7 December, 2023


Mangala Or Premadasa? Another Globalization Is Possible!

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Speaking at an event organized by Ernst & Young, Mangala Samaraweera has decried a “nanny state”, quite omitting to mention that the idea and phraseology is from Maggie Thatcher in the early 1980s and has been quite dated and discredited for some time. It is a caricature. Mr. Samaraweera followed up at the University of Colombo forum saying firmly that “free enterprise, liberalization and globalization” are “non-negotiable”.

Sarath de Alwis has attempted a shoddy, shabby hatchet job in his attempt to defend Mangala Samaraweera’s Budget which I regard as the most foolishly dangerous Budget in our post- independence history.

First off, Sarath is intellectually dishonest in implying that I am opposed to globalization. Nothing I have ever written or said can support that charge. In fact I repeatedly stated the opposite. What I did argue is that there are different models of globalization of which the one which regards “free enterprise” and “fast-track liberalization” as “non-negotiable”, i.e. the neoliberal model of globalization which Mangala has opted for, is the least desirable or viable.  In its place I have supported the Premadasa model and gone on to argue that another globalization is possible; that there is an alternative model of globalization— the China/East Asia model, in which the state has a guiding role and there is a strong state-private sector synergy.

Sarath has either missed or conveniently forgotten that the concept of a “Sri Lankan model of development”, which he finds ludicrous, is hardly of my minting, but that of Godfrey Gunatilleke whose brilliance was such that at age 25, with a First Class Honours in English and having topped his CCS batch, he was coopted by the sagacious DS Senanayake to the Prime Minister Secretariat. He soon grew to be internationally respected as a leading development thinker from the global South. “Towards a Sri Lankan Model of Development” is the theme and title of the Collection of Godfrey Gunatilleke’s writings 1975-2015.

De Alwis makes a number of snide remarks about President Premadasa, none of which have any bearing on his developmental achievement. Here too let me quote from Godfrey Gunatilleke’s volume:

“…when inequalities were widening under the liberalized market economy of the UN in the 1980s, President Premadasa had to correct course with a large scale poverty alleviation programme…” (p 324)

“…later in the 1980s it was Premadasa, the UNP Prime Minister and later President who implemented a nationwide rural housing program, the resettlement of urban shanties and a poverty reduction strategy. The criticism of these programmes was that they were highly pliticsed, not subjected to the essential disciplines of project evaluation and did not achieve some of their main objectives. But underlying the programmes, there were powerful concepts that had a far-reaching impact on the future approaches to poverty reduction. The phrase President Premadasa used to describe the programme—nathi bari aya athi haki aya kirima—(to transform those who own nothing and are incapable to those who possess assets and have become capable) encapsulated Amartya Sen’s concept of capability in the Sri Lankan setting.” (p326)

De alwis also makes some stroppy remarks about Philip Gunawardena and the Paddy Lands Act. Here again he misses the whole point, as we shall see when we read Godfrey:

“…these were the Employees Provident Fund and the Paddy Lands Act. Both were significant maures at providing social security and empowering under-privileged sections of the Sri Lankan society.” (p324)

Now onto Mangala’s Budget itself, which Sarath de Alwis stoutly defends. He makes the point that I am not an economist. True. We shall therefore have to rely on an economist– preferably one who did not work for Presidents Premadasa and/or Rajapaksa, as I did. Luckily we have the views of someone who fits the description, namely Sumanasiri Liyanage, who has recently pronounced thus on Mangala’s budget in an article entitled ‘Budget 2018 and the Failure of Neoliberalism’:

“…What does it mean? It simply means reversing all the safeguards that had been implemented to protect small producers and workers. “Capital market reforms to capture its full potential are imperative for ensuring high growth” are, no doubt, aimed at the large resources accumulated in the Employers Provident Fund. In this direction, the concrete actions proposed make it clear how the Budget 2018 would affect the lower rung of society not immediately but in the medium run and beyond. It would be catastrophic for them. Let us read this section. “Much more has to be done. For example, the Rent Act, No 7 of 1972 which limits the ownership of houses and the rent to be charged requires amendments; Paddy Lands Act, No 1 of 1958 and the Agricultural Land Act, No. 42 of 1973 will be amended to allow the farming of alternate crops; the Shop and Office Employees Act, No 15 of 1954 will be amended allowing the employees flexibility in choosing their working hours; bankruptcy laws to be amended to make them more efficient.”

