The huge crisis that the Sri Lanka is confronting at the moment can be observed in the long queues for kerosene, petrol, diesel and gas. People are compelled to stand in the queues for long hours to get their basic needs. Already about seven people have fallen dead while standing in those queues. Also, we see the distressed parents going here and there looking for essential food and medicines for their children and elders. There was also a media report that a child has died because the parents could not find the medicines prescribed by the doctor for the sick child. There are also continuous power cuts which affect children who are expected to do their studies in the evenings.
The country is on the brink of bankruptcy. The treasury has no dollars to buy the essential food and medicines. Also, the country has no way to pay back the loans taken in the name of development projects.
If Sri Lanka does not have a production economy that generates income, obviously it is unable to repay a multi-million dollar foreign debt, which has resulted in the deepening of the economic crisis. For instance, the income from exports is not enough to meet the cost of imports.
Sri Lanka imports $3bn more than it exports every year, and that is the reason why it has run out of foreign currency reserves. Another reason for the aggravation of the crisis is the loans taken by the corrupt leaders which have been spent on projects which bring no income to the country.
There are several examples. One good example is the Nelum Tower in the heart of Colombo city. Then there is a conference hall built in the south where no conferences are held, a cricket ground where cricket is not played and also an airport where planes don’t land.
Due to the crisis, the fishermen have stopped going to sea because they have no oil and farmers have stopped farming because they have no fertilizers. The ban on chemical fertilizer affected the paddy and vegetable farmers and also rubber and tea plantations, resulting in protests by farmers all over the country. The paddy harvests were reduced and rice has to be imported now to avoid a situation of famine in the country.
There is a fear among the workers in Katunayaka that several factories are on the brink of closure. If that happens thousands will be thrown on to the streets without any income for their survival. Already workers and villagers are facing a food crisis having one meal a day or no meal at all.
One of the biggest means of revenue to the country is tourism. But, due to Covid 19 and later the Easter bomb attack on the Churches and hotels, the tourist arrivals have severely dropped.
The Political Crisis
A political crisis has emerged as a result of the economic crisis. It means that the country suffers not only from an economic bankruptcy but also from a political bankruptcy. The country for the last several decades has been governed by a corrupt, uneducated and inefficient political leadership which knows only to rob the national wealth and remove its wealth out of the country. Most of those whom the people have elected as their representatives in the parliament do not know what their role in the parliament is.
Unlike the elders the youth having realized the actual causes of the crisis have organized continuous protests all over the country and demand the resignation of the President and the Prime Minister. In response to the demands of the protesters the PM Mahinda Rajapaksha resigned from office at the height of the crisis.
Following his resignation the President called Ranil Wickramasinghe who is a family friend of the Rajapaksas to take over the premiership. However, the failure of his party to win a single seat in the last election demonstrates the fact that he is a leader in whom people have no confidence.
As such the problem has not come to an end. The young and the old are continuing their protests demanding the resignation of both Gotabaya the President and Ranil the Premier, because in their view the present leaders are the cause of the crisis.
In addition to the politicians there are also corrupt businessmen having thepatronage of the corrupt politicians who have not repaid billions of rupees which have been taken as loans from the state banks.
One positive aspect of the crisis is that a large number of our citizens have gained the realization that the present political leaders have proved themselves to be a disaster and therefore we are searching for an alternative leadership. In my view, none of the leadership in the traditionally dominant parties can be rusted any longer because they have themselves contributed to the creation of the present crisis. What the country now needs is an honest, educated, efficient and youthful leadership which is capable of designing an alternative economic strategy for the country replacing the current strategy based on neoliberal principles.
Some of our youth see no solution in sight so they are trying to leave the country in their thousands. But there are others who have taken to street protests and are engaged in a continuous protest at the Galle Face.
In conclusion, the citizens should prevent attempt on the part of the Gotabaya government, of moving towards a military dictatorship. The May 9th attack on the protesting youth by the political gangsters brought from outside points to a dangerous path that Gotabaya may choose to follow.