Thursday, May 13, 2021

Update: Pandemics, Financial Crash and Gold

All these pandemic stuff is not unexpected.  Those who look at downside risk, i.e. tail risk, predicted the 2008 crash*. After that  they commented the structural issues of US economy are still weak and an pandemic will tear apart globalization.
So obviously we are seeing the pandemic at play.  I thought it would die down by May Jun (2021) at least for Sri Lanka. Is it going to get worse, who knows?. Two more big picture issues in play both linked.
a) A financial crash bigger than 2008 in the US is in play. Is it tomorrow or couple of years down the line, cant say. As they say the market can stay irrational longer than you can say solvent.

b) The price of Gold, still in play to reach 3K/oz.  Has taken a hit because of crypto currencies, and the ability to move it with ease across borders.  The moment there is something like Internet failure, or ability to audit movement goodbye to confidence in crypto currencies.  Very hard to audit gold plastered into your wall. (Remember US made it illegal to own gold and confiscated what was in bank deposit boxes).

Two paragraphs from what I wrote in May 2020

To quote from 2011 article by Matt Stoller: And while this may not be hitting the elite segments of the economy right now, there will be no escape from a flu pandemic or significant food shortage. The re-engineering of our global supply chain needs to happen—and it will happen, either through good leadership or through collapse.

The Virus War: Make no mistake, this is the real war on Terror. The enemy is invisible, insidious and within. Normally wars have some breathing space, bombs fall and then a few days of respite. This war is like water torture a continuous drip drip of sickness and death. Eventually fatigue sets in, and many become immune to the daily numbers of sickness and death. The Stalinist "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic" becomes the reality, with the death of humanity.

*One of the reasons I am out here in jungles, the tail risk was too scary, plus I was getting stressed and burnt out with vacationless US work hours.

Written in May 2020

Monday, December 14, 2020

Dabur Lanka to export 3.36 million litres of Lankan water to India every month

This was a post from 2012, that had got deleted.  Resurrected from waybackmachine.

I got this Letter thru email and the saw that it had been posted on a blog as well
Update: Please read Climate Change, Food Security & Virtual Water an Asymmetric Threat to Sri Lanka which articulates this whole issue in a bigger picture context.

Excerpts from the email from Feisal Mansoor (fmansoor at

Dabur plan to make 280,000 cases (1 litre x 12 per case) of fruit based beverages a month. So we are talking about a minimum of 280,000 x 12 = 3,360,000* litres of liquid per month.
Kamy Melwani of Neo Synthesis Research has made it plain to me that Dabur have done insufficient research because what we have in our region is a rock based rain fed aquifer, which explains why my bore hole dried up so quickly. The Water Engineer who specified and dug the well told me I would get 50,000 litres per day. In fact I got nothing like this and it dried up within two weeks. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board came and tested the well for me and they too told me it was not viable. I had to abandon it.
No EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) has been conducted on the land and Dabur have easily side stepped the intent and purpose of our legislation.

Basically Dabur is going to use about about 10.5 million gallons a year. That is a 32 foot depletion of groundwater from an acre (See gallons to acre feet) . Anyway you look at it that is a lot of water, which could take decades to replenish /recharge. (more about groundwater depletion here). Groundwater recharge in Sri Lanka is anywhere from 11 mm/year to 80 mm/year according to a study by R.P. de Silva. Based on simplistic assumptions, that means the ground water used by Dabur in one year, can take from 120 years to 1000 years to be recharged.

I have been expecting this from our neighbors, including the eastern Middle east. Dole, the largest multinational is also here with I think 2500 acres in the Buttala Pelwatte region. i.e. we have a resource, water, in the form of rain and groundwater that India and the ME have in increasingly in short supply.
Artificial groundwater recharge is becoming increasingly important in India, where over-pumping of groundwater by farmers has led to underground resources becoming depleted. In 2007, on the recommendations of the International Water Management Institute, the Indian government allocated Rs 1800 crore (US$400million) to fund dug-well recharge projects (a dug-well is a wide, shallow well, often lined with concrete) in 100 districts within seven states where water stored in hard-rock aquifers had been over-exploited.

The benefits of groundwater are obvious. But so are the dangers. Overuse can cause severe problems. On the coast of Gujarat, in west India, for example, farmers benefited hugely from groundwater during the 1960s and 1970s, earning this coastal strip the name ‘the Green Creeper’. But the prosperity was short-lived. Too much freshwater was withdrawn too quickly. This caused salty seawater to be drawn up to 7 km inland, killing the region’s tubewell based economy. The story is similar in Yemen, where overuse caused the levels of the country’s aquifers to drop by up to 40 meters in 9 years. Now many farmers simply can’t drill deep enough to access the resource. (from IWMI Water Policy Briefs please read)
I agree about investment to develop, but increasingly the model seems like the the Middle East in the early 1900's. Till a few decades back all the oil companies in the Middle east (and other Latin American countries) were American/European. The product was extracted, a nominal royalty fee paid, shipped out of the producer country and value added products including refinery/plastics done in Europe/America. Valid arguments for this model are that the technology and the skilled labor only existed in the West at that time.