This list has clearly revealed one simple truth. The relatively progressive measures introduced by the previous governments partly because of the pressures at the grassroots level are now planned to be reversed…The ideology behind the budget may be summarized in two mantras: (1) “liberalize and globalize” (2) eliminate “non-tradable drivers”.

So in my opinion, the Budget 2018 entails the neoliberal ideology in its crudest form. It proposes to adopt all the prescriptions of the Washington Consensus to an extent that has never been applied before. The radical changes that have been proposed to change property rights would definitely ignite a process of what David Harvey called “the accumulation through dispossession”…

…Minister Samaraweera’s Budget 2018 is nothing more than an attempt to build a ‘consolidation state’ [Streak] through getting rid of all the legislation starting from the Education Act of 1939. Moreover, he has a set of proposals by the name of flexible factor markets directly aiming at land grabbing and facilitating labor exploitation. His boastful remarks on an increase in government revenue also indicates an attempt to pass the burden of debt state on the ordinary masses.”

My views as a non-economist seems in congruence with those of the trained economist Sumanasiri Liyanage. So I shall leave the reader with an option: Mangala and Sarath, or Godfrey and Sumanasiri? It is, I shall readily admit, an excruciatingly difficult intellectual choice, but one that we shall have to make, having agonized over it.

In the meanwhile, and speaking only for myself, if I woke up one morning and found that I much preferred Mangala Samaraweera’s ideas and policies to the contribution of Philip Gunawardena, Ranasinghe Premadasa, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to the extent that I trash the last four named and defend Mangala Samaraweera’s heartless Budget, I’d seriously worry about what had happened and what was happening to me. 

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Latest comments

  • 4

    Sri lanka wants globalization, as USA had and as China wants to retains it, if the country is a formidable exporting country. Sri lanka cannot grow its’ rice, onion, potato and most basic food itmes even though the country is agricultural based since the ancient times. Sri lanka can not take control of dependance of imports for how many decades. There are 1950s songs which say Sri lankans are waiting mouth opened to the seas until the next ship arrives. I heard Ranil has completed only the grade Elevan eventhough he has a honorary doctorate. Avamangala has not completed grade 10 and his qualification is a lingerie designing course from europe or Britain. So, they know what the country and how the country should be developed. Ranil comes and talk about Vision2025. that suits a shangrila-like those days imaginary, now reality type kingdoms. Because, he doe snot have a program to stop imports at least for foods. HE is talking economic independance. they will talk until sinhala women inthe middle east send money.

    • 5

      It is so simple, if Mangala would be the person, you would not have chances to get posted to somewhere.

      If Premadasa would be the case, you will become the minister of external affairs.

      You have been fooling the nation on and on for your own selfish agendas. I dont think you have any right to abuse the nation this way.

      Ultra maxist by thoughts, by your practice you have proved over the months, you are no better to that street boy Wimal Gonthadiya shakkiliya, Weerawanse. There, we cant see any difference even if you have claimed a doctorate. In srilanka, people of your nature have been paying the way idiots to get back.
      Premadasa has no whatsoever experience in external politcis.
      Nor has he good education than few years of stay in UK during his fathers HIGH days.
      Nor has he what so ever good knowledge about srilanka even if talents inherited by him outreaching the masses.
      We want to put the stop to populists and hand over it to a man/candidate from CIVIL SOCIETY to pilot the nation.
      Crushing the hands of culprits should be the SLOGANs of the next leader whoever would become the leader.

