If Britain can cozy up to China, why can’t Sri Lanka?
Posted on October 26th, 2015

Ranga Jayasuriya Courtesy The Daily Mirror

Last week saw a curious event of pomp and funfair-and political realism-that highlighted how far the States would go to maximize their benefits, even at the expense of their allies. Britain rolled out the red carpet for Xi Jinping, the Chinese President who rode in a gilded royal carriage to the Buckingham Palace with the Queen seated alongside, and was hosted in a series of banquets and signed trade deals running into billions of dollars, including a 30% investment in a new British nuclear power plant. Since the United States, Britain’s old ‘special friend’ is hedging against the rising (and increasingly assertive) China, the British cozying up with the Middle Kingdom would not go down well in Washington. That is in addition to all the righteous concerns of human rights that were put on hold in the rush for China’s gold.When all is said and done, this however vindicates one immutable premise in international relations: States are rational self interested actors driven to maximize profit. With its ultimate national security being guaranteed by the NATO (of which the overwhelming burden is taken care of by the US, the status quo power), Britain is luring China, the challenger and a potential revisionist power for the sheer allure of economic benefits that a rapprochement would bring. And long term economic benefits for Britain in its thaw with Beijing, most analysts say  would be huge in terms of investment and exports in high end sectors such as education and finances, in which Britain always has a qualitative edge.

Now, see how our new Government conducted itself since it came to power in January this year. It suspended a number of major infrastructure development projects; many of which were funded by China. Various justifications were given, ranging from inflated project cost, corruption and the other usual culprit, flimsy environmental concerns.  Since most of them were later resumed, some with certain cost reductions, but also sans, some of the flyovers, lanes and interchanges that were in the initial blueprints, one would now ask whether all the pre-election brouhaha was political gimmick. For instance, the Cabinet has now granted green light to the Kadawatha-Kerawalapitiya section of the Colombo Outer Circular Highway (OCH) to be built according to an amended Blueprint,  according to which, an inter change has been removed and the length and height of viaducts were reduced. However, it comes at a 39% reduction of the initial cost.

“If Sri Lanka is to leapfrog from our current development level, we have to adopt laws in land acquisition, environment or labour etc, to be compatible with our current economic and social standards. “

The opaque nature of the former regime’s handling of the economy and, especially, mega projects caused reasonable concerns about corruption and malpractices. However, a large part of the initial reaction was driven by political considerations and meant to discredit the ex-President’s role in the country’s infrastructure drive. Mahinda Rajapaksa can be blamed for many things, but his regime’s track record in revamping the country’s infrastructure landscape is salutary. Without his pro-active, perhaps corrupt and obviously nepotist leadership and Chinese loans; some of which were obtained at a higher interest, we would have stuck in our own infrastructure gridlock.

His predecessor spent her two terms arguing and quarrelling over project plans, whereas MR built.  This Government should pick up from where he left. Instead, it is vacillating. Perhaps, our civil society is too busy in deliberating on higher values of constitutionalism, democracy and a political solution to the ethnic problem, to talk sense to the present Government about the sad economic reality.  All those noble ideas of democracy would be in vain if the country failed to create sufficient wealth to sustain that society.  To that end, we need physical infrastructure and investment. Perhaps, the Government should listen to the German ambassador in Colombo. Last week, in an event organized by the Business Council of Chamber of Commerce, he said that the Government had still not introduced a proper economic policy framework to attract foreign direct investment. This is a clear indication that the country lacks the capability of implementing an economic development framework, he said.

One of the glaring examples of that policy paralysis is the Government’s vacillation over the largest single foreign investment to date: The $ 1.4 billion-Colombo Port City, which is expected to bring in $ 13 billion in foreign direct investment by its completion and add one per cent to the country’s GDP. The contradictory signals the Government is sending over the Port City project, which was suspended in January are mind-boggling. Now the underlining concerns over the project are said to be environmental, though, it is not so much a secret that much has to do with geopolitics. This is bad economics and bad politics. Countries at our development level should look for all available inward foreign direct investment. That is exactly why first Executive President JR Jayawardene, who unshackled  the Sri Lankan economy famously said, ‘Let robber barons come’.  That could have been the same logic MR had in mind when he tried to bring in Australian gaming mogul James Packer. That was not a bad idea though the moralists in Colombo were disturbed by the prospect of prostitution in casinos; which is the least concern in a country of which hundreds of thousands of women are condemned to toil in abusive Arab households.

