Hilmy Cader, an international consultant, says a country, like an individual or a household, should live within its means i.e. matching income to expenditure. Of course, he goes on to say, there is a need for borrowing, provided the borrowings are ‘invested’ for future value creation.
Since independence, other than a few leaders, most have had a great time at the expense of the taxpayers to grow their nests. The politicians have borrowed from West to East to support their grandiose plans from building airports, to seaports to concrete structures to building overpriced roads and dams. The net result, a debt to GDP ratio of over 100%.
Like India and some other countries in South East Asia, had we invested as Hilmy points out to build an educated, enlightened and healthy nation, the country would have become a developed country by now, because they would have elected capable and honest politicians. They in return would have ensured an efficient civil service, that would have ensured politicians stick to their role as legislators and representatives of the people.
The death toll from the pandemic is rising daily. The actual numbers are being challenged from left to right. Every Tom, Dick and Harry wants the country to be locked, including the WHO. The Maha Nayaka Theros of the Asgiri and Malwathu chapters have also called on the President to lock down the country for at least a week to control the spread of the COVID pandemic. The pandemic has spread across the country and the people are in dire straits; the health experts who know how pandemic spreads, say the country should be locked down for a short period of time to control the daily number of deaths. What they say is true because there is ample evidence that the community spread can only be prevented through a lockdown. Unfortunately for those in the finance ministry, they know very well the financial plight we are in and what a lockdown can do to the economy.
So, we need do an intelligent/power lockdown. The forex reserves are down to $ 2 billion. We can print local currency and ride out this Delta wave to some extent, by keeping a close tab on price inflation and COL. But we can’t do that with the USD. So, we are in a serious crisis. At least we could have manufactured or grown the basic essentials for our people, if we did not clamp down on imported fertiliser without a proper plan.
The problem in Sri Lanka is from the business chambers to civil associations, they simply don’t have the guts to tell the executive what their expectations are. They sing hosanna to get their contracts or to prevent themselves or their businesses getting sidelined. So, the executive thinks he is doing a great job. The Opposition is generally anti-Government. So, their viewpoint is most often flawed. But this country is facing the biggest crisis since independence. The President and the Opposition are not doing good by the country as they think and say publicly. Nobody believes in them fully, anymore. They have largely failed.
As we saw in Afghanistan recently, desperate people take desperate measures. Therefore, those officials and businessmen surrounding the President must speak the truth before it is too late for those people who are dying on a daily basis. We are heading towards a crisis that Sri Lanka has never experienced before. The President should come down to earth, engage with competent medical professionals and economic experts before it is too late for Sri Lanka. He can certainly change course.
Nearly seven million people believed his story. Now is the time to demonstrate that. Because people are losing their loved ones because the Health Ministry delayed in vaccinating people and did not harness the best brains in this country to find solutions. People like Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara misled the public last year by making statements in Parliament, saying we don’t need the vaccines now. In the final analysis, Hilmy is spot on when he says the way we are going we will be a ‘forever developing nation’. Can we have hope with the current lot?