Economic Sterility of the January 8 Coalition
Posted on July 20th, 2015

The writer is the Dean, Faculty of Management and Finance, SANASA Campus Courtesy Island

Taking part in the Budget debate in the late 1960s, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, Pieter Keuneman, said that budget and the policies of the UNP government had demonstrated clearly its ‘economic sterility, political impotency and administrative incapacity’. In this column, I argue, focusing more on the economic management, that this description is more valid as regards the policies and the performance of the government of the Jan. 8 coalition than those of the UNP government of Prime Minister, Dudley Senanayake. It is interesting to note that Comrade Keuneman did not talk about corrupt practices of the Senanayake government as widespread corruption was not a phenomenon in pre-1977 UNP governments. Had a day time robbery like what had happened recently at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka occurred under his rule Senanayake would have resigned immediately from the post of PM! Of course, it is hard to expect that kind of moral behaviour from the politicians in this neo-liberal phase.

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Let me come to my main argument. The statements by the spokesperson of the Jan. 8 coalition who were later responsible for economic management have demonstrated without any doubt that they are clueless about the issues and do not possess a clear strategy for economic development of the country. Prior to the presidential election, I wrote in this column about this sterility of development thanking in Maithripala Sirisena’s election programme: ‘Champika Ranawaka has a formula and Candidate Sirisena has just copied it verbatim in his manifesto. This formula has a close affinity with Narendra Modi’s programme. Whether the economists of Modi government believe it or not, Modi gave a lot of publicity to the idea that bringing black money deposited in foreign banks would give substantial impetus to the economy. Candidate Sirisena proposes: “By stopping mega corruption and waste alone I will act to provide the country with development ten times that of the last six years and provide relief to the people.” Anybody who knows ABC of economics or has common sense may not accept this theory even though one assumes that corruption and waste are substantial. Modiconomics is not working in India; so will be the Sirisenomics.’ UNP spokesperson, Eran Wickramaratne also reiterated the same logic of finding necessary capital for development by eliminating waste and corruption.

 

Prior to the election, R M B Senanayaka and Hema Senanayaka had also pinpointed this shallow idea of developing country by transferring money reclaimed from the people who were engaged in corrupt practices to development projects. It is not necessary to tell time and again, the money that is recovered (which is a stock) does not provide a continuous flow of capital needed for development. In the pre-election period, the Jan. 8 coalition supporters tried to inflate the amount money that could be reclaimed with the support of the international banking system. However, during the last six months, the UNP government has failed to reclaim a single penny from this allegedly stolen money. Hence, it is not a surprise to see that the whole idea of economic development collapsed as a result of over emphasised faith on this shallow idea.

 

Since Jan. 8, the country has witnessed the sterility of this ‘strategy’ as the so-called rainbow coalition had to depend more and more taking money even to run a day to day business of the government.

 

As I have discussed in this column many a time, the UPFA government has simultaneously adopted two strategies of economic development. One I called ‘Jayasundara strategy’ and the other “Basil Rajapaksa strategy’. These two were combined into a single strategy by the Secretary to the Treasury. In my writings both in Sinhala and English, I have made an attempt to reflect critically on these two strategies and shown their inherent drawbacks. Overall, as I mentioned, the UPFA strategy was a result of mixing ‘developmentalist state model’ with neoliberalism. Hence, it failed to produce expected results. On the other hand, the past six months, we have witnessed under the UNP regime a ‘strategyless situation’. Its entire policy package was based on ‘tactics’––tactics of winning elections. Eran Wickramaratne, in one of the TV interviews, accepted that the UNP government had not even thought of economic development as it concentrated on giving some benefits to people.

 

The UNP that placed so much faith in using money which had allegedly been stashed away on development that later it had to adopt strategyless economic management. A movement from shallow strategy to strategy-less policies. The outcome of this miserable situation was a decline of growth rate, rise in unemployment, falling living standards and half-completed development projects.

 

The microcosm that funnily revealed this pathetic situation is the road that I used everyday. It is in Kadirana and comes under Katana Pradeshiya Sabha. It was a gravel road that cannot be used during the rainy season. And the people who use this road made many appeals for repairs. Part of the road was redone placing tar just before the Jan. 8 election. It was not a job hurriedly done. However, all worked stopped after the election. We thought that work might recommence once the election fever subsided. Nothing happened. So the outcome is a half tarred road with lots of bumps (UPFA economic programme) and the second half with muddy holes (UNP economic programme)! When I was asked by one of the journalists how I see the change that occurred in Jan. 8 I cited the condition of the road that I use every day as an example. Does the UNP led coalition now have an economic strategy? Not yet clear! Champika Ranawaka on behalf of the UNFGG has recently claimed that they would in next five years adopt ‘social market economy’. Social market economy was the right wing version of social democracy. It produced some positive results during ‘late capitalism’ especially in Germany. However, it is now an abandoned strategy and in the context of neoliberal globalization, it does not have practical relevance.

 

Comrade Keuneman’s phrase that the UNP’s vision and policies on economy is sterile and senile is also valid for today. It is the dominant party in the January coalition. It does not have an economic strategy that could take the country out of the economic mess. It will just follow the neoliberal agenda designed by the Washington consensus. The same measures that Germany has imposed on Greece. Chinese military strategist cum philosopher Sun Tzu wrote: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.

 

The writer is the Dean, Faculty of Management and Finance, SANASA Campus (personal capacity).

 

e-mail: [email protected]

One Response to “Economic Sterility of the January 8 Coalition”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.

    – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    UNP has NO economic, defence or nation building strategy. It just follows what NEW DELHI, WASHINGTON, LONDON, CHENNAI, TGTE, GTF instructions.

    The UNP TITANIC has sunk!!

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