24 May, 2019

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Sri Lankans – Smiling Or Sneering

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Who remembers the speech made by Ravi Karunanayake the new Minister of Finance on 29th January 2015, presenting his 100-days Interim Budget? If you do, you will know what this all about.

This is not about the non-event that was labelled a cabinet reshuffle. If the Prime Minister was serious about infusing new talent he could have drawn inspiration from his uncle JRJ. Except for himself and his Prime Minster, his entire cabinet was made of first timers.

Ranil is different. He is a practical leader. He selects his ministers in the manner of Bourbon monarchs. His Minister of Tourism is now a seasoned tourist. Minister John attends all trade fairs.   Now the Prime Minster has concluded that national development needs a forensic mind.

This essay is only a retrospective assessment of the past two years that precipitated these utterly ridiculous cosmetic patch work. As that iconoclast Malcom Muggeridge observed of Anthony Eden who bungled the Suez invasion, in politics as in womanizing failure is decisive. It sheds a retrospective gloom on earlier endeavor which at the time was full of promise.

“Sri Lankans are smiling again. The smiles portray freedom, liberty and courage. It is refreshing, the release from a bonding of family rule and crony nepotism…..  All are enjoying the serene breeze of change. A change for the better, a change to be cherished. A rule of compassion- A Maitri Palanaya.”

These  elegant expressions  of sanguine hopes were penned and later pronounced in parliament by  Mr. Ravi Karunanayake current Minister of Foreign Affairs in his maiden speech as Minister of Finance of the 100-days ‘Yahapalana’ on 29th January 2015.  He was presenting the interim budget.

Sri Lankans are not smiling. They are sneering at the incompetence of the government. They are scowling at the crony rent seekers who surround the new regime. They are frowning in puzzlement over the nonchalance of a Prime Minister who cannot read the writing on the wall. 

To repeat, Sri Lankans are not smiling. They are grimacing at the pain of betrayal by the present lot. They are wide-eyed and gob smacked at the real prospect of a return of the Rajapakse caliphate.

The speech made by the new Minister of Finance in presenting the interim budget of the ‘Yahapalanaya’ government is an important document. At the time, it summed up past folly and charted a new path. Today, a retrospective reading tells us the story of the duplicity of the Maithri- Ranil coalition.

In January 2015, Ravi Karunanayake was not only the Minister of Finance. His role in bringing about the change was widely recognized. It was his initiative that hatched a lame duck egg in to a graceful Swan. Both Ravi and Mangala were firm in their convictions that only a common candidate other than Ranil Wickremesinghe could defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The new Minister of Finance of the first hundred days expounded on the philosophy of power.  In 29th January 2015, he told parliament

“Power is temporary. Official positions are also temporary. As trustees of our voting public, our duty is to honorably serve the nation. We must not forget that we are servants of the people and it is our bounden duty to be of service.”

What went wrong? The political altruism of Ravi Karunanayake on 29th January 2015 was either profoundly heartfelt or fervently false. This writer opines that it was neither. Power is given by the people. There it ends. From thence it is power and authority over people. Ravi K is simply a victim of the paradox of power. A Spartan king once said, “The man who wants to rule many men must fight many.” The path to power is paved with daggers.

Somebody wanted the ministries swapped between Ravi Karunanyake and Mangala Samraweera. It was most definitely, not an idea that appealed to either of them. There is no doubt that Mangala Samaraeera courageous and outspoken will now tell us how much we are indebted and why. In time, he will also tell us who hocked what and to whom.

Mr. Karunanayake never made himself coherent to the masses on the predicament we were in. For that matter even this writer finds the most lucid description of Sri Lanka’s debt trap is given by Wade Sheppard Author of Ghost Cities of China writing in the Forbes magazine.

‘The official estimate of what Sri Lanka currently owes its financiers is $64.9 billion — $8 billion of which is owned by China. The country’s debt-to-GDP currently stands around 75% and 95.4% of all government revenue is currently going towards debt repayment.’ Sheppard begins by asserting that the crisis is so bad, that the government does not even know how much it owes.

Mangala may not be a match for Bandula Gunawardane’s well informed gibberish and unimportant essentials. But we can rely on him to give the people a jargon free assessment of the problem.  That of course entails other measures as well. Mangala Samaraweera is a courageous politician who knows the bridges he needs to cross and those he needs to burn. This is road that both Minsters have been forced to take. Sometimes destiny awaits on the road that one takes reluctantly.

