17 July, 2019

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‘Khema’s Boy’ Does It: Comes Up With A Non-Election Budget In An Election Year

By W.A. Wijewardena

Dr. W.A Wijewardena

Speculation that Budget 2019 will be an election budget

Prior to the presentation of the Budget 2019, there was wide speculation that it would be an election budget. There were at least two elections in the pipeline and the expectation was that Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera who is now called ‘Khema’s Boy’ would naturally succumb to the pressure of his party colleagues to fill the Budget with sweeteners to appease the voters. This has been the hidebound tradition in Sri Lanka ever since it became independent from the British.

A ruling party would just sit on the economy and other issues for the best part of its rule after an election and suddenly wakes up from a deep slumber when an election comes around the corner. There is a belief in the political circles that by filling the purses of voters with cash or other handouts, the ruling party can hide its inactivity and coax voters to re-elect them. As I had argued in my previous article in this series, this is a failed strategy from both the political and the economy’s point.

Politically, it is a failure because the opposition parties would foil the government’s move by promising to double what the government has promised. From the economy’s point, it becomes a failure because the economy would not be able to sustain them within the limited resources it has. Yet, people have been brainwashed that it is the duty of the budget to give them relief and the budget time is marked by a heavy build-up of such expectations in them.

Thus, immediately after the presentation of Budget 2019, an island-wide survey conducted by PepperCube Consultants for Daily FT had revealed that about 97% of the people surveyed had expected the Government to provide relief to them through the Budget. As such, the Budget presented by Khema’s Boy would have disappointed them since it did not contain consumption-oriented direct sweeteners.

Election budgets have bags of reliefs

A budget becomes an election budget if it presents a ‘bag of reliefs’ to ordinary consumers. That bag usually contains common consumer items like sprats, onions, dhal, kerosene and canned fish, to mention but a few. The prices of these items are artificially reduced through a reduction in import duties meaning that they have been previously increased by the imposition of higher duties. Accordingly, the duty structure is manipulated by the government to gain an advantage at elections. Thus, they become a relief only temporarily because after some time, the government which is unable to continue with the relief package will have to reverse the price reductions.

In this manner, the bag of relief has only an announcement effect for the time being. Over the passage of time, the relief disappears and only the bag remains, but now it is empty and waiting to be filled by a rival political party. This has been the cycle which Sri Lankans had gone through at every election in the past.

Khema’s Boy had inherited a sick economy

The Budget 2019 is not an election budget in this sense. Instead of reducing prices artificially, it has sought to divert resources from consumption to investment, a strategy which Sri Lanka should necessarily follow at this stage of its economic development.

Khema’s Boy had inherited a sick economy whose sicknesses had been manifest from around 2013. This had eloquently been highlighted by the World Bank in its Sri Lanka Development Update 2019 released about three weeks ago.

Behind its diplomatic language, it had delivered two strong messages to Sri Lanka’s policy authorities. One was that the deteriorating economic performance which the country had started as from 2013 will continue without an appreciable recovery till 2021. The other was that the country’s declining labour force and labour productivity would have a negative effect on its growth potential in the next two to three decades. The gist of these two messages was that Sri Lanka should take immediate measures to arrest and reverse this trend if it was to realise its goal of becoming a rich country within the next few decades.

Failure to maintain economic buoyancy after the end of the war 

Immediately after the end of the war, there had been ‘significant buoyancy’ in economic activities in the country raising its average annual growth rate to a level above 8%. However, the economic strategy adopted by the country during that period as well as in the few years following had basically concentrated on establishing an economic system based on the domestic market for growth and prosperity.

This was manifested by the low emphasis given to exports that declined as a ratio of the Gross Domestic Product or GDP as well as the global exports. Since the domestic market placed an effective limitation on the expansion of industry, the country could not sustain this high growth beyond 2012. The period thereafter saw a drastic fall in the growth rate recording nearly a half of what had been attained previously.

The new Good Governance Government that came to power in 2015 could not arrest the declining trend and it further slipped from 5% in 2015 to 3.1% in 2017. The best estimate for 2018 has been that it would hover around 3% and continue to falter in the next three year period. Meanwhile, the low performing exports and rising imports caused a massive trade deficit of about 90% of export earnings. Since it could not be financed out of traditional sources like the income on sale of services to foreigners and remittances received from migrant workers, the country’s foreign exchange earnings were lower than the foreign exchange outlays. This caused the Government to borrow more to repay loans which in turn augmented the foreign debt stock. The ultimate result was the rupee coming under pressure for depreciation.

The sorry state of Sri Lanka’s public finances

The public finances were also not in good shape. Though there was a marginal improvement in government’s revenue, the recurrent expenditure was stubbornly high. It was mainly manifest in interest payments on domestic and foreign loans that had been raised by successive governments in the past. These interest payments had increased as a ratio of GDP from 4.8% in 2015 to 5.9% in 2018.

