2 December, 2023


Sri Lanka’s Muddled Politicos Can Learn From Andhra

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Andhra Pradesh’s Chandrababu Naidu leads the pack: Lanka’s muddled politicos can learn from Andhra

The economies of some big states in India are growing above the national average, among them Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana; small ones like Pondicherry, Goa, Meghalaya and Sikkim are doing even better and so are Jharkhand and Bihar starting from a low base,. Andhra Pradesh (AP) comes in just behind Telangana. (Different sources report conflicting rankings: See statisticstimes.com).  However, in ambition AP Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu leads the pack. His vision for AP is to be among the top three by 2022, number one in development cum happiness by 2029 and a global investment hub by 2050. His joint seminar with Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella – of Indian origin, born in Hyderabad – was not short of oomph in shooting for the stars. Naidu is no poor man’s saviour; his goal is capitalist development, a latter day state-level Lee Kwan Yue. If successful he will achieve what Ranil wants to but can’t. 

Why is it that Indian states reach tall targets but GoSL is mired in a muddle? Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and AP are all above the high national growth rate of 7 to 7.5%. Some at 10% are on course to become India’s Guangdong or Jiangsu. If economy A is half that of B, but growing at a sustained 5% higher rate, then mathematically A will overtake B in 14 to 15 years. In an inversion of the rabbit and tortoise story, a faster growing number will, at some point in time, always overtake a slower growing one, whatever the initial handicap. Lanka’s economy grew at 4.5% last year and the Central Bank, whistling in the dark, says it will rise to 5.5% in 2017; still 4 to 5% below the best performing Indian states.

I picked Naidu as my specimen because he and Ranil share a common ideology, a globalization oriented capitalist outlook. Years ago it was called neo-liberalism, now defeated and dead. In a snapshot of Nimal Sandraratne’s views Shyamon Jayasinghe (Colombo Telegraph 21 April) says: “What we need on a national scale is transformation of the economy from import dependence to export led growth. This can be built only on domestic and foreign investment. Government has to put in place a policy environment to encourage this”. Well, improving exports is fine; it will help Lanka climb out of a debt basin, investment will generate employment and the profit seeking classes will be pleased.

But there are three other aspects to examine. (a) Why is it that Naidu’s initiative seems to be delivering, but not Ranil’s? (b) What is the role of government – Andhra State in the case of Naidu, GoSL for Ranil? (c) Since neither Naidu nor Ranil are populists, not even to the extent of Prime Minister Modi, what does this portend for the poor?  This essay will make a stab at the first two questions.

Naidu’s cylinder is firing but not Ranil’s

In respect of conundrum (a) I will not critique Ranil unfairly; the inherited debt burden is huge and Lanka cannot circumvent financial and a degree of political subservience to China in the wake of Rajapaksa era profligacy, waste and megalomania. And the whole world still lives in the shadow of the 2008 WobbleU shaped recession; wary globe watchers expect another wobble, a follow up recession, next year. Ranil and GoSL will have a hard time attracting Western capital because investors are running scared all over the world There are only small signs of upturn in the global rate of profit, whose decline was the forerunner of 2008 crash. Lanka is a riskier basket than India and Andhra Pradesh for Western capital, so Ranil is batting on a stickier wicket than Naidu. Those who know me well will recall that I am not a UNP supporter or Ranil devotee, but if the alternative is a Rajapaksa-sibling scoundrel, what choice do we have exept to try and avoid a one-term fate for the miserable current lot?

Where Ranil does have a strong hand and seems to be bidding two-no-trumps is in finessing China, India and Japan on Lanka’s port facilities. I cannot explore this at length but readers should visit Jeremy Luedi’s “Are Sri Lanka’s ports the next Great Game for China, India and Japan?” in Global Risks Insight, April 17, 2017. Luedi’s case is convincing and emphasises political and economic not strategic factors, a line of reasoning I have advocated. (Who needs Trinco, Hambantota or ocean waters south of Lanka for hi-tech naval strategy?).