Mr. Karunanayake had a clear grasp of the problem at the early stages. If he wavered later, that is another story. This is what he said on 29th January 2015. 

“The 8th of January 2015 will also be remembered as the day the nation regained its freedom. Freedom from family rule, freedom from corrupt rule, freedom from crony miscreants, freedom from bad governance, regaining of independence of the judiciary, police, public service and freedom from misrule where the rule of law was abused at will. As such, it is our bounden duty to guard and foster the freedom regained.”

He knew that we had to mend our ways and eliminate financial profligacy. He set out to explain the new path. “Today, I am proud to say that, with these initiatives, we have been successful in showing

an alternative way to the nation and we are marching slowly but steadily along that path.It is a path to compassionate Maithri governance, path to a stable country, a path to prosperity and more importantly, a path to freedom, humanity and dignity.”

He made frugal financial discipline a governance imperative. “The line ministries have been structured to secure the maximum outcome with minimum expenditure in formulating a Cabinet of Ministers. We need to reallocate the resources to newly created Ministries and seek the approval of the Parliament to formalize the new structure.”

When Mr.Ravi Karunanayake took over the Ministry of Finance, it was obvious that he found that the government had too many vehicles. He accordingly proposed that “State owned vehicles which were not being used will be sold at an open auction.”

He knew that the National Airline was an economic disaster. He promised to merge Mihin Airlines and SriLankan Airlines and increase its productivity.

Between 8th January and 29th January 2015, the new Minister of Finance had a reasonably accurate picture of the task ahead. “Officials and economic experts have looked into the figures and now the economics of deceit and falsehood had surfaced. The bad news is that economy is in a sad state, and the good news it is not beyond resurrection and is in safe and sound hands. We had managed to decipher the correct status of the economy which is being explained in detail.”

Therein lies the rub. The profligacy of the present regime has made the people skeptical of the accusations directed at the former ‘King ‘his ‘family’ and ‘court.’ 

The government that wanted to sell excess vehicles at a public auction, now routinely presents supplementary estimates to import new vehicles. Another ‘Yahapalana’ pioneer Dr. Rajitha Senaratne is on record claiming that a people’s representative cannot do without a SUV to traverse the roads carpeted by the brothers.

After two years in office, this government is yet saddled with SriLankan Airlines after a bungled attempt to attract an investor. SriLankan Airlines in the last financial year spent Rs.22 billion on its employees. That works out to Rs.5, 000 from each passengers ticket fare. During 2010-2015 it lost Rs.95 Billion. Its debt servicing exceed Rs.5 billion a year. Divesting is the least priority of the present management. They do not lose sleep over its debt.

Now, that state of affairs is not the doings of Ravi or Mangala. The new CEO of the loss making airline is the brother of Charitha the indispensable ‘Chanakya’ in the current dispensation. The other Brahamin pulling the puppet strings is ‘Pasky’ the mandatory advisor. 

Lao Tzu said, “Those who speak do not know. Those who know, do not speak. Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere. The master of one is not a jack of all; the jack of all is master of none.”

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Latest comments

  • 10
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    The incompetence yet the arrogance of Ranil has been well known for many years…..

    • 5
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      Sarath de Alwis ————————————————————————————-
      “The incompetence yet the arrogance of Ranil has been well known for many years…” — Says Perriamama, Lokuamma.————————————————————————————

      What is Ranil’s IQ? Just curious! Remember, the National Average is 79.

      • 3
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        The greatest achievement of this government was the repealing of the 18th amendment, which I consider is a greater achievement than “winning the war.”
        A few decades of Rajapakse-rule would have caused more devastation than Prakaran could ever dream of. ………………….

        To expect any SL government to do be competent is our folly……….. Haven’t we learnt anything from history?

        • 7
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          Looking back….even the chinese with a corporation style of governance has $3 trillion in reserves and minds its business pretty well.▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
          illiberal democracy is not fit for purpose at S>L.▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
          Both UK and US look outward and sell arms and create conflict to prosper.
          The passa governance would have done better than present at this moment in time.
          What freedom have you gained? economic? No way but more in debt▬▬▬▬
          .▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ Looking up and spitting?Yes.
          Lessons are never learnt by society but by individuals▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

          The island needs discipline a Gota style without his brothers and children holding sway and this is the time for it when Trump is around.