Our water, including groundwater is becoming an increasingly precious resource, just as much as petroleum became a natural resource with no value to an extremely valuable resource. The arguments that the skills and skilled labor needed for value added products (processed food, bottled water) are unavailable in Sri Lanka hold no water (pun intended). I can only see the possibility that investment is needed to full potential of the resources.

Assuming investment is needed to fully realize the potential of our precious resource, i.e grow food or industrial crops in the country there should be some guidelines, e.g.
a) Land lease time should be minimal,
b) If groundwater is used expected usage and amount of groundwater depletion becomes cost of lease (and compensation to neighbors)
c) Value added production should be done in the country, i.e drying fruit and packaging, bottled water etc, extraction/distillation.
Above are photos of the Dole Entrance, and the banana plantation with paddy fields interspersed. The paddy fields belong to local farmers who have not sold out to Dole. See link from Mongobay on Satellite imagery for the Dole Plantation

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

1918 Pandemic and Covid-19 Parallels

 1918 Pandemic  Infection Dates
Australia   First known infections October 1918.
                 Second more severe in July 1919

Sri Lanka   First Wave in June 1918
                  Second Wave Sept 1918

Just based on pandemic incidence getting lagged, would guesstimate that Aus second wave will be in July 2021.   In Sri Lanka guesstimate the pandemic should be over by February.

Some Excerpts from (National Museum of Australia)

In Australia, while the estimated death toll of 15,000 people was still high, it was less than a quarter of the country’s 62,000 death toll from the First World War. Australia’s death rate of 2.7 per 1000 of population was one of the lowest recorded of any country during the pandemic.

Nevertheless, up to 40 per cent of the population were infected, and some Aboriginal communities recorded a mortality rate of 50 per cent.

Excerpts Ceylon Today Article 

Note: This newspaper article gives mortality rate as 1.1% from the Langford paper.  The more recent Sarathchandra gives mortality at 3 to 5%.

A notable victim of the 1918-1919 pandemic in India was Mahatma Gandhi. But he recovered by going on an all-liquid diet and complete rest. There was no medicine for the flu. By early July in 1918, 230 people were dying of the disease every day in India.

 While COVID-19 has apparently spared women, the 1918-19 flu hit the women hard both in Ceylon and India.   

Districts in the Dry Zone (such as Anuradhapura) suffered more than those in the Wet Zone (because of Malaria and weak health).

In the South, the plantation sector suffered a lot because of the congested living conditions, the unhealthy environment in the "Line Rooms" where the tea workers lived, and the poor health of the estate workers who were poor labourers from impoverished South India.  

In the short term, and in the worst months, the Indian origin Tamils bore the brunt of the pandemic. The Muslims were next in line, and the Sinhalese were third. This position of the Sinhalese may well have reflected the fact that their habitations were much more scattered while other communities tended to live in close proximity.

However, over a longer 15- month period, ethnic differences in morbidity disappeared, the researchers noted. (In SL as of Dec 5th 50% of the dead (124) are Muslims).

Ceylon Today Newspaper Article

Chandra and Sarathchandra (2014)

Langford and Storey (1992)

Australia National Museum

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Revoking 13th Amendment in Sri Lanka and Elections in the US.

Abstract: A centralized govt in Sri Lanka is necessary maintain Law and order. Devolution of power to provinces may be stepping stone to de facto Federalism and a client Federal state to India. The cautionary example is the US and its separation of Federal and State powers. The separation of US and State power has lead to inconsistent implementation of law and order, including even minor issues, such as wearing of masks.


In 1987 under duress from India under Rajiv Gandhi, the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was signed.  Part of
the accord was the Devolution of land, the police and financial powers to the Provinces.   This pretty much de facto  Federalism was incorporated as the 13th Amendment (13A) into the Sri Lankan  Constitution.

The main issue with de facto Federalism is that it might be either a stepping stone for separate North and East state and or a client state/province of India.  As if to prove that fear in February 2016, the Chief Minister of Sri Lanka's Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran sought India's direct intervention in the complete implementation of the amendment.  

There is a call from some of the minority Tamil population (12% of Total) to merge the North and East Provinces creating a province that would encompass 28.78% of Sri Lankas land area and 11.9% of the total population.  The minority Tamil population in this merged province would be 1,597,276 ( 987,692 + 609,584).   That is a 7% Tamil population of all of  Sri Lanka.   The two merged provinces have total population of 2,610,143 (1,058,762+1,551,381), making the Tamil minority 61%.

