda Kumar, give a very realistic, practical and rational approach to the stray dog problem.
Human beings have a right to live; dogs, cats and all animals too enjoy the same right which unfortunately is not guaranteed by law and enforced strictly. Wildlife for example elephants, though protected by law are destroyed by cruel and anti-social elements in Sri Lanka.
Rabies and prolific breeding of pups are the two main evils associated with stray dogs and could be successfully dealt with compulsory mass anti-rabies vaccination and sterilization of females.
Registration of all dogs with the local authority suggested by Dr. Ananda Kumar is not feasible since strays have no proper owners, and even if they do have owners hardly any will pay Rs. 100 or any fee to register dogs - Sri Lankan mentality.
How many owners licence their motor vehicles, TV and radio sets (not applicable today) leave alone dogs?
Chandra Rodrigo's (CR's) letter (October 13) 'Destroy them humanely' is no solution to the problem.
His cruel, inhuman, obnoxious method to destroy humanely is in itself contradictory.
Any killing whether it be human being or animal, is inhuman and the very suggestion to destroy humanely is senseless.
Life is precious and no one has the right to destroy another person's life even as a punishment for murder or terrorist activity etc. This cardinal concept explains why capital punishment (death sentence) is not reintroduced in Sri Lanka and other countries where it was suspended with life imprisonment.
The emphasis today is on rehabilitation of man including terrorists. So why not rehabilitate man's best friend - the dog?
CR's contention that strays upset garbage dumps, howl, bark at night, urinate and defecate on roads and must be destroyed.
How about the beggars, vagabonds, illegitimate parentless children and adults hovering on streets sleeping in bus halts, and on pavements, hunting for scraps of food in garbage dumps, urinating and defecating on roads and those incurables suffering from cancer, AIDs etc? Are they to be destroyed 'humanely'?
Kindness and humanity should take precedence over cruelty in dealing with man's best friend - the dog.
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