          • 4
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            Has it got to be Gota every time ? what’s with you people. Shame on us we don’t have any honest and sincere human being among the 20 plus million here.

      • 3
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        I don’t know about the average…. But I am dead sure the UNP suckers must have an IQ far below that of his Leader Dr Ranil……What do you reckon Amare…..

  • 2
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    Sarath de Alwis,————————————————————————————————————-
    RE: -Sri Lankans – Smiling Or Sneering———————————————————————————-

    //”Mr. Karunanayake never made himself coherent to the masses on the predicament we were in. For that matter even this writer finds the most lucid description of Sri Lanka’s debt trap is given by Wade Sheppard Author of Ghost Cities of China writing in the Forbes magazine.”//—————————————————–

    //‘The official estimate of what Sri Lanka currently owes its financiers is $64.9 billion — $8 billion of which is owned by China. The country’s debt-to-GDP currently stands around 75% and 95.4% of all government revenue is currently going towards debt repayment.’ Sheppard begins by asserting that the crisis is so bad, that the government does not even know how much it owes.”//——————————————————

    What can you expect from those guys who came out of the “swamp”‘, where the average IQ of the ‘swamp dweller” is 79? You are probably depending on the standard deviation, to give the benefit of the doubt to Rani W and Ravi K. Unfortunately, as your present write-up shows, this “benefit of doubt” is misplaced.————————————————————————————————————————————

    Reference:

    National IQ Scores – Country Rankings ———————————————————————————-

    The intelligence scores came from work carried out earlier this decade by Richard Lynn, a British psychologist, and Tatu Vanhanen, a Finnish political scientist, who analysed IQ studies from 113 countries, and from subsequent work by Jelte Wicherts, a Dutch psychologist.

    Countries are ranked highest to lowest national IQ score.

    Rank .—Country—-IQ————————————————————————————————–

    1 Singapore 108 —————————————————————————————————-
    2 South Korea 106 —————————————————————————————————-
    3 Japan 105 ———————————————————————————————————
    .—————————————————————————————————————————-
    28. Sri Lanka 79 —————————————————————————————————-

  • 2
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    Sarath de Alwis—————————————————————————————————————–
    RE: Sri Lankans – Smiling Or Sneering — What does the data say?————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    ” Mr. Karunanayake never made himself coherent to the masses on the predicament we were in. For that matter even this writer finds the most lucid description of Sri Lanka’s debt trap is given by Wade Sheppard Author of Ghost Cities of China writing in the Forbes magazine.” ___________________________________

    ?//The official estimate of what Sri Lanka currently owes its financiers is $64.9 billion — $8 billion of which is owned by China. The country’s debt-to-GDP currently stands around 75% and 95.4% of all government revenue is currently going towards debt repayment.’ Sheppard begins by asserting that the crisis is so bad, that the government does not even know how much it owes.//—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–What does the data say?—-Export earnings decline by 2.7 % to US$ 868 Million Friday, May 26, 2017 ——–

    The deficit in the trade balance widened substantially to US dollars 743 million in February 2017 compared to US dollars 548 million in February 2016. The cumulative trade deficit during the first two months of 2017 increased substantially to US dollars 1,677 million from US dollars 1,238 million recorded during the same period of 2016.—————————————————————————————————————-

    The overall Balance of Payment (BOP) is also estimated to have recorded a deficit of US dollars 258.3 million during the year up to end February 2017, compared to a deficit of US dollars 534.0 million recorded up to end February 2016.—————————————————————————————————-

    The cumulative trade deficit during the first two months of 2017 increased substantially to US$ 1,677 million from US$ 1,238 million recorded during the same period of 2016.—————————————

  • 6
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    This is how the Sri lankan journalists are. They paint all rusty goods and try their best to sell. Idiot voters who who read this crap vote again to these pests again and the country is in trouble for ever. Otherwise, Ranil’s achievement is FCID which di dnot work, a finance minister without the authority on Central bank, and the gang bankrupted the central bank. eighter Ranil or his his hand picked man did not want to dig and see what is left. Anyway, it was his son in law who was the benficiary. So it happened. Then for Ranil, the most burning issues in Sri lanka are new constitution because, the LTTE rump and Tamils wanted it. PArliamentary MPs who are dieing to serve the country and the people want luxury cars and money to attend the parliament. That is addition to subsidized everything houses, meals etc., , additional health care from the presidential funds even to buy viagra, allowances for petrol and phone bills, employment for wives, children, relatives and diplomatic posts or corporation chairmen positions. that is a very longlist.

