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CryptoCurrencies – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Everyone’s now talking about CryptoCurrencies now for a variety of reasons. So I thought it would be great to do my own research and share this with anyone that’s interested in this topic.  To make it easier to understand, I have separated this article into sections.

What’s a CryptoCurrency?

Much like a normal currency, a cryptocurrency is a digital asset that works in a way similar to normal currency.  You can buy and sell it, make payments using it, or just keep it hoarded.  Transactions are secured using cryptography (encryption) which gives you a degree of secrecy and safety.

The primary interest in these, in addition to the cryptographic protection is the fact that currency is not controlled by a central authority such as a Central Bank.  Instead, it’s decentralised and controlled collectively by groups of mutually distrustful people who are known as miners.  They are the ones that invest in equipment that are capable of generating new units of a particular cryptocurrency, which process is known as mining.  Most cryptocurrencies have an algorithmic maximum value meaning that they cannot be just created, and this helps to ensure that their value would remain, since they are like rare metals with a limited supply.

Note that with each successful mining of a coin, the effort that is needed to mine another increases, thereby again helping to limit the supply.  This means that the effort and computing power that is required now is exponentially greater than what it was a few years ago.  This means you should not get caught to people that sell mining devices, cards, USB sticks etc on eBay and other sites as they lack the power to give you any return on your investment.

The first and the most popular cryptocurrency is the BitCoin.  However, now there are more than 900 different varieties of cryptocurrency available.

Advantages and Disadvantages of using a CryptoCurrency

First, the advantages:

  1. Ability to make payments anywhere in the world, where borders will not matter.
  2. Personal information is not tied to your account.  You can maintain anonymity as you wish.
  3. Since there is no central controlling authority, no one can seize your funds.
  4. The protocols (if properly designed) cannot be manipulated or controlled by anyone, due to the cryptographic nature of it
  5. Merchants are protected from fraud, since payments cannot be reversed.
  6. Currency exchanges that help convert CryptoCurrency to fiat money may have lesser commissions and fees compared to payment gateways and banks.
  7. Your coins cannot be stolen, unless someone has access to the physical computers.  However, there is an increasing threat from hackers.

Some of the disadvantages:

  1. Many people still do not know what cryptocurrencies are.  This means that there is limited opportunities to use them.
  2. There is a high volatility in the value, since it is driven by supply and demand.  However, this is true for any valuable including Gold.
  3. There is a lot of negative media about Exchanges that have been hacked, thereby scaring off some people.  However, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives

Which CryptoCurrencies are the most popular?

In terms of market capitalisation, the top 3 cryptocurrencies as at 4th August 2017 are:

CryptoCurrency Market Capitalisation Number of Coins Value per coin
BitCoin $46,522,850,928 16,487,175 BTC $2821.76
Ethereum $21,158,756,420 93,770,525 ETH $225.64
Ripple $6,692,495,818 38,343,841,883 XRP $0.174539

Considering that the initial coin offering was at a very low value, you can understand from the above as to why people who originally invested in BitCoins are now millionaires.

In April 2010, a single BitCoin was worth 0.003 USD.   In March 2010, one user tried to auction off 10,000 coins for 50 USD, but no one was interested in buying them.  Today, those same coins are worth 28,217,600 USD.

How does one buy a CryptoCurrency?

Your first step would be to create an account for yourself at an Exchange.  I’ll add on a few examples as this article grows.  Creating an account would be relatively easy and fast, and it’s what is generally referred to as a Digital Wallet.

You would then connect your bank account, debit card, or credit card so that you can exchange digital currency into and out of your local currency.

Then you simply purchase whatever the type of cryptocurrency that is supported by that exchange and fill your wallet.

Be careful though.  Since your personal details are not recorded, most wallets are controlled by a password only.  This means that if you lose your password, you may lose access to your wallet and your investment.

How does one make payments with a CryptoCurrency?

That’s the main issue right now, since a lot of physical places do not accept payments via CryptoCurrency.  There are however a growing number of online retailers that accept payments via digital currencies, thanks to various third party payment processors.  One example you could look at is BitPay.com

What’s an ICO?

An ICO is an Initial Coin Offering, which is how a new cryptocurrency gets crowdfunded.  If you’re interested in investing in cryptocurrencies, there are two main ways.  One is to do trading or speculation which is rather risky due to the volatile nature of the currency.  The other method would be to buy coins at an ICO, and then hold on to it for some time and then sell.

Recently there were a few incidents where the ICO itself was hacked, meaning that the coins people paid for didn’t actually end up in their own wallets but were diverted to the hacker.  Individuals did not lose out however, since the Exchanges covered this due to it being an issue on their side.

Any new CryptoCurrencies coming up?

One cryptocurrency that is being launched this month is PlexCoin.  Not a lot of information is known about them, but they are having a ICO and they offer bonuses for those that register in the intial round.  I have registered an account out of curiosity, and if you’re interested, the link is https://www.plexcoin.com/?ref=5Y7jMJnu09.  If you use this link and eventually make a purchase, both you and I will get 5% added on to our purchase.  That’s an additional incentive if you’re interested in foraying into this.

Update: Quebec (Canada) has asked PlexCoin not to market their ICO there.  You can read about that here.  Still, I’m thinking of putting in a small payment, just to see what happens.

Note (8/8/2017): It’s pretty much confirmed that PlexCoin is a scam.  Be careful with what you do with your money!

