Three meals of Rice a Day- A Magic Wand of the Common Candidate: Never in a Million Years!
Posted on December 26th, 2014

 By Garvin Karunaratne

Hiru News carries a statement from the Common Candidate that he will  create an economy where all could have three means a day”.

The Common Candidate seems to have forgotten that it was the UNP under President Jayawardena that scrapped the Rice Ration Scheme, which provided rice to all or with the poor being given free or at a very cheap rate.  His running mate Mr Ranil Wickremasinghe the leader of the UNP still follows the policies of President Jayawardena and the very fact that President Jayawardena axed the Rice Ration Scheme indicates that this can never be achieved.

Let us see what happened when the UNP gave up the Rice Ration Scheme in 1979 and instead introduced  a Food Stamp Scheme.  Let me quote the consequences of abolishing the Rice Ration Scheme from the authoritative United Nations  Human Development Report of 1990:

In Sri Lanka some of the poorest people lack access to their main staple diet-rice, despite a Food Stamp Programme intended to help them…. Inflation doubled the prices of food between 1979 and 1982 and halved the purchasing power  of the food stamps  since their face value remained unchanged.  After march 1980 no new applications were accepted for the Scheme. This disqualified all new borns and families that subsequently suffered income losses,.. The per capita calories consumption  of the lowest decile fell from 1`335 calories  to 1185 and those of the second lowest decile from 1663 calories to 1558 calories.”

This is also confirmed in a Study by Edirisinghe where he shows that in the first three years of implementation the per capita calorie consumption declined by 8% from  an already low 1490  calories in 1978/79  to 1368 calories  in 1981/82. The calorie level adopted by the Indian Planning Commission is  around 2100 to 2250

Malnutrition was caused by the cancelation of the Rice Ration Scheme.

. Increased malnutrition has been recorded  in the findings of the  1980/82 Nutritional Status Survey conducted by the US  Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia. This Survey established that  there was a 64 % increase in wasting in the rural sector  over the 1975/76 Survey.. Wasting refers to the weight for height study. The height for age study indicates whether growth has been stunted. These are the two indicators for malnutrition. Sahn says  that ‘the prevalence of concurrent wasting and stunting is also higher in 1980/82 than in the 1975/76 Survey. A Sen has reported  that in the case of Sri lanka the removal of the rice subsidies has led to an increase in child mortality. What really happened is explained by Sahn:

‘ Calories intake is markedly higher in 1969/70 than in any other Survey year.. More interesting is the steady decline   from one Survey period to the next in calorie intake among  lower income households. Especially from the bottom three deciles of the population. This decline especially between 1978/79 and 1981/82 Central Bank Surveys occurred while the intake  among the higher expenditure groups  was generally rising.’

Thus on the whole the evidence is to the effect that poverty has increased in the immediate years after 1977.”

(From Karunaratne:  How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka)

The promise of the Common Candidate to provide rice to all poor has to be read with the fact that President Jayawardena abandoned an did away with the infrastructure we once had.  That included a paddy purchasing scheme from genuine producers and the total establishment including the large  rice mills of the Department of Agrarian Services with its massive storage. This was left to rot, sold out to some for a song and decayed. Once on my rambling  visits I went to my 1958 home, the vast Rice Mill at Ambalantota, my home for one full year. There we milled 4000 bushels every day of the year working three shifts employing over a hundred. That Rice Mill a state of the art mechanism was thrown to the dogs and I gazed for a full ten minutes in veneration at the waste of the equipment which we safeguarded day and night. We had storage. In China Bay we held eight large hangers and when I covered Trincomalee  I visited that unit every week sometimes twice a week seeing to it that the paddy was stored well.  All that is gone with the winds under President Jayawardena.  Now that this vast infrastructure is gone for good it can never be established again. It requires a massive expenditure all due to the shortsighted UNP rule of President Jayawardena.

So whatever the Common Candidate utters they will only be words- it will be like the famous march to Pamankada.


  1. Edirisinghe, The Food Stamp Scheme in Sri Lanka: Cost Benefits  and Options for Modifications, Research Report 50,

Garvin Karunaratne: How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka… Godages, 2006

David E. Sahn,  Changes in the Living Standards of the poor in Sri Lanka during a period of macroeconomic reforms,  World Development, Vol 15. No 6,  June 1987

A Sen,  Poverty and Famine, Clarendon Press, quoted in  Roger  C Riddelt,  Foreign Aid Reconsidered, John Hopkins University Press, 1987

United Nations  Human Development Report of 1990:

Garvin Karunaratne formerly of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service,

Ph.D. Michigan State University


7 Responses to “Three meals of Rice a Day- A Magic Wand of the Common Candidate: Never in a Million Years!”

  1. Indrajith Says:

    JR came to power in 1977 by promising everyone eight cereals (Eta Ata) free of charge.