The corollary of all these adverse developments was that the Government’s contribution to capital formation, a necessity for Sri Lanka to accelerate its economic growth, could not be increased beyond 5% of GDP. Hence, the burden of delivering prosperity to people had squarely fallen on the private sector. This was the challenge which Khema’s Boy had faced when he presented his first Budget for 2018 and the truncated Budget for 2019 covering only an eight-month period. As such, he did not have the luxury to appease the voters with an election budget for this year. He had therefore designed the Budget 2019 to further consolidate the budgetary discipline which he had introduced earlier. It is a disappointment to many relief-loving voters but a necessity in the context of the current state of Sri Lanka’s economy.

The need for an innovation-inspiring budget

I had warned Khema’s Boy in an article published two weeks ago that Budget 2019 should be an -inspiring one. All previous budgets in Sri Lanka had been consumption-oriented budgets. The low priority that had been given to inventions and innovations had resulted in Sri Lanka getting trapped in a low growth spiral. Accordingly, the country’s annual average economic growth during the whole of the post-independence period had been at around 4.4%. Though there had been some instances of better performance in selected years, they all had been temporary gains that could not be repeated continuously.

This low growth spiral had made Sri Lanka a laggard among its peers in the region. The main reason for this low growth had been the use of low technology for production which in turn had led to low productivity. Hence, the Budget 2019 had sought to create a pool of entrepreneurs who are innovative and who could do contribute to economic prosperity through private sector growth. The purpose of promoting Enterprise Sri Lanka had been the creation of a critical pool of innovative entrepreneurs.

Development of a knowledge-driven, skilled society

To produce the future entrepreneurs and the workers for a technology-based economy, it is necessary to develop a knowledge-driven, skilled society. This has to be started from the school level and for that purpose, education should undergo a complete overhaul and quality enhancement program. Noting this requirement, Budget 2019 has allocated funds for the improvement of school laboratories, class rooms, libraries and teacher training facilities. In addition, students are to be trained not in isolated pigeon-hall type streams but in combined ones.

The traditional approach to student improvement has been to improve the skills of students in selected science streams covering science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM. However, the weakness in STEM has been that it denies students to become creative individuals without exposure to Arts. Therefore, the current trend has been to develop both the science and arts skills among students known as STEAM or as the Budget 2019 had pronounced it, STEM+A.

In this, students are helped to develop both sides of their brain, namely, the subtle and the intuitive sides, by allowing science student to learn arts and art students to learn science. Once this program is implemented at the school level, universities will have to offer combined degree programs with multiple disciplines. Universities in Thailand have already ventured into this business.

Best students to get scholarships to study in world’s best universities 

Budget 2019 has proposed to provide scholarships to the best performing students at the GCE (AL) Examination to study in the best universities in the world. This is a good move because this strategy had been adopted in Malaysia in 1980s and 1990s by Mahathir Mohammed to create a pool of skilled youngsters to take Malaysia to the next level of science and technology. The present Budget has started it in a very small way with only 14 scholarships in the first year. But it will soon catch up with the participation of both the private sector in Sri Lanka and foreign donors in the program.

In addition, the Budget has proposed a loan scheme for those who are to study in any private sector higher learning institution in Sri Lanka. This will help all those who are denied a place in a State university, though qualified to enter a university, because of the limitation in university places.

Unemployed arts graduates to receive apprenticeship in private firms

The most remarkable proposal in the Budget has been the action taken to bring arts graduates to the mainstream in the economy. Since their skills are inadequate for private sector jobs, they remain unemployed for long periods. Eventually, when the issue becomes acute, all successive governments have absorbed them to the public service even though there are no job vacancies in the public sector. The result has been the swelling of the public sector, on the one hand, and reduction of the productivity in the sector, on the other. Furthermore, it has unnecessarily augmented the Government salary bill as well.

Hence, in the Budget 2019, it has been suggested to provide apprenticeship opportunities for 1,000 unemployed graduates in private firms where their monthly allowances would be paid by the Government for one year until they are absorbed into the relevant private firms. This will certainly provide a viable and sustainable solution to a chronic issue faced by Sri Lanka.

An important requirement in the proposed program is that private firms should be attuned to accept these graduates as a resource to be developed and the graduates should have a mindset to work hard for their future career development. Thus, the promoting agency of this scheme, which has so far not been named, should have a pre as well as a post dialogue with both the employers and the apprentices. If this fails, the country will not have a permanent solution to the unemployed graduates’ problem in the country.