Conclusion

Buyer beware, is what can ultimately be said.  Don’t expect to make millions overnight, after being attracted by all the nice looking case studies.  Instead, if you’re looking to make small investments and grow it with time, cryptocurrencies will be a good area to look at.

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Towards an economically viable Sri Lanka

Let’s face it.  Close to 70 years after gaining independence, Sri Lanka is still nowhere.  Part of the blame can be laid on the LTTE and their separatist war, but that only accounts for 30 years.  We still have 40 years where the politicians have to take the blame for most of the problems that we have now.

Free economic principles definitely have merit, but let’s be realistic when we say that they haven’t totally worked out for us.  Our country title has the word “Socialist” in it as well, but again what has that achieved for us?  We are not 100% socialist, nor can we be (and of course even Russia and China are not 100% socialist, and now more towards capitalist)

But maybe there are a few things that we can do as a country, where we mix and match and enforce policies with the short term and long term future in mind.

So here’s a set of proposals that I think have some merit and could go some way in solving some of the problems that we have in this country.  If any politician would like to take me up on this, cheers.  If not, it would be up to the voters to make the politicians understand.

Economic Growth

Public Private Partnership

People in government administrative services will know how to run public enterprises, but would not have the commercial expertise that we desire, in order to run an efficient service.  I don’t say that public enterprises such as the transport board or the railways department have to make profits, but they do have to generate sufficient revenue to cover the costs and also to invest in new equipment and to expand the services.

Get the top 20 minds in the corporate sector and put them to work as an overseeing committee to advise the government on how these departments can be re-structured and modernised, in order to give the public the service that they deserve.  Some services  should continue for free such as basic healthcare, whilst others can see needed revisions done to the rates (such as railway tickets)

Transportation

Improve the enforcement of laws and regulations

An investor who gets off a place and comes onto the Sri Lankan roads will be greeted with nice views and general good driving as long as they are on the airport expressway.  As soon as they get off the expressway and join the highway however, they will see something completely different.  Heavy vehicles that go on the right-side lanes, three wheelers that weave in and out of lanes, constantly blaring horns, and much more.  There goes that positive view about investing in this country.

Get the police to enforce the laws without turning a blind eye.  When they see people coming in the wrong lane, disregarding lane markings and safety, some of the cops just look the other way, since they cannot be bothered to write out a ticket.  How about changing the regulations, so that the cops also get a percentage from the fines that they write?  Bye bye bribes, since they get paid anyway, and hello discipline.

Put those shiny new Yamaha bikes to good use, chasing after wrong-doers on highways, rather than using them as glorified transport to get a cop from A to B.

Improve the public transport

What happened to those Volvo and Yutong buses that were running as a pilot project?  Haven’t seen them recently.  People will definitely pay extra for air conditioned comfort.  Yes, these buses are more expensive, but there are cheap alternatives in India and China that we can bring down, and the government can give the CTB a duty concession.  If you can give permits to MP’s, doctors, state workers, teachers, etc why not use those duty concessions to improve the national transportation fleets?

Also make it compulsory to have closed doors on the old buses, to stop people from falling out.  Remember how many people have fallen off and then getting run over by the same bus?

Look at the next point and eliminate the competition between the CTB and the private buses.  This competition leads to races and crashes and ultimately injury and death.

Hopefully, with the Megapolis project, we will see the re-introduction of LRT (tram networks) that operate on the road with a higher right of way.  This means that although cars in traffic would be waiting, the trams would operate with minimal waiting meaning that people get from A to B much faster.  This will create an incentive for people to use trams instead of their own cars to get to work.

No more Private Buses

The competition between SLTB buses and individual private buses is killing people, and that’s no good.  Road rules are bent, broken, and murdered in plain sight and most of the time the traffic police turn a blind eye towards them as well.

Form a public-private corporation where all private buses will be “invested” into it by their owners.  The SLTB will manage and administer the corporation.  Existing private drivers will be given employment in the new corporation.  All buses will be uniformly painted so that there is no distinction for the public.  Owners will receive a rental and a fair share of the profits.  The bus networks will be in better harmony, service levels will increase, safety will improve. Win Win situation for all concerned.

No more three-wheelers

The fact that this is a small vehicle leads to the following:

  1. Allows them to creep from all sides, leading to more traffic congestion.
  2. Creeping from unseen places leads to more accidents
  3. Survivability after an accident is poor due to the minimal safety standards in these vehicles.

Pack them off to countries where there is still a demand for them, like Bangladesh, Pakistan, African region, etc and replace them with compact cars.  Keep in mind that a Bajaj Tuk now costs about 700,000 rupees and a Tata Nano is 1,700,000.  That same Nano will cost 140,000 INR in India which is approx 300,000 LKR.  Don’t say it can’t be done.  Three wheelers  can be replaced by small cars effectively.

Safety would be much higher, and people can travel in better comfort, and the living standards of the drivers / owners would increase.  Traffic would actually be better managed as well, since we will not have three wheelers filtering through small gaps and lanes and creating blocks.

No more Vehicle Permits – equality for all

Why should one group of society such as MP’s, Doctors, Government Servants receive permits to buy vehicles at zero duty or lesser duty, compared to another segment that has no such privilege? Even the Prime Minister stated that no group is above another.  Then let’s abolish this much abused permit system and introduce a fairer duty calculation mechanism, to enable better equality.  India which has bigger problems than Sri Lanka has a fairer pricing policy when compared to Sri Lanka.