  • 4

    It is stupid to talk about globalization whenthe country is mostly an importing country. globalization is for highly producing, manufacturing countries and not for countries depend on imports even for rice, onion, potato, salt, chillie and even for power, hydro energy and so many other energy alternatives can be developed.
    I do not know why these political pundits talk out of mind.
    [Edited out]

  • 2

    The end is neigh for globalisation. Localisation is on the ascend thanks to AI/Robotics and digitisation and 3d printing

    Artificial Intelligence and Robotics will make repetitive tasks and maufacturing so cheap that Golbalisation will shift to localisation. Even tasks such as repetitive proof reading or preparind template documets data nalytics will all be done by AI Robotics.

    PS CT have turned off spell check correction. so blame them foe the typos. It is apparent that CT doesn’t want to use AI.

  • 1

    Since independence 1947 to 2005 the size of srilankan economy was less than 25 billion usd.percapital income closer to 1000 usd.srilanka was only a 3rd world poor country.during the period of mahinda rajapakse from 2005 to 2015 the size of the srilankan economy came up to more than 75 billion usd and the per capital income came up to more than 3500usd and real infrastructure development happened during this period and unbelievable urban development has took place under the architecture of gotabaya.srilanka became a a middle income country. The foreign investment was the ramarkable achievement During this period came up to 1.6 billion usd in 2014.i have few questions to ask as a businessman. 1. If mahinda can make the economy from 25 billion to 75 billion in ten years why from Ds to chandrika with in 58 years fail to make the srilankan economy at least 25 billion usd. 2.why they failed in doing infradtructure development. 3.if mahinda can make srilanka as middle income country with ten years why they failed to do in 58 years. Simple answer is from any government before 2005 didnot have an clear vision or proper decision making skills and administration ability like mahinda had. Mahinda and his management team are top level ne o liberal managers. That management team is far more ahead than jr ,premadasa or chandrika.that is why srilankan business machanisum has supported the modern slfp led by mahinda. They built new business community and enviorment. Whats the problem now unp has is they do not have the ability of doing a huge neo liberal economy and does not have any support of high ranking business community. Unp id talking too much and doing nothing. This is proofing that unp does not have an ability of handling huge neo liberal economies. Unp is excellent in maintaing democracy but utterly failed in economic management Specialy neo liberal .

    • 3

      Thilan: Just after the war, Economic development of Sri lanka would have been relatively easy, as the country was very much bankrupt. but, that economic model did not benefit many middle income people or the majority except you businessmen. . Because, the govt produced so many govt workers and service sector jobs and nothing of high quality jobs. that economic model as the community had so much money in had may had had worked for the business. but, that is not long lasting. So, you pbusines people have to ask the govt to go to producing, manufacturing, high tech agriculture based – biotechnology and human resources based high technology. Now, these globalization, Avamangala’s mode are all BS. Now the country has to think about a new business model. globalization is good if we have anything to export. We have Tea. for decades we haven’t anything new out of that. We just export the same thing. for example, not only tea, how about chemicals, flavours etc., Sri lanka i snot doing that. Ranil or Mangala can not do that. Mangala is bending and giving his as to the west. Ranil is a thief. MY3, is lost in decision making. He is behaving very much like a minister and not a decision maker.

    • 3

      Your figures are true… But go to any GDP statistics web page using Google and plot Asian region or India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and SL in the same page… then you will see what had in Asia from 2000 to 2015… Here is one URL https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?contextual=region&locations=LK

      Gradient is the important thing…

  • 4

    I understand your surmise, though in error, that of shoddy and shabby. But the label hatchet pisses me off. You know very well that I exchanged my views with you on the budget in private exchanges of mails. When you aired your opinions in print and in cyber space, and I expressed mine, why must you get hot under your collar. Now , You have provoked another debate by labeling my opinions on a man who gave me a near Keith Noyahr treatment [Paskeralingam is alive.Hope his memory is better than Ravi K’s ] as snide remarks. Premadasa never engaged in a business or practiced a profession. He left a substantial estate. As a curator of his memory would you care to explain how he managed the miracle? I did not accuse you of doing a hatchet job fora US citizen who became a Sri Lankan patriot after assuming office in Sri Lanka – a precedent cited by RW when appointing Arjun Mahendran ! Retain Shabby and Shoddy. I hope you will withdraw the hatchet part.

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