A budgetary tradition to be emulated in the future

All in all, the Budget 2019 has taken a forward look at the economy and made proposals for the future growth of the country. In that way, Khema’s Boy has broken tradition and it should be a new tradition which all future finance ministers should follow.

*W.A. Wijewardena, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, can be reached at waw1949@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 4
    8

    Where does Khema’s Boy find places in the Best Universities of the World for our Best Performing AL Students in Lankawe?.

    US for example, the the dear darling of Khema’s Boy, charges USD 200,000 upwards for a decent Degree.
    And they are not from Harvard or Stanford.
    Even the best performing students can’t get a free place in these Unis ,unless they show the potential to be Einsteins.

    This is just one example of this never ending string of lies of this UNP Government. which fits well with the other Dr Ranil’s Nanos for the Dalits, home made Volks Wagens for the Colombo Elite , and Free Wifi, and the latest Free Lap Tops and Digitalized Schools for them..

    Where was this Khema’s Boy when Dr Ranil’s mates ripped the guts of Lankawes Economy for 4 years.
    I know Khema;s Boy was busy organizing Diaspora Exhibition , and canvassing to hire Foreign Judges , and War Crime courts for Lankawe.

    Still he could have given his bosom buddy Galleon Ravi a few little notes outlining these Bright Strategies which Dr Wije reckons the best to take Lankawe to Economic prosperity….

    From 8 % Growth rate Dr Ranil has brought it down to 3% .In 4 years.
    In Dr Wijes own admission, it is going to get even worse till 2021.
    Can anyone guess what the Figure figure would Be?.

    Only Good, the UNP has given us are these two U Beaut Pet names Jungee Ranil and now Khema’s Boy,
    I am sure our 70 percent of the Dalit population who have 5 Million malnourished families and 5 Million Two and a Half Dollar a Day members will be thrilled to utilize them to good effect when the two Elections are called.. …
    BTW, I am sure Dr Ranil and his mates will force Sira to have an Election sooner than later.

    • 4
      1

      Well, Khema’s fashion designer boy seems to have done better than many allegedly more qualified Finance ministers before him. Maybe it was due to IMF pressure, and the reality of empty pockets.
      On a more general note, our people need to stop believing in many myths that they have been fed. The fact is the USD has ALWAYS been rising. Prices have never fallen significantly o matter who was in power. Griping about these things is pointless because salaries eventually catch up. Wages have increased by a factor of 1000 since the 50’s. Living standards have increased . Are our roads blocked with traffic because people are poorer than in 2014? What rubbish!
      It is time people realised that development brings higher prices. The only remedy is to work harder.

      • 2
        2

        OC,

        Who is Khema?

        I too, think Mangala hasn’t done too badly ……… considering the poisoned chalice he was handed.

        Well, the icing on the cake for Mangala will be when he is again able to get commercial flights from Katunayake to make a stopover in Mhattala to pickup Mahinda. That’s progress!

        Wonder why no Mahinda-supporter ever gives him credit for his greatest “economic” achievement? How can people be so ungrateful?

        • 3
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          Nimal,
          Khema was his mother, to whom he was very devoted

      • 2
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        Yeah Old codger, the masses will now be working a 100X more in the ME to pay off the IMF that went to 1% of the population. And remember that looks can be deceiving- those cars that take up so much space on the road belong to less than a 2% of the Lankan population.

        • 2
          1

          Ramona dear,
          I actually live in this country, unlike you. So dig these average wages, would you?
          Coconut plucker 150 per tree
          Mason. 2000 per day
          Helper 1500 per day
          Software engineer. 200,000 min.
          Air hostess. 250,000 upwards.
          Train driver. 150,000 upwards
          Driver at CEB. 80,000 upwards.

          Who are you kidding lady? We have NEVER had it so good.
          Pl. note that I am not claiming all this to be Ranil’s work.

          • 0
            1

            Old codger,
            Don’t you know that nearly 2- million of our hard-working Lankans work in hard labor in the Middle East? Money they bring in plus the IMF-pay-back loans+interest gets the local worker good wages to show-and-tell.

            • 1
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              Ramona,
              “loans+interest gets the local worker good wages to show-and-tell.”
              So, if the local workers get good wages, what is everybody griping about???
              And, don’t assume that I don’t know anything about hard work in the Middle East. I was one of those, when the USD fetched a princely 14 bucks.

              • 0
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                Old codger,
                _
                Sigh……let me explain again : The good wages do not come from thin air. Middle Eastern workers suffer grossly to conjure up this money for the country. I am very sure you were not one of the menial workers. Well, maybe you did a bit. But you sir complemented your already-had assets, and are now sitting scoffing at the worker who never had assets to begin with (even if they had it, like traditional farms, it disappeared into the commercial enterprise). Each time they go to the ME, they have to re-go again, to keep up with the ever escalating capitalistic monetary inflation. Now can you imagine putting all these issues we have with the India-mix?