    Journalists come and white wash these people. Then the next time they come and criticize.

    what a way to earn a living.

  • 9
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    What is this idiot, former air line manager whining about?
    S.L. Public debt: 77.1% of GDP (2016 est.)
    GDP (official exchange rate): $82.24 billion (2016 est.)
    GDP (purchasing power parity):$237.8 billion (2016 est.)

    Japan has Public debt 300% GDP (2016 est.)
    USA Public debt: 73.8% of GDP (2016 est.)
    UK Public debt: 92.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

    NO WORRIES JUST IMITATE THE ZEN BUDDHIST.🐒

    • 7
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      Siripala you call the writer an idiot, what are you ?

      • 7
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        “what are you ?”^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Ͼ ϿϾ ϿϾ ϿϾ ϿϾ ϿϾ ϿϾ ϿϾ ϿϾ ϿϾ Ͽ
        make no distinctions!

  • 4
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    Sri Lankans – Smiling Or Sneering By Sarath de Alwis. Lankans smiled on 08 January 2015. We thought that the era of corruption, nepotism and culture of impunity will end. The smile got wiped off but we thought that the difficulty of bridling the structure dominated by the ‘plants’. In due course the perplexed look turned into sneer when corruption, nepotism and culture of impunity came back with a vengeance. We are entering a period of resignation – if you cannot beat them, join them. Sarath listed the predicament of SriLankan Airlines. He may add the scourge of Colombo becoming a drug-hub.

    • 4
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      “”We thought “” demalas think too much and think very much how to grab wealth.
      but you feel too little while we feel the truth and never borrow, lend or steal.
      you thought sobita the terrorist was your man- birds of a feather.- Samsara, Samsara!

  • 3
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    I like it …… But only whats what Lao said…..,,The ex Finance dude obviously believed in=what he said…. That is power is temporaay…..And worked accordingly…. BIL got the Insurance Gig,,,, Missus and the Daughter got a Wharf Warehouse freehold……And a new Mansion in Kotte,,,, His old mate Dr Ranil and him then fixed the CB and collected enough dough to make Singapore Mahendran and the SIL Billionaires who are patrons of the mighty UNP,,,, And will be able to finance Srikotha going forward for a long time , including free Gal to the loyal Dalits who wear green T Shirts…..Anyone interested in Galleon and Dr Ranil’s performance in Economics , they should read Dr Wijewardana’s Stats……

  • 4
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    In the photo, Mangala Samaraweera is making a statement. I am wondering what would the MAtara voters say, if they saw this IT looks like his coming out ceremony. Probably, he will move onto something else pretty soon.

    • 1
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      Jim Softy——————————————————————————————
      ” I am wondering what would the MAtara voters say, if they saw this IT looks like his coming out ceremony.”————————————————————————–

      It is called Matara Sutttara, or is it that Mangala and Ravi are old bedfellows?

  • 8
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    Floods at a disastrous level, the Prime Minister Ranil wickramasinghe has taken off to the US on a ‘private’ visit !

    • 4
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      Washington DC WB (Christine Lagarde won’t give as she first refused but Obama brought in pressure and he also did the democrat thing promoted the muslims up north) ranil, the usual thing to beg for a couple of $$100 millions using the floods as disguise. Or else what are sri lankan politicians capable of now that Galleon is still in jail.

  • 1
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    Corruption will always be an issue as long as the “Executive Presidency” is in place. Maithree has all the same powers as Mahinda, whether or not he chooses to exercise them is irrelevant.

  • 0
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    Mr. De Alwis

    Is the “seasoned Tourism Minister” you refer to , the same one who greeted a group of German journalists at a press conference in Berlin recently with a loud ” Bonjour ” !. He is a class act , and a wonderful ambassador for the tourist industry .

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