27 June, 2019

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Yahapālana Economists: At Least They Provide Some Laughs

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Dr Harsha De Silva, Economic Affairs State Minister, has always been in awe of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of his party and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. He’s not alone in this. There are many who believed that Wickremesinghe was the only senior politician with his head screwed on right. 

[Well, ‘right-wing’ could be the subtext there, but then again he’s not been shy about his ideological preferences. We could add that the ‘left’ or what’s left of it is pretty ‘right’ too, in the wing-sense of the term.]

Let’s leave aside parentheses. Let’s focus on the economy, of which Wickremesinghe was made out to be an expert.  A good manager, we were told. A brilliant mind, we were told. Uncorrupt and would not tolerate corruption, we were told. We were told a lot of things. ‘Thanikara molayak’ we were told: a brain, nothing else. Let’s not go into the incorruptibility claim; let’s pass over all that with a single word, ‘bonds!’ 

Well, the approver, that’s Harsha, made an interesting plea just the other day. He wants the country’s upper middle class ‘to act with some social consciousness to help the government offset the impact of the depreciation of the Sri Lankan currency.’ He wants the ‘high income people’ to demonstrate some ‘social consciousness’ and offers some tips: postpone by just a couple of months that new luxury car or that trip to Alaska. These, he believes, could help cut the demand at the margin.

I don’t know where the middle class is located; I don’t know what kind of lines separate it from the lower class and the upper class. I don’t know, therefore, what lines frame the ‘upper middle class’. I don’t know if Alaska is a great tourist destination. A 7-day tour costs something like US$ 3,000 per person. Assuming a family of 4, i.e. of the punchi-pawla-raththaran size, that would be 12,000 US dollars. That would be around Rs 2 million and if you add airfare probably in the region of 3 million rupees. I don’t know what kind of income earning avenues allow for that kind of bucks to be spent on an Alaskan holiday. I don’t know the size of the ‘upper middle class’. Perhaps Harsha could tell us because it would indicate what kind of society we live in and of course tell us something of the wealth distribution.  

In any case, I am perplexed that someone like Harsha, who swears by capitalism, should talk of ‘social responsibility’. Why on earth should anyone think of ‘society’? It’s all about self-interest, isn’t it? Sure, we have CSR projects, but that’s brand-building and a palliative for a non-existent disease, corporate guilt. The upper classes are not into belt-tightening; they pass tax burdens on to the consumer, even as they lament such mechanisms. 

Let’s concede however that it’s actually in the interest of the rich to be socially conscious, to tighten best and embrace ‘austerity measures’ that force them to go to Anawilundawa instead of Alaska and take tuk-tuks for a change. Let’s say that it’s just a minor part of a major plan that Harsha and other economists in the UNP have hatched to save the falling rupee. 

The boss has laid it out. Wickremesinghe, speaking at a school in Nattandiya has said, correctly, that Sri Lanka needs to handle the devaluation crisis with utmost care. He says that Sri Lanka cannot increase interest rates as other countries have done because it would affect investments. Didn’t know that we had lots and lots of investors, but then again let’s just concede that we need to insure against investor-flight. 

What’s interesting is that the PM has stated that action will be taken to arrest the crisis in one month’s time, vowing that the government will not allow the economy to crash. What the ‘action’ is he has not detailed, but he’s given us a hint in the following observation:

‘The situation is expected to be more stable [by] then,’ that’s one month from now. If there’s stability then there’s no need of any ‘action’ one would think. It’s all volatile and that’s not his fault, of course.  However, the conviction he’s expressed regarding ability to prevent a crash sounds dubious when he also says ‘we do not know what will happen in the future with the trade wars which the USA had got into with Canada and China’.

Now all these are random statements made in forums not necessarily discussing the nuts and bolts of managing an economy, but they do indicate anxiety and confusion. The more disturbing matter is that this UNP-led government is clueless about the global economy.  

Dr W.A. Wijewardena, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank has written extensively on how incompetent the government has been. Clueless, really. For example, taxing savings, any AL student would tell you, is a disincentive to save. Perhaps Harsha could detail the logic of that particular decision. 

That’s ‘local’. The understanding of the global, i.e. larger destructive processes which countries like Sri Lanka are ill-equipped to face, is as or more disturbing. Wickremesinghe didn’t seem to know that China exists or rather had discounted China’s pivotal position in the global economy until ‘Brexit’ his him between his eyes. Up until then he was badmouthing China. It took ‘Brexit’ to make him realize that the West won’t and indeed cannot help Sri Lanka. He said ‘We will look East’. Clearly, he must have been looking in some other direction.  