                • 0
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                  “Money they bring in plus the IMF-pay-back loans+interest gets the local worker good wages to show-and-tell.”

                  To hell with the local workers, common-man, plebs and the rest of the riff-raff ……….. it’s the Lankan ruling aristocracy I’m worried about.

                  If not, how would they get tax-less vehicles, monthly allowances to burn and to live the work-less Lankan life? How else would they get just rewards for all the hard-work they do for the country and the people?

                  If Mahinda, Ranil, Sirisena ………. were not doing the people’s work out of the selfless kindness of their hearts they will be earning big bucks running multinational corporations …….. if they have run a country so well any one of them have the talent, capability and the knowhow to run multinational corporations without missing a beat. Just look how Mahinda got air-traffic into an unproductive international airport. Boy! that’s rare talent!

                  We should appreciate the sacrifices they have made staying back home and doing their very best to uplift the common-man’s lives while improving their lives as well. Their lives might improve before others but who are we to complain? That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

                • 0
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                  continued

                  Why can’t our extremely talented men who have run a country like clockwork step in and run multinational corporations when there is a Lankan gal running a multinational corporation, The Macquarie Group and earning $17 million per annum. After reading about her I was watching it and bought MQG in December for around 105 AUD and sold few days ago for 130 …….. I don’t have to work for another 5 years; perhaps never if I live Ramona’s socialist life.

                  Why is that all the gals always want to tango with the Old Codger and not with any of us? What animal-magnetism has he got to attract all the females of the species? To hell with non-violence some violence is in order here to put things right. Where is Native when we need him most?

                  • 3
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                    Nimal,
                    “Why is that all the gals always want to tango with the Old Codger and not with any of us? “
                    Forgive me, but I once thought that Ramona was your wife!

                    • 2
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                      Thank Heaven for little girls,
                      For little girls,
                      get bigger everyday,
                      Thank Heaven for litte girls,
                      they grow up,
                      in the most delightful way,

                      thank heaven for them all,
                      no matter where,
                      no matter who,
                      without them what would,
                      little boys do.

                  • 1
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                    nimal fernando

                    “Where is Native when we need him most?”

                    I am very much around.
                    Are you onto “desperate times call for desperate measures “.
                    Calm down.

                    Shemara Wikramanayake is doing well because she was born in the UK and bred in Australia despite having Sri Lankan parents. Do you think she would have achieved such dizzying height had she lived in this island among people like somass, Eagle Blind Eye, Lal Loos, ……………?

                    Are you trying to reverse her progress just because she is a woman?
                    Man get a life.

                    Celebrate her life.

                    • 0
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                      “Are you trying to reverse her progress just because she is a woman?”

                      Man, are you off your rocker? Where in my post have I even remotely intimated such a thang?

                      Native, you have a vivid imagination …….. see someone/something hiding under every bed.

                      It’s not I who should get a life! :))

                      “Celebrate her life.”

                      I just did …….. since she makes me celebrate my life as well …….. for all the dosh she made me!

                      Check out Jim Chanos and the plays he made on MQG ………. and Enron :)) ……….. Things are not as black and white as you wish!

                    • 1
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                      Thanks, nimal, for providing that information about Shemara. I didn’t know of her existence! I hope that Colombo Telegraph will allow this link because this article gives us a fascinating look at the early years after our Independence in 1948.
                      .
                      https://www.afr.com/news/world/asia/the-rise-fall-and-rise-of-macquarie-banks-first-family-20180904-h14wqu
                      .
                      I’ve learnt quite a bit of the history of my own extended family from the article. I’d say it’s pretty accurate. Emil Guy W. was prosecuted, together with Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, for foreign exchange violations, under some special tribunal, with the prosecutor being Bunty de Zoyza.
                      .
                      Shenara’s great-great-grandfather was Charles Edward Wikramanayake, who taught at Richmond College, Galle for 49 years. He was also my maternal great-grandfather.
                      .
                      Some of the clan who stayed back in Sri Lanka have done quite well – but not me, materially at least!
                      .
                      But this quite unrealistic desire to migrate is indeed pretty worrying. Quite a few people with no knowledge of English whatever, come to me hoping that miracles can be performed in a month.