One way to do this would be to immediately stop issuing all permits, but consider giving concessionary loans to those same people.  Government would still get an income from the duties paid.  Eventually, the duties can be reduced gradually making vehicles more affordable.  Yes, this may lead to more traffic but this can be managed via proper regulations and enforcement of laws.

No more “super” luxuries for MP’s and Ministers.

MP’s should not forget that they are public servants, elected from among the common man to serve man.  Why do they need massive luxuries such as SUV’s that cost a hefty bill to the tax paying public?  H.E. the President, who is a “sarala” (simple) man should enforce policy on his Ministers.  Specify a simple vehicle for government service that meets the requirements and has a bit of luxury for comfortable travel, and say no to the extravagant expenditure.  We are not a oil rich country with a massive income to justify what we spend on our elected officials.

Mihin Lanka

For a number of years now, I have been saying that 1) it was wrong to setup a separate airline, and 2) it should be merged with SriLankan airlines.

If the requirement was to offer budget travel for pilgrims that could have easily been done using the existing national carrier by giving subsidised tickets on a quota system for deserving people.  Creating another airline was a massive waste of money, and it affected SriLankan airlines too.

Glad to hear some news that there are plans now to merge Mihin with SriLankan and to create one airline under the SriLankan brand.  Better late than never. Learn a lesson and move on.

Education

Educational Reform

We need to re-examine what we teach and how we teach it.  Maybe we should consider reducing the number of years we spend for primary and secondary education and consider sending students to college and university at a younger age.  Maybe we should consider re-examining what we teach in university, and what streams are on offer?  Maybe we should look at an employability-skills matrix and design our courses around that?  Maybe we should limit the number of general Arts degrees that we offer, and divert those students to other streams? Otherwise, students will graduate with degrees that give them no employable skills and they would be unemployed.  More time and money would have to be spent to re-train them on other skills, where they would then obtain a job which has nothing to do with what they learnt in university.  Consider that in 2013, we admitted 7,396 students into Arts degrees.  Shouldn’t we ensure that they learn and acquire skills of an employable nature.

Access to Higher Education

In 2013, a total of 143,740 students passed their advanced level exams and became eligible to enter state university and pursue their higher education.  Of this, 25,200 students were admitted, of which 15,694 were female (very interesting, but not relevant).

So what happened to the 118,540 other students?  Who cares about them?  What’s their future like?  Don’t they have rights?  Anyone in the “Anthare” who likes to talk about them?

Some will say that the solution is to build more state universities, but all of us know that Sri Lanka does not have the funds or the resources to build more of such mammoth facilities, and then there’s the problem of maintaining them.

For the year 2016 alone, the Govt of SL has allocated a total of 44,923 Million Rupees for a total of 35 universities and institutions.  UGC source available here.

How many of you noticed that when the last government gave approval for the private medical college, one thing they did was to offer some scholarships to students who were unable to enter state universities.  I propose that this should be taken further, and that full and partial scholarships can be given to deserving students to study at institutions such as NSBM, NIBM, SLIIT, etc and that this can even be extended to private institutions at a discounted rate so that more people have access to higher education.  If the Govt were to ask us to offer a bulk discounted rate for a couple of hundred students, I would gladly work out a win-win arrangement.  I get students, people get a recognised educational qualification and then into employment, and the Govt gets the credit.

Having more people being qualified with reputed and recognised qualifications is never a bad thing.

Pay back to Society

Since state sponsored / free higher education will continue into the future, we need to make sure that the people who get this benefit, then pay it back to society.  As graduates, if they work in the state sector or private sector, they serve the Sri Lankan public.  If however, after qualifying as a Doctor or an Engineer or whatever at the state’s expense, they then decide to migrate to some other country within 10 years, they should not be allowed to go unless they pay back to the State, whatever the money that was invested in them.  No payment = no immigration clearance stamp.

Healthcare

Doctors are an essential service

Personally, I think there are too many strikes and trade union actions going on in this country.  Yes, there are problems which need to be solved, but I don’t think it’s right to go on strike for everything.  The Doctors as an example, had a lot of sympathy from the general public but the fact that they went on strike over a schooling matter seems to have caused a backlash, and people were not impressed.

Stop taking the patients hostage.  The service of Doctors should be declared as an “essential service” and no strikes should be allowed.  Instead, they can work and resolve their issues via labour tribunals and the courts.  If they need to show their power, they can do so via work-to-rule.

More will be added as I think them up, but some of these may go a long way if they get implemented.  Let me know what you think, in the way of comments.

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MSc programmes in IT from Kingston University, UK

ESOFT has introduced three new MSc programmes in IT, in collaboration with Kingston University, UK.

Kingston University is a well known name in Sri Lanka, as there are scores of Sri Lankan students who have gone to the UK and successfully read for and completed their degrees and post graduate degrees there.  As of 2013, Kingston University has been partnered with ESOFT Metro Campus which is Sri Lanka’s largest private sector higher education network.

Kingston is a top ranked University in the UK.  Kingston University has been named one of the world’s top young universities by sector-leading publication Times Higher Education (THE) for 2016.  Its newly released “150 Under 50″ listing ranked universities established during the past half century on a range of measures, including teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income.  Kingston University has also been named one of the world’s top 150 most international institutions by THE for 2016.  They have also been rated among the top 15 percent of institutions in the globe in the prestigious QS World University Rankings of 2015.

