By Trevor Jayetileke –
The end of 2018 was the end of 70 years of Independence from Britain in1948. Politically the last quarter of 2018 was so horrible that 2018 as a whole was dubbed as “Annus Horibilis”. The 70 years that ended in such a fashion is now behind us as the past and Sri Lanka can look to a dawn of a new era which we all hope will be the Golden Years for Sri Lanka and I say this will all sincerity that we are a Nation that deserves a period that is better than what we have gone through and our resilience has been tested to the full and we have survived to have got a second chance to put things right.
The three main Nationalities the majority Sinhalese, and the two minorities the Tamils and Muslims live in peace and harmony and I hope this can continue uninterrupted without Political interference from within and manipulation of minorities from outside to satisfy their own Agendas. Our visionless Leaders have brought our Economy and Finances to a point when lifting it from the mire will not be an easy task. Even after 150 years our Tea industry is struggling to get its act together. We have borrowed to such dizzy heights that formulating our budget becomes an annual nightmare. Our total debts are at about 80% of our GDP and our revenue just enough to service it.
Suddenly the World realises that we are today in a ‘Geographically Sweet Spot’ that is the envy of both the East and West in a good sense that both are seeking our attention and giving us presents. According to Rudyard Kipling the East ( mainly China and Japan ) and the West (mainly the US with India) are playing the “Great Game’ and at this point in time in the Indian Ocean. After WW2 this Game was played in the South China Sea when Japan was calling the shots and Singapore was Geographically placed to receive the attention that we now enjoy . China has become the No.2 economy of the World driving the Asia Pacific in the 21st century / the ‘Asian Century”. The US had its Pacific Command well positioned with Naval Fleets in South Korea and Japan., while Britain had its South East Command in Singapore and ruled the Waves and possessed the HK lease till 1997.
Today China rules the waves of the Indian Ocean with our Hambantota Port leased for 99 years through its BRI initiative. The Port City of Colombo has seen the reclamation work completed and now ready for Phase 2. The Chinese “Lotus Tower” was fully lit for the first time on the 29th of January 2019 and will be ready for business in March 2019 and will be the “Light of Asia”., for ships passing bye at night and will see the “Tear Drop” shaped Lanka for miles and miles of SEA LANE.
The US has established its “Asian Pivot” in Trincomalee in December 2018 and the US Pacific Command has changed its name as the ‘Indo Pacific Command’ to accommodate the Indian neighbourly love for us and the wider Asia Pacific that was never there before. However the APEC annual conference was held in PNG at the end of November 2018 and XI Jingping the President of China had a ‘Red Flag and Red Carpet” Welcome never seen by APEC member nations before and after 40 years of joining the Free market Economy of the World China has emerged the second largest economy of the World and has a GDP of US$14 Trillion against the US$20 Trillion of the USA.
Our ‘Economic Model’ of Tea and Sympathy has kept us in a 70 year ‘Time Trap’ and I believe if we are to shrink our Bad Debts we cannot do it only through Exports and FDI’s and must include Energy ( Crude Oil ) as a Anchor like having LNG in our “Base Load” balanced mix of the National Electricity Grid. If we say we are a predominantly a Buddhist Country we have to live by its Precepts and draw on the Wisdom from the Tooth Relic in the Pentagon of the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy.
*Trevor Jayetileke – Energy Consultant