                    • 1
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                      Thanks, CT for giving that link, but it looks as though it won’t yield the results you want if you click on it. It gives about 100 words, then says, “You have reached an article available exclusively to subscribers”. However, not only did I read that entire article yesterday and today, plus many others proclaiming similar restrictions, but also, last night I sent the author, Aaron Patrick, an email giving details of earlier ancestors than he seemed to have access to.
                      .
                      This is now the trend on the Internet, as well as so many other places; the days when we got things free are fast receding. Fair enough: “nothing for nothing”. To keep anything going there must be income from subscriptions, donations, or advertising. I guess that we are now heading for such an approach to most things. Time we girded our loins for that.
                      .
                      That particular article was the best; it retold the events surrounding the Bandaranaike assassination, and claims that the harassment of E.G. Wikramanayake was because he was an effective counsel for the assassins, and was Dudley Senanayake’s lawyers. Interesting reading for any Sri Lankan because it is an outsider view. Your chances of reading the entire article are better if you google Shemara’s name, and then click for that particular article. Her appointment has been adequately reported by the local press.
                      .
                      https://www.geni.com/people/Charles-Edward-Wikramanayake/6000000003352818525
                      .
                      That’s the Richmond College teacher: 49 years of service. If there seems to be some discrepancy, mention it, since it can be explained. Also, eccentric spellings of names – my feeling is that it stemmed from caste-consciousness. Shedding some further light on those times is the fact that he had thirteen children. The first wife had as many as possible, and died. So he married a younger sister.

                    • 3
                      0

                      “But this quite unrealistic desire to migrate is indeed pretty worrying.”

                      SM,

                      Sad to say this ……. but unfortunately the best option the average Lankans (not the political-class) have is to leave the country if they could. I meet ordinary Lankans (and their kids) who have done very well all over the world. If they had remained behind their lives would have been very bleak.

                      It’s nice of you to help them out with their language-skills if you can.

                    • 0
                      0

                      Dear nimal,
                      .
                      This is a crazy land, and I ear we’re all getting crazy. There’s something that I discovered this morning, and it took some time for my mind to click. In other words, I’m a “tube light”. Have you come across that interesting phrase?
                      .
                      And have you come across Grusha Andrew’s latest article. Interesting:
                      .
                      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-first-child-abuser-of-sri-lanka/
                      .
                      She’s taken off from three articles that Dr Thush Wickremanayake has written, about what her eleven-year-old daughter has suffered. I’d responded sympathetically to the first, but by the time the second article came, I’d decided that this really was going too far.
                      .
                      Now, in today’s article, Grusha reveals her to be the daughter of Ratnasiri Wickremanayake who was Prime Minister. Yes, the name is differently spelt, and there is a reason. Wrong side! This Thush had, if connections correctly made, been at the Private Medical College which operated for just one batch about thirty years ago. Thereafter, it became the Medical Faculty of Kelaniya University.
                      .
                      For now, I only say “interesting”.
                      .
                      All that is obviously irrelevant, and nastily Sri Lankan. But this woman has been exaggerating this thing so much, and has exposed her daughter to abuse for one full year.
                      .
                      Grusha, on the other hand seems to have recovered from her “jungie” madness, and written a decent enough article.
                      .

                  • 0
                    1

                    Nimal,
                    I agree. All need to go. And your aspiration to make money out of thin air….how selfish.

                    • 2
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                      “And your aspiration to make money out of thin air….how selfish.”

                      Yes, I agree, I should be shot ……… I’ll hand you the gun when you return from your life of selfless dedication in Trumpland


                      “make money out of thin air”

                      Now, would ye admit ……. at least I didn’t rob it! ………. unlike all your idols :))

                    • 0
                      0

                      Nimal,

                      If I were in Sri Lanka, I’d be at the mercy of the Lankan elite capitalizing on my hard earned menial-laboured Middle-East money.

                    • 2
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                      Dear Grandma RTF,
                      .
                      “my hard earned menial-laboured Middle-East money”.
                      .
                      Now when were you in the Middle-East? I was there for a few years – teaching English. Although I allow many typos to creep into what I write, I think that I know enough to teach English to a few of our villagers. Many who know much less than I do were sent to “white countries” at government expense to “gain first-hand knowledge of how posh people like you live and talk,” but I’ve never been out of Asia. Well, that’s much better than the record of a guy like Immanuel Kant, but then, things were different two hundred years ago. Why not google his name? On the other hand, not many in my village realise that.
                      .
                      But then, you know that, don’t you? You faithfully made a comment or two. One of these days, you’ll find me exposing some of the ills that I am aware of at first hand.
                      .
                      You know, your not all that bad a person, RTF. However, nimal (simple letter, RTF) I consider an absolutely capital guy.
                      .
                      This “niece” of mine: I’m proud of her, and I’m glad to learn of her well-deserved success. I wonder how she spends her money. I’m unlikely to ever know – that’s O.K. I had an hour’s chat with a second cousin of mine today. He’s an MBBS doctor who’s quite mad. For 20 years his wife has “doctored”, while all that he’s ever been doing is working at the family tree. He had met this Shemara once.

                • 2
                  0

                  ramona therese

                  there is
                  a) Domestic expenditure
                  b) Foreign expenditure.

