How to realize SAARC objectives

mahindha raja paksa and anni
Mahindha Rajapaksa and Anni

Following through the news about the ongoing 17th SAARC summit in Addu, it appears that there indeed are some beneficial ideas floating around in the summit. Here are some snippets of ideas under discussion at the summit:

  • Pakistani delegation proposed to work towards single currency in the region like Euro and to remove visa restrictions throughout the SAARC region.
  • Sheikh Haseena of Bangladesh spoke about this issue in terms of removing restrictions to migrant workers through SAARC region.
  • Dr. Manmohan Singh emphasized the need to open up economies for foreign investment.
  • The Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa proposes to iron out their position with India and Maldives on fish poachery by south Indian fishermen.
  • Not to be outdone, Maldives proposed common railway link agreement between SAARC member nations which hopefully will make travel between some SAARC countries easier and cheaper.

Looking at these positions, its evident that each politician is just voicing concerns that is primarily advantageous to their economies. This is politically playing it safe and treading the well-worn path. This could be the reason why the region is slow to adapt to any meaningful beneficial proposals from successive SAARC summits over the years. What is needed for the region is bold daring moves to bring meaningful changes to the region. Currently the position of member countries is such that its a pain even to obtain a student visa to most SAARC countries despite all the talk of SAARC brotherhood.

To realize SAARC objectives, the leaders need to rise above the day to day quibbling with political drama and be visionary in thinking. Of course it is easier said than done and in giant countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh one would be naive to think that a magic spell exists to rise above that level that keeps our politicians at permanently at their lows.

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SAARC summit in Addu

17th SAARC convention center at Addu
17th SAARC convention center at Addu

After months of preparation, Addu will today host the 17th SAARC summit with several world leaders from South East Asian countries. Talks on agenda include the usual India-Pakistan befriending talks, transportation agreements and the idea to use single currency throughout the region like EU. SAARC is generally perceived to be a talk shop for leaders from the region and there is talk (just as before!) of giving more teeth to SAARC secretariat to make SAARC more pragmatic.

An example of the disconnect between SAARC summit organizers and the people is the ongoing demonstrations in Addu in protest at the monuments erected for the summit which depicts engraves images and statutes which are offensive to local belief and customs.

Just as SAARC has an agenda of things to talk about, SAARC also does have a smaller list of things not to talk about. These include to be hush about human rights violations in the nearby Burma (the ruling military junta even changed the name of the country to Myanmar), not to mind the media restrictions freshly ordered in Sri Lanka and not to be too concerned about US violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by conducting military operations without Pakistani consent.

out sourcing in resorts..

 project pictures
When mentioned out sourcing the media would have most of us associate it with Microsoft, India, cheap labor etc.. However outsourcing is quite prevalent in our resorts although we do not seem to apply the name as such. There are both many benefits of this as well as questions about some aspects of it. Some examples we can easily identify are:

1.Diving school outsourcing. This is very common in resorts and seems to be the viable option as resorts trying to do this by themselves find themselves quite overwhelmed with the demands of running the whole show.
2.Guest shop. This is also one more trend that is catching up with the resorts as more and more shop companies are offering attractive proposals to resorts struggling with an unimaginative shop with an equally unimaginative concept to sell pricey nothings to wearied guests.
3.Guest relations. In some resorts there are dedicated tour guides or Guest Relations Officers (GROs) who are ordinary human beings less than a manager and a slight bit higher in position than the front office staff and are customarily required to be multilingual. However there is a growing trend to outsource this department to the water sports people.
4.Animators. This seems to be the domain of the fun loving Italians and they may hire this talent from guests as part of their package holiday deal.
5.Doctors. Although there are quite a few number of resorts with a doctor-in-house, some resorts did indeed outsource this job with an understanding with medical institutes, universities from where doctors arrive as guests and makes themselves available for service to other guests as well, in a discounted holiday deal.
6.Inspectors. Although most resorts do their own inspections with company big shots as the inspectors, some resorts send anonymous inspectors to the resorts as paid guests. These paid inspectors make detailed observations of all guest areas and guest services and submit their report to the person who commissioned the work after their departure and vanishes in to the thin air there after. This is very effective in keeping everyone including managers and the whole resort in its best form as nobody seems to know when the gestapo arrives.
7.Friday Imam. A local imam is hired and brought to resort for Friday sermon from nearby islands or from Male’ to lead the faithful in the Friday prayers. This is good public relations thing with the islands as people of the islands appreciate their usefulness to the otherwise useless nearby resort..
8.Supply department. This is one department resorts shall disown sooner than later for their own good. Local suppliers specializing in resort supplies are better able to do this because they have many advantages over resort employed supply personnel such as local market knowledge, the sense that their success depends on a satisfied resort etc etc. . The way to go about is to go gradually and to build on trust. Better still to equip a capable honest agent based in Male’ and to start a “supply relationship”.
9.Power house. This is also a trend that is there but does not seem to move fast enough. Part of the problem is the lack of capable engineering firms in Male’ or in the nearby vicinity of the island as the existing engineering firms are saturated with contracted commitments to service resorts for a nominal monthly fee. The terms of the commitment would include a nominal monthly fee regardless of whatever happens in the resort vis-avis the generator sets and special discounted terms to service yearly or biannual major overhauls of the systems etc.
10.Launch Section. Operating a “Launch section” is costly business and resorts are aware of this. It would involve a capable workshop to handle marine engines both inboard and outboard, the engineering people well versed in this special type of engineering as well as a sizable army of captains and crews, facilitators and a one more manager to the management elite group. Despite the costliness of this operation, several resorts have their own Launch Sections thanks to the few number of firms capable of catering for the constant but erratic travel needs of the resorts.
11.Insect and Pest Controllers. Some of our resorts fight the endless, thankless job of controlling the pests and other insects with sprayers, fog machines, traps and a range of chemicals and devices every day of the year all year round. Most resorts as of yet do a d.i.y (do it yourself) job of this as there are very few firms providing this service in resorts in Male’ or Maldives.
12.Fire fighting infrastructure. Fire fighting equipment and systems are not the domain of everyday people as they are subjected to stricter rules or the insurance companies will take a flight from responsibility when unfortunate things happens… A couple of firms are available to provide the required services in this field and resorts are having to do with whatever is available in the market and curb their demands. There is strong need for competition in this field.
13.Landscaping.. same as above. But landscaping is normally required at the beginning of a resorts life after which an army of homegrown professionals take over. 2 known companies provide this service.