Kingston has a 116 year history, and comprises of 5 faculties over 4 campuses with close to 20,000 students selecting it as their higher education partner each year

ESOFT is also an award winning institution, where they have been awarded as a Gold Partner by BCS in the large scale partner sector. This is an addition to being recognised as Sri Lanka’s only Accredited Course Provider for the BCS Higher Education Qualification. ESOFT was also recognised by Pearson Edexcel as their fastest growing partner and also as their gold partner for being one of the largest partners in Sri Lanka.  ESOFT students have also performed well and brought local and international recognition including dozens of World Prizes.

Under this partnership, ESOFT is offering three MSc programmes which are delivered 100% locally. These include:

  • MSc in Information Technology and Strategic Innovation
  • MSc in Software Engineering
  • MSc in Network and Information Security.

A total of 40 students will be selected per stream and selection into the programmes will be purely on merit and based on an evaluation process which includes having to face an interview. Those with accepted and recognised academic and professional qualifications are eligible to apply along with the relevant professional experience.

The partnership between Kingston University and ESOFT Metro Campus is special due to the following factors

  1. Recognised qualifications from a reputed university are made affordable to local students.
  2. The qualification that successful candidates received will be the same qualification that a student in the UK receives. It is the same internal qualification, and NOT a locally designed MSc.
  3. This allows students to obtain full credit transfers, if they wish to have an international exposure
  4. Those interested in graduating in the UK may attend the graduation there or graduate locally.

The study schedule has been prepared by taking the busy lifestyle of our professionals into consideration. The MSc can be completed within one year including the dissertation. There is also the option of completing the learning components in the first year and the dissertation in the second year, with no additional fees.

There are two intakes per year, and this call for applications is for the January 2017 intake, where classes would be available either as a weekday option or as a weekend option.

Scholarships on offer

ESOFT has a CSR fund that is used for IT capacity development in the country, and over the past 18 months an amount in excess of 30 million rupees has been spent in donating brand new computer labs to rural and deserving schools.  As an extension of this work, a total of Rs 10 million has been earmarked for awarding partial scholarships for students aiming for higher studies. We believe this is important as it makes a recognised higher education qualification more affordable to Sri Lankan professionals and thereby aids in capacity development of individuals and thereby the development of this country.

Submit your applications early by visiting www.esoft.lk/msc2017 and also have the opportunity of meeting high ranking representatives of Kingston University, UK in October.

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CEPA, ETCA, ETCFA, et al. Whatever it’s called – is it all good?

The Preamble

Agreements?  Generally good to have them.  Why? ‘Cause they give us some degree of protection if things go wrong and people start going back on their word.  But for that to happen, the agreement must be written in good faith to begin with.  No one can write an agreement to be one sided – it must contain ‘give’ and ‘take’.  The question that most people have is whether the ETCA is a balanced agreement to begin with.

So, what’s all the fuss about?  Let’s see what we know and don’t know so far.

What is CEPA?

CEPA stands for Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.  Many countries have signed these between themselves and they generally do reap the rewards.  Essentially it spells out how trade in goods and services will happen between the host countries and liberalises some of the specified markets.

When did this CEPA thing appear?

My understanding is that this is not something new.  Earlier records that I could find about this date back to the year 2003 where apparently 13 rounds of negotiations happened between Sri Lanka and India in order to iron out the details and to sign off.  Details here.  Some last minute objections from Sri Lanka put the signing on hold, and it’s been on the back-burner even since.

When India was going against us with that whole UNHCR fiasco a few years ago, the CEPA work came to the forefront again and it’s possible that since out best friend China is not so great these days, India wants to come in again and with the support that was given, CEPA may possible have become something that our Statesmen could simply not ignore.

So what happened to CEPA?

The original CEPA agreement had a number of services shortlisted for liberalisation and it included among others, Medical Services.  Quite rightly, the GMOA got into the game and threatened trade union action if the plans are not immediately halted.

With all the shouting and objections, the Prime Minister announced that CEPA would not be signed.  Source here, here, here, here, and here.  Although it seemed like a welcome respite, what actually happened was that CEPA returned, this time with a different name, the ETCA – Economic and Technical Cooperation (Framework) Agreement.

ETCA is basically an agreement about an agreement that is to be signed around June of 2016.  Draft versions we have seen are available here, with an annexture containing the services here (Please note that I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these links since the actual agreement is not released to the public)

In the meantime, various other professional organisations got together and formed an alliance by the name of the United Professionals Movement.  The representative organisations were:

  1. Sri Lankan Engineers’ Association
  2. Government Medical Officers’ Association
  3. Government Dental Surgeons’ Association
  4. The Institution of Engineers
  5. Institution of Incorporated Engineers
  6. Computer Society of Sri Lanka
  7. Institute of Personnel Management
  8. The Bar Association
  9. Sri Lanka Institute of Architects
  10. Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
  11. Institute of Applied Statistics

The UPM jointly wrote to the Prime Minister requesting for an opportunity to meet and discuss about the proposed agreement and it’s possible repercussions, but a reply was not received.