China is focusing on Hambantota, India and Japan on Trinco, and the US Jaffna. China crony Mahinda bleats that Ranil plans to apportion control accordingly, but Lanka needs investment. Japan’s Abe says: “Without a free and open Indian Ocean, there cannot be real prosperity in the region. This is why it is essential for Lanka to grow as a hub and develop ports that are open to everyone”. Our location between the Middle East and East Asia is valuable though India and Japan are concerned about Chinese investment and influence.  Ranil is pitching Lanka as a trade and finance hub. He wants Japan to use us as a trade hub and hopes to deepen the FTA with India via ECTA and wants FTAs with Singapore, China, Indonesia and ASEAN countries. I support these initiatives in principle; sans global linkages Lanka will stagnate.

But the government is facing a storm instigated by the Rajapaksa led Joint Opposition (JO) which wants to sabotage the Ranil administration at every turn. (Shyamon does a fine job eviscerating Rajapaksa mouthpiece Dayan Jayatilleke in the aforementioned CT piece). Pathologically, the JO is anti-Indian because India and Tamil are synonymous to the chauvinist mind. Majority Indian control of the Trinco oil storage facility is what keeps Dayan and the JO awake at night.

The flashpoint of domestic anger are plans to expand the Hambantota project into a 15,000 acre economic zone with 80:20 ownership in favour of China. The $1.4 billion will be the largest foreign investment in the country with an additional $13 billion expected in subsequent developments according to Leudi. The project promises 83,000 jobs but has been delayed by JO instigated unrest. The plans spare developed land and nature reserves, but the future of nearby villages is uncertain. This has panicked locals. The way things handled by the government is plain stupid; it grossly mishandled the propaganda. Another contentious issue is a plan to extend Colombo Port City by eight to ten miles, making it the largest in the region, but at the expense of the urban poor who are pushed out to make way for flashy office blocks and condominiums for the wealthy. Meethotamulla tragedy is symptomatic of the calamities that this and previous government top-brass precipitate.

Naidu drives hard, Ranil plays off the back foot

The Naidu video exudes confidence because he has a support mechanism of experts, officials and politicians. The pitch is directed and led by the Chief Minister. Information technology (bandwidth and cloud technology), building a new capital at Amaravati, expertise for efficient governance, highways, infrastructure and liaison with Microsoft are the key projects. One can’t use the term state-capitalism for something confined to one local State, but I think you get my point. There is no assurance of eventual outcomes; I only say Naidu is a well-ordered state-capitalist.

Ranil’s economic team is Charitha, Paski and Manik, residues of an old school tie JR-era neo-liberal rump. Harsha and Eran are not dregs but have neither the clout nor the personality to say boo to this cabal. There is are one or two novice Cabinet economic committees but the missing link is a planning commission. A hard-core packed with engineers, information specialists, economists with hands on experience, can-do project managers, and types who know how to manoeuvre decisions through the machinery of state. Geriatrics whose use-by date has expired are no good for steering the ship of state. Actually Ranil is more able than the aged crew he is cloistered with. And nationally there is no visible machinery of independent planning-intelligence; only a few “think tanks” that parrot the IMF. 

What brought this incompetence home to me like a hammer blow was the monumental blunder in the cavalier decision to abandon the Sampur power project. (I served on some inane and pointless committee). The national political leadership was out of its depth, but everywhere in the world leaders rely on subject experts. The shocker was the epic ignorance of ‘advisors’ closeted with President, Prime Minister, subject Minister and the Public Utilities Commission. I bet Naidu engages competent professionals and of course he plays in a different ball park.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    Andara Demala

    There is a Sinhala saying ‘Andara Demala katha karanawa’ when confronted with people talking absolute nonsense or something that the listener cannot understand. Actually, there is no such thing as Andara Demala. Demala is Demala and Telugu is Telugu and never the twain shall they meet except in places like Ranil’s brain. AKD says, “I picked Naidu as my specimen because he and Ranil share a common ideology, a globalization oriented capitalist outlook”. But as far as many Sri Lankans are concerned, the two share another more relevant commonality: They both speak Andara Demala that we cannot understand.

