20 October, 2020

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Lights Off For Lanka?

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

The editorial of the Sunday Leader of the 28th April cried: “the Lights are going out in Sri Lanka.” Isn’t this to be read as a metaphorical foretelling of events to come? We know that The Sunday Leader recently changed hands to an owner known to be sympathetic to the Mahinda Rajapakse government. Yet, he thinks the lights are off not only for the country but for the government!

The Opposition in Parliament-long dormant-awoke and protested with candle lights on two successive sittings. It has been noted that even the senior SLFP MPs who were present in Parliament had not come to the defense of the government. At the time of this writing people are seen protesting everywhere and the Opposition is gaining significant ground. All signs are that the people are now saying, ”Enough is enough.” They are fed up so much. The euphoria that President Rajapakse and his siblings exploited to retain and consolidate the political and constitutional bases of their rule is now wearing away. Trade Unions are organizing strikes. The independent media, long under pressure to walk with government, are now picking up self-courage. This explains why The Sunday Leader is emboldened. Sunday Divine of the 28th April carries a bold headline that charges that the “Big Shots in the CEB have played out millions doing deals with private thermal suppliers.”

The raise in the electricity charges to customers is indeed huge; going up sixty eight per cent of previous charges! This is going to be very badly felt when householders, already hard put to it by galloping costs of living, receive their next bill. Ordinary Lankans looked with dismay at the previous repeated hikes on bread, flour, vegetables, petrol and other essential items. After this enormous power hike students in rural areas and in battling urban areas will have to cut down on study time and go to bed. Or they may have to get back to the old days of the bottle lamp. In rural areas people will go picking old leaves and sticks to light a fire. The ramifications won’t end with this. With consequent increases in cost of production all other locally produced items will have to go up once again. Items produced for export will also become more costly and therefore less competitive in markets. Hotels are bound to have their prices jacked up, which means a blow to the tourist industry. The chain effects are going to be considerable.

Truly “the mother of all crises,” as stated by the Sunday Leader editorial, is now well under way. Nor will the hike result in the CEB’s ability to balance itself as it is reported that even after the hike the CEB will be left with a loss of 45 billion at the end of this year.

What’s more serious is that the move to jack up prices signals a tip of a huge iceberg, namely of incompetence and corruption in the overall government machinery. It is clear that the governance has failed in Sri Lanka after the war. Witness the Minister of Power and Energy, Pavithradevi Wanniarachchi, absenting herself in Parliament when the issue is discussed. She is unable to explain other than to shift the blame on her predecessor, Champika Ranawake. Ranawake did not keep quiet as he held a media conference denying that charge and in fact issuing a warning that when the Sampur plant becomes operational it would increase costs of electricity still further.

Former Central Bank Governor, Nimal Sanderatne, writing in the Sunday Times Economics Column disagrees that a rise in the price is the path to go. He puts the blame on the entrenched inefficiency and corruption in the running of enterprises such as the CEB. The CEB, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, Sri Lankan Air are public enterprises that have been White Elephants all along. Now they are dead elephants and a cremation in urgently needed. Government has put its henchmen in charge of these organizations instead of appointing competent managers that know what they are doing. Political interference in the day to day disciplining of these enterprises has impeded efficiency further. These institutions have also become repositories for the country’s unemployable; there are vast numbers of surplus employees who add to cost.

The losses in public enterprises last year amounted to an astounding Rs. 185 billion. The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) recorded a loss of Rs. 61.2 billion last year, an increase from the Rs. 19.3 billion loss in 2011.

The strategy of raising prices to meet these and other management inefficiencies is counterproductive. Says Sanderatne, “the fundamental issue is that when a public enterprise incurs losses year in, year out, these losses have to be financed by the government. The government has to either increase taxes that the public have to bear or resort to borrowing that is inflationary. Either of these means that the public pay through taxes or by general price increases.”

Hence by raising prices to consumers the government is merely passing the burden of misrule to the public instead of trying to rectify its own act. The sooner President Rajapakse realizes this the better it would be. On the other hand, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella went on record saying that people have to learn to share increasing costs and that government cannot subsidize consumers. He made this reference to cover even farmers’ input costs. The Governor of the Central Bank who is another political appointee possessing no qualifications for his post sings the same tune as Keheliya. His Annual Report makes it clear that the pricing of public enterprises “should reflect their costs of production.” They deliberately hide the fact that such “costs of production” are largely caused by bad government that can be corrected.

A government that attempts to thrive on politicization cannot make such correction. The current government model is one founded on a strategy of distribution to cronies opportunities for gain by corruption. In this way the government is kept secure by hordes of cronies that run it from Parliament level down to the more specific entity management level. To double secure the whole operation, the government has brought in the police and law and order machinery under the politicians’ heel.

