31 essays on relevant concerns
Development Issues and Concerns
Selected Papers from Fifty Yearâ€™s Writings of Professor A. D. V.
de S. Indraratna Editor Sarath Vidanagama Published by the A. D. V. de.
S. Indraratna Felicitation Committee, Colombo 2008
The compilers of this Felicitation Volume for Professor Indraratna
must be congratulated for deviating from the conventional practice of a
felicitation volume being a collection of papers by different authors.
Instead they have compiled a selection of his large number of
writings over an expanse of his 50 years of research and teaching.
Thirty one of his papers strewn in various journals and books have been
brought together in this volume. Consequently, it is a valuable volume
for academics and researchers.
There are two other features of this volume that make it particularly
worthwhile. It contains contributions that Professor Indraratna has made
over such a long period of time that many of the articles are from
sources that are not readily accessible.
The other value of the volume rests in the fact that the articles
cover a wide range of subjects. These subjects range, inter alia, from
demographic issues, to agriculture, to issues of industrialisation
development problems and policies, globalization, education, inequality
The title of the book Development Issues and Concerns reflects
Professor Indraratnaâ€™s focus of interest over one half century. Although
these 31 essays have been written over a period spanning 50 years, their
value is not confined to the time they were written, they contain
perspectives that are still valid and relevant concerns for today.
Professor Indraratna is an academic who wrote on issues of practical
concerns on the economy and society rather than esoteric journal
articles. His interests were of developmental issues and that too not
confined to a few areas, as many economists tend to. The book is very
appropriately titled Development Issues and Concerns, for the papers are
on the concerns and issues in Sri Lankaâ€™s economic and social
The introduction by the editor Dr. Sarath Vidanagama is invaluable as
it provides a birdâ€™s eye view of the 31 essays covered in the book. It
is an excellent summary of the contents and issues covered in the book
and valuable for its own sake. The wide ranging contents of the book
have been appropriately classified into six sections:
1. Development: Problem, Policy and Planning;
2. Agricultural Development;
3. Globalisation, Economic Integration and Cooperation;
4. Education and Development;
5. Inequality, Poverty and Development; and
6. Policy Studies.
These sectional headings themselves indicate the wide array of topics
and concerns of Professor Indraratna over a half century of research and
writing. They also reflect the broad perspectives and development
concerns of the author over this period. It is not possible to cover all
31 essays in a review of limited confines of space. All I intend to do
is to focus the readersâ€™ attention to a few of the themes in the book
that would give a flavour of the essays.
The first essay on the development problem of underdeveloped
countries dates back to June 1958 when development issues were in its
infancy. He himself says that it is not a comprehensive one dealing with
all the aspects of the development problem of underdeveloped countries.
At the time it was written it would no doubt have aroused considerable
interest and discussion. Reading this essay now made me reminiscence on
the initial work in this area by W. Arthur Lewis, Hla Myint, Bauer and
Yamey, and Joan Robinson, among others.
Professor Indraratna quotes the writings of eminent economists and
defines underdevelopment. He discusses the preconditions required for
development in this pioneering piece of Sri Lankan writing on the
subject. This revised version of his original paper includes suggestions
made by Joan Robinson.
Complementary to this chapter is his paper on the Ten-Year Plan. This
paper first appeared in The Ceylon Commerce of October 1959. It comments
and reflects on the Ten Year Plan and the ideas of the time. In this
paper Professor Indraratna deals with the need for planning and assesses
the objectives of the Plan and its feasibility. The economy has changed
so much since then and this essay is a valuable reminiscence of a past
era in the economy.
Particular mention must be made of his essay of the overview of
economic development and policy, written in commemoration of the book
Fifty Years of Independence that he edited on the occasion of the
countryâ€™s fiftieth anniversary of independence.
The mammoth book of 600 pages that he complied was an important
contribution to the countryâ€™s economic literature and is a valuable
contribution to the evaluation of the countryâ€™s economic policies and
performance over the first half century after independence.
There are four chapters on agricultural development policy in Sri
Lanka in part 2 of the book. Though these essays were written some years
ago the problems, difficulties and constraints he highlights have
His essay on agricultural credit highlights the need for and problems
of, agricultural credit, a prerequisite for development of agriculture
especially at a time when agriculture was the predominant sector.
Despite many efforts and economic changes the fundamental problems of
financing agriculture remain.
His essay on the Guaranteed Price Scheme (1966) discusses the need
for a stable and reasonable price for paddy to the farmer. Despite this
scheme he points out that the price guaranteed for paddy by the
government was not realized owing to the shortcomings of implementation
and prices obtained by the paddy farmer have been inadequate. It
provides insights for policy makers to consider in intervening in the
Professor Indraratna has been associated with education throughout
his long career. After his retirement from universities he was
responsible for the research wing of the University Grants Commission.
Part four of the book on Education and Development has four chapters two
of which are devoted to higher education, the third on the role played
by C.W.W. Kannangara, popularly known as the Father of Free Education.
In his chapters on university education he stresses the need for
rationalisation of university education making it employment-orientated.
His chapter on higher education for sustainable development was
initially the memorial lecture in honour of one of the great
educationalist of the country the late J. E. Jayasuriya. He emphasizes
the restrictive features of the admission policy of the universities and
advocates a series of proposals for revamping of the higher education
system for sustainable development.
In his chapter on the role of C W W Kannangara in the countryâ€™s
education, the author values the contribution made by him towards the
establishment of central schools and change-over to national languages
as media of instruction, as a means for furthering free education in Sri
Lanka. His essay on eduction and discipline (2002) is most pertinend in
the current condition of primary, secondary and tertiary education.
The final section of the book is on inequity, poverty and
development. In this chapter he draws out the relationships between
poverty equity and development. It is a comprehensive paper on the Sri
Lankan experience on poverty and income distribution. He discusses the
causes and consequences of poverty and their implications for
development arguing that there is a nexus between human development and
It is no easy task to review a book dealing with so many diverse
development issues and concerns. I have only referred to a few of the
papers. These essays were not only of policy relevance when they were
written but have perspectives of value for present policy debates.
The papers are of social and economic relevance covering as they do a
wide range of subjects from economic policy and developmental issues to
demography and poverty, education to globalisation and agricultural
policy and development.
This book with its varied themes and subjects reflect the man and his
work; his wide range of concerns over national issues. The broad
concerns are not confined to the single discipline of economics but deal
with multidisciplinary issues in development. Such a wide range of
issues could only be the product of a man of passion and zest and an
overriding concerns for the development of the country he loves.