Land Area and Population North and East Provinces
Northern Province Land Area 8,884 km2 (3,430 sq mi) (13.54% of total area),
Population 1,058,762 ((5.22% of total pop.)
Tamil Population: 987,692 (93.29%)
Eastern Province:

Land: 9,996 km2 (3,859 sq mi) (15.24% of total area)
1,551,381 (7.66% of total pop)
Tamil Population: 609,584 (39.29%)

Cautionary Example: The US

In the US, excess Police Brutality on Black and Hispanics has resulted in protests,  some peaceful and some marred by violence and looting.  There is circumstantial evidence that Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have been co-opted for political purposed.   CIA manual psychological regime change and Color revolution tactics are permeating into US politics. 

Prominent opinion makers like David Brooks in a NY Times opinion piece advocates a color revolution if Trump wins. .
It turns out, amid the existential crisis, there really is a group of sober people who are militant about America, who can see reality unblinkered by the lens of partisanship, and who are finally compelled to organize.

If Trump claims a victory that is not rightly his, a few marches in the streets will not be an adequate response. There may have to be a sustained campaign of civic action, as in Hong Kong and Belarus, to rally the majority that wants to preserve democracy, that isolates those who would undo it
Even some immigrant Sri Lankans, are inciting violence. A Sri Lankan, who works at the Pentagon and should know better as minority Tamil in SL says
against Trump is so high that many of us feel like physically beating up any Trump supporter we come across.
Imagine the energy on the far left then. The Trump enabling mafia is going to learn a painful lesson; for the unpardonable sin of foisting Trump on the country.
Some other Sri Lankans may not advocate violence, but
If people want to be relevant how about striving to  be the largest tax paying ethnicity? Betcha your lives will matter then.

Me: As usual you make supercilious, new immigrant, they as in Black and Hispanic are "looser" type remarks. When were you and yours ever in the forefront defending the US, other than as an armchair warrior.
Me: I guess you dont think Black and Hispanic are part of the "Brave" (as in Land of the Free and Brave) who have been in forefront of the right or wrong wars the US has been fighting.

Obviously, there is potential for color revolution type protests, violence, riots after elections.  Will the federal govt be able to maintain law and order.  From what is happening now in the US now it is extremely doubtful.  Because of the division of power between the Federal Govt and State governments there is no consistent implementation of Law and order, even a simple issue as such as wearing a mask. 

Accusations of Democrat vs Republican  Governors and their ability to keep Law and order are flying around.  Post elections in the US, is it the Federal Government or the State Governments that are going to be responsible for  "Law and order".

I think many are avoiding an issue as to why the current Fed govt is reluctant to get the military out. Because they are not sure which side they (as in the foot soldiers) will decide to support. 40% of the military is minority and very likely much higher at the rank and file level.

Relevance to Sri Lanka: Federal vs State law

My opinion:
Advantages of  Central Govt vs Devolution/Province is going to be very obvious after US elections. 

*Side Comment: 
My great Grandparents converted to Christianity because of of Americans.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Irish Enslavement In Colonial America

The Irish slave trade began when 30,000 Irish prisoners were sold as slaves to the New World. The King James I Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.

Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.

From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well.

During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.

Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle.

As an example, the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period. It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.

African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling). Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African. The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude.

In time, the English thought of a better way to use these women (in many cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their market share: The settlers began to breed Irish women and girls with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. This practice of interbreeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.

England continued to ship tens of thousands of Irish slaves for more than a century. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia. There were horrible abuses of both African and Irish captives. One British ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.
There is little question that the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much (if not more in the 17th Century) as the Africans did. There is, also, very little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry. In 1839, Britain finally decided on its own to end its participation in Satan’s highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded THIS chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.
But, if anyone, black or white, believes that slavery was only an African experience, then they’ve got it completely wrong.

Irish slavery is a subject worth remembering, not erasing from our memories

Friday, June 12, 2020

What Changes Needed for the US

Start with a quote from Matt Stoller (2011)
Change needs to happen—and it will happen, either through good leadership or through collapse.
The US has choices, most other countries dont.

With all the chaos and rioting there are no specific goals to make the US equitable, specially for the lower rungs of society.  My thoughts of specific goals.