This template of governing a country can last at least for some time as long as the people at large are kept stupid by brainwashing as in North Korea. In that country people are on starvation edge but they are made to believe in their “Eternal Leader,” who is prepared to bomb America without feeding his people! Sri Lanka, on the other hand, is simply not North Korea.

*Shyamon Jayasinghe, a Peradeniya University graduate in Philosophy, worked as a public servant in Sri Lanka specializing in Management. He subsequently worked in Australia where he is now domiciled. A frequent commentator on social and political issues in Sri Lanka, he is renowned for his astonishing role as the Narrator (POTE GURA) of the original production, in 1956,  of Ediriweera Sarchchandra’s theatre classic Maname. His interpretation of this role has become the model that  all performers of the role in subsequent plays of this genre have emulated.

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  • 0
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    So Aussie Jayasinghe reckons it is on the verge of collapse,following the two Candle Vigils of Ranil and Sambnadan indide the PH.

    Perhaps the “Moderate Cabdle Vigil” is the continuation because Ranil can’t get his Boys in one group outside, and Sambandan doesn’t want Premachandrans walking in expensive Colombo suburbs holding candles.

    Shouldn’t these Deshapremi Lankans join these Vigils to fascilitate the Collapse happen quicker rather than just lending armchair support?.

    Or are they waiting to get the Duals after the Collapse and share the spoils?.

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      The jokers are desperate now. SF could not bring the Rajapakses down, Channel 4 messed up, now all they have left is Ranil lighting a candle.

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        If you are happy with Sri Lanka as it is. Please keep it as it is. A few more white vans and ropes is all you need. You have the correct people to the job

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      But where do u live???? In ole blighy right??

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    I agree. The lights are going out in Sri Lanka, courtesy of the Rajapaksas. For the first time in years the ruling party ministers and MPs are starting to blame each other for causing misery to the people and the opposition party is showing some signs of life. Is this the beginning of the end of the Rajapaksa misrule? Is the end nigh for the criminal gang?

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      Beginning of the end ? I strongly feel so. No security or protection can stop divine intervention.

      Karma, retribution, natural justice for generations – the curse of the women who lost their husbands, children who lost their fathers. What goes around always comes around in ten folds.

  • 0
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    Well written. This is a government that has to live on corruption. The latest is the miraculous release of Duminda Silva.
    It is the same principle of living on corrupt cronies that made Parliament play such a dubious and stinking role over the forced impeachment of the CJ.
    The lights are indeed going out. No hope for Lanka unless this regime is dumped.
    I agree

  • 0
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    Another White Elephant is Mihin Lanka. What’s the loss there? Anyone knows?

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    The whole government is one big lying White Elephant living on the people.

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    The sins of corruption and mismanagement, misrule and nepotism. The wages of sin is death. Emergency surgery is required to keep the patient alive. Nation is being held hostage by Jumbo cabinet, Mihin, Hambantota, Rajapakse family, MOD etc.

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    Sri Lanka often boasts we are nearly 100% “educated” The real truth is we are literate rather than what goes as educated. If we are truly educated in the accepted sense, none of these populist governments would have survived an year. I remember Mr Jayasinghe as the Labour Commissioner (?) and found him to be quite an able and articulate official. He discovers, which many of us know, the source of the national malaise viz:- “Hence by raising prices to consumers the government is merely passing the burden of misrule to the public instead of trying to rectify its own act” What he did not say is not merely misrule but the sum total of all resources stolen in different ways by virtually every Minister. Sadly, the onerous task of carrying the burden is by no means over – certainly not in the foreseeable future.

    Senguttuvan

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    The model of Rajapakse governance outlined by the writer fits well with the Banana Republic concept. This government cannot rule without a corrupt clique. It needs its street fighters, gangsters and pliant police and judiciary.
    I don’t think the lights will go off so easily although rifts are evident as pointed out by the writer.

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    I truly believe Rajapakse Dynasty is crumbling and the beginning of the end has already started.

    Rajapakse morons were warned many times by economists, university and business professionals, media personnel and the general public on all these issues.

    But infact of listening to them they were murdered and many just disappeared while others left the country.

    All we tell Rajapakses now is to leave office ASAP before taking the country down to a Titanic like catestrophe.

    While every Corporation, service industry, health care, education and banking sectors under GOSL are running at Billions of rupees of losses to the economy, they are imposing further Taxes on Private sector making them unbearable to survive.

    My own brother in law shut down his distribution business after 30 long years due to Rajapakses imposing unbearable taxesd on the products with other high OH costs.

