16 May, 2022

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Economic Crisis & Social Unrest: The Finance Minister Is Never To Be Seen In Parliament

By Harsha de Silva

Dr. Harsha de Silva MP

Today, it is no secret that Sri Lanka is bankrupt and people have been forced into dire straits. Queues for fuel are kilometers long and businesses across the country have come to a halt due to the shortage of fuel, as they are unable to get their goods to the market. People have lost access to chronic medications due to shortages or simply because they have lost their spending power as a result of inflation. Islandwide power cuts that last as long as 7 hours have essentially brought the country to a standstill and has paralyzed every sector in society. From a small vendor in Bandarawela, vital foreign exchange earning export sector to students studying for their A/Ls, and even hospitals are unable to care for their patients nor conduct life-saving surgeries. The government keeps passing the ball between Ministers and showcasing a sense of disunity as no one wants to take responsibility. Nonetheless all members of the government should be held accountable.

On the 9th of February 2022, the Governor of the Central Bank reiterated his factually inaccurate statement to media, claiming that we do not have a shortage of dollars nevertheless, today he is stating that the Central Bank is unable to create dollars. Does he not understand the gravity of the issue or is he just trying to fool the public? I initially warned of the consequences that could emerge if we were to go down this path of implementing Modern Monetary Theory and Import-Substitution policies, far back as November 2020 during my response to the budget speech. In the same speech, I pointed out that if we do not go into a debt-restructuring program with the IMF, our debt would eventually become unsustainable thus, cutting into our everyday functions.

Fast forward to January of 2022, given the state of the economy, I urged the government to restructure our debt and save critical reserves to purchase vital essentials such as fuel, LPG, milk powder, cement etc. However, the government was hell bent on making the bond payment of $500 mn on the 18th of January to pave way for their friends and allies to make an immense profit, at the cost of all ordinary citizens. The Opposition has made multiple requests to provide the list of bondholders that were paid on the 18th of January, but we are yet to receive it. Nevertheless, it is now evident that some bondholders have made a profit of over 100% in dollars. This raises a compelling question, whether this government has profited from all crises that we have experienced thus far; going back to the Rapid-Antigen tests, to the sugar and even the garlic scam. They have continued to make money while majority of the country is suffering with no ability to conduct their day to day activities or provide for their families.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should not be running away from the problem, as he is the top most official in charge of the country, thus it is his responsibility to get all parties together to initiate a sustainable solution. As a responsible Opposition, we have repeatedly warned of the consequences and proposed several solutions to the government to evade this economic crisis, but it has always fallen on deaf ears. What is the point of an Opposition if our advise and requests go unheeded? The Finance Minister is never to be seen in Parliament, as he is purposely neglecting our questions.

The question of debt sustainability has been a major topic at the recently held IMF board meeting, which discussed Sri Lanka’s state of the economy. Global markets nor the IMF is ready to believe in the fairytales circulated by the Rajapaksa government. In the case that our debt is deemed unsustainable, we will not be able to solve this crisis by merely going to the IMF. We would need to engage with a whole range of multilateral, bilateral and private investors to find a solution. If we had initially gone to the IMF in 2020, we would not be in this precarious situation. Unfortunately Sri Lanka has fallen to the bottom now, begging neighboring countries for spare change and being unable to pay back our creditors, on top of the inability to import critical commodities. Therefore, we vehemently urge the government to stop the suffering of our people at least now and swallow their ego to pave way for negotiations with the IMF. There is no other solution at this juncture before this economic crisis throws Sri Lanka into social unrest.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    0

    Dear Harsha
    All your pleas are falling on deaf ears. “None are so deaf as those who refuse hear.”
    The regime seems hell bend on taking the country to class of pariah state.The opposition is virtually ineffective since the regime has 2/3 majority. And if there is an election tomorrow they will win again with their race agenda. Its sickening
    What are their intentions, power cuts lasting over 7 hours daily, no essential drugs .,no fuel,; what’s going on.?. What happened to the peoples protest
    Where is the recovery plan. How long this tragedy going to prolong

  • 5
    2

    Dear Harsha,
    you have been warning them from the day one. Unfortunately, no expert voice is repsected in today s context. Wimal Buruwanse spilled the bean today – revealing that Ajith Cabral has not discussed it with Minister of finance /Kaputa Basil Jarapakshe. Can you imagine ? Some of us thought, their rise was filled with ” VIYATHTHU- interllectuals”. Their song texts made the guillible eternally fools. Media fraudsters transported it to every corners of the island. As of today, all what we hear is filthy attacks to DA Rajapakshe bastard sons. No monuments on the costs of the tax payers have failed to leave some respect to them today.
    .
    In the mean time, the other MR ( Rev Malcom Ranjith) is finally in a trip to europe (Vatican and Geneva) as if he woke up from a long slumber. All these were our predictions. Looking back, I have a greater respect on our late brother Mangala, he and late Rev Sobitha made all these prediction long long ago.

  • 7
    1

    Harsha,

    Don’t have time to write ……… but you are barking up the wrong tree.

    You shouldn’t be giving advise that you are certain won’t be taken ………. if you want to save the people focus your efforts/energy on getting rid of the government ……….

    Let the Rajapakses/government get more bogged down in their own monumental stupidity and incompetence ………… the best remedy/cure for 6.9 million people’s stupidity is taking place/happening right before your eyes!

    Then lock Ranil in a room out of sight and let him run the economy ………. you guys with Sajith run the best “Sinhala Buddhist” circus/carnival that Sajith has been trained for, from infancy. He is more of a “Sinhala Buddhist” carnival-ist than a LSE-trained economist.

    All will be hunky-dory ………. and Nimal’s my name ………. and Bob’s my uncle ……….

  • 0
    2

    Shocking and shameful display of fashion shows, and society parties and weddings in the midst of mass struggles.

  • 4
    0

    Dear Harsha Agree with you a hundred percent that the country is officially and totally bankrupt. But isn’t it time you stopped begging a bunch of scoundrels to go to the IMF. For many months you have kept up a steady drum beat of pleading to no avail. Please stop doing this for it is useless. The devious and crooked mind set of the Rajapakshes are such that they do not want to come under scrutiny about what they do. Even at the eleventh hour they scraped together our foreign currency to settle sovreign and development bonds at full price ignoring all advce because they own the bonds and bought them for a song and made off like bandits with a hundred percent profit while the idiots on the streets and some of the commenters here as well suffered in ques due a long list of scarcities. So here is a suggestion get together with the talented and capable colleagues leave the dumb ones out and come up with a plan to kick the bastards out of power ASAP without wasting your time making pleadings to go to the IMF. This is not the time to meekly wait for the next election.

  • 4
    0

    Sorry Harsha, Finance minister is busy getting rid of Wimal and Kommanapillai. Rumors are Vasu , Lanza are next inthe list. Duminda may get lucky.

    • 0
      0

      I hear two SLPP members participated in yesterday’s 11 party alliance rebel meeting ( though it says eleven, total membership is less than 1100 ). Vidura.W Premnath.C are served with show cause notice.

  • 6
    0

    ” it is no secret that Sri Lanka is bankrupt”

    ====
    Sri Lanka is indeed bankrupt if Pavithra Wanniarachchi is the new Minister of Power.
    ====

    • 5
      0

      Rajash, try imagining Pavithra, throwing water filled pots at those electric pylons ??

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