31 May, 2020

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Economy, Security & Supremacists

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

The most disappointing and disturbing fact about the presidential race so far is the absence of any statement or discussion about the state of the economy and measures to promote economic growth. Only the JVP candidate has at least referred to the need for a new economic direction and his party’s readiness to deal with it, if he is elected. Neither Gotabaya Rajapaksa nor his other would be challenger Sajith Premadasa (if nominated), nor anyone else in the campaign has even mentioned the word economy.

This pathetic omission can mean only one thing, and that is, a total abdication of responsibility to manage the economy and readiness surrender its fate to global market forces and their international managers. All that the parties in power and in opposition can do is to hope against hope that the economy would eventually revive on its own, provided its macro foundations are taken care of by the Central Bank. This unwillingness or reluctance to restructure the economy and make it more people friendly than market friendly is the root of the nation’s economic difficulties. A fiscal policy to balance the budget by reducing public expenditure, providing incentives to investors, broadening the tax base and cutting entitlements, technically termed as fiscal consolidation; and, a monetary policy to protect the value of capital from inflationary erosion are assumed to be the panacea for economic growth in neo-liberal economies. Concern about improving peoples’ welfare, quality of life and the environment are conveniently sidelined and assumed to be taken care of by the trickledown effect of economic growth. In this model, independent central banks are expected to monitor the health of the economy and adjust its monetary policy accordingly to steady the rate of growth. However, the controlling mechanism that were traditionally made available to these banks have lost much of their potency and central banks have become an ‘institutional anachronism’ under global financial capitalism. Sri Lanka having embraced the neo-liberal model is hopelessly caught in the economic and financial whirlpool of this phenomenon. The economy is not immune to external volatility and is bound to suffer more with added domestic turbulence. A looming global economic slowdown in the face of continuing trade war between the two largest economies, tension in Hormuz and the Brexit crisis coupled with domestic unrest arising from supremacist politics is bound to hit the economy hard. Is there a way out? 

Even if structural changes to the economy is too difficult and messy to undertake in the short term, a new president and a new government can at least tackle some of the non-economic issues that impact the economy adversely. The most fundamental of such issues, which is metamorphosing into a national problem is ethno-religious politics championed by Buddhist supremacists. Since mid-1950s communalism is at the heart of Sri Lankan politics and has become the chief determinant of the country’s majoritarian democracy. The fact that this political issue has its own economic ramifications and that it affects the health and growth of the economy irrespective of the structure is rarely discussed in public, except by the leftists. Even economists while recommending theoretically sound pro-growth policies overlook the practical difficulty of implementing them because of non-economic constraints. It is therefore encouraging that at least JVP is now talking about the economic consequences of communal politics and the need to tackle it.

Domestic security is emerging as a dominant issue in the forthcoming presidential campaign. Yet, the negative correlation between security and the economy is little talked about. This is not to argue that an economy can grow robustly in an insecure political environment. The negative correlation emerges when looked at security from a different angle. As long as politicians keep on fuelling the ethno-religious flame and create inter-communal and inter-religious tensions the need to strengthen internal security is inescapable and it will demand more and more budgetary allocations. This year alone a total of 306 billion rupees or more than 13% of budget resources has gone to defence. With declining revenue, more resources to security would obviously mean less to other vital sectors such as health, education, domestic industries and agriculture.     

On a global level increased expenditure on security is a twenty-first century phenomenon, thanks to military Keynesianism and global terrorism. While the former is linked to super power rivalry for world dominance and the growing armament industry, latter is the legacy of Bin Laden, which may be appropriately termed as the Laden-Effect. The military-industrial- complex has become such a holy cow no political party or government dares to question its economic rationale or refuse budgetary support. However, the Sri Lankan security context has little to do with this global phenomenon but everything to do with its own internal politics. By wantonly exploiting ethno-nationalism and Buddhist supremacy for political advantage, to the extent of even fighting a civil war, governments have created a defence sector that is destined to grow in size and to demand more and more resources unless the need for that growth is removed.  Figures from Global Power Review show that with 281,000 military personnel including 36,000 reserves, and with 76 aircrafts and 210 combat tanks Sri Lanka’s defence budget consumes a whopping US$1.5 billion and the national debt stands at US$51.7 billion. How does one expect the economy to revive with this debt burden and military Keynesianism?  Enlarging the size of the army and police personal may be one way of reducing unemployment especially amongst the Sinhalese (almost 97% of army personnel are Sinhalese) but it is employment with high social cost.       

