15 December, 2019

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Elections Debates & Workable Compromises: A Social Compact In A Time Of Multiple Emergencies

This society faces multiple situations that need to be addressed as emergencies; because treated otherwise complications would set in to make the malady too dangerous. These situations cannot be resolved by the government alone, and this has been demonstrated too frequently for us to leave those responsibilities to that agency alone. All agencies in society need to be galvanized: government, religious leaders, political leaders, business, media, the university community and intellectuals, and voluntary associations of various kinds. Friday Forum calls for a social compact among all these entities to understand the nature of the situations and the solutions that can ameliorate the severity of these emergencies in the first instance, and then resolve them in several further early steps. Such compacts will not emerge without wide debate and discussion. Friday Forum dares to begin such debate with this advocacy.  

The most urgent emergency is in the area of financial and economic management. For two generations this society has spent more than it has earned; since 1957, there has been only one year (1977) in which the nation lived within its means; and since 1957, there has not been a single year in which the government ran an overall surplus.  Government is only one agency through which this society over spends; the high ratio of household debt to disposable income is an index of the excess of accumulated debt of households, a result of spending more than they earn.  This over expenditure was possible because other countries and inter-governmental financial institutions made grants, and latterly, loans. Now we must depend almost entirely on commercial loans. As loans accumulate and mature we must pay more in interest and re-payments. In order to pay those rising amounts we must produce more. Recently our external debt has grown at 12 percent per year whilst the total output is likely to grow between 2.5 and 4 percent per year. If debt grows 12 percent per year and GDP (say) grows only at 3 percent per year, in 6 years the outstanding debt will double and Debt to GDP will increase by 16 percent. To avoid this impending disaster these relative figures must alternate places, GDP must grow faster than debt. These eventualities are entirely untenable, and popular unrest and disruption to normal life will be inevitable. To avoid those disruptions, the compact must adopt policies and management practices for both fast growth of output, especially for export of goods and services, and impose severe restraints on borrowing. (Large net inflows of foreign investment can change this scenario very much but such large inflows seem unlikely.)

This process of faster growth especially in exports, and restraints on imports, will put severe downward pressure on domestic consumption. About a third of all consumption expenditure is on imports. A good part of imports are essential food, medical supplies, fuel and similar items. Therefore imported consumer goods will need to be drastically cut down and supplies of those goods which are not essential for day today living of the common people must be minimized. Import duties and temporary CESS surcharges are an important source of government revenue that will need to be kept up. Higher rates of duty and taxes on non-essential imported goods will serve both to cut down imports and to make up, in part, for the fall in import duty collections that would otherwise occur.   

An important contribution to address the impending crisis is to demand that borrowing from overseas, especially on short term commercial terms are minimized. To cut down borrowing from overseas will require restraints on government expenditure. In that light the over generous plans of government expenditure that candidates for the office of President throw about are entirely removed from reality. If it is necessary to keep down government expenditure, fertilizer cannot be distributed without cost to cultivators; all students who successfully complete the G.C.E. A’level examination cannot be provided with opportunities for university education; all school children cannot be supplied more clothes and shoes; and these promises become hollow when at the same time some tax rates are to be reduced and other taxes are to be completely withdrawn. The compact must collectively advocate for restraints on government expenditure so that such expenditure will not need to be financed from abroad. At the same time, increased tax revenue becomes inevitable. 

If standards of living in our society are to be maintained there is no alternative to faster growth. A portion of the income produced in the country is paid out to foreigners to pay back debt and interest on the stock of debt. As the increase in repayment of debt and interest on debt rises, a larger portion of our income is lost to us. To compensate for this and yet secure rising levels of living, it is necessary that our incomes grow. In addition, it is necessary that that growth contains within it output that can be sold abroad. For this it is necessary that our entrepreneurs produce by joining processes of production of output which are typically the joint output of a chain of producers spread over the world. That would in turn determine patterns of investment: for many reasons we must keep away from long gestation period projects. We simply don’t have the time to wait. Our society needs to come to a compact on those patterns of growth and investment.  

Unemployment in this society is low. The major reason for that is that about 20 percent of our labour force works overseas. Like most of those employed at home, these workers lack any worthwhile skills and are engaged in low productivity activities. There is high productivity employment if entrepreneurs choose the right kind of lines of production of goods and services. For example, large numbers in India, Vietnam and the Philippines earn high wages working in ‘data labeling’ for use in artificial intelligence for enterprises overseas as well being engaged in off shore data, information processing and logistical service centres. These activities are neither capital intensive nor skills intensive. They raise productivity in employment, require very little physical capital and earn foreign exchange. Such patterns of development suit our present requirements admirably. 