Sorry, but we can’t say kohomada tikiri mole to that. Even if one believes that model to prosperity peddled by the IMF, World Bank, the USAID and their preferred ‘economic experts,’ this kind of ignorance is unpardonable. 

I don’t know about the upper middle class, but I doubt that even the upper class (do they go to the moon on vacation and are they planning to buy rockets, I wonder?) must doubt the UNP’s claims to having a handle on things economic. The lower classes, i.e. the middle-middle and lower according to the Harsha Classification, do not have any doubts and if you have doubts, ask a cross section. Ask them what they think of Ranil or the UNP or this Yahapalana Government when it comes to sorting out economic problems. You would probably get a earful. On second thoughts, maybe you will not. Just two words, be it in English or Sinhala. No prizes for the correct guess.

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. malindasenevi@gmail.comwww.malindawords.blogspot.com.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    3

    But Harsha has brought in lot of investments, hasn’t he?
    https://youtu.be/tGHglvA3ric

    Soma

  • 5
    1

    Many in politics/ business have bank accounts in Switzerland , Singapore and Dubai. No wonder the rupee is going down ! How did they earn that money ? How did they take it across ?

    As to Ranil’s brains-If Harsha hangs around for long enough-40 years -you will hear many wonderful and wishful things said about him especially in Colombo circles-he has a vision, he is very honest, super intelligent-can talk to the Queen and Donald Trump any time( in fact they get advise from him ) , his family is from old elite etc etc

    The problem lied within the heads of the Sri Lankans especially Sinhalese. They see things in their leaders which they don’t have ( intelligence, culture, class, sophistication ….)

  • 1
    1

    Yahapalanistas wouldn’t know where Alaska is..
    Anyway It will be darn hard to tighten the belts around their girth
    Take a walk and watch the Yahapalanista from the Upper Middle Class doing Power Walks in Marine Drive and Torrington Ave.
    Even the Yahapalana Boss Dr Ranil wears the belt below his guts, because he cant tighten it..

    This Dr Harsha , Is he a thoroughbred Elite, to be a Capitalist with a capital C?
    Is he a member of the Poodle Club?
    Anyway I always thought he is a Joke .

    CPC Boss Mr Tram told the Colombo Elite the other day that 274 Acres of brand new Land in Lankawe will be ready in 2020.
    From then on 13 Billion USD will be ploughed in to build Condos, Super Malls and Smart Tech Busnesses there….
    And 250.000 will be living and working there according to Mr Tram.

    Where can Mr Tram find that many people in Lankawe, if Malinda can’t find any who can even spend USd 12K to go to Alaska?.
    May be Dr Hrash has done confidential researach on the Net Wealth of the UNP Yahapalanistas.

    Even Dr Ranil’s Blue Eyed Boy with that LKR 34 Mil in the Bank, courtesy of our EPF members ,will be pushing to buy a Pad there.
    No wonder Dr Ranil and Mallika already got the SFTA in place.
    And desperately trying to sneak in the ECTA before Santa comes.

    UNP suckers in Kollonnawa and Keselwatta will find hard to do Sanitiry work even in the Port City when the ECTA kicks in..
    Wonder whether that Minister dude who comes from the Treasure Hunter Gatherer Family, who always sing lullabies to our UNP Baiyas in the Village know about these upper Middle and High Income Yahapalananistas whom Dr Harsh and Dr Ranil are taking care of…

  • 1
    1

    Yahapalanistas wouldn’t know where Alaska is..
    Anyway It will be darn hard to tighten the belts around their girth
    Take a walk and watch the Yahapalanista from the Upper Middle Class doing Power Walks in Marine Drive and Torrington Ave.
    Even the Yahapalana Boss Dr Ranil wears the belt below his guts, because he cant tighten it..

    This Dr Harsha , Is he a thoroughbred Elite, to be a Capitalist with a capital C?
    Is he a member of the Poodle Club?
    Anyway I always thought he is a Joke .

    CPC Boss Mr Tram told the Colombo Elite the other day that 274 Acres of brand new Land in Lankawe will be ready in 2020.
    From then on 13 Billion USD will be ploughed in to build Condos, Super Malls and Smart Tech Busnesses there….
    And 250.000 will be living and working there according to Mr Tram.