    Ranil seems to be much more conversant with Andara Demala than Naidu. It is possible to get Naidus utterings translated. But Ranil’s. He seems to be talking about Abhidhamma in Andara Demala and I need not explain how difficult that is going to be to the Putujjana. It is like applying the RSA encryption algorithm to some message and then applying a quantum based encryption algorithm to the encrypted message giving us a final message that even Ranil does not seem to be able to decrypt back.

  • 2

    Ranil comes here and talk economics. but, how much time and money he wasted for $1.3 billion exports that Sri lanka is sending to European Union. that is not just one country but the whole europe. On ther other hand, If our politicians had toe courage to stop buying Benzes, BMWs etc,, from Europe it would account to over $ 2.0 billion a greater loss to the european union.

    After GSP Was approved by the EU, Ranil finds sending appareal to EU is not the profitable and now he is talking about making electronic parts. that is also IMF idea and the it is giventhrough an american University. So, american universities are the ones that assist our country why do we need economists in Sri lankan universities.

    Simply, it is a mess.

    I think, All the indian states can be happy, because they have very low wages and their buying power is increasing. If there is ECTA, India will flood Sri lanka with their goods that include every thing produced in India by other countries too.

    In the mean time, Politician lower the liquor prices because that helps their businesses, they increase salaries as they please that is again helping them. Only revenue sri lanka can expect is service jobs such as tourism or send people to work for other countries, mostly women to arab countries and wreck the family lives pf poor people.

  • 4

    Kumar David “Sri Lanka’s Muddled Politicos Can Learn From Andhra”

    I am sorry you got it wrong.

    Andhra Pradesh, Toilet Nadu, Singapore …they are all learning from Sri Lanka.

    That is why Microsoft, Google, IBM, Accenture, Ford, BMW, Benz, Glaxo, Ford, BMW, General Motors, etc etc etc are all investing in India and Toilet Nadu

    The best Sri Lanka can do is to sell the country to China and India and claim it as a big economic success.

    I left Sri Lanka when it was Ceylon

    …and Ceylon was so highly respected all over the world

    ….thanks to SWRD…..Sri Lanka is now a in a shit hold

    look at it Cricket…Sri Lanka was at the world stage when the politicians didn’t know how to hold a bat… when the politicians started batting for Sri Lanka(after Sri Lanka won the world cup)…then onwards it went down hill.

    Good Luck to Sri Lanka

  • 1

    Tamil Nadu will take a nosedive before takeoff against. Already there a lot of uncertainties. If an election come and Karunanidhi family takes back, then there will be uncertainty.

  • 4

    Following people played a key role in ruining Sri Lanka:

    1. Bandaranayakes who had no vision at all;
    2. Leftist so called socialist politicians (N.M.Perera, Colvin R. De Silva, Peter Keunaman) who misled the workers;
    3. JVP leaders who misled the Sinhala youths;
    4. Tamil politicians who misled the Tamils.

    • 4

      Eagle Eye/Dr Clean/SL Citizen/…….

      DS Senanayake was arrested for 1915 riots against Muslims, disfranchised nearly a million workers and his first act of political nepotism was appointing his son to throne.

      MR and his family. We have discussed this war criminal and his clan at length hence another introduction to how he, his clan and cronies ruled is obvious to anyone who keenly observed the event unfolding in this island for 10 years.

      Why haven’t you included both in your typing. Are you suffering from selective amnesia as you did with multiple personality disorder?

  • 0

    Aren’t we fed up with the endless analysis of the out of touch PM and the clueless President? When will mother Lanka’s agony end?

  • 1

    Eagle Eye.

    You have omitted JRJ from the list!

  • 2

    Aren’t any of our super patriotic toilet experts coming out to say that all this talk about economic booms in South India is BS? How CAN these mere Tamils attract VW, GM, BMW, etc? Apart from that crappy Maruti factory?
    Even Jimmy has seen the light. Let’s join up NOW before it’s too late.

