By P. Soma Palan –
It is several months since Ranil Wickremesinghe became the President of Sri Lanka after the popular uprising , the “Aragalaya”, which drove ruling President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to flee the country and the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign. The country is in deep economic crisis with unending intermittent Power cuts for months, and escalating cost of living emasculating the life of the entire population. The country needs urgent, concrete, purposive action to redeem the dire situation we are faced with. Instead, the President is preoccupied with speeches, within and outside Parliament, constantly diagnosing the Economic crisis, instead of offering cures for the economic crisis.
In his Budget Speech for 2023, the President brags about saying that, “Japan at the time of our Independence had the most developed economy in Asia. It is well known that we were second in Asia” (vide DM of 15.11.22). He little realizes that this was solely due to the competence, management skill, efficiency and scrupulous moral sense and integrity of our colonial rulers. This prosperity was a legacy of colonial rule and not a creation of ours. The rot started when we started ruling ourselves from 1948. This material regression he points out was due to our failure to follow Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore who said that “In Singapore, I followed the hard, but the right path. Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike followed the popular path”. This is true, the “popular decisions” taken to make the Sinhala Language the only official national language in 24 hours, nationalization of the Plantation Industry, and other private Industries, transport, setting up of State Owned Enterprises, led to economic decline, and communal politics resulting in a separatist civil war for 30years. But these are remote causes for the general decline of the country. The actual cause for the current economic debacle and bankruptcy and erosion of the country’s foreign dollar reserves is due to bribery and corruption, which is left unsaid. Obviously so, because, how could one say the real cause when one is not free of the taint of corruption, himself?
The primary cause for the economic crisis and country’s bankruptcy is the bribery and corruption tied up with Project loans from China. Loan and Interest repayments during the rule of the Rajapaksas, drained away our Dollar Reserves. Projects loans at inflated costs which siphoned off Commissions for self-enrichment, with dollars stacked away in foreign Banks. It is plain and simple financial embezzlement of public funds.
What the country need is less talking and more positive action to restore the country’s economic and financial stability. The President “pledges to build an economy capable of settling the country’s debts”. What we need is not vocal pledges but start doing things to revive the economy. Further, he diagnoses that “the country has become bankrupt due to the failure to change the economic programme after the war, but he expects to increase Investment opportunities and move the economy forward by next year.”( vide DM of 15.12.22). Note well, he is linking bankruptcy to the failure to change the economic programme after the war. The President is intently deflecting the primary cause of bribery and corruption of the Rajapaksa rule to one of country’s “failure to change the economic programme after the war”. The intention is clear, to absolve the Rajapaksas from the responsibility for the economic crisis. The economic crisis and bankruptcy was directly due to gross mismanagement of the country’s economy, and the bribery and corruption of the rulers. There is not a word mentioned about any initiation of action to reclaim and recover the indirect stolen funds of the country by a process of investigation, with the help of those countries, where the Dollars are held in Bank accounts of the discredited Political rulers. This should be the first step, before ”any pledges of building an economy by investment opportunities and move the economy forward by next year”. What is needed is purposive action not articulation of prospective pledges for the future.
The President engaging in puerile analogies is no substitute for action-oriented work. He states that,”Vietnam’s economy today is like a Formula One racing car. Our economy is still like a three wheeler. So, how do we go about racing in Singapore. If we are to win we must also find ourselves a racing car. It should have a good engine.” Further, he diagnoses that “the country has become bankrupt due to the failure to change the economic programme after the war and he expects to increase investment opportunities and move the economy forward by next year.”(vide DM 15.12.22).
The President‘s penchant for new institutions, transform existing ones and combining them, instead of increasing the efficiency, effectiveness and productivity of the existing institutions created for specific objectives. President states that “there is a need for an Institutional system that can revive the country’s economy and bring Investments; Steps will be taken to create an Economic Corporation by merging the Investment Promotion Division of the Sri Lanka Board of Investment and the Export Development Board”. It means he is conceding that the Institutions already in place have failed to deliver the results mandated to them. The answer is not cutting the limb of one and joining with the other and creating one consolidated whole called an Economic Corporation. It is only a cosmetic change of name. Further, it will incur financial cost in providing office space and also the need to have top level management positions, with high salaries, perks and vehicles etc. This is a studied method employed to appoint friends and political cronies to high positions. There is no guarantee the unified Economic Corporation not going the same way, as its previous two limbs. Further, what are our overseas Ambassadors/High Commissioners doing, apart from their routine duties and functions? Shouldn’t they pro-actively, visibly and tangibly get investment opportunities and export markets for their country, supplementary to those local Institutions in place? We are only multiplying Institutions, like Economic Corporation, instead of using the existing channels to produce results.