Heath services and education touch the lives of people almost every day. They are therefore peoples’ major concerns. As demographic features, morbidity patterns and knowledge, change, health policies must correspondingly change. Education policies are subject to even greater challenges. The marked character of this age is the explosion in knowledge. Those changes have touched education at all levels, primary, secondary and tertiary, in all their complexity and even methods and techniques of teaching.  In both fields, society must seek those features that are most suited to us and make them a part of policies.

The second emergency that this society is threatened with is that communities that speak two different languages, follow four different religions and sit on three different accumulations of cultural wealth, find it difficult to live and thrive together in this island. The opportunities for individuals to grow and engage in value added livelihoods may ease this friction somewhat. But the communities must arrive at a Compact that permits the emergence of such opportunities.

Thirdly, we must not permit inequalities in the distribution of opportunities to stand in the way of growth of such opportunities, nor let considerations of equality slow processes of growth. Equality includes spatial as well as interpersonal considerations. Groups in society must agree on acceptable levels of inequality in rough and ready forms. 

As a society in the comity of nations, we need to contribute to reduce the pollution of the natural environment as consumers and as producers. When we use coal to generate power we pollute the air. When we use chemical herbicides, we pollute the environment in many ways. This society must arrive at compacts that will minimize ‘the carbon footprint’ that its activities will leave. 

In order to achieve these objectives, a society needs to agree upon institutions that they will establish, and organizations that they will set up to administer those institutions. The fundamental institution for governance is the Constitution of the Republic. The 19th Amendment and subsequent statutes brought in some welcome changes. It is necessary to preserve and foster these institutions. We yet need provisions designed to further promote better relations among the several communities that comprise this nation. 

The organizations that give life to these institutions have shown much weakness in the recent past. Society needs to arrive at agreement on how their functioning can be improved to be more effective, consistent and transparent. Parliament must be the arena where policies are debated, amended and approved. Currently, there are no arrangements where Bills can be subject to analysis to help members to conduct debates. Such information will also inform the public of the nature and consequences of especially, large scale projects.  The large size of the Cabinet of Ministers has been wasteful, confusing and unproductive. The number of members of the Cabinet should not exceed 25 with another 25 others who are non-Cabinet members. These numbers should be variable only by a resolution with two thirds of the members of parliament agreeing. The provisions in the constitution enabling ministers to direct the work of ministries has proved unproductive and the earlier practice where secretaries performed these functions must be resorted to.

The bureaucracy is that part of Government that actually helps formulate policies and implement them, once approved by Parliament. Government would not function without these employees. Society needs to ensure that they are well trained, flexible and made to function with integrity. The framework for the administration of justice has been well laid. However, inordinate delays in the legal process and the consequent accumulation of cases awaiting adjudication are major problems to solve, which society needs to find solutions for, with the agreement of all concerned.

Arriving at these compacts will not be rapid or easy. Competing interests in society will hold on to, and promote, their own interests. Without compromises on the part of all, agreement would be impossible. For such agreement to be arrived at understanding the nature of the problems and gaining knowledge of practices the world over is essential. The forthcoming elections between November 2019 and August 2020 can provide space for such wide ranging debates and workable compromises. The universities, knowledgeable media personnel and other intellectuals, political parties, whether in groups or as individuals have vital roles to play in giving life to these suggestions. While knowledge can flow from all over the world, solutions must be essentially local.           

Dr. Geedreck Usvatte-aratchi and Chandra Jayaratne

On behalf of:

Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare, Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, Dr. A.C.Visvalingam, Mr. Daneshan Casie Chetty, Dr. Ranjini Obeyesekere, Mr. Nirmala Wijayanandana, Prof. Camena Guneratne, Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Mr. Faiz-Ur Rahman, Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris, Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe and Bishop Duleep de Chickera.