Sri Lankan army never fought a war against any foreign power and its primary role is therefore to control domestic population from revolting against the rulers. Why should people revolt and what is the need for such control if rulers maintain good governance with justice for all? Had JR taken a bold step to resolve the Tamil issue while opening the economy to market forces, the country would have avoided the civil war, the enormous financial waste and debt it caused and involvement of foreign powers in meddling with nation’s sovereignty. Unfortunately, an ageing president surrendered the long term interests of Sri Lanka for short term gains and prestige. His successors are blindly walking on his footsteps. The country can ill afford to spend its meagre revenue on security at the expense of growth producing investments.

Once upon a time in the 1950s and 1960s, Sri Lanka was envied by its neighbours for its high quality of public health and educational standards. This has been reversed now. One only have to visit the public hospitals to see the extent of neglect and the universities that are churning out thousands of unemployable graduates every year. Resources that should have gone to maintain high standard in these vital areas and to economically productive sectors have been forced to be redirected into security because of communal politics.         

There is a need to downsize the security sector but that is not possible given the ethno-religious tensions that prevail now. Buddhist supremacists, unless they are controlled, will keep aggravating the threat to internal security. As that threat increases demand for more resources for security is bound to grow. This self-imposed misallocation of scarce resources will keep the economy struggling to revive with its doors wide open to attacks from external volatility. Between security and economy the nation faces a hard choice.  Solution lies in renouncing ethno-religious politics and disowning the supremacists. JVP appears to have realised this truth, and it should be given a chance to act on it.  

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  • 2
    5

    Dr. Amir Ali,

    Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the SLPP Presidential candidate in all his presentations and speeches in all the seminars organized by “VIYATHMAGA”, “ELIYA” and even at the maiden speech Gotabaya Rajapaksa made, when he was declared the Presidential candidate by the SLPP a few days ago, at the SLPP convention at Sugathadasa Stadium has very clearly explained the state of the economy and measures to promote economic growth, which will be undertaken under his Presidency after the next presidentail elections and a new government that maybe formed after the next general elction in 2020. Even yesterday, at the SLPP Women’s conference, he has very clearly explained more carefully, the roll of the Sri Lankan woman, viz-a-viz the state of the economy and measures to promote economic growth and how the new government should plan out stratergies to face the realities at all levels of society and government, in order to given women an important roll in the affairs of family, society, community and government. The Sri Lankan electorate can trust Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the SLPP, including it’s Allaince and cast their valuable votes to Make Goatabaya Rajapaksa the next President of Sri Lanka. The JVP is only making “NOISES” as always and there is “NO MESSAGE” in what they are telling.
    Noor Nizam – Peace and Political Activist, Political Communication Researcher, SLFP Stalwart and Convener – “The Muslim Voice”.

    • 8
      3

      Noir Nizam,

      What is your IQ? The mean measured IQ 0of the Land is 79.
      From 2010 to 2015, Rajapaksas added about US$ 15 billion to the external debt, including the commissions.

      How much more will they add this time?

      Is your IQ high enough to figure that this is about the Rajapaksa Mafia and Dynasty?

      • 2
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        Amanasiri,
        IQ for India is 82. There is no statistically significant difference between 79 and 82. If Sri Lankans with 79 are ‘Modayas’, Indians are also ‘Modayas’. IQ for Sri Lanka is low due to inclusion of low IQ descendants of slaves in the sample.

        • 6
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          Eagle Eye,

          Yes, statistically speaking, the difference between an IQ of 79 and 82 is not much different for the mean. However, the differences become more significant at the high end of the IQ distribution. Two SD’s above is 109 vs. 112. Furthermore, the Para-Sinhala population is more “homogeneous “, whereas the Indian population is more heterogeneous, with more intelligent people at the high end of the IQ distribution .

          Besides, Indians to not have Sinhala Buddhism to decrease their IQs.

          They found that the mean IQ of the Brahmins and Pundits was much higher than the mean of the population.

          • 0
            7

            Amanasiri,
            “They found that the mean IQ of the Brahmins and Pundits was much higher than the mean of the population.”
            Where did you find separate IQs for Brahamins and Pundits?
            There is nothing called Sinhala Buddhism although Buddha’s teachings were documented for the first time in Sinhale using Sinhala alphabet.
            Buddha has told his teachings are meant for wise people. Buddhism did not become popular in India because there are no wise people. Dumb Brahamins and so called Pundits preferred Hindu religion with rituals that do not require high brain capacity.

