Opinion: We all love freedom, even when we say we hate it

November 15, 2019 (LBO) –

By: Adititva

Presidential Election 2019 for Sri Lankan’s is turning out to be debate between Democracy Vs Dictatorship and everyone who intends to vote has a strong opinion which system they prefer.

They will go vote on the 16th for the candidate who will deliver the governance system of their choice. In doing so, the pro-dictator side would have behaved just like the pro-democracy club they condemn. Irony aside, there are many other aspects to one’s life that make them freedom loving democrats. The daily choices they make, and, hopefully the many important ones they make are made, freely.  When an executive in the mercantile sector wakes up, she wakes up next to the person of her choice, and, if she were to wake up alone, that too is a choice. From that moment onwards, the toothpaste, shampoo, suit, briefcase and the car that takes you to work were all choices made voluntarily and foregoing other choices that did not fit the purse, the aspiration, the values and current fashion, health and environmental trends. Matter of fact these are the day to day ordinary choices that everyone makes, and is a snapshot how the country functions by the minute.

 
While the country has other larger concerns that may or may concern most people and their choices in these matters are limited, let’s take a look at the place where Aisha, our heroine, arrived on a fine Monday morning driving her Prius. She is head of finance of Swiss Techniques, a Lankan based and founded Multinational Corporation, and. it is in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Colombo. By the time she gets work, the company is in full swing, with the workers having arrived early, including her team members. The thumb print machine records the arrival & departure of everyone, including her, and when she gets to her desk, she will have a report of production, employee attendance and absence, orders dispatched and the cash flows. She has a full day of decisions to make from the routine and mundane to the ones that have larger implications such as the budgets for hiring & training, capital expenditure and of course the factory Christmas Party. This time it will be at the newest wedding hall in the locality.

In a well run organisation, such as the one that Aisha works in, a lot of things are visible, like the production lines, the products and the worker facilities. But behind the scenes are many invisible things that have made Swiss Techniques a successful regional player. There is a board; a board appointed Managing Director, an audit committee, a Human Resources Department, a legal team and also a sales and marketing team. The company publishes an annual report, and if the company is profitable there is an annual bonus. They all work according to a code of conduct, agreed principles and also in keeping with the law. The employees of the company are all hired by HR, trained by various heads of departments, promoted by a system of merit, and, remunerated according to set standards and productivity.  There is consensus on many issues between the management and the employees, and a sense of fair play prevails. Production keeps up with demand, with the latter increasing every year. The MD is a stickler for discipline, insists on attention to detail, is focused on the bottom-line, but there is no flouting of the law by him.

The company which started as a single operation has now grown into a large conglomerate with production facilities in various locations around the country and in the region. A 30 year journey of excellence, achieved by a meritocratic system, prudential financial management, a culture of openness & dignity of labour, and basic rules that are obeyed by all. The story of a company. For that matter, most companies.


Right next door is Zimbabwe Inc; a family concern. The board meets for lunch at the patriarch’s home every Sunday. All the directors and heads of departments are male family members, and the job of the CEO went to daddy’s favourite son. He likes to watch CCTV at work, the head of the personal department is forced to report on misbehaving workers, his best friend from school is the factory manager, and the head of marketing is his girlfriend whilehis wife’s expenses are also on the company credit card. Sales are poor, production is low, waste is high, and the therefore the losses keep piling high. Which also means no bonus this year for the employees, the annual Christmas party will be in the factory lunch room, and, caterers this year too will be the boss’s cousin. As disgruntled workers protest over the poor worker safety and health measures, the legal team is busy issuing warning and dismissal letters. No one remembers the last training program they attended, and the training centre has been turned into a luxury bar for the MD to watch cricket in. Under the portico sits the latest Mercedes S-Class model, paid for by the company. Oh and everyone is afraid of the MD, he knows everything there is about production, sales, marketing, personal management, and finance, eben though he never passed his A/L’s. And he is watching you. Nobody dares question his authority for dismissal is swift. The audit committee has never met, and there are no financial reports either. Zimbabwe Inc; is a case study in how not to run a company. But somehow the company has managed to survive.

Given the choice where do most professionals work? Swiss Techniques of course. If you are from a privileged background, with a access to good networks, polite mannerisms, a worthy education, a sense of pride and fairness, who would your choice of employer be? If you are poor unskilled worker, who has had no resources to gain any skills, without the right connections and networks, perhaps from a group that is also a minority what is your best bet in getting ahead in life? Which place offers the best deal financially with the least cost in terms of values, principles & dignity? Where would you work unmolested, without fear? Which company makes you feel proud to be part of? The one that sees you as the best and brings out the best in you, or the one that sees you as a liability, a threat, as dispensable?


You know the answer to that; you already work in such a company. Why should the rules for a country be any different?  Vote wisely. If you vote the man who promises to make your country a Swiss Techniques level producer, but with Zimbabwe Inc; methods, you may soon be looking for a way out. That is if you are lucky enough to be able to make that decision. Freedom once lost, costs lives to regain.