Maldives the carbon neutral country

slands
The effects of Maldives being the world’s first carbon neutral country to the global environment as a whole will be minimal, but to the country the effects will be felt and felt strongly. The government has not yet revealed a comprehensive plan about how they intend to achieve this target and is believed to be working on plans to implement the works as soon as the studies are ready. One advantage we in the Maldives have over others is our country’s small size when we intend to go 100% green and the government just seems to have grasped only this notion out of the whole picture and is trying to make do with a grand project.

As the plans are yet to be formulated we shall take the liberty of musing to ourselves how this target is to be achieved. However the context has to be applied here in the divided politics of our country and it has to be remembered that all voices on this matter do not sing to the same tune. The reason is simple. For years Maldives was dominated by a president who played the environmental card to the foreign media to mask the growing unrest at home and in the process has done much to raise awareness of the public to the environmental issues at hand. The people were made to believe that the then president Gayoom was the inventor of green politics. After his electoral defeat and once Anni became president those who supported the former president has come to believe Anni is no body but a copy cat stealing Gayoom’s policies. There might or might not be substance to that view but at least thats some context to the issue at hand.

Now if the government does indeed want to become carbon neutral (which they pledged) the very first step could be to shut down the diesel generators in various islands and to build a national power grid most of which would be submerged on the seabed connecting all the roughly 200 inhabited islands of the country. The grid will be powered by a few select power stations which could be anything from wave power, solar and wind farms. Alternate ways to produce power such as wave and solar current technologies has been tested and proven to be effective in the country.

Next the transport sector shall be made greener by urging the people to use less diesel and petrol and make more use of electric bikes scooter , cars and buggies etc. The islands of Maldives being small and as there are few roads built, the “need for speed” shall be curbed. Simply put there is nowhere to drive a 1200cc petrol guzzler as its forbidden to drive faster than 30km per hour and that much speed can easily be attained by a battery powered vehicle. Here as a policy what the government would have to do is to ask the people to make sacrifices on personal preferences in favor of their policies or the common good of humankind. Incentives shall be offered to battery powered vehicles to make them attractive for the people who by now are used to fast petrol powered bikes. etc.

Vehicles running on bio fuel does not seem to be a good choice as the recent food crisis in various parts of the globe was attributed farmers switching to bio fuel producing plants from food producing plants. Not that what we choose here in Maldives would have any effect in terms of global supply or demand of bio fuel products but atleast avoiding the bio fuel would be putting up a principled stand on a moral issue.

Buying our electric power needs from India of Sri Lanka via a submarine cable could be an option if technology and feasibility allows it. This could be an option if what we are able to produce here in our country by alternative means could be insufficient considering such factors as maintenance of the production systems and the demand on land such power production would take, as land is very much in a premium here. India already exports power in this manner to Bhutan and has recently signed with Sri Lanka in a deal to export power there which in the first phase (about 2 years from now) would supply about 500MW of power upgrade-able to 1GW in 4 years time.