Source here

Subsequently a discussion took place between the Minister Malik Samarawickrama, and some of the professional bodies, but the results were less than impressive.  It would seem that the Indians have written their part of the agreement rather thoroughly and the Sri Lankan side of it needs some more refinement.  Our request is that the professional bodies, as the representatives of the local professionals, should also be taken in on an advisory basis to do such refinements, rather than rushing into signing an incomplete framework.

What’s on the agenda now?

The most vocal critics have had their professions removed from the proposed ETCA agreement.  Currently the focus is on Maritime Services and on IT.  The dockyard representatives who came for a common meeting at the IESL stated that they have a shortage for skilled welders, and have requested permission from the BOI to bring skilled workers from India.  No problems there, since the BOI framework allows that to happen.  Why in that case do we need a new agreement to open this up?  Their problem was that the welders that were trained were leaving for foreign employment.  That can be solved with proper contracts and bonds.  Opening up the sector to India is not the solution.

Also, why IT?  The local IT industry has developed rapidly and has built up a name and a reputation for capability and quality.  As such, the local salary structures have evolved and those that are in the IT profession make a comfortable living.  Salaries are nowhere near what their US and European counterparts are getting, but it is higher than a few notable sectors in Sri Lanka.  Are the salaries prohibitive, so that new startups cannot compete?  Definitely not.  There are plenty of fresh graduates who are willing to work in the 40 to 60,000 range

An interesting comparison of the Sri Lankan and Indian Economies

My source for this is IndexMundi.

Factor India Sri Lanka
GDP Growth Rate 3.2% (2013 est.)
5.1% (2012 est.)
7.5% (2011 est.)
6.3% (2013 est.)
6.4% (2012 est.)
8.2% (2011 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP) $4,000 (2013 est.)
$3,900 (2012 est.)
$3,800 (2011 est.)
$6,500 (2013 est.)
$6,100 (2012 est.)
$5,800 (2011 est.)
Population below poverty line 29.8% (2010 est.) 8.9% (2010 est.)
Unemployment Rate 8.8% (2013 est.)
8.5% (2012 est.)
5.1% (2013 est.)
4% (2012 est.)
Industrial production growth rate 0.9% (2013 est.) 10% (2013 est.)
Export Partners UAE 12.3%, US 12.2%, China 5%, Singapore 4.9%, Hong Kong 4.1% (2012) US 20.4%, UK 9.9%, India 5.8%, Italy 4.7%, Belgium 4.3%, Germany 4.3% (2012)
Imports – partners China 10.7%, UAE 7.8%, Saudi Arabia 6.8%, Switzerland 6.2%, US 5.1% (2012) India 22.7%, Singapore 8.8%, UAE 7.7%, China 7%, Iran 6.1%, Malaysia 4.5% (2012)
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 total: 10.7%
male: 10.4%
female: 11.6% (2012)
total: 17.3%
male: 14%
female: 23.5% (2012)

I haven’t taken all the factors, but in terms of employment and finances, some of the most important are given above.

Justification for and against signing the ETCA

  • It’s always good to have new business opportunities, but would Sri Lankan companies be able to open up shop in India?  Keep in mind that the state governments can impose additional rules and regulations on top of the ETCA signed between the national governments and quickly make this into a one-sided arrangement.  Anyone think they can safely enter the Chennai market?
  • Allowing Indian expertise into the country will make the employment market more competitive.  Yet it will – but if the current market is sustainable, and the quality of life is better than in India, why attract them for lower salaries and thereby drive down the market?  Those who say that this would not happen, had probably not seen that article about Uttar Pradesh advertising for 350+ clerical jobs with a 16,000 rupee salary and then receiving 2.4 million applications including 255 PhD’s, 155,000 graduates, etc.  If a PhD is willing to work for 16,000 (32,000 LKR), what more can we say?  India has a unemployment of 15,000,000.  Our entire population is 22,000,000.
  • Companies will have access to cheaper professionals – yes, but if one company employs one hundred Sri Lankans, whose interest is more important?  the one or the hundred?  Keep in mind that Sri Lanka’s name is Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka – Socialist, not Capitalist.
  • Why sign with India?  Yes, they’ve sent rockets and launched satellites, etc, etc, etc.  Yes, they like to act like our Big Brother.  But, why not consider signing with a country that could really give us a technology boost such as Malaysia, Singapore, even China – but still without allowing open movement of persons.  India isn’t that great a place.

What’s next?

Maritime Services and IT and probably the test bed.  If that goes through, then more annexures would be signed to liberalise and open more service areas.  If this is not managed and controlled, things could turn nasty quite fast.

Update

25/01/2016 – For those that say this post is one sided / imbalanced – yes, just like the agreement that is to be signed this is an imbalanced article.  If things improve with regards to the agreement, full transparency is achieved, and Sri Lanka gets a win-win scenario, then my post will reflect that.  Further, if new companies and existing companies that are setup via the BOI can recruit international talent without major restrictions, why would we want to sign an agreement with India to make it easier?  Shouldn’t some form of control be maintained to sustain the image of quality that the Sri Lankan IT Sector has built up?

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The future of MBA’s in Sri Lanka

There used to be a time when the preferred qualification to recruit someone, was the all important BSc or BA Degree.  Times have changed now, and the basic requirement everyone looks for now has become the Masters degree, and more notably the MBA.