The Friday Forum is an informal group of concerned citizens pledged to uphold norms of democracy, good governance, rule of law, human rights, media freedom and tolerance in our pluralist society.
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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    In reality the issue before us today is whether to vote for Sajith or Gota. In my mind the most dangerous impact by voting Gota would result in:
    1. SLPP claiming victory over SLFP and UNP. Most importantly it would be the end of SLFP. I say this because the agreement signed between Gotabaya/SLPP and SLFP clearly states that the next General Elections SLPP and SLFP will contest independently. Which means the boost the SLPP gets from Gota winning the Presidential Election will kill SLFP for ever. Do we need such a situation.
    2. The main reason for Mahinda Rajapakse, while being a SLFP member, to start SLPP is to have a party of his own. Inside the Parliament he still claims to be a member of UPFA which consists of many parties including SLFP. Which means Mahinda claims he is a SLFP member. But outside in every single platform he is openly declaring that he is SLPP. Mahinda’s claim to be SLFP inside the Parliament is because he wants the position and the power to be the Leader of the Opposition – Greed for Power.
    3. The other reason why Mahinda wants to start SLPP is to kill SLFP and over the next few generations starting with Namal Putha to have the history recognize that the party was created by Mahinda Rajapakse who won the war against Tamils. This is another reason why SLPP is boosting racial ideology during this election (motto).
    4. The sad part which most of the so called SLPP MPs do not realize is (especially people like Weerawansa, Dilan, SB, Gammanpila, and a few others) they are not going to get nomination under SLPP if Gotabaya is to stick to his manifesto. Only way as cunning as Mahinda is, they will sign from different parties as alliance parties with SLPP. Here again smart voters will realize that Gotabaya has lied to them.

    • 1
      3

      Mr Buddhist
      Don’t worry.
      SLPP today is what was SLFP yesterday. Just a technicality to comply with the rules of the department of elecctions as Maitripala Sirisenaa wouldn’t let go of reins. All former SLFPers understand that perfectly.
      Thank you.

      Soma

      • 0
        0

        Thanks but it would be more to the point for FF to write and open letter to Mangala, Lanka’s financially illiterate Finance Minister, to release the contents of the MCC document to the public BEFORE it is signed.

        No point debating MCC compact in parliament after signing.
        This is like closing the stable gate after horse has bolted!

        MCC agreements are like treaties and very difficult to withdraw from especially as Sri Lanka has signed the Singapore Mediation agreement in a big rush in August 2019 this year. and withdrawal from the MCC would be costly for the country.

        This is important as US which used IS and Al Bagdadi as a “strategic asset” is a prime suspect among foreign hands involved in the Easter Carnage, set up to push though signing of SOFA and MCC land act lays the groundwork and framework to land grab for US military bases and servicing facilities which are Environmentally Damaging and costly to and detrimental to the interests of the people of Lanka.
        US bases and the military industrial complex is the elephant in the room of the climate change debate as its carbon foot print is massive and much of the pollution and garbage in the Indian Ocean comes from US bases such as Guam and Diego Garcia.
        Finally, there needs to be an office of Experts to scrutinize all so called Foreign Aid agreements – from USA, EU, France, UK, China, Japan, India, Iran, Russia etc.

      • 1
        1

        soman

        “SLPP today is what was SLFP yesterday. “

        Another cunning idea.
        You think voters are stupid?
        They are stupid but not that stupid.

        • 0
          0

          “Native Vedda” says
          “SLPP today is what was SLFP yesterday. “

          Another cunning idea.
          You think voters are stupid?
          They are stupid but not that stupid”

          All Veddas are “native”. So the appellation “Native Vedda” is no different to “Citizen Somapala”.

          The results of the Local elections in Feb. 2018, and the Elpitiya election show that Native Vedda is clueless as regards politics.

          The people recognized that the only significant anti-UNP force was the SLPP in the way they voted in the local elections, and at Elpitiya..

          Until the founding of the SLPP, the SLFP was the main opposition to the UNP, since 1956.

          So, “Soman” is right.

      • 1
        0

        Soma, Your understanding is unmatched. Please affirm that SLPP would revert itself to SLFP, once it acquires the Presidency.

  • 0
    0

    There should be more of these ‘think tanks’ comprising those with no political agendas to exert pressure on the Government & Politicians to do what is in the best interest of the nation in relation to the many issues at hand.

    The ‘Debt Trap’ is indeed a major issue as it impacts the economic welfare of the Nation and its inhabitants ( it is pertinent to mention here of the response MR gave when questioned at a recent ‘meet the press’ as to how they intended to service the debt repayments. The answer was a flippant ‘we will find the money’! This, coming from the man who created this issue out of self interest and self aggrandizement by building ”white elephants’ at enormous costs! NGR had no clue of the answer to that question and so he looked to the right for an answer and yet he is seeking the highest Office of the Nation. What a joker!)

