Sri Lanka finance minister slams neo-feudal bar on youth entry to service sector

ECONOMYNEXT – SrI Lanka’s finance minister Mangala Samaraweera has slammed a shocking neo-feudal law barring unemployed youth from entering the service sector, which showed graphically how state intervention can rob economic freedoms and harm society in general less vocal and weaker sections in particular.

Sri Lanka’s elected ruling class backed by a neo-feudal urban elite who saw shrinking manual workers and their wages going up mooted the law preventing youth who form the bulk of unemployed from buying three-wheeler taxis to fill a glaring gap in public transport.

"I am against the law that only allows those above 35 years to drive a three wheeler," Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said at a ceremony Rural Development Bank in Matara to give loans to the self-employed.

"I have asked the rule to be at least reduced to 25. We have to give the freedom for a person to do the job of his choice."

Three wheelers have buily tens of thousands of self-employed entrepreneurs who leveraged Sri Lanka’s credit system to buy a nippy vehicle, which used less capital, space and metal than a car (has a higher capital output ratio) and was more suited especially to urban travel to provide public transport.

Sri Lanka’s public transport is in shambles due to government regulation involving a route license system, which blocks consolation and is allegedly rife in corruption.

Three-wheelers use cutting edge technology leveraging smart phones, ride-sharing apps, making it easy for urban dwellers to exist without cars. Ride sharing apps as well call centres which have also sprung up further boosting the capital output ratio compared to public transport.

Young so-called ‘millennials’ urban have now stopped pressing parents to buy them a car due to the ready availability of three wheelers. Some have sold their cars, with a added problem of finding parking space, anecdotal evidence has showed.

Unlike regulated buses, which stop operating in the night due to lack of night fares three wheelers play a valuable role, keeping the economy ticking into the night.

In a irony that defies belief, the United National Party led administration while blocking opportunities for the youth in an ‘own goal policy’ in one of the most shocking interventionist moves in the country’s history is trying to boost employment through a ‘Gam Peraliya’ and ‘Youth Entrepreneurship’ drive into sectors they think is best for the people.





The Transport Ministry however comes under NImal Siripala de Silva, a minister in the coalition representing President Maithripala Sirisena.

Sirisena had also blocked other economic freedoms, including a proposal to break monopoly in shipping agencies preventing completion. Existing three wheeler drivers also want to block competition, though free entry has kept prices low and encouraged more people to use them.

Analysts say Sri Lanka’s rural and urban elites’ habit of treating manual workers as second class citizens – in elite households masons and carpenters and manual workers are not served tea in the same cups as the other guests if they are served at all – may have made the rulers come up with a the law banning youth from driving owning taxis, and support it without a pang or an ounce of conscience.

Though politicians pay lip service to service sector employment in their eyes it is only limited to the more educated young people in practice, critics say.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has started to scheme for unemployed graduates with tax payer money being doled out, while attempting to block the freedom of less educated youth to enter the service sector with three wheelers, smart phones and ride sharing apps.

Minister Samaraweera however said there were hardly any jobs to be given in the state, with some departments which need 1000 workers already having 3,000 workers.

Sri Lanka’s state railways are a classic example of over-staffing and bad service, critics say.

Sri Lankan youth are also moving to areas like three wheelers to earn more money, because steady currency depreciation has made it difficult to operate as a manual worker, as there is a lag in wage catch-up with each bout of depreciation, making migration to the Middle East and Korea, which have strong currencies, attractive. (Colombo/Aug19/2018)

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