In countries like the USA and UK, MBA programmes are available in two main tracks.  First, you have the full time MBA which runs for about 2 years and is aimed at the fresh graduate with no work experience.  Then you have the part time MBA programmes, also known as Executive MBA’s which are aimed at working professionals and generally takes between 1.5 and 2 years to complete.

The Sri Lankan mindset is shaped thus – get your degree, get some relevant work experience and get employment, and then advance professionally and academically whilst reading for a MBA.  This sounds like the sensible thing to do, unless you have a family business where a profession is just waiting for you.  You can do your degree and your MBA and go straight into employment in the family business.  Majority of people obviously do not fall into this category

It is therefore sad to note that some have made the Masters education field into more of a business where people are recruited into them irrespective of the qualifications and the experience that they hold.  People without any management experience to speak of are given placement in MBA programmes and become graduates at a very young age.  Would these people have the needed experience and maturity to survive in the corporate world?  Would anyone be willing to give them employment and take a stab at it?  If this keeps happening, the MBA sphere in Sri Lanka will quickly turn into what has happened in places like India.

My organisation offers both the MBA and a postgraduate diploma as well.  Those without the exact background we are looking for are counselled to join our postgraduate diploma and sharpen their skills before joining the MBA.  I recently handled the enquiry of a MBA applicant and concluded that he was not yet ready for our MBA and counselled him to enter the postgraduate diploma and he agreed.  Since I did not hear from him thereafter, I followed up and he said that although I did not accept him, X institute accepted him into the MBA and that he started classes there.  He was actually scoffing at me as if to say I was holding him back.

Who can say whether my organisation would also one day say “to hell with it” and open our doors to anyone that wants to do the MBA?  Hell, that would mean more money and more profit, right?  Thankfully, my University partner would never allow us to do that since they enforce strict criteria to evaluate the acceptability of the applicants.

Ultimately, we should not spoil our future market by thinking about short-term profit.  If you are in the business of education, it is not just a business.  You are creating a work-force that will carry the country into the future.  If you become a “factory” and output “graduates” on a wholesale basis, it will come back and bite you in the rear later.  There are many education providers in Sri Lanka who subscribe to my way of thinking, and I am thankful to them for holding the standards high.  There are a few however who care about numbers and profit more than anything else.

A few years ago some representatives from an Indian University met me and a few others to promote their MBA programme and they were saying that those that complete the MBA can find work as Sales People in showrooms and so on.  Hence what he implied was that the curriculum of their MBA was focusing on sales and marketing.  MBA prospects here in Sri Lanka are much more different.  Do you do a MBA to become a Sales Person or to become a better Manager and a Corporate Leader?

BCS to Topup copy

BCS HEQ Diploma to a British Honours Degree

The BCS Higher Education Qualification is a professional qualification leading up to chartered status in IT, and is considered as being equivalent to a honours degree.

However, for those that are looking for something slightly different, we can give them the option of transferring to our top-up (final year) degrees offered in collaboration with London Metropolitan University, UK.

ESOFT is the Strategic Partner of London Metropolitan University in Sri Lanka and they currently offer two degree options in the field of IT.

BSc (Hons) in Computing

This is a general computing degree and consists of the following subjects

  • Project
  • Application Development
  • Advanced Database Systems Development
  • Management Support Systems
  • Work Related Learning II

Further Details: http://marketing.et.lk/esoft/BSc-Hons-in-Computing/

BEng (Hons) in Software Engineering

This is a more specialist degree award with a more prestigious title, namely the BEng.  It consists of the following subjects

  • Project
  • Application Development
  • Advanced Software Engineering
  • Management Support Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence

Further Details: http://marketing.et.lk/esoft/BEng-Hons-in-Software-Engineering/

The Offer

Those that have successfully completed the BCS HEQ Diploma can register for any of the above top-up degrees and achieve a British Honours Degree at an affordable fee.  The usual course fee is Rs. 375,000.  However as part of this offer, the programme is available at 299,000 for full payments and 325,000 for part payments.

Please note that this is an all-inclusive offer.  It includes Course Fees, University Registration Fee, Examinations Fees, etc.  There are no other payments.

Intakes for the Degree programmes are usually every February and September.

BIT to Topup copy

UCSC BIT Higher Diploma to A British Top up Degree

The Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) Degree from the University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) is an excellent degree and value for money.  For those that have not been successful in entering into the state universities, it provides an affordable means to obtain a recognised qualification.

However, for those that are looking for something slightly different, we can give them the option of transferring to our top-up (final year) degrees offered in collaboration with London Metropolitan University, UK.

ESOFT is the Strategic Partner of London Metropolitan University in Sri Lanka and they currently offer two degree options in the field of IT.

BSc (Hons) in Computing

This is a general computing degree and consists of the following subjects

  • Project
  • Application Development
  • Advanced Database Systems Development
  • Management Support Systems
  • Work Related Learning II

Further Details: http://marketing.et.lk/esoft/BSc-Hons-in-Computing/

BEng (Hons) in Software Engineering

This is a more specialist degree award with a more prestigious title, namely the BEng.  It consists of the following subjects

  • Project
  • Application Development
  • Advanced Software Engineering
  • Management Support Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence

Further Details: http://marketing.et.lk/esoft/BEng-Hons-in-Software-Engineering/

The Offer

Those that have successfully completed the first two years of their BIT Degree can register for any of the above top-up degrees and achieve a British Degree at an affordable fee.  The usual course fee is Rs. 375,000.  However as part of this offer, the programme is available at 299,000 for full payments and 325,000 for part payments.

