After Four Years of Freedom the Nation Remains Poor, the North Remains Tamil Only and Hope Remains Scant
Posted on May 17th, 2013

Dilrook Kannangara

Young graduates queuing up at the migration lawyer’s office look ambitious. They eagerly wait a time with a consultant to whom they will have to pay a few hundred thousand rupees; a year’s salary for most. One opts to talk. “This country offers no future for us. Everything goes to the north and nothing for us”, he laments. Few others quickly join in. “Honestly I see today worse than 4 years ago. We could survive bombs but we can’t duck inflation and hopelessness”. A third says how Indians are depleting the scant economic resources in the country leaving nothing for local youth. “They are even in villages running business depriving us everything”. “North-Korea style military parades are for the local Kim, not for the people” a foulmouthed youth interrupts. These young educated Sinhala youth see no hope or future in the country. It is the same story everywhere in the island; hopelessness and anger against empty fanfare. One wonders what the purpose of banning Wesak decorations and charity food stalls but wasting more on military parades to commemorate a victory no one seems to benefit from.

Despite the ending of the 26 year war, economic growth remains modest for the past 4 years, lower than neighbouring India, Maldives and Bangladesh, and, even Zimbabwe cumulative during the comparable period. Foreign direct investments didn’t come as expected. Few Indian investments repatriate profits out while reserving all top positions for Indians depriving locals. Local investments remain low mostly due to a high interest rate. Although tourism industry shows signs of hope, most tourist arrivals are from backward economies like India without much economic input. Richer tourists of 1960s and 1970s have not returned.

Very heavy borrowing is the salient feature of post war economic policy. A $2.6 billion IMF loan has already been utilised. Raising bonds earned another billion dollars. In addition Chinese, Japanese and Indian borrowings after 2009 run to another billion dollars. According to senior minister Basil Rajapaksa, 85% of loans and borrowings went for northern development. After a peak in December 2010, foreign reserves remain precariously low once again; sufficient only for three and a half months of imports. However, there is no praising of the government’s development work in the north either where $4 billion of $4.6 billion of borrowings was spent. All economic benefits of this massive development spend was absorbed by the Tamil minority, the sole ethnic group in the north. Displaced Sinhalese and Muslims from the north decades ago still languish in poverty. There is no hope of resettlement for them as only Tamils are resettled. British era Thesawalamei Law doesn’t allow non-Tamils buy property in the north by allowing pre-emptive rights to Tamil neighbours.

People of the three main ethnic groups are more divided than four year ago. Experimental political solutions failed this nation leaving behind a heavy burden. Provincial Councils set up quarter of a century ago didn’t bring peace but pieced the national coffers to the tune of $1.3 billion a year (in 2013 terms). Powerful ministers from minority parties favour their respective tribes in education, employment, government business and development. Government blames the international community for this misery but people get no reprieve.

Corruption, political violence and media suppression remain high as the ruling coalition tries to keep its rare two thirds majority in tact. State owned utilities earn massive losses of $1 billion a year. Government relies on increasing the money supply to balance its affairs. It drives inflation and interest rates up. Hope sprang on every heart four years ago has dried up today. Some say the Tigers who were supposedly defeated have eventually won. Tiger proxies including TNA are as powerful as ever and four former bigwigs of the terrorist outfit hold top government sanctioned positions with perks. The war was won with the sacrifice of 1,000 soldiers on average every year for 26 years mostly from poor Sinhala villages. People wonder who won and who lost the war while staring hopelessly at empty skies to catch a glimpse of an aircraft doing rounds in the lead up to the fourth anniversary celebrations of the war victory. They wonder what happened to the peace dividend and the $4.6 borrowed money they and their children will have to pay back with interest against a heavily depreciating rupee. Perhaps it is the elusive wonder of Asia!

4 Responses to “After Four Years of Freedom the Nation Remains Poor, the North Remains Tamil Only and Hope Remains Scant”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Happy Independence Day Everybody!

    There is MORE to the WONDER of Asia than this saga.

    IF we didn’t win the war it would be the PLUNDER of Asia. The 2 week memory syndrome! When someone catches it, they forget what happened more than 2 weeks before.

    But I agree Sinhalese have to be resettled. 13 amendment MUST GO.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    This govt. is paying dearly for lax attitudes from past GoSLs plus outside interference. The post-Indpendence years of Cold War side effects, ltte terrorism & Tamil Separatism have absorbed most of the energies of the country, the price to pay being negligence of our own Peoples’ needs.

    It is sad that our women go to do maid services in the Middle East. This should stop, the sooner the better.

    GoSL should now have an “Economic War” to benefit the entire island’s Youth, not merely mostly benefit foreigners. Employment of the country’s Youth ought to receive top priority. I recall writing the same sentences about an year ago. GoSL is kept distracted & preoccupied with foreign interference in the country. While outside interference can be used as an impetus to creative growth here, the needs of the most ‘dangerous’ group here, the Youth and and their needs must be addressed. There are enough people who may exploit Youth unrest. There are also some youth who complain no matter what is done for them.

    GoSL is doing some good work re Employment, but there needs to be more intensity in the direction of Youth Employment and Youth Education on skills that will bring jobs and remuneration. I also recall articles (recent & past) that the Education system has to be revamped, and the ‘kata paadum’ type eduction thrown out. Youth have to be taught to be creative, innovative and self employed wherever possible, according to their talents. Teaching of English is also a must in Sri Lanka, next to Sinhala. In order to be computer literate, our Youth have to know the English language. Resisting change for growth is to invite trouble. Whilst cultural values are kept, learning a language for job purposes a must, sooner the better.

    Recently in USA, high school children were told to invent alternative energy devices. This program was shown on tv there. The children collaborated with each other, ethnicity notwithstanding, and were enjoying the creative joy of it all. The most viable project received accolades. It was a marketable solution using kinetic energy for a problem in automated machine lines. I doubt whether even our University scholars undertake such projects. To achieve some concrete results in the uses of Sc&Tech in Youth Employment, Environment, etc., Parliament (not just GoSL), ought to appoint a Science Advisory Committee.

  3. Ben Silva Says:

    To survive in a competitive world we need to be efficient, competitive, develop will power for self preservation and winning rather than giving up desires and seeking extinction.

  4. Cerberus Says:

    Buddhists are not seeking extinction. We like every human being seek to merge with the Ocean of Conciousness like the shining dew drop falling into the shining ocean. In the different religions we give it different names. Christians call it realization of God, or going to heaven, Hindus call it going from the dvaita to the advaita. (Many to the One). All human beings are essentially One. However in our divided state we think we are separate and we have our little ego, and the nama rupa, (name and form) so that we are superior to the others. We try in everyway to feel superior and be different from the others. In the end everyone turns to dust and the dust is recycled back to either an eggplant, an okra, an animal or a human being etc. When our essential being leaves this body the dust falls to dust. We need to realize that Power that is keeping the clay doll alive. The day we do then we have realized our being.

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