Scarcity of Hope Not Equally Distributed Across Countries
Posted on May 19th, 2013

Dilrook Kannangara

I wish to answer R Chandrasoma in his response to my article appeared in Lankaweb. I thank him for his response. Humans are by nature ambitious which is natural and is the driving force of improvement. However, a reasonable assessment of what the future holds is made by most. This is found in investment, political and social spheres of human endevour. From the 1970s to 2009 Sri Lankans hoped against hope that a day will dawn when they could win the war on their terms. They dreamt their potential in such an eventuality.

The day finally arrived. For a moment the north and the south looked forward for a brighter future, brighter than it looked during wartime. President Rajapaksa cleverly capitalized on their hope to win the 2010 election under the catchy tagline “ƒ”¹…”A Brighter Future’. However, four years after winning the war, hope has dissipated in most Sri Lankan sections. This can be seen in all forums of public expression. A momentary reduction in brain drain in 2010 has once again restarted in full swing. A significant number of educated youngsters don’t see their future in Sri Lanka. All reports on Sri Lanka’s post war economic development indicate disappointing results compared against expectations.

There was a surge in economic activity in 2010 and then it continued to 2011 though at a much lower rate than expected from a country recovering from decades of war. However, then it became worse.

Year on year from 2011 to 2012 the economy expanded to Rs 7.5 trillion, up by Rs 1 trillion. However, when converted to dollar terms (or when adjusted for inflation), there was no improvement! It remained at $59.5 billion. The rupee depreciated very heavily. In other words there was no actual expansion of the economy in 2012 in dollar terms. This is not how post-war Europe, Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh or even Ceylon developed.

A trick on per capita income showed an improvement from $2,836 in 2011 to $2,923 in 2012. As explained above, the economy didn’t grow in 2012. The improvement in per capita income was the result of the 2012 census results that came at 20.33 million people as opposed to 2011 estimate of 20.98. The increase in GDP per capita was the result of lower population, and not economic improvement!

Economically challenged politicians would take credit for the improvement in per capita income whereas in real life people had no improvement in the GDP per capita. There is not much hope in 2013 either. Economic growth forecast has been downgraded once again to 6.4% which is a very modest growth rate for a nation filled with hope after 26 years of war.

This economic stagnation was caused by not making sufficient investments in growth areas. As 85% of government infrastructure spend went to develop the north, it deprived economic growth areas leading to national economic stagnation. Hope indeed is very scarce in the economic front!

Not surprisingly most Sri Lankans are now feeling it. They were hardly overambitious. They were modestly hopeful of better economic times following 26 years of war. Even their modest hopes have been dashed.

Resource and energy crunch was highlighted as an example of scant hope for all humankind. Surely there will be a mad rush on resources in coming years but that does not mean hope is scant for all humankind. All developed countries have already secured their energy supplies years ahead. The vast majority of developing countries are also making long term plans to secure their energy needs. For instance Bangladesh is in the process of rapidly improving its poor energy sector. Sri Lanka on the other hand only manages marginal short term improvements with the entire sector in a total mess.

Take a look at the proposed electricity tariff hike. Economically, it is the right thing to do. Had the government made sufficient investments in areas with highest economic potential instead of 85% of development aid for the north, people would be able to better afford the increased tariff. Sadly, it isn’t the case. A proposed 72% increase in domestic revenue factored in CEB 2013 estimates will drag backwards people’s electricity affordability by more than a decade. Even if a 8% economic growth rate is taken, the tariff increase takes the nation back 7 years! The problem is not the hike itself but the fact that economic growth rate remains way below expectations making it unaffordable. It leaves little hope for most service industries that depend on energy.

Winning two thirds was a rare feat. However, instead of putting it to the betterment of the nation and the people, it was used to enhance the powers of the President and increase the presidential terms from two to three. Vital aspects needing urgent attention only a strong government with a two thirds could do, remain burning issues. The current indecisive political climate offers only scant hope for the future.

I totally reject Chandrasoma’s excuse for the government letting the north remain Tamil only on two main counts. Government was very successful in settling 288,000 Tamils within three (3) years but Sinhalese and Muslim displaced people numbering close to 200,000 (allowing for natural population increase) from the north have not been even promised a fair deal. Kalinga Maga is no excuse for this willful omission that is costing the country dearly. It has dashed hope for ethnic integration in the north vital for any shape of lasting peace. Although the number of military camps in the north is higher than 30 years ago, there has been a steady reduction since 2009. Harmony building in the north is not a military matter; it is a politico-military-social affair. Absence of ethnic integration is the main reason for the increasing clamour for Tamil autonomy. Given the steady deterioration since 2009, there is only little hope things would improve.

Secondly, Sinhalese never abandoned the north following the Magha invasion (1215). On the contrary, the Sinhalese remained in the north after the elimination of Magha two decades later. It is wrong to assume all Sinhalese followed the capital city towards the south and the rulers disregarded south Indian invasions/migration. Portuguese records and interpretation of original place names in the north as per the Nampotha (a record of village names dating back to the 17th century associated with tax records) indicate the presence of many large Sinhala army garrisons in the north. Further historical evidence can be found relating to historical records on Sinhala Buddhist shrines in the north corroborated by European accounts. Large scale south Indian migration occurred only after the 17th century when the Sinhala army lost control of the island’s borders. Even if we are to assume the movement of Sinhalese en masse out of the north and Tamils dominating the north in overwhelming population (for argument sake) after 2015, it still doesn’t relate to most part of our documented history. The bottom line is there is no hope for displaced Sinhalese and Muslims, and, absolutely no hope for the nation to resolve the so called ethic problem within a beneficial framework of inclusivism.

Ethnic segregation and mono ethnic enclaves predict a mortal danger lurking in the near future. Coupled with political indecision on 13A and other burning issues, one may only expect violence, intolerance and agitations in the north. Hope for lasting peace indeed is scant in Sri Lanka as opposed to many other countries given that Sri Lanka had the golden opportunity to turn things around but failed.

There is no hope UNHRC approach towards Sri Lanka and the government’s response to it will change in the future. Things look more uncertain today than in 2009 in this space.

As a result of all the above, “ƒ”¹…”A Brighter Future’ as promised by the President in 2010 is now a meaningless statement to most Sri Lankans. Opposition groups are regrouping after years in political wilderness. Opposition organized agitation campaigns are expected to draw wider support than they ever had since 2010. It may well be a stepping stone to further agitations shattering into pieces the false notion that the government is in charge of everything.

However, it is not too late to re-instill hope in the populace and steer the nation in the right direction. It requires resolve, not indecision; all-round development targeting growth areas, not lopsided north-only development; listening to the people, not advisors and commonsense in governance. Till then, hope remains scant in Sri Lanka. Accepting this fact is the first step towards changing course towards a brighter future.

2 Responses to “Scarcity of Hope Not Equally Distributed Across Countries”

  1. Ben Silva Says:

    Good article by Dilrook with various stats provided. Dilrook says ‘Humans are by nature ambitious’. I would say most humans are greedy, competitive and want to survive and win. So if we want to win in this competitive world, then we ourselves need to be competitive, have the desire to win, have the desire for self preservation, be efficient, be competitive, have the skills needed and so on. All the above does not happen automatically, but has to be generated from a persons mind and attitude. Unfortunately our people are brain washed to promote giving up desires and seek extinction (Nirvana). In my view this is dangerous and insane. I am a Buddhist, but do not believe in crazy ideas and ancient Indian myths. I follow Frank Dick on motivation.

  2. Kosala777 Says:

    Into the foreseeable future, Sri Lanka will always a ‘developing country’

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