Please note that this is an all-inclusive offer.  It includes Course Fees, University Registration Fee, Examinations Fees, etc.  There are no other payments.

Intakes for the Degree programmes are usually every February and September.

cima to mba

MBA Advanced Entry for CIMA Passed Finalists @ Rs. 310,000

For those that are interested in the next step of their studies, ESOFT Metro Campus is excited to offer something special.

Having completed your CIMA professional qualifications and earned some professional experience as well, the next step forward is for you to achieve a postgraduate qualification.  The qualification of choice at the moment is the general MBA, since it provides an overall coverage of the main areas that are required for a senior administrator or business consultant.CIMA_logo_name

ESOFT has partnered with London Metropolitan University in the UK as of 2014 as their strategic partner to offer undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in Sri Lanka.  As part of this partnership, ESOFT offers a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) which has the following key points:

  1. The University, and hence the MBA award are UGC recognised.
  2. Learn the same curricula and earn the same qualification as in the UK, at a fraction of the cost
  3. Lectures are delivered by seasoned business leaders and entrepreneurs as well as senior academics for a well balanced delivery
  4. Direct registration with the University, meaning that you are a student of London Met
  5. 180 Credits to be earned within an 18 month programme (120 credits for CIMA finalists).
  6. Those that have completed a qualification at a comparable level are given advanced entry to the MBA.  This means that those that have completed CIMA can directly enter into the 2nd semester with a considerable cost saving.
  7. MBA programme is accredited by the Chartered Management Institute, UK

Special Offer for those that have completed CIMA Strategic Level.

Those that have successfully completed CIMA Strategic level and who also possess the required professional experience will be given advanced entry to the MBA programme of London Metropolitan University at ESOFT, meaning that you can achieve your qualification in approximately one year.

Whereas the normal MBA programme requires an investment of Rs. 520,000 and 18 months of time, CIMA finalists can complete the MBA within 12 months at an all inclusive investment of 360,000. Those who register before the 31st of January 2016, get a special rate of 330,000 for part payments and 310,000 for full payments.

Those that are interested in availing themselves of this offer should contact ESOFT Metro Campus on 077 309 9 309 or fill the online enquiry form at http://marketing.et.lk/esoft/MBA/

MBA Flyer for BCS Members copy

Up to 50% Scholarship for Members of BCS when registering for the MBA

For those that are interested in the next step of their studies, ESOFT Metro Campus is excited to offer something special.

Having completed your undergraduate qualifications and earned some professional experience as well, the next step forward is for you to achieve a postgraduate qualification.  The qualification of choice at the moment is the general MBA, since it provides an overall coverage of the main areas that are required for a senior administrator or business consultant.

ESOFT has partnered with London Metropolitan University in the UK as of 2014 as their strategic partner to offer undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in Sri Lanka.  As part of this partnership, ESOFT offers a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) which has the following key points:

  1. The University, and hence the MBA award are UGC recognised.
  2. Learn the same curricula and earn the same qualification as in the UK, at a fraction of the cost
  3. Lectures are delivered by seasoned business leaders and entrepreneurs as well as senior academics for a well balanced delivery
  4. Direct registration with the University, meaning that you are a student of London Met
  5. 180 Credits to be earned within an 18 month programme.
  6. MBA programme is accredited by the Chartered Management Institute, UK

Special Scholarship for those with MBCS

As part of this offer, candidates are expected to face an interview at which we will discuss about the academic and professional qualifications and experience as well as the future ambitions of the candidate.  This will allow the panel to determine the value of the scholarship that is awarded.  Scholarships are being awarded for the MBA as well as for the Level 7 Post Graduate Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership.  Those that do not have the required experience to enter directly into the MBA programme will be given placement in the Post Graduate Diploma.  Those that complete that successfully can then enter into the 2nd Semester of the MBA meaning that they have to study only an additional year to earn their MBA.

Those that are interested in availing themselves of this offer should contact ESOFT Metro Campus on 077 309 9 309 or fill the online enquiry form at http://marketing.et.lk/esoft/MBA/

mba

Considering the right MBA for you

There used to be a time when the basic qualification that you had to have in order to get a good job was basically a Degree.  Times have changed, and the requirement now is for a MBA and people are clamouring to get their qualifications fast.

What factors should you consider when choosing the right MBA for you?  This article hopes to present a few thoughts, ideas, and arguments.  Consider what is presented here and make the best choice for yourself.  Don’t always listen to what the marketing people have to say.  Ultimately they are looking to make a sale, and they really don’t care what happens to you afterwards.

Should I do a MSc or a MBA?

If your career is in a technical field it makes sense to do a MSc Degree, and in some companies this would be a requirement for you to advance to senior positions within the company.

Generally, I advise people as follows.  If you are now twenty something years old, and in a position such as Software Engineer, how long do you hope to be in that field, in that specific area?  As you get older, you would need to move into management if you are to be gainfully employed.  You can’t really be a 45 year old Software Engineer, but you can be a Manager, Senior Executive, Consultant, etc and it is your managerial, leadership, marketing, and other skills that will get you there.  Doing a MBA therefore makes sense as a future investment.

Should I do a local one or a foreign one?