“It suspended a number of major infrastructure development projects; many of which were funded by China.”

It is always good to stand on the side of  the free world, in principle, however, trying to give practical expression to those rhetoric by our own accord or due to someone’s dictat, is counter-productive for countries like ours. Now, the Government could ask its Western friends, if Britain could share its nuclear security with China, what the fuzz with us leasing a portion of reclaimed land to a State-owned Chinese company? The bottom line is that no one else would bring in a hefty load of red Yuan as China. As the Chinese economy is slowing down and the country is shifting from its debt- fuelled infrastructure-driven growth to other avenues, Beijing is looking for more and more opportunities to invest overseas, especially in infrastructure, at which China excels. Sri Lanka should try to make it a welcoming market to Chinese investors (and its growing legions of tourists). At present, we are doing quite the opposite.

Also, perhaps the Government should also tell those busy bodies of environmental industry to go and fly a kite (In fact, Indian PM Modi did that). If Sri Lanka is to leapfrog from our current development level, we have to adopt laws in land acquisition, environment or labour etc, to be compatible with our current economic and social standards. Our current laws and regulations on those accounts are not meant to facilitate the growth, but to stifle it.

This Government is free of the burden of terrorism. The best it could do to its people is to create wealth. To that end, it should think about the self-interest of the country, and by extension of its people, more than anything else. If David Cameron and Osborne — Ranil Wickremesinghe’s mates in  the International Democratic Union —  could do that, the new Government in Colombo should well be able to emulate them.

Follow Ranga Jayasuriya @ RangaJayasuriya on twitter.

– See more at: http://www.dailymirror.lk/92545/if-britain-can-cozy-up-to-china-why-can-t-sri-lanka#sthash.iYacOa2i.dpuf

8 Responses to “If Britain can cozy up to China, why can’t Sri Lanka?”

  1. Nihal Perera Says:

    Current Sri Lankan regime and its leaders are bloody idiots who are clueless about the new world order, and the new economic powers. They are still stuck in their colonial mentality thinking West is the best. The world is a different place today, and China sets the economic rules. UK recognise this reality and goes all out, in spite of US objections, to roll out the red carpet for the Chinese leader. US is no longer the economic power it used to be. West in general has reached its peak and slowly going down, economically and politically.

    Sri Lanka was able to develop its economy, infrastructure, etc., so fast thanks to China within almost 5 years, after the war. MR must be commended for realising the facts and getting China to help Sri Lanka, which is the only way any country in the developing world can develop its economy and infrastructure, etc.. Even India realise this fact.

    Unfortunately, our idiots in Sri Lanka going the wrong way still licking the boots of the colonial masters…!

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Well said Nihal.

    Even a PRO-UNP newspaper has realized this now!!

    Endia = DISASTER

    China = PROSPERITY

    UK also joined China’s AIIB against US dictates. US EVIL EMPIRE is collapsing.

  3. L Perera Says:

    Ranga – Cozy is too polite and mild. Cameron is sucking up to the Chinese.

  4. Sooriarachi Says:

    Good leaders are hard to replace. Just like there could never be another Prabakaran, whose brutal qualities were exploited by anti-Sri Lankan forces, I don’t think, in our generation, we’ll find a brave patriotic leader like Rajapakse who wanted Sri Lanka to regain freedom from terrorism, and embark on a path of rapid economic development in the shortest possible time, whilst maintaining Sri Lanka’s neutrality. Sirisena might have good intentions, but so far he has not shown a progressive vision for the nation’s good, having stopped most of the major development projects so important for the future of the nation in the coming 20 to 50 years.
    To achieve these goals, why is it wrong for Sri Lanka lease out a part of the Colombo Harbour to China, in return for major development work, when according to recent reports, even country’s like Australia have already given to China a 99 year lease of the strategically important Darwin Harbour in the North, the gateway to Asia, and are in negotiation with China to lease out even more Harbours, including the Melbourne harbour. Also, when the Chinese President and wife visited England last week, he was afforded right Royal treatment, including accommodation in the Buckingham Palace, underlining the importance of China, in this century. Why are we so politically blinded and cant be realistic?