    Where can Mr Tram find that many people in Lankawe, if Malinda can’t find any who can even spend USd 12K to go to Alaska?.
    May be Dr Hrash has done confidential researach on the Net Wealth of the UNP Yahapalanistas.

    Even Dr Ranil’s Blue Eyed Boy with that LKR 34 Mil in the Bank, courtesy of our EPF members ,will be pushing to buy a Pad there.
    No wonder Dr Ranil and Mallika already got the SFTA in place.
    And desperately trying to sneak in the ECTA before Santa comes.

    UNP suckers in Kollonnawa and Keselwatta will find hard to do Sanitiry work even in the Port City when the ECTA kicks in..
    Wonder whether that Minister dude who comes from the Treasure Hunter Gatherer Family, who always sing lullabies to our UNP Baiyas in the Village know about these upper Middle and High Income Yahapalananistas whom Dr Harsh and Dr Ranil are taking care of…

  • 3
    1

    mangala says no more duty free car permits for MP’s. He has forgotten that MPs have already got their duty free car permits. Most of them have sold the imported cars or the car permits. Each of them have earned, sorry not earned but collected between 30-40 million Rupees sitting in their fully air conditioned comfortable houses at the cost to the poor tax payers using the foreign currency earned by ladies who work like slaves in the Middle East.
    —————————————
    I wonder what Harsha who bragged a lot before the election saying that UNP knows how to fix the problems in the economy has to say. Instead of fixing the economy this Goo N.P Government has dragged the economy down the drains.

  • 4
    1

    “Wickremesinghe was made out to be an expert. A good manager, we were told. A brilliant mind, we were told. Uncorrupt and would not tolerate corruption, we were told. We were told a lot of things. ‘Thanikara molayak’ we were told: a brain, nothing else.”
    During the time we had kings there was a person called ‘Rajawaasala Kawataya’ to provide amusement. Andare was one of them. In the Parliament, this man is plying that role. In good old days we called that person ‘Kawataya’ but now we call ‘Agamethi’

  • 1
    1

    Two peas in a pod , all talk no action . They will go down in history as the brains behind the VW plant in Kuliyapitiya .

  • 2
    1

    These days all you hear is bond scam ,bond scam .

    Why don’t you call James Bond .

    Cheap Journalism.

  • 2
    1

    ranil imagines himself to be great economist thats why he goes to all the foreign economic conferences of course what he has learned is another matter
    he is a great pretender and a a great promiser
    nothing he says is about the present only about the future
    always locking the stable door after the horse has bolted e.g. stopping the car permits
    god knows where we will end with tweedledum and tweedledee leading this country
    neither of whom knows a damn abut economics

  • 4
    0

    Basically it was a illusion or myth created by unp that they are capitalist party, the reality is they are not a capitalist party , unp is just a poor communist type mixed economic party which has provided janasaviya. If unp is a capitalist party why they are unable to uplift the country arleast up to 15 billion. USD during their the period of 1977- 1994, when Mahinda took this economy in 2005 it is just an economy of 20 billion. Usd . in srilankan history only one capitalist party has formed that is slfp of Mahinda, see their economic performances, they brought srilankan economy in to 80 billion usd from 20 billion usd just ten years, percapital from 1000 usd to 3800 usd, foreign direct investment of 1690 million usd which was less than 200 million in 2005, they formed a higher ranking business class ,cooperate business segment. They are the sole owners of business class and upper middle class in srilanka that is why they are winning the electorate like kaduwela by 50000 majority . in unp case they only have 23% vote base but 90% of them are poor people. They said they have business people support by considering pettah traders in past. So please stop this bulshit of blaming unp for nothing since it is not business capitalist party like slfp of mahinda

  • 2
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    Malinda Seneviratne: Yahapālana economists are not the only ones who provide some laughs.
    The MR fix is as simple as “I can fix it”!
    Not to be outdone for simplicity, the Mangala fix is “No more car-permits to MPs”.
    The Governors of CB SL have their own fixes – the Cabral fix and the Mahendran fix.
    The SLPP fix is, “Bring back the language/religion-divide’.
    The elites laugh all the way to the bank. We, pay for it!

  • 2
    0

    The impact of the depreciation of the Sri Lankan currency.

    Crisis approaching and causes me to nervousness for the safety of country in future
    The so call experience cannot find a mechanism inflation and unemployment is not understood by the so called expert politicians everything is very easy divert to taxes. Problem solved presently we have a sort of stagflation situation.

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