What should be done immediately
a) Give aid to direct individuals
   This includes free testing and health care

b) Debt Jubilee, i.e. forgiveness of debt. 
   Rent, Mortgage forgiveness based on income/job.
   NOT a deferral with a huge amount coming due in the future

Electoral Process
The President, Congress and Senators need to be more answerable to the public.  The way the current system works, public votes and President, Congress and elected officials do the bidding of their paymasters, the big money  Multinationals and Military Industrialist.  This change is imperative for a proper functioning democracy.

a) No lobbyists, period.  Caught lobbying or accepting lobby, at least a few years in Jail.
    Lobbying is legalized bribery and corruption.
b) Campaign Finance: I would prefer only a govt funding, equal to all contestants. 
    Or only donations by individuals with cap on amount.
c) Two term limit for Senators

Finance Specific*
a) Let Too Big to Fail companies/banks go bust if they are not profitable ,
    instead of propping them up with more and more trillion dollar handouts.
b) Stop derivatives being used for speculation/betting.
    Can be used as hedge against asset on the books. 
    If the asset is sold, the derivative needs to be unwound.
c) Share buybacks be made illegal.

I dont think USD 6 Trillion injection into financial markets will solve the Covid19 pandemic or the chaos in the US. 
To put the 6 Trillion into perspective.  US GDP is USD 19 Trillion.  Public debt is  USD 18 trillion Interest public debt USD 479 billion/0.5 Trillion (10% of Budget)

*Some suggestions by VijayVan

Its not about cutting costs per se. Think the Henry Ford saying, workers should be able to buy what is produced. For that the US must first throw out Free Trade and embrace protectionist. Start Manufacturing and give Price protection to what is manufactured.   Same for Oil, the US is self sufficient. 
But all of this means ditching the Petro dollar, and the global monetary power that comes with it.  So very unlikely those changes will be by choice.

A push for polices that re vitalize small towns with self reliant economies.   Not just a suburban enclave dependent on commuters working in a nearby big city.  Coupled with small or medium manufacturing.  i.e. Supply chain is mainly within the US.

Maybe even a partial break up of Big Ag and land distribution (100 acres or so) specifically for Agriculture.  I think subsidies for small scale farmers is fine.  Much better that trillion dollar bail outs for Big Ags.

The US will have to make some serious decisions about being the global policeman, and conducting wars. (I doubt will happen without change in Campaign Finance/Electoral Process).  The US Might has turned to "might happen". Trillions on war, has not made the US safe.  Never ending Wars and nary a benefit except debt and death.
This does not mean disbanding the military.  Any country needs to defend itself against invasions.  The choice is wars of aggression in distant lands or developing the economy.
US Spending on wars Iraq War: +1 Trillion Afghan War: 1 Trillion  Military: 500 billion/year

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

March 2020 Facebook Comment

Note:  This was written in March long before the George Floyd chaos.

The next 6-9 months will be a test of resiliency of societies. It is going to test the social and economic cohesiveness of societies to depression level economic downturns.
Countries have different gods. In the US and UK now it is "Personal Freedom" and the stockmarket.
In the US they pumping billions into the financial world, including the stock market expecting the progression of the virus to be stopped. The "Personal Freedom" god makes people go to spring breaks at the beach (US) and huge concerts (UK).

Sri Lanka has just come out of 30 year civil war, with two insurgencies one within the majority community (71 and 87-89) and the other between a minority community and majority community (1977-2009). The initial underlying causes were economic disparity with metastasized into class and ethnic insurgencies.

In comparison to Sri Lanka the US is a deeply fractured society. The fractures are readily visible to those willing to travel out of their suburban comfort zone. Baltimore, Flint, Camden, the Mid West. To a great extent protests have been contained by drug addiction (9.4% of the population).

The less than socialist aspects of the US are also of concern. Say for example what happens when people cant pay their mortgage because of job losses. Will the govt programs be deferrals, i.e. it all becomes due in a bang or will it be forgiven thru some grant. In contrast Sri Lanka is a) 80% rural and b) almost impossible to evict from a house with mortgage or even rented.

The US does not nurture their own, specially those on the wrong side of the tracks. The US specializes in importing, those nurtured else where and with proven abilities and/or economic resources. The new immigrants, most successful are resented by the locals. Will these resentments boil over in to social disorder as resources and jobs disappear.

Other cracks are becoming visible. The volume of rhetoric and blame is being turned up against China, even by the US President. Will that turn into violence against East and South East Asians. Similar incidents were seen post 9-11, with even Indians being considered Arabs. However the US was more economically stable with the Clinton boom times not yet being over. When people loose their jobs, their health and future is in jeopardy then they go crazy as one might say.

What should be done immediately
a) Give direct aid to individuals
   This includes free testing and health care

b) Debt Jubilee, i.e. forgiveness of debt. 
   Rent, Mortgage forgiveness based on income/job.
   NOT a deferral with a huge amount coming due in the future

US and Finance specific
Stop derivatives being used for speculation/betting.
Can be used as hedge against asset on the books.
If the asset is sold, the derivative needs to be unwound.

Let companies go bust if they are not profitable , instead of propping them up with more and more loans. Let bad companies go bust. No company is too big to fail

3. Share buybacks be made illegal.

In the long run
More Autarky and less reliance on global supply chains.
This brings manufacturing and jobs locally