By Rifaq Azhar –
The economic growth of our country has been threatened by various elements and consequently it has become the fate of our nation to be always backward in socio-economic developments. Yet, no one could come up with best ways and strategies to heal this prolonged situation other than blaming global trend and changes or pointing out external factors and interference immediately. Meanwhile, it became the habit of our governments, which come to power periodically, to seek support from general public to cooperate with them in bearing financial burden and to align with global economic trend while hiding their inability, corruptions and inefficiency. Nowadays, we happened to face critical scenario due to so called loan repayment and devaluation crisis.
As usual, this time also, current government has put forward an appeal ahead of general public requesting them to bear the ongoing economic constrain for a short span of time. Such appeal would have been a positive approach and successful strategy to certain extend as in the case of Turkey, Malaysia and Iran that however managed to overcome similar scenario effectively and efficiently with the support of general public. But, when it comes to Sri Lanka, the context completely differs to that of models and therefore, this appeal will not work out here any longer and moreover it may bring negative implications among public. The prime reason for this contradicting scenario is that each government, which seized the power especially during the period of 2004 – 2015, failed to deliver their utmost promises to general public even though optimum opportunities were given to those rulers by general public during this period to fulfill their aspirations and bring sustainability to the nation. But, unfortunately, none of governments use these opportunities utmost for the betterment of general public; instead, all of them irrespective of their political identities and background multiplied the burden and sufferings of general public.
In the year of 2004, Tsunami, which is still alive in our minds and soul, paralyzed us mentally more than physically and our souls were scatted without any hope for our future. It left hundreds of thousand people killed and affected the lives of many families. It took long time to recover from this tragedy. Entire world shocked by this incident and subsequently extended their fullest supports and unconditional cooperation to us in various ways. In following years, we received abundance of resources from all around the world especially financial aid and assistance from thousands of experts that never happened in the past and will not happen any more in future and by which we could have been recovered completely and might be able to lead a new life free from all burdens. But, eventually it became a daydream for general public and fortune for then politicians and elite group. They were able to make use of these resources for their own benefits and to establish in politics as well as in business forever leaving affected people to suffer lifelong.
It is obvious that then government and policy makers didn’t take any proactive measures to funnel these material and expert resources for structural reforms that would have been surely paved the way for sustainable development and growth of the nation. In turn, people would have been never compelled to any form of hardship that prevails currently. Meantime, we as general public also failed to stand against those who looted and mismanaged these resources that belonging to those affected people. It is very difficult to distinguish the cause of this collective failure precisely and to whom we should attribute this cause whether it is our inability and negligence to stand against these malpractices or it is ability of tricky politicians who act covertly to keep general public diverted and mesmerized. However, general public tolerated all burdens loaded on them dreaming out that our politicians would make this nation prosperous and sustainable in near future. In the course of time, people were deliberately deviated from these ground realities by the emergence of new socio-economic issues.
By the year 2009, we had similar experience in tolerating of all kind of burdens when our country plunged into bloody civil war which ended in 2009 by uprooting the clutches of terrorism. Particularly, during the latter part of this war, then government had imposed huge burden on general public in the name of military and security expenses, but all people had willingly admitted those burdens especially economic burden in anticipation of real freedom and peace to nation. The moment people heard the news of victory in the war that lasted around three decades, they soon forgot all the sufferings and the hardships that they had gone through as if nothing happened to their day to day lives. In fact, they strongly believed in that peace is more important than anything to their lives and it will subsequently bring prosperity to their lives in one day. Thus, the only desire of these people at that time was none other than to lead a peaceful life without any pressure and fear as other developed countries enjoy their lives for centuries. Therefore, people tended to blindly believe in then politician dreaming out once again the uncertain sustainability.
Nothing happened dramatically except the same routines and unproductive infra-structure developments and one-step further staging revenges of which some are personal while most are political as it is very common to South Asian politics. On the other hand, the cost of living was at that time at spike even though military expenses had been already reduced to a larger extent and many investors from all around the world had congregated in Sri Lanka to invest in lucrative fields. Still, people continued to suffer financially, but this time the suffering had adjoined with some sort of despotism. In addition, as most objective observes suggested, most of policies taken by authorities of then government with regards to economic development had widely faced lack of consistency and inclusivity.
Upon the victory of the collation government which came to power in 2015 under the slogan of ‘Good Governance’, people felt bit relief that this time around, the dream will become true by the hand of politicians believing in their lofty promises. Although the democracy recession was somewhat overcome by present government, the economic and political systems in our country still continue to be unchanged or stagnant at the point where it started its journey in 1956s. Likewise, this government as previous regimes is not ready to concentrate on structuring consistent policies and highly regimented social progress indexes. Moreover, the present government failed even to look at issues as a matter of national importance. As the result of bankrupt policies, which are still untouched by relevant authorities, people are compelled to bear all the consequences. Having understood the root causes of economic crisis, people are still confused why this government is so reluctant to design more consistent policies over economic and political issues. Are they striving to protect the interest of respective parties instead of fulfilling the aspiration of general public or are they really unable to find comprehensive solution for all the problems.
As such, it should be pointed out here that the efficiency of the government institutions and its unproductive bureaucracy are another important area that this government neglected to carry out real reform. Expecting public oriented services from such institutions is merely a mirage. However, physical evidence of these institutions with smart atmosphere looks very attractive and impressive and should be highly appreciated, but the speed of delivery or productivity is unfortunately very pathetic. It is just like a beautiful smart phone in terms of its appearance, but when it comes to its speed, it is similar to that of early cellphone. Unless government embarks on radical reform within its institutions instead of sporadic shallow reforms by installing consistent policies in those institutions, public will inevitably lose their hope that they have placed on government mechanism.
It is blatant truth as well that the politicians are more affectionate and striving eagerly to seize the power at any cost projecting themselves as patriotic heroes of nation whereas we as general public keep lamenting among ourselves that government always fails to fulfill public demand and aspiration. This regular lament will not help us anymore unless we choice right people who are capable enough to act at the interest of general public by constituting consistent national policies and progressive social indexes. But it is unfortunate too that we have failed to find a visionary leader to parade with him towards prosperity as Turkish people succeeded within one decade. In short, throughout the past decades, general public of this country endured a greater deal of tolerance anticipating sustainable development. But, the turn is now in the hands of politicians to bear all the consequences due to their failure to come up with consistent policies while reducing all kind of extravagancies of government and reinvigorating all institutions to be more productive with minimal cost. Otherwise, people will have to bear all the consequences unwantedly because of the failures and inefficiency of so called politicians.