            • 6
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              Eagle Eye,

              Yes the mean India IQ is around 82. However, there are many with much higher IQ.

              https://akarlin.com/2012/08/the-puzzle-of-indian-iq-a-country-of-gypsies-and-jews/

              The mean IQ of those Indians who emigrated to the USA is around 112, about the same as Ashkenazi Jews.

              Anyway, Para-Sinhala, with mean IQ 79, do not have sufficient IQ and intellect to understand Buddhism and it’s philosophy,

              The result, Para-Sinhala Para-“Buddhism”, that is a distortion of Buddhism and an an insult to the Buddha.

              What else would you expect when average children, from a population mean IQ of 79, are “donated”, by the parents to be monks, when they are not the smartest of the litter, to be 7-year old child monks? Imbecile adult Para-Sinhala “Buddhist” monks, who go berserk.

              Does that know that he is a Para in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho? Not according to ignorant and confused Prof Raj Somadeva, the “Academic”.

            • 2
              1

              India produces everything the country ever needs and are highly self sufficient. Meanwhile the the great “Helayas” import Bajaj 3wheelers, Tata busses, Royal Enfields, rice, dhal, soap opera and Oppo smartphones from India. Oh how the might had fallen.

              P.S. Indias got nukes and send payloads to the International Space Station on a regular basis while Sri Lanka recently sent a “mini” satellite with a wee little camera on a Japanese rocket and acts like it’s the only nation to send shit to space.

    • 3
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      Noor Nizam, the “SLFP Stalwart”, getting ready to become the SLPP Stalwart!!

  • 9
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    what about the detention of one of best Islamic scholar in Sri Lanka? He has done nothing wrong but to speak against the cult of Zahran. He has been calling people to promote peace and Sri Lankan national identity and yet, he has been detained without access to his family and his lawyers. what kind of justice is this for Sri Lankan Muslim leaders. He earns love all communities and yet, on dip of some radical wahabi and Salafi groups this government has detained him. what is the crime? it is said Zahran cult wanted to debate with him. He rejected his call to debate with him. Now, this ineptitude CID detained for no any reason but dirty politics. It may be some Muslim politicians fear for their vote banks.. or some other fear for his vote bank. He might have been detained for this reason. What a jingle law is this? He has been calling people to develop this nation, to promote peace, to help Sri Lanka to build the process of the nation building and yet, now shameless government arrest him for no reason.. It is so bad, to think about this pathetic situation. why this discrimination? is it what Buddhism tell to do .. Why do not monks speak about this injustice? Uztaz Hajjul Akbar has spent his 40 years in public service of this nations . He has been helping all communities and yet, now has been accused of this connection with NTJ. He has been against them for his life: his remove his own brother from his organisation because of his brother’s radicalism..? yet, CID does not know who is radical or who is moderate? what a crime is this. CID does not know the difference between black and white/ what a joke is this? racism at its peak in SL? do not do this, your Karama will turn on you and your families one day…..

  • 8
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    Dr. Ameer Ali,

    Thanks for your article on the impact of the ethano-religious fundamentalism and the resulting need for more on security, and the impact on the economy. None of the politicians will talk about Para-Sinhala Para-“Buddhism”, in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho. The current national debt, mostly external is us $60 billion, and had apparently gone up from, almost nothing when JR was elected.
    They are adding about , US$ 5 billion to the national debt.
    The national debt and economy are in a slippery slope.

    In the meantime, Ravi Penthouse, the former finance minister got a Penthouse gifted with Rs. 175 million.

    What can you expect from a populace and the politicians when the mean measured IQ is 79? What you write and the above.

  • 1
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    “The most fundamental of such issues, which is metamorphosing into a national problem is ethno-religious politics championed by Buddhist supremacists.”
    What the fk you are talking? Native Sinhala Buddhists should not show any sympathy to Muslims who make this kind of statements. Native Sinhalayo are going through hell because of racist Para Demala bigots and Para Muslim religious fanatics. Native Sinhalayo are paying the price for the blunder committed by King Senerath.

  • 5
    0

    If Gotha becomes President the eEconomy will grind to a halt as no Country will engage with a CRIMINAl as that is what he is. If found guilty by the Californain Court there will be an arrest warrant on him.
    As for the other Candidates the debt burden ffrom MRs legacy is so huge it is no point talking about it. People are paying back what the Rajapaksas have stolen.

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