    As long as Politicians put self interest ahead of the National interest in their dealings and actions and there are no checks and balances to control such activities, the status quo will continue with detrimental consequences to the country’s economy.

    • 0
      0

      Gamini

      GMOA is the good one at the moment

  • 0
    2

    Mr Buddhist
    Don’t worry.
    SLPP today is what was SLFP yesterday. Just a technicality to comply with the rules of the department of elecctions as Maitripala Sirisenaa wouldn’t let go of reins. All former SLFPers understand that perfectly.
    Thank you.

    Soma

  • 0
    0

    All agencies in society need to be galvanised. Agreed. What has religious leaders got to do here. Aren’t they a big part of the problem, in the first place? On economy, what is more urgent is to cut waste. Elected Members who volunteer to be Parliamentarians need not be provided with the current level of comforts and perks. Our Central Bank should be trusted to steer our economy, without having to answer any of the agencies listed.
    .
    I could go on, but I would be wasting your time!

  • 0
    0

    An excellent analysis of the challenges for Sri Lanka. I served in government service for two decades until 1978 when I departed to work in the international civil service and later in private sector development consultancy. I travelled and did assignments in over fifty countries. An important observation I made in Sri Lanka was that senior officials at the top in Ministries did not have adequate management skills. Moreover, they had little or no exposure to the special areas for which they had responsibility.
    To achieve many of the objectives you identify in your article, the senior civil service in Sri Lanka must be improved. One challenge in achieving this would be the generally weak English proficiency among these officials.

    • 0
      0

      Hi sir,
      You are bragging yourself that much. But, still you could not understand the political point of Jayaratne? That is really amazing! Jayaratne is asking you to go with the empty talk of the Old Royal’s Development. Can you tell us why could not you teach that to JR before you leave the country?

  • 0
    0

    So this is something Jayaratne wrote on the name of the racists Friday Falsedom. Economic God Jayaratne thinks if he declared Economy is the main problem then, he thinks it has to be as its. Yes, it is understandable from an imbecile accountant an essay like that. But he is putting it on the Friday Falsedom head. It was Don Stephen started to play with economy by deporting the back bone workers, Estate Tamils. That is why the Rupee is falling against Dollar from day one of 1948. That is why the favorable balance payment turned into adverse now.
    They wanted fight a war with Tamils and finish them all. The entire economy is going this way because Racist Appe Aanduwa burned $400B on the war with its own citizens, Tamils. They still have not settled the problem with Tamils. After spending $400B on it , it is still an open question; may draw another $400 B to end it if ISIS starts in full swing. But Jayaratne saying he wants to drop it there & go to economy.
    China put its holding forks on Lankawe by war loans. It was the invention of CB Cabal to buy arms on credit and sell Hangbangtota to China. Jayaratne has to understand if Don didn’t want to create racial upheaval, Don Stephen would not have damaged the Estate Business, thus not the country. Jayaratne’s Old Royals ran out of the government two years early because the fear of UNHRC matters end in economic embargo.
    The first problem in the country is the national question. Number two the corruption and drug smuggling that started by Old Royals. Now New King wants to hang the dealers & importers. D.M. Jayaratne too signed for some customs clearance. If those two are cleaned, economy will pick like it happened in many countries.
    This comedy accountant is saying the imports have to be taxed heavily. 80% of the country’s tax Revenue coming from indirect taxes; Poor is paying but Jayaratne like crocodiles are escaping.

    • 0
      0

      Mallai… writes
      ” That is why the Rupee is falling against Dollar from day one of 1948. That is why the favorable balance payment turned into adverse now.”

