FF Insights #692: The roots of Sri Lanka’s plight

July 12, 2022: Police reforms—step by step; Mastery experiences; Eyes can hear

Founding Fuel

[From Unsplash]

Good morning,

The news coming out of Sri Lanka—the economic crisis, hardship faced by ordinary citizens, political turmoil, and overall uncertainty—is tragic all by itself. But, it’s even more tragic when we contrast it with how bright the future seemed ten years ago. 

Consider these extracts from Ruchir Sharma’s 2012 book Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles.

Sharma writes: “I first visited Sri Lanka in 1997, shortly after a rebel bombing of the central bank headquarters had thrown the financial system into chaos. Military checkpoints made traveling around the capital city of Colombo rather punishing, but the overwhelming impression was of an utterly charming island and talented people trapped inside a seemingly endless civil war.

“When I returned in 2011, the civil war had ended with surprising finality, and I took an extra day to go out and see the country, including the huge territory that had been behind the lines of the Tamil rebels on my first trip…

“I’ve taken helicopters in many emerging markets when the road network is inefficient, normally a bad sign for the economy. But the aerial views of the multiple expressways under construction, the lush green plantations of the interior, and the new resorts facing the turquoise waters that drape the island helped convince me that Sri Lanka is no longer a land in waiting…

“The civil war is over, the process of healing is under way, and there is every chance that Sri Lanka will again become a breakout nation…

“Sri Lanka could be the country to move the region toward a new trade regime. Ignoring the lingering fears of Indian domination, the government is proposing a grand deal that could unlock trade with India and provide a huge boost to the economy. The opposition comes from Sri Lankan businessmen fearful of Indian competition. But India welcomes the deal, in part as an opportunity to balance China’s growing interest in Sri Lanka as a linchpin on its supply routes through the Indian Ocean. Many small nations in Europe and Asia have benefited from geographic good fortune, and Sri Lanka is only too happy to exploit its felicitous location in return for even a small share of China’s gargantuan outbound investment. As part of its vision of a ‘string of pearls’—a series of ports along its preferred sea routes—China is investing heavily in the Sri Lankan port at Hambantota, the home base of the Rajapaksa family….

“At peace, Sri Lanka finds itself in a very strong position, courted by both of Asia’s emerging giants. There is some risk that the peace dividend could prove fleeting: the USAID study found that 40 percent of nations that end a civil war will revert to violence within a decade. There is a strong case to be made, however, that Sri Lanka’s peace will hold.”

However, the current crisis appears to have emerged not from the civil war, but from power structures that emerged after the civil war, which in turn led to some wrong decisions. Here’s a summary from WSJ: “In Sri Lanka’s case, the coronavirus pandemic—which decimated foreign-currency earnings from tourism—and global inflation helped tip Sri Lanka’s economy over the edge, but its precarious financial position had taken root earlier, stemming from an accumulation of debt on infrastructure spending and sweeping tax cuts that drained government revenue, as well as a ban on chemical fertilizers that shrank crop output.” 

Police reforms—step by step 

An essay in Nature shares the result of a randomised controlled trial in Maharashtra covering 180 police stations serving 23.4 million people. The goal was to improve the police force’s response to gender-based violence.

Nature explains how the experiment was carried out, and its outcomes.

“Stations were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Those in the control group received no intervention. In one treatment group, the police set up cubicles or private rooms as women’s help desks. The researchers helped the police to create a manual for registering reports of intimate-partner violence and helping female visitors, and trained officers in the procedures. They also asked police to connect with the local community to get the word out about the help desks. Stations in a third group had all the same components, but staffed their women’s help desks with female officers. The trial ran for 11 months…

“The researchers found that the stations with women’s help desks helped women to lodge more complaints of intimate-partner violence in civil courts—an extra 1,905 cases—compared with control stations. Stations with women’s help desks also registered an extra 3,360 cases of crimes against women that led to mandatory criminal investigations—although this 14.1% increase was driven almost entirely by the stations with help desks staffed by female officers. However, the increase in civil and criminal cases did not lead to more arrests. Furthermore, there was no change in the number of women reporting crimes. The authors say this is probably partly because only 10% of women in the local communities were aware of the help desks.

“‘What we can clearly see is that of the women that did show up to the police station, they had just a much better experience overall, they were listened to, they were more likely to be believed,’ says [Sandip] Sukhtankar [an economist who helped set up the trial].”

Dig deeper

How police reforms improved the way officers treat women in India 

Mastery experiences

Every day you go home completely stressed out at work. And all you want to do is just sit down and do nothing? Do it. May be it works for you. But there is another counterintuitive way to beat the stress. Take up some activity that is intense and allows you to experience mastery.  

In HBR, Alyson Meister,  a professor of leadership at IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland, and her co-authors write: 

“Mastery experiences require high levels of dedication, focus, and time—resources that usually zap you of energy during the workday. While it seems counterintuitive that further drawing on these resources during non-work periods will benefit your recovery, mastery experiences such as pursuing a hobby (learning a new language, learning to play the violin, volunteering, etc.) helps you generate new skills and replenishes depleted resources that can be applied back to your work, thereby approaching recovery from a different, productive, angle.

“Beyond the ‘standard’ recovery activities like exercise or yoga and meditation, it may be time to add a new tool to your recovery toolkit. Why not sign up for that kickboxing class? Or maybe it’s time to dust off that old guitar.”

Dig deeper

How to recover from work stress, according to science

Eyes can hear

(Via WhatsApp)

Found anything interesting and noteworthy? Send it to us and we will share it through this newsletter.

And if you missed previous editions of this newsletter, they’re all archived here.

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

Was this article useful? Sign up for our daily newsletter below


Login to comment

About the author

Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

Also by me

You might also like