    However, when he came to power, instead of giving Eta, he even broke the bones (Eta) of poor labourers and sent some of them even to cemetery; i.e Somapala Sahodharaya. Our Rathu Sahodharaya’s (JVP) tried to come to power through the corpse of Somapala but failed. Remember, the famous general strike of 1980. Thousands and thousands of government servants who asked for a just salary were sent home and many committed suicide during JR’s Dharmista regime!

  2. Christie Says:

    Before the arrival of Indians under the cover of the British guns people of the island nation had plenty of food, not just rice but meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and cereal. British the absentee landlords had Indians running the country and gave the fertile land and the sea to Indians. British let Indians grow rice in Burma with Indian ownership and labor and Indians imported that rice and distributed. The Burmese rice fed people from Fiji to West Indies all grown, transported, imported and distributed by Indian colonial parasites. This rice from chartered mills from Burma was the carbohydrates that powered the Indian labor of tea, sugar and other plantations. Some of that rice was sold very cheaply to the locals as their fertile land was taken away. British had to ration this cheap staple of the locals due to the WWII. The rice and other foods of the plantation workers in the British-Indian Empire were not rationed.

  3. ranjit Says:

    These pigs promises sun and the moon to get votes. They cannot fool the masses with these bogus promises this time. We haven’t forgotten their promises in the past. You must not forget that Chandrika was a crook and a sympathizer of L.T.T.E. Diaspora. Our heroes in hundreds were killed in cold blood during her time in office. She gave all the freedom to terrorists to move around the country even helicopter rides. How can we forget all that so soon?

    Ranil is the pimp who gave half of our Motherland in writing to Velapulli Prabakaran. How can anyone deny it or forget it? Are we stupid to give our vote to such kind of hypocrits? All the Opposition gang members are supporters of Diaspora in one way or the other. We will not allow Prabakaran to rise up from the dead again. These lunatics will not win this election and the money they got from their masters in the west will go waste because they won’t be able to buy our votes so easily this time. People are educated and they know the truth and the progress we have achieved after the cruel war of thirty years. Kick their ass out when they come to visit you and begging for your vote.Be wise and give your vote to the man who destroyed the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world.

  4. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Sri Lankan businesses are known for buttering both sides of their bread in politics. Businesses fund both the incumbent and the challenger at elections, as a security measure against political retaliation and as an investment for future favours, after elections.

    Meanwhile, corruption allegations against the incumbent by the challenger are seen as part of the election mud-slinging culture in Sri Lanka and not taken too literally by Sri Lankans.

    Sri Lankans are accustomed to unfulfilled promises made by politicians during campaigns and election mud-slinging culture.

    It is high time politicians started telling Sri Lankans the truth during election campaigns

    Every politician knows that the key to winning elections is to make great promises. There’s an old saying about election promises, “They’re like babies: easy to make, hard to deliver.” Keeping the election campaign promises is a rare feat. You can call the election campaign promises as misstatements, compromises, concessions, or lies, but older and more cynical voters have built up enough defense mechanisms so as to avoid the most painful stings of disappointment.

    BTW MY3 has revealed himself to be perhaps the most shameless, duplicitous, self-serving politician of his era.

  5. Vimutti Says:

    This is a consistent problem with Maithripala: he promises what he thinks people want but doesn’t give us any details to examine whether he can deliver on what he promises.

    HOW are you going to deliver three meals of rice per day to the poor? How much will this cost, and where are you going to get this money? These are the more obvious questions no one is asking Maithripala, and because he has been given a free pass to promise ‘anything’ without having to show how he is going to deliver on these promises, he continues to try to deceive Sri Lanka.

    Maithripala’s brother owns the Nipuna rice mill, and I am sure if you ask him to provide three free meals of rice to the poor, he will tell you to “go to hell” as he is in business to make money not lose it.

  6. Senevirath Says:

    ජේ ආර් ට නම් අට අටක් තිබුනා දෙන්න එත් දෙන්න බලන කොට සේරම පුස් වෙලා අට තියා දෙකක් වත් වෙන්නේ නැහැ චන්ද්‍රිකාගේ ග්‍රහණයට අහුවුනාට පස්සේ සේරම චප්ප චුරුප්පන් මෝඩ ඇඳුම අන්දවලා අනේ මේ මනුස්සයාට කරන දෙයක් එක අතකට පව් කියලත් හිතෙනවා

  7. Senevirath Says:

    නිවරදිකිරීමක්——- අට තියා දෙකක්වත් ඉතිරිවෙන්නේ නැහැ මෙයා චන්ද්‍රිකාගේ …….

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress