By Ameer Ali –
The extent of damage that Covid-19 has caused to peoples’ health and economy globally is anyone’s guess, because the damage is continuing to mount. Already, more than 3 million people have been confirmed infected, and more than 217,000 had died. Those numbers are increasing, may be at a decreasing rate and in some countries the curve is flattening. In the meantime, WHO chief warns that the worst is yet to come and a second wave cannot be discounted unless a vaccine is discovered soon. Economically, the world has received a severe haemorrhage, and the IMF chief expects global economic growth to turn sharply southwards this year, and the downturn would be even worse than the 1930 Great Depression. It is in this globally gloomy background that Sri Lankan leaders seem to play politics with Covid-19.
After decades of misgovernment, corruption and economic mismanagement people were totally disillusioned of politicians and were desperate for a team of honest men and women under a strong leader who would take control, cleanse the mess, introduce reforms and lead the country along a path of recovery without depriving the people of their liberty and freedom. Ruchir Sharma, in his fascinating insights into The Rise and Fall of Nations (Penguin, 2017), reckons with justification that, “the probability of successful, sustained reform is higher under fresh leaders rather than stale leaders, under leaders with a mass base rather than well-credentialed technocrats, and under democratic leaders rather than autocrats” (p. 63). Accordingly, the choice of Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR) as President, with an outright majority, satisfies Sharma’s “fresh” and “mass based” criteria for a leader, but GR’s own choice of a cabinet from “stale” leaders and his step by step approach so far towards autocracy has jeopardised not only successful and sustained reforms, but also as a result, the economy and democracy.