    Over 50% of FTZ, medium and small private enterpreneurs have gone broke due to Rajapakse Blood sucking taxes imposed on them.

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH MR.PRESIDENT. PLEASE LEAVE THE OFFICE WITH YOUR LOOT, WITHOUT GIVING FURTHER SUICIDAL HEADACHES TO US.

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    Very many years back Chinese were fed Opium by the then Imperial Leaders to make them silent. Now, in Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa feed the Sinhala people with a kind of Opium called patriotism, and these patriots gulf what ever damage Rajapaksa regime do, and accuse others either as supporters of Ranil or SF. Sri Lankan’s who are domicile in many Western and Eastern block countries are there as they are well educated to understand the present Economic crisis in Sri Lanka created by Rajapaksa siblings.

    CEB is a mess as people with little knowledge in Management of such institution were appointed to run the CEB. CEB need a complete overhaul as most Hydro power projects are not completed to the expected specifications. Samanalawewa Hydro power plant produce 50 percent of its capacity as there is a very large leak of 32,000 lt per minute. Upper Kothmale from the commencement was in trouble, and the delay cost exceeds over US $ 8 billion. Nochiale is badly constructed and can’t meet even 1/4 of the expected output. Kelanitissa need urgent repairs. As well the other power generation plants gets the step motherly treatment to allow private energy suppliers to earn millions with big cuts to many. CEB is getting ruined due to corruption and it is the duty of MR to clean the slates clean to save the poor Sr Lankan’s from destruction.

    If good managers take over all these Cope-rations and Government department from Rajapaksa cronies MR can stop the lights going dim and then completely out for the country as well as for the Rajapaksa regime. Most people who love Mother Lanka is afraid to express their opinion or give advice to the Rajapaksa siblings as they are afraid to get hunted or branded as traitors. The time is fast approaching for the Rajapaksa siblings to STOP these lights getting faded and going out for good, other wise Sri Lanka will be a failed State as the external debts are fast rising beating the US $ 3.8 trillion mark. I appreciate Mr. Jayasinghes approach to explain why a paper now belong to Rajapaksa camp Sunday Leader and Divaina discussing this tragedy in Sr Lanka.

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    Very soon we are going to have a Botonical Garden in Hambantota. It is better we can also have a Zoo there and a Parliment !

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    Pavithra was given the Ministry of Power & Energy because she abused Shiranee Bandaranaike in Parliament.In like manner appointments are made to Corporations and Public undettaking. Does Pavithra know the difference between voltage and watts? Anyone knows her education level?

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    I feel that many contributors to these columns focus generally on one or two issues that are publicly discussed at the time, and simply express their opinions sometimes based on fact, but largely on conjecture.

    As the writer seems to convey, there will probably be an energy crisis if bills remain unpayable and debt unserviceable.

    The solution would probably be in reallocating public funds to essential services, away from optional ventures and in streamlining public enterprises away from graft and mismanagement, rather than further tax Sri Lanka’s citizens.

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    The level of incompetence and corruption in the power and energy sector is mind boggling. The loans taken out to cover up this monstrous mess will eventually lead to a banking crisis. The state banks are already in trouble due to loan defaulting by private entities some of whom have been given loans due to political connections and other corrupt practices. Even legitimate buisinesses will begin to go under with the heavy burden the electricity price places on them. So we are now in a spiral to the bottom. No use making wise sounding suggestions for solving the problems. They will fall on deaf ears. The man in charge and his henchmen themselves do not understand or care to understand the mess and certainly do not intend fixing it up. They too depend on the kick backs the corruption creates. So they will go on spiraling to the bottom. The only constant will be the ever increasing level of violence and thuggery used to put down the anticipated rise in the cries of protest.

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    If lights are off you don’t have to switch them on and off now. Just leave them on I mean off

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    The public are robbed by public corporations.The latter are robbed by Mahinda family’s catchers. Every corporation is in severe red and they borrow from state banks. State banks are put in charge by Rajapkase brothers. State banks will soon go down.The overall outcome is alarming fiscal deficits.
    This is what happens when the country is run as private property of the family.

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    Shaman should read the professional note in the Island of May 1st by Dr.Siyambalapitiya to know the real culprits responsible for the present fiasco. This is what he writes-

    “What if Norochcholai was not cancelled in 2002 ?

    The Prime Minister cancelled it in 2002, and ordered two oil power plants to be built. If not for that decision, Norochcholai would have been financed by Japan, and all the three generators would have been operational today, under Japanese standards, against the Chinese standards on which it was finally built.”

    Please find out who was the Prime Minister who was responsible and why committed this national crime.

  • 0
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    Not yet Shyamon. The last flicker is the brightest.
    Bensen

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