By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

It’s 3pm in Colombo and the pianist in the lobby of the hotel where we’re staying is playing “Knocking On Heavens Door”. It’s not exactly Dylan and the Muzak version just doesn’t feel right. With our flight leaving at 12.35am and the weather being a greyer shade of pale, and with no alcohol allowed to be served anywhere in the hotel because of a Buddhist holy day, my mind starts to wander about this most recent trip to the motherland. My friend returns to the room where she’s allowed to drink her glass of red as it’s away from where the public might see her.

WHY SRI LANKA DESPERATELY NEEDS FOREIGN HELP BEFORE IT GETS LEFT BEHIND 1

I, meanwhile, wonder where Sri Lanka is going when it’s flat broke and some of the seesaw presentations made over the past two weeks where people have tried to persuade me to invest in property, in apartments, in hotels, in an entire racecourse that’s basically an empty cattle patch, gemstones, teas and, sometimes, all of the above as if this were one giant garage sale. There was a quiet desperation to the various pitches and the feeling that The Silent Scream was happening internally.

WHY SRI LANKA DESPERATELY NEEDS FOREIGN HELP BEFORE IT GETS LEFT BEHIND 2

I’m sure many mean well, but knowing some of the scams that have taken place here over the years and the opportunists who have come from abroad and taken but never given, one can’t help but listen to a torrent of words, and wonder how much of it is real and how much is wishful thinking.

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They are often meaningless and what’s presented is a buffet of supposed business opportunities where nothing is prioritised because most of these new entrepreneurs don’t seem very confident of their product. But they can talk. And so they’ll tell you about who they know- everyone seems to know the President, the Prime Minister and other ministers- just how worldly they are and will point to all the new hotels sprouting up as proof that none of these would be built if investors were not going to see a return on their investment.

The problem with this argument is that developing these hotels- is there really supply to meet the demand- might have been a good idea at the time. But times change, the world changes and that very pertinent term, It’s The Economy, Stupid plays in your head. So do Frank and Nancy Sinatra singing, Something Stupid.

Yes, without a doubt, Colombo has improved- the roads, the restaurants, the hospitality trade, spurts of tourism and a pulse to a nightlife. But there’s still something decidedly old fashioned and “second class” about it all- a desperation to be seen as something it just can never be: modern and happening. As for the emigration staff, someone must have had an off day when handing out brains. For a small airport, getting out of the country becomes an obstacle course dedicated to stupidity.

WHY SRI LANKA DESPERATELY NEEDS FOREIGN HELP BEFORE IT GETS LEFT BEHIND 4

Like it’s brilliant curries and sambals, passion for cricket, its wildlife, and the natural beauty of this fascinating island with so much history going back to the Spice Island Wars, Sri Lanka seems best if it lives with and focuses on the best of its past.

WHY SRI LANKA DESPERATELY NEEDS FOREIGN HELP BEFORE IT GETS LEFT BEHIND 5

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The marketing of the island as a tourist destination or an investment opportunity is mediocre at best. It’s really letting the home side down.

WHY SRI LANKA DESPERATELY NEEDS FOREIGN HELP BEFORE IT GETS LEFT BEHIND 8

Trying to create a future for it when there’s such a glorious past make strange bedfellows. It’s past really is its future, something many in way too much of a hurry to see progress, don’t understand, fail to see, and don’t have the vision to see how this can work. Sri Lanka desperately needs good creative foreign talent to actually get things done.

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#Colombo #SriLanka