      This is wrong history,. The ruppee rose in strength since 1948 and went to incredible heights during the Korean war as Ceylon made good money by selling rubber. DS Sena and Oliver Goonatilleke did all that correctly.
      But when SWRD Banda took over, he and Philip Goonwardena threatened to nationalize foreign companies and estates. The oil companies left, British companies, banks and foreign capital left, and also tea estate managers (not workers) left and set up estates in South Africa (aiding and abetting the Apartheid govt). Chelvanayagam ‘s Arasu party, regarded till then as a racist fringe party talking of “exclusive Tamil homelands” made gains over GGPonnambalam (who was in DS cabinet) and the became mainstream Tamil party even though it ran around tar brushing street signs, distributing wooden pistols, and holding sathyagrahas to provoke the sinhalese.
      It was then that the rupee began to decline.
      Also, Indian workers (basically surfs brought in by the British) did not leave Sri Lanka under DSSenanayake, instead, they were even coming in as “KallaThoni”.
      The repatriation began only under the Sirima-Shasthri pact.
      The Muslims didn’t take the disruptive path taken by the racist segment of the Tamils which captured dominance by deliberately polarizing opinion; in fact SWRD had “Sinhala marikkar” in is cabinet”.
      The Sinhala fools capped the issue by their thuggery, and then by a pogrom in 1983. The pogrom should have been directed against the murderous LTTE and NOT the innocent Tamils of Colombo

  • 0
    0

    Well do number One that GDP of that USA economy has declined rapidly in global -wide since 2008 . It is impact of the catastrophe by that collapses of Giant Wall Street stock Market ..of USA.In fact there is no way recovered or revival of that USA Economy and its GDP back into DEBT FREE system in order neat future? It is not possible any way.US will back quite impossible .I view that Friday Forum of bunch of elites are academically may be good at their Old theses ,but timely is outdated . All of these elites outlook are depend on OLD WORLD Order led by USA UK EU and Japan holding membership countries.World has change that Western Capital market change to Eastern nations led by People’s Republic of China.

    The 1949 revolution of China that path and model of PRC led CPC is NON Capitalist Path. It has founded 1949 that call New Democracy Era of STATE by PRC of CPC.>
    There is current that leads by UNP advocated on which that “New Democracy Front” has no any relationship with that Common Programmed 1949 of approved by CPC of political Consultation Conferences that People Congress of PRC.

    And PRC of CPC that mode of Economy that development Path working toward of planning model with annex of that Market economy of served for masses scale Social production of whole People of China’s Republic.
    PRC guided policies are laid down by of Communist Party of China by vision and ideology of Mao Zedong thought since 1949 .

  • 0
    0

    Reading this from FF was a bit amusing after listening to Sunil Aiyyas latest Hit Baila,, Banku Hora which I believe is going crackers in Colombo .

    For good Four years, specially the first two of their Yhapalana Government, this FF only put pressure on our War Heroes and Rajapakasas by forcing to investigate and jail them for killing Pirahaparan and his Terrorist outfit.
    Even the Buddhist Monks were not spared in their Political Witch Hunt.

    In fact FF is also responsible for the Police harassment of our inhabitants for Political revenge by Dr Ranil . Rajitha Senratana , Champaka Ranawaka and J C Weliyamuna using Dr Ranil’s UNP FCID..

    Wonder why all of a sudden this FF is intereseted in Balance of Payments, Household Debt to Income Ratios, Budget Deficits, and Economic Growth?.

    Is it because of the Nandaseana Wave crated by the great majority of the inhabitant population who have had enough of Dr Ranil’s Yahapalanaya.

    UNP Candidate Keselwatta Kid himself has said 20 Lakhs need Samurdhi. And majority of the Women Inhabitants out of the total 52% need free Sanitary pads.
    And 40 Lakhs are earning less than 400 Ruppiah a Day.
    Did the FF study those stats?.

    Wonder why Sunil Aiyya turned against the UNP to release that Album on the eve of this most important Election,?…

    Is it because of this dire Economic Situation?. .
    Or is it the dire Security Situation after the Suicide attacks on the Catholic Church?.

  • 1
    0

    Could somebody explain this to me, please.

    We have had very few opportunities to see the Presidential Candidates interacting with each other. Well, my wife and I watched this slightly more than one hour programme from approximately 7.45 p.m. onwards on the Internet:

    https://www.newsfirst.lk/2019/11/07/public-discussion-with-multiple-presidential-candidates/

    It does not now seem to be available. This discussion was said to be at the Galle Face Hotel – it probably was. However, it cannot now be accessed. All spoke in English, except Anura Kumara Dissanayake who used Sinhalese, and left early.

    Sajith Premadasa was first and focussed on the Economy. He was allowed to come back for a second spell. Anura Kumara Dissanayake spoke more of the need for law and order. Dr Ajantha Perera, the sole woman came on after more than one hour of silence – and started by asking whether there were First and Second Class Candidates. She began on good governance, but got on to the environment, when she was stopped and somebody called Gamini representing the Mahesh Senanayake campaign began to talk – mostly about how he was roped in quite recently. He then had a good deal to say about women workers.

    Then there was, “a message” – somebody else’s voice – from Gotabaya Rajapaksa – somebody else’s voice – with the text being run on the cyclorama. His c.v. including the Indian Master’s Degree and the Honorary PhD from the Colombo University were read out and listed. The voice was definitely not that of Gotabaya. And so that was that. Ajantha Perera was not allowed to speak again, although that had been solemnly promised. Anybody else who saw this?

    • 1
      0

      Mr SM,

      the fight this time is between two main groups.
      :
      They are the civilized and the unvicivilized lankens.
      :
      Those may be wearing safron robes for some reasons, but most of they are full ignorants. They dont care about the human values. They cant respect 5 precepts in accordance with buddhistic way of life, but why they hidden behind to robes is beyond my bearing. What is the difference between hijab wearing women among the muslims. I dont see there is a big differenece in there. I am born sinhalaya, but for some reasons, I cant bend down before SRILANKENs monks for some time now.
      Very recently, I met a srilanken monk waiting in an european airport. From his appearnce i thought he should be from sl, but my busy schedules did nt allow me to help him there.
      There are few good monks still living in SL and outside world. But most that line up with Rajakashes are not real good monks. They are very like lay men that would do anything even selling them selves in order to selfish gains.
      These monks that are being kept as FLOWER REEDS in Rajakashe processions should first be punished if AKD or SP would become the leader.
      We have no doubt, people would not want Rajakshes ruin their lives the way they did prior to 2015, however, the current situation in the country is more like masses are made stupid forever.
      Even some women and men with some knowledge about the society seem to be waging the tail in favour of Rajaakshes.
      We would be eternal losers, if BALLIGE PUTHA rajapakshes would somehow be elected.
      There, I will never support srilanken against because many in rural areas only, feel that Rjaakshes are the only men to lead our island nation.

  • 5
    0

    Dear Friday Forum,
    I have many issues with Friday Forum’s conception of an exemplary, if not ideal, society. However, bandying current “swear-words” such as Neo-liberal would not be helpful because I’m fully aware that the august members of this group know much more than I about such matters.

    Let me, therefore, in the spirit of respectful and constructive engagement, register my shock and surprise, and sincerely request you to explain and justify the following position that you take:

    “Thirdly, we must not permit inequalities in the distribution of opportunities to stand in the way of growth of such opportunities, nor let considerations of equality slow processes of growth. Equality includes spatial as well as interpersonal considerations. Groups in society must agree on acceptable levels of inequality in rough and ready forms.”

    I cannot believe that committed intellectuals such as Prof Savitri Goonesekere, Dr Ranjini Obeyesekere and Mr Tissa Jayatilaka — to name only three persons I have had the privilege and pleasure to interact with and learn from — would blithely acquiesce to such an unabashedly elitist and anti-human rights position.

    Who, may I ask, is this (royal?) “We” who “must not … let considerations of inequality [to] slow processes of growth”? It is certainly not those — unfortunately the overwhelming majority of people in this country, including a disproportionately high percentage of women and children, “minorities” and other disadvantaged groups. Surely, the cart is before the horse, here? Should not “growth” itself be governed and determined by the fundamental values of equality and justice (as outlined in the international covenants, and basic tenets of ethics), and not the other way round, as you clearly stipulate here?

    Sadly, the “we” of this statement appears to have weighed the pros and cons of (the cost of) equality and justice, and has, in its benevolent wisdom, determined for all citizens (including those who are systematically and systemically victimized by such unequal and unfair “growth”) that the value of “economic growth” over-rides considerations of rights and justice.

    I wish that I can share your conviction that “we” can decide for “them”, without batting an eye-lid, and that “we” know what’s best: after all, a little suffering is good for (someone else’s) soul, right? The forlorn caveat at the end of the paragraph makes matters worse, because it naively implies that the “groups in society” are equally empowered and enabled to take such decisions about equality, on the level playing field of Lankan civil and political life, which is a pre-requisite for this agreement to be meaningful. And, what on earth does “acceptable levels of inequality in rough and ready forms,” mean?

    Sorry, I get it now: you mean “rough” for them and “ready” for us, isn’t it?
    Friday Forum, you are better than this.

    Arjuna Parakrama

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