Ultimately, that does not matter.  If the awarding institution is recognised, and thereby the qualification is recognised, that’s all that matters.  A MBA from a local university may be cheaper, but be mindful that British ones are also available in the 4xx,000 price range.  Also keep in mind that getting selected for a state university MBA programme may require you to face an entrance examination and a tough round of interviews so that they select the best people.  Gaining entry into a private sector MBA programme would be easier.

Indian, British, or Australian? Which should I do?

Ultimately, that’s your choice and it would probably be based on your affordability as well.  Let’s take an analogy for that.  There are many cars on the roads.  Which ones turn the most heads?  Are they the Indian cars or the European / Western ones?  Choosing a MBA is also similar.  You want a qualification that will add value to you and bring you recognition.  Not one that devalues you.  Having said that, the counter argument would be that Jaguar and Range Rover are owned by Tata which is an Indian company.  Very true.  I am not in any way saying that Indian MBA’s are bad.  There are actually some very good ones, if you look around.

Another way to look at it is, what’s the end result going to be?  A few years ago some representatives from an Indian University met me and a few others to promote their MBA programme and they were saying that those that complete the MBA can find work as Sales People in showrooms and so on.  Hence what he implied was that the curriculum of the MBA was focusing on that area.  MBA prospects here in Sri Lanka are much more different.  Do you do a MBA to become a Sales Person or to become a better Manager and a Corporate Leader?

Another example, there was an Indian organisation that contacted us asking whether we would partner with them to offer their MBA in Sri Lanka, and we politely declined.  They subsequently partnered with someone else, and are now offering a MBA below 300,000.  Choice is yours.

Lot of my friends did the MBA from XYZ Institute.  Should I go there?

You should not choose a MBA based on popularity and how many people are doing it.  Instead, it should be based on the recognition of the university and the programme and also based on how it is conducted.  Based on the argument that a lot of people are doing the MBA at XYZ, my counter argument would be that some models of cars are very popular and seen everywhere.  Then you have some makes and models that are rare, and they are the ones that people turn their heads to see.

This is basically your personal choice,  If XYZ is doing a good job, there’s no harm in doing it.  But when it comes to employment, you might wan’t to stick out from the rest.

What about Reputation, Recognition, Ranking?

Again, don’t look at the marketing hype.  Instead, look around.  Factors you may want to consider:

  1. UGC Recognition – check the UGC website and see whether the University you have chosen appears in either the Commonwealth Universities Yearbook or the International Handbook of Universities.
  2. Ranking of the University – not all can afford to go to the top rank universities like Oxford and Cambridge, so the rankings are not really worth talking about.  Rank is not that important, although it is a selling point to say that you are from a top university. Keep in mind however that there are various organisations that conduct rankings and that they are not done by a Government Agency.  Most are done by newspapers such as The Times and The Guardian
  3. Who can get into the MBA programme – If you are a senior manager, and you’re learning next to someone who is a fresh graduate, that doesn’t seem right.  Most MBA programmes would ask for a certain number of years of experience, to ensure that the qualification remains exclusive.
  4. Accreditation – some MBA programmes are accredited by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) UK which adds extra value to your qualification.

What’s an Executive MBA?

A full MBA would generally require about 3 years of study, and this is aimed at fresh graduates.  However, for those with work experience there is no need to go through the full programme and hence you have accelerated MBA programmes which are known as Executive MBA’s.  If the MBA is 18 months or less, it is generally considered as an executive MBA.  Is this less recognised that a full MBA?  No it isn’t.  It simply means that you entered into it with qualifications and experience and did it fast, compared to a fresh graduate with no experience, who has to learn more.

Should I do a General MBA or one with specialisation?

A MBA prepares you for a higher performance threshold and sets your mentality at the higher executive level.  Unless you are working in an organisation in a very specific field and hope to go higher in that exact same discipline it might make sense to go for a specialisation.  Generally, I look at it differently.  If you are already working in HR, you have HR qualifications and experience.  Doesn’t really matter whether you do a MBA or a MBA with HR specialisation.  In the long term, it makes sense to go for a general MBA since it will keep options open for you.

12 or 18 month MBA?

As I said, these fall into the executive category.  With the work commitments that you have, would you be able to complete everything in 12 months?  Wouldn’t 18 months be safer?  Also, wouldn’t you learn more in 18 months, than what you learn in 12 months?  The general assertion here is that the longer the duration of the programme, the better the perceived quality and recognition of it.

Have a MBA, or Be a MBA?

If you’re simply looking to add the post nominal letters ‘MBA’ at the end of your name, there are plenty of cheap options available out there.  If you’re looking for a MBA programme that will transform you into a different type of professional who works and thinks at a higher level, then there there is a bright future open to you.

We generally do an entrance interview for those that apply for the MBA that we offer, and I usually do most of the interviews.  I often ask the candidate why they want to do a MBA and recently one of them said that all he wants are the letters MBA.  He also said that XYZ had offered him placement for less than our fee and was bargaining with us.  I told him to go to XYZ and that we don’t want to take him, and that I would even call XYZ and arrange a better discount for him!

Conclusion

Don’t make a hasty decision as you may regret it later.  Instead, choose well and invest your time and money.  Do the MBA for the right reasons, from the right place, and you will see that is transforms you into a completely different person.

Further questions

If you have any queries, either leave a comment and I shall try to incorporate the answer to the article, or send me an email at info @ nishans.com