Wednesday, January 18, 2006

sri lankan holidays

last weekend was five days long for most sri lankans. we had three religious holidays, id-ul-alha or hadji festival on wednesday, duruthu poya on friday, and thai pongal on saturday. in addition we had a typical sri lankan holiday called 'the holiday on account of thai pongal falling in saturday' on thursday.

holidays here supposedly depend on what one do. public servants have one set of holidays, bank employees have another set, mercantile holiday set is the smallest, while full moon poya days are not included in any of the sets in official calenders but are holidays none the less. however, one is lucky if one can do anything worthwhile on any holiday with the part of workforce that is supposedly working. as a result every holiday is a holiday for everyone, whether they like it or not. so for instance the stock market decided to close down for all five days, even though it was neither a bank or a government agency and two of the holidays were only for banks and government employees.

altogether there are at least 26 holidays a year, which means sri lanka probably has the highest number of holidays in the world. people have been speaking out against this as long as i know, but nothing has changed. should it?

standard argument against holidays is that they reduce productivity and thus economic potential of the country. this is not quite true. if the people on holiday increase their consumption of goods and services, that contributes to the gdp. afterall consumption is the other side of production. most western economies will be much smaller if not for the christmas holiday season. this is a fact some other governments, chinese notably, have realized and they have tried to encourage consumption on holidays and number of holiday themselves, for the express purpose of increasing demand, using various methods. some countries shift and attach holidays falling on middle of the week to the weekend, aware that long weekends results in spike in consumption. though it is debatable how much this kind of government intervention will succeed, the fact remains that holidays can help countries grow.

so is it a good thing we have so much holiday in sri lanka? no, because of the type of holidays we have. the reason we have such high number of holidays is because we have twelve or thirteen poyadays. without them we have the same number as any other country. poyadays except vesak and poson, are doubly bad because most people stay at home and do not engage in any kind of activity. only a minority of buddhists go to temple even. as a result there is no increase in consumption. even shops and entertainment venues such as cinemas, normally open on other holidays close down on poyadays. in fact, it is as if those days do not exit in sri lanka economy wise.

so will government abolish the nine or ten completely useless poya holidays? i won't bet on it. though it's about time we start relaxing our own mental holidays that seems to constrain our activity on those days, which may encourage people to stay open in spite of probably unenforceable government regulations.


Jack Point said...

One of the issues with holidays is that everything is closed, but this is less of a problem now with more shops/offices offering some kind of holiday service.

The solution would be

1. Cut the number of public holidays
2. Ensure that whatever holidays left fall on Mondays/Fridays so that they become long weekends and thus better utilised for travel etc.
3. The loss of public holidays to be compensated by increased annual/casual leave allocation. This currently stands at 14 days/7 days. Increase this to say 21/14, and encourage people to utilise their holidays as they prefer rather than shutting the whole place down.

Keshi said...

I too think that SL has too many in Aus it's very limited and mainly only during Christmas period that we get some public holidays...and 1 on Australia day and ANZAC day, 2 during Easter, 1 for Queen's bday and that's abt it...

SL has 12 Poya days...tho it's religious days for the Buddhists, the real worshippers of these Poya days are ppl who arent working anyways...older ppl who want to offer sil (meditation) etc. So why should the working population just waste their time at home on Poya days?

I say strip em off...


Chandare said...

I agree with jack point's points.
Except Vesak and Poson ,cut the rest of the poya days.For the rest of religions 1 holiday per religion.Holidays left should fall on either Friday or Monday.Increase anual and casual so that if somebody needs to observe sill on a poya day to let him/her use it.(rather than bring the whole country to a standstill)

Keshi said...

yep keep Vesak and Poson...especially Poson cos I was born on Poson poya day :) hehehe...


Navin said...

Well, rather than getting rid of an institution that dates back to pre buddhist times and ye olde, Hindu lunar calendar...

... why we don't we all just work on the East Asian work week, Monday to Saturday?

I was at first very worried about all our holidays when I started my company. But my staff, who are not from the more Western 2-day weekend world of what is mostly English speaking Sri Lanka, told me they wanted to work SATURDAYS.

I thought about this for a bit -- and then said sure thing. We've been working 6-day work weeks since September, and both productivity and the quality of work has been great.

here, except that my staff

ashanthi said...

lol - that's us sri lankans - less holidays & more work!

I reckon what we need the world over is a 3 day week from whenever you get up to whenever you go to sleep. The rest of the time you do whatever you like with whomever you want so long as you put in 1/2 a days work for concerted community work.