                  When a Col 7 person buys a car, average person buys mobike/three wheel thats foreign expenditure/exchange, most thru workers in mid east and tea pluckers in the hill country.

                  Software Engineers and Air Hostesses are (in general) paid by foreign exchange earned by company. Semi govt Airline thats loosing money, that means money from workers in mid east.

                  When one pay for the Mason or Helper thats the domestic economy. Just think barter. Just think if we were paying masons in coconuts.

              • 2
                0

                Old codger

                “Ramona dear,”

                You have a soft corner for Grandma Thresa.
                What seems to be the ulterior motive?

                Grandma Thresa is old enough to know when exactly Exporting women to Medieval Middle East Kingdom started, about 45 years ago, when the so called socialist regime under the control of Weeping Widow messing up the economy with their stupid inward looking kahatta hakku policies.

                • 2
                  0

                  Native,
                  You see, I like to delve into the thinking processes (or what passes for them) of people on this forum. Life would be so boring without entertainment, don’t you think?

                  • 2
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                    Old codger

                    I agree with you.
                    However I can feel the heat from nimal fernando his breath. He is suffering from bit of jealousy.

                    • 3
                      0

                      “He is suffering from bit of jealousy.”

                      You bet! :))

                • 1
                  1

                  NV,

                  Noo…… it started when ultra-capitalist Jayawardena took over.

                  //From the late 1980s until as recently as 2007, women made up the majority of these labor migrants. \\ https://www.mei.edu/publications/sri-lankan-migration-gulf-female-breadwinners-domestic-workers

                  • 1
                    0

                    ramona grandma therese fernando

                    “Noo…… it started when ultra-capitalist Jayawardena took over.”

                    Please type what was reported on the media and in published reports not from your scatterbrain. The flow from this island to medieval middle east increased in the early 1980s though it began in the early/mid 1970 under the first female prime minister of the world the weeping widow.

                    Please stop challenging every facts because of your wishful thinking.

                    Fact check before you start typing.
                    Just because you are facebook friends with Shenali Waduge it does not mean you too have to live in Cloud cuckoo land.

                    • 1
                      1

                      NV,
                      All poor countries went to the ME ever since their independence. But I’m SL, they went en masse after Jayawardena.

              • 1
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                Ramona,
                You are beating about the bush
                1. I am not scoffing at anyone.
                2. The workers ARE well paid . Where the money comes from is not relevant.
                3 At the risk of provoking more paranoia, where does India figure?! Sigh.

                • 0
                  0

                  I am being very direct Old codger.

                  You scoffed and said that Lankan need to work harder. You just can see the almost 2-million suffering souls in the ME.

                  If you can’t see the relevancy of wages suddenly increasing over almost 2- million ME workers and IMF loans, then that is a sad thing indeed.

                  India figures in Lankan money being spread out over the poor Indian masses in some delusional hope that innovation and enterprise would develop in about 50 years time.

                  • 0
                    0

                    Ramona dear,
                    “delusional”. Yes, the word describes many things…….

                  • 2
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                    From ramonas reference

                    In 2008, total remittances stood at SLR 316,118 million, or roughly $2.87 billion (converted at $1 = SLR 110). Nearly 60% of this total, SLR 189,039 million or $1.72 billion, came from the Gulf. In generating foreign earnings, private remittances (36%) come second after Sri Lanka’s large garment industry (40%).

                    So approx 50% of foreign exchange is on the backs of women, maids and garment workers.

                    https://i.imgur.com/ToMOcTq.png

                    data from
                    https://www.cbsl.gov.lk/sites/default/files/cbslweb_documents/press/pr/press_20180406_External_Sector_Performance_January_2018_e.PDF

                    • 0
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                      Sbarrkum,
                      So all this money is being deviously diverted to India, as Ramona says?

                    • 0
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                      Old codger.

                      As sbarrkum said, approx 50% of foreign exchange is on the backs of women, maids and garment workers. And is set to amalgamate with India to hold hands in solidarity with their women, maids and garment workers, so we can have 0.00001% persons oiling their heads and making small space parts for Indian rockets

          • 3
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            Dear RTF,
            .
            I rather think that Old codger is right. In the 1970s almost nobody had money to spare, and we lived our lives in the most basic fashion possible. Well nigh all Sri Lankans. Even the rulers didn’t really have the means to be ostentatious.
            .
            Today, many (I’m sure more than 25%) own and use all sorts of consumer items. In the case of a sizeable number of these people, it is not clear how they are so comfortably off. That there are two economies going is clear to me; yet not one person convicted of any major crime for four years, despite a change of government, now that is worrying. The law-abiding among the poor, they suffer.

