By W.A Wijewardena –
The new Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, known in political circles by his first name Basil, is reported to have made an especially important confession on assuming duties last week.
He is said to have pronounced: “Our priority is to serve the people. We have identified all the key priorities and requirements of the general public. However, at times we will have to take certain unpopular decisions, just like how a father would for the betterment of his children and family. But these out-of-favour decisions are taken with so much honesty and consideration for the betterment of the entire nation. Therefore, I urge you all to support our efforts in these trying times”
The habit of all the previous finance ministers has been to mollycoddle the people with sugar-coated words when they assumed that important job. By the time they assumed office, the respective economies have been in the depth of the depths, but finance ministers had promised sun and moon to people. But within days, all of them had to swallow their bold utterances and were compelled to pass economic burdens on to people when they encountered the empty Treasuries they had inherited.
Basil has deviated from this practice and been frank about the nature of economic reforms he was planning to introduce. That is a good sign, and it is good for Sri Lanka’s long-term economic growth.
Deep economic crisis
Sri Lanka’s economy is in a deep crisis today. Besieged from all economic fronts – external, fiscal, monetary, growth, and employment – it should, perforce, introduce some painful and sacrificing economic reforms if it is to be rescued from the current malaise. In this context, hiding the facts from the people is not the proper method of communicating with them. In all sincerity, truth must be told to people.It reminds me of how Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the then Prime Minister, came on the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in 1973 and warned the people that the country was sitting on a volcano, and it could erupt at any time. This was a time when the country had faced a severe food crisis, foreign exchange crisis, fiscal crisis, and a political crisis. It forewarned people that some painful measures were to be introduced by the Government to take the economy out of the crisis. Of course, her modus operandi for rescuing the economy was not the best for the country. But she was truthful and did not want to hide anything from the people.