Mahila / January 5, 2023
Absolutely true indeed!!
The politicians were same – whether the Board of Ministers before independence or Cabinet of Ministers post-independence!!!
The major difference was the Public Service, which were independent and had the best repute!
The ministers prior to independence could not go past the Legal Secretary, Financial Secretary and the Governor, who were the Bulwark of the system, high integrity, NOT YESMAN to pamper to the needs of lowly politicians, who are short sighted – to the ‘GATEWAY’ NOT FURTHER BEYOND THE NEXT ELECTION!!! Which was 5 years!!!
So the party which started 75 years ago, by all politicians, who thought no end of themselves!!!??
Captain Morgan / January 5, 2023
Rearranging the office equipment and furniture or replacing staff members with different people of the same caliber is not going to increase the turnover or profitability of a company. What is needed is well thought out, radical change through the adoption of new strategy, and possibly a forensic audit of past transactions and practices so that useful lessons can be learnt and applied and the mistakes not repeated..
Ajith / January 6, 2023
“In his Budget Speech for 2023, the President brags about saying that, “Japan at the time of our Independence had the most developed economy in Asia. It is well known that we were second in Asia” (vide DM of 15.11.22). He little realizes that this was solely due to the competence, management skill, efficiency and scrupulous moral sense and integrity of our colonial rulers. ”
President Ranil have forgotten that his political party (UNP) and his family and himself in politics and in power during the same period until now.So far none of the political Parties in power (UNP and SLFP) accepted that it is they who made the mistakes and they are responsible for this crisis and they are not jet prepared to hand over the power to another generation to bring the unity and share the power to rectify their failures. During the British Colonial rule, they merged the devolved power to make a unitary administration and they managed internal and external resources to maximise the benefits from this land. They brought labour from India (Tamil Nadu) to develop the up country with plantation industry, created infrastructures such as roads, railways etc. They also trained our rich families to govern this country.
Raj-UK / January 7, 2023
On the point what our overseas Ambassadors/High Commissioners doing, a friend recently sent me a clip by, apparently, a ‘social influencer’, meeting up with ex Ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weerathunga, who seemed to wish to publicise his Russian tourist endeavour. He boasts of arranging hundreds of Russian tourists being brought to SL by a Russian carrier weekly, which he expects to increase to twice weekly, to Mattala airport & on to southern resorts. He is seen surrounded by leggy Russian beauties in a plush garden setting, obviously, an outdoor banquet with cocktails et al. In his boast, he talks about importing 20 ‘jeeps’ (SUVs) initially, & forty more later, so that his Russian tourists can marvel the wild animals at Yala. Apart from pitying the poor animals at Yala not allowed to be left alone in their habitat by an already overcrowded tourist influx, I wonder the importation of luxury SUVs & obviously the bubbly & hard stuff to keep the Russians happy, will be justified by the FOREX income expected. Anyway, with such entrepreneurs, tourism is sure to bloom & bring prosperity to the country (the cost is immaterial, after all, you have to break eggs to make an omelette). At least there is one (ex) diplomat who is doing his bit for his motherland.
Raj-UK / January 7, 2023
By the way, he also speaks of the necessity of having Russian translators, therefore, until we have our own, some of the tourists will be provided employment in the hotels as translators & teachers. Now I don’t mind learning Russian from a leggy blond Russian in a Southern resort but not sure if I could convince my wife.
shankar / January 8, 2023
[RW’s Perpetual Diagnosis Instead Of Cures ]
he is not Dr.ranil wickeremesinghe.He can only point out the problems.The cure is done by Dr.IMF. Unfortunately china has to give the approval for Dr.IMF to treat the patient,but is not doing so.