            On the other hand, there are a huge number of people who are extremely poor. They certainly outnumber those who are prodigal. Old codger has chosen the figures given well. Given present currency values, can the skilled mason and his family live comfortably on Rs 2,000/=? Let me confirm that the figures given are realistic. For the unskilled, it is much worse. Estate labourer salaries have going to be increased to Rs 800/= per day.
            .
            As for those other figures of those who meddle with technology, or have managed to find themselves some job, they, too, are managing all right. Producers of food? Now, that’s a mixed lot. It would depend on location, how much land he effectively controls etc.

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              SM,
              Thanks for confirming my numbers. You and I have lived long enough to see the improvement in our lifestyles. The mason you mention would certainly have a TV, smartphone, electricity, maybe even a scooter, all of which his ancestors couldn’t dream of. But of course he isn’t satisfied, like the rest of us. We must realise that prices (and wages) have not and never will come down no matter what party is in power. The biggest problem as I see it is the continuing ability of Sri Lankans to live beyond their means.

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              S_M,

              Back then, most countries didn’t have the things we have now. But for Sri Lanka, the only reason we are able to afford things is because of the backbone of ME-labour. Other countries managed to get these things out of the work-function within their own lands. And in spite of this unremitting industry, there are a huge number of people poor. Even ME money isn’t enough to appease the less than 3% who suction all of the country wealth.

  • 2
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    This time except few two legged donkeys of Unpatriotic National Party, others will not get fooled by ‘seeni bola’ given by ‘Royal Samanalayo’. A small section of Sinhalayo made a blunder in 2015. 2.8m people took the right decision. The main question is whether elections will be held. I have serious doubts. The ‘Royal Samanalayas’ who do not understand the sufferings of ordinary folks will try their best to hang on to power by hook or by crook with the blessings of ‘White Supremacists’. If that happens ‘Ranawiruvo’ who saved this country from LTTE terrorists should come forward to save this country from ‘Royal Samanala’ terrorists who ruin this country.

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    “Khema’s Boy had inherited a sick economy whose sicknesses had been manifest from around 2013.”
    ————–
    The so called economic maestros like Harsha de Silva bragged before the election that they know how to fix the economy. The only thing these guys did during the past few years was blaming Mahinda Rajapakse for giving them a debt mountain. Although dumbidiots of this Government threw mud at Mahinda Rajapakse by branding his work as ‘Sudu Ali’, there were visible output from the loans taken by that regime. Although these guys branded Hambantota port as a white elephant, a foreign expert thought that it could be a gold mine for Sri Lanka in the future when Kra canal is dug. This Government during the past four years has changed the ‘Debt Mountain’ to a ‘Debt Volcano’. They keep on borrowing left and right at high interest rates but nobody knows what is happening to that money. If things go on as it is, this ‘Debt Volcano’ will erupt sooner or later and the consequences of that for this country could be really bad. Sometimes I wonder whether that is the intention of those (Sudu) experts working behind the scene of this Government.

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    It WAS an election budget. The government dare not stop pampering the segregated Lankan Uniformed Services in an election year.
    New Navy Commander and 16 new brigadiers (The Daily Mirror 10 March 2019).
    The Lankan Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake wants local mass production of modern artillery (The Daily Mirror 21 February 2019).
    CT today alleges that efforts were made to prevent arrest of a retired Navy Commander.
    .
    And Khema’s boy wants a retired Navy Officer as the Director-General of Lankan Customs.

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    One wonder who is giving advice to the Khema’s boy. They say if a foreigner brings in USD 400,000/- eligible for three years resident visa. Does any one would take it when other attractive offers are there. Man, US is giving green card and residency for the entire family, if a foriegner invest USD 500,000/- in a construction company which should create said number of employments. Similar scheme is there in UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand etc too. Turkey is giving citizenship if a foreigner invest USD 250,000/-. In Spain, if a foreigner buys a house for Euro 300,000/- he gets one more additional house for the same amount plus PR for him and the family. In Thailand and Indonesia, any foreigner over 60 years, if he puts USD 10,000/- in fix deposit in a local bank, and show monthly income of USD 2500, entitle for yearly resident visa which could be renewed every year, and there is no limit on it. In Malaysia, if one is 55 years and above, puts USD 50,000/- fix deposit in local bank and shows USD 2500/- monthly income is entitle for ten years resident visa for the entire family. For those below 55 years, same facilities but fixed is deposit is USD 100,000. Both categories could withdraw upto 60% of the fixed deposit after one year. They could sponsor a driver and maid, and apply for duty free permit for luxury vehicle. In this scheme – Malaysia second home – there over 20000 foriegn families are living in that country. Say average USD 50000/- person, and x 20000, what kind of money parked in Malaysia for the good of their economy, and all the other ripples effect it has on the economy. Why our people so dumb on this, instead they want to go with the begging bowels over the world.