    • 0

      The Power Interconnection

      old codger, don’t forget the power interconnection with India routed through Tamil Nadu – the only way we can have 100% renewable energy at no cost at all.

      • 2

        Yes, the power interconnection as you explained it is a super idea. But do you think Pasky, Charitha, etc are capable of understanding this?
        And of course there is Dayan on the other side…..maybe a power connection to China?

        • 3

          The Power Interconnection-2

          old codger, yes, of course, there is that – Avijja, the root cause of all evil.

          The Chinese interconnections are very good as long as they last, but unreliable in the long run. You do not know when they will disconnect and disappear, with all your investment.

          The advantage with Indian ones is that the interconnections last a long time. The disadvantage is that they last too long making it impossible to modify or replace.

  • 1

    Some of the comments are clearly…koheda yanney..malley pol, category.

    Mr. David has commented on Chandra Babu Naidu’s actions as Chief Minister of Telegana, the wealthier, prosperous and better educated of the AP counsins.

    He was a technocrat, well versed in the developmental requirements of his state and people almost 20 years ago. He was swept out of power 15 years ago and has had a comeback due to the untimely death of the Chief Minister of Andra pradesh Rajaskhar Reddy in 2009.

    He has taken the opportunity with both hands and as Mr. David points out employed experts in the required fields to make sure the State government’s policies are growth and investment oriented.

    Sri Lanka cannot and will not implement such mechanisms because the first question that comes to the subject minister’s mind is…how much can I make from this?

    • 0


      Mr. David has commented on Chandra Babu Naidu’s actions as Chief Minister of Telegana, the wealthier, prosperous and better educated of the AP counsins.

      You have a point.

      In sri Lanka educated and capable are not allowed to climb up the ladder inside the PArliament instead they are harassed in order to make them safe and careful, so they woun=lnd do much except protecting their butxs.

      Mahinda Rajapakse wanted his family run the country. Ranil is a lawyer who oickes degrees here and there. His MA is in economics, His PHd is a honorary one in reconciliation.

      If Sri lanka has capable people they are business people who wants to make their family first.

  • 1

    Andhra Pradesh is a flash in the pan of India. It will get absorbed in the ‘corruption and corruption’ fry soon.

    We must get out of the staple diet of corruption rice and nepotism curry.

  • 0

    India and its politicians are far more corrupt than the Sri Lankan politicians who are mere novices. But worse than that, here we have Kumar David who spent most of his life telling us that the revolution is just round the corner, and that the end justifies the means, has now become an out an out neo-liberal US supporter, while in some of his articles he still puts on a facade of “Marxism”. Remember, this man supported Sarath Fonseka for the presidency in 2010 (could you believe it!). Then he waxed eloquent about the single-issue of getting rid of the executive presidency, but now he sits smug with everything Ranil the arch Capitalist stooge says and does and has forgotten all about the “single-issue”. David still tales about the Rajapakse swindles, but nary a word about the day-light robbery of the Bond Scam, the biggest scam in the world,.
    David is even ready to hand over the whole plate to India under Moodi, a man who led pogroms against Muslims that were worse than the 1983 attacks on Tamils under JRJ. and Moodi represents the worst right-wing Hinduthva ideology. He sees China as the enemy; take what ever measure you want, and you see that China is more socialist, more progressive, and less racist. HOW DO YOU RATIONALIZE AND UNDERSTAND KUMAR DAVID’S POLITICS?
    It was a puzzel to me until I digested the essence of the learned writer Izeth Hussein. Basically, Kumar David is a closet Tamil racist who supports the Eelamist terrorists and admired them much. He wants Jaffna to be with the US and that is, to tie up with Tamil Nadu.

    David should read Captain Percival’s history of Jaffna and understand that there were more Muslims in Jaffna in 1790-1812 that Percival records, than any body else. Then the second group was Sinhaleses, and finally the Tamils.

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