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    The other avenues for foreign exchange earning is education and medical tourism. Malaysia has let many foreign universities to set up local campuses, and over one hundreds thousands foriegn students are studying in local and foriegn universities. If each student brings in USD 5000 per year, – it should be way higher than that – and see if it’s multiplied by 100,000. This so other benefits to their economy – income from students parents, families and friends visiting etc and the benefits are many folds. Then Singapore, India, Thailand and Malaysia are doing extremely well in medical tourism, and earning billions. Lot of foreign insurance companies and governments are tied up with Thai hospitals, and sending their patients for treatments for they save huge sum when compared to cost of same treatments in their countries. Tourism too a big eaner, not only leisure tourism but there so many kinds of tourism- medical, incentives, meetings and conferences, weddings, exhibitions, sports etc. The government should look at these keenly to bring their benefits to the people. They always should keep in mind, when President JR met PM Lee Kuwan You of Singapore, after the 1977 election, the only one good adivise he gave was to develop tourism, the easiest and fastest way to develop the country, and the biggest industry and largest employer in the world.

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    Sri Lanka has to reduce the number of banks, and their capital base is not enough to support a robust economy. Each bank should have a minimum capital base of at least USD 100 millions. Now a days, the smaller banks branch managers’ are not serving the customers but only keen in raising deposits to satisfy the head office’s requirements. For the size of the population and economy, there are too many banks. Australia USD 1.5 trillion economy has only four major banks. India has 26 state banks , and Mr. Modi wants to reduce it to six banks for they don’t have a bank in the top 50 banks in world even though India is the fifth biggest economy in the world. The government should encourage banks to merge and create bigger banks. First of they should merge BOC with People’s bank, National savings with other state banks, and ask all private banks too to merge and create bughers banks. When they are big, they could lend more and provide better quality services to the customers. Also they should list the state banks and all the state own businesses in the Colombo stock exchange. They should sell 35% to the public, 15% to the employees and the rest with the treasury. This should make the size of Colombo stock bigger, could lead to more trading by locals and foreigners, and more returns to the country by way of taxes. Total capital of Colombo stock exchange, and it’s daily turnover is a peanut in USD terms. Also they should encourage foreigners in the boards and management of these entities. Thailand is doing that, and they let 100% ownership of banks by foreigners.

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      No country in the world let ownership of Banks, Ports, energy and key institutions to be accessible by foreigners. They can sabotage the economy or take control of the economy. Even without that Srilanka is under the International community and MCC/IMF/WB/ADB. Chinese Debt trap is something to cover up what the US limited edition mutual funds are doing to Sri lanka.

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    Excellent Sri lanka’s viyathun and Politicians there to develop the country. where do they go after this and at the end. do they work with clear consciousness

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    Dear Dr Wijewardena, you have concluded that “All in all, the Budget 2019 has taken a forward look at the economy and made proposals for the future growth of the country.”
    .
    All this talk about details was inevitable because concessions would have had to be made by whatever politician presented the budget. Yes, I carefully read through your article two weeks ago warning that “an election budget” now would cause long term damage. To me, the Rs 2,500 all-around salary increase seemed to be doing just that. After all, so many have been saying, privately, that the 10K salary increase that Yahapalanaya gave in January 2015 was a huge mistake – at a time when it was not necessary.
    .
    So, what you’re saying seems to be that this budget has not been as bad as most Election Eve” promises. The details of Economics are beyond me, so I will accept (for now) the overview that you have given us since I have found you, so far, an honest appraiser. Let’s hope that there are no changes to these proposals days before the first of the elections to be held during the year ahead.
    .
    I agree that Khema’s boy (yes, nihal fernando, I read that speech of his) is more honest than most politicians.

    The problem there is that what follows shows everybody being polite to each other. When that happens, I don’t know what to make of it all, and so I suspend judgement.

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    Consumer spending in the US and U K on clothing and footwear were
    low nearly the whole of last year and especially ending December . I
    watched a minister was going high note about an increase in garment
    export last year . To where ? U S and U K are our major markets !
    The truth is , all are lying to survive . These budget proposals are their
    plans , just plans and nothing to do with implementation ! On a T V
    live show this Monday the 11th Bandula Gunawardana said that he called
    back his son or daughter from Australia where she/he obtained a first
    class degree on bio medical engineering for a job promise by non other
    than Rajitha and now six months gone , still waiting ! Harsha was present
    with Bandula ! I don’t accept Bandula politics but that’s a different matter.
    The ground situation is different than what we see and hear . Nobody tries
    to clear this cloud and this is the truth . Lying has taken a modern shape
    and that is the only difference this time I suppose .

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