  5. LANKAPUTHRA Says:

    Mr. Sooriarchi, thank you for bringing the harbor issue. Orders from Muslim OBAMA to RANIL PUNK is to close down the Hambantotta harbor. This was the assignment RANIL PUNK Gave to Mee Haraka De Silva. Air Port is already closed but it was built by the Chinese and they blocked the loan process, so Ranil punk went to India, but could not allocate any development loans because Mody wanted to spend all resources on developing India and Suggested to RANIL PUNK that the Parliament should be closed down and stop any development of roads and Railways. Then the mighty Indian Railway construction company, based in California told Mody we have contract to develop the Railway Signaling system and you cannot stop it. Mody backed down. RANIL PUNK came back with nothing. Then he went to Japan stating that Japan invited him, then Japanese Prime minister told him Drop the charges against the former head of the Navy, Karanagoda. Which he did. So he came back and reported to OBAMA, who is in a twist in US. Chinese wanted Mee Haraka De Silva removed from Air Port and Harbor Minister so he took him out and created a ministry as minister of state. I can go on and on but may I ask you who elected this Government. My answer is: The Election Commissioner. He stopped the computer and modified the result and restarted it. There is a problem with MR as well. He MUST Hold a Political meeting in Killinochchi as soon as possible to tell Tamils that it is better to be with Sinhala than with India, because some states like Karanthaka hates Tamils. (Kranathaka riots killed at least 5,000 Tamils and set fire to their homes.)

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    In the case of Sri Lanka “Sauce for the goose ain’t sauce for the gander” i.e. what is ok for big countries isn’t right for poor little Lanka ! Lanka must not succeed in the Economy Game as then other drooling & cheating big boys can’t control Lanka and wag Lanka like a dead rat caught in the teeth of a jackal. It is that simple, isn’t it ?

    Spineless Yahap is bootlicking bullies.

  7. Cerberus Says:

    How did Lanka get into this pathetic state of being bullied ?
    It is because of the Tamil Diaspora offering all time boot licking via the Fed State > Eelam ?

    Tamil Diaspora formed because of the trumped up 1983 Riots during JRJ’s time. In return for the Riots which enabled the Tamil Diaspora to be formed by Tamils going abroad (esp to Canada, UK & Europe) as REFUGEES, the LTTE “thanked” the UNP by massacring the UNP leadership (Lalith A., Gamani D., Premadasa etc.).

    If Eelam forms some day, then it is thanks to Ranil led UNP & CBK, isn’t it ?

    If Eelam forms it is dissent and war in Lanka, as any Eelam will join up with earlier breakaway state of Tamil Nadu.

    If Eelam forms Tamil Nadu will impose the Caste System on the Eelam Tamils.

    It is a no win situation for both Lanka & India, Sinhala & Tamil people of Lanka.

  8. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Chinese will always guarantee the sovereignty of the country. When you are with the mighty Chinese
    all those bad rashes india, us, uk, germany, norway, canada, france, etc etc who is hell bent on breaking up
    Sri Lanka stay away. Not just uk, so called super power us owe the Chinese trilions and trillions of dollars. Literally,
    the Chinese own America. That’s how powerful and rich they are!

    For our ignorant idiots, west is the best. Chinese are the best anti biotic for all the bad rashes us, uk, france, Germany,
    india, etc. etc. They just leave Sri Lanka alone when the Chinese around. Proof?

    We’ve seen what the Chinese influence brought during the MR era. CTTD (catholic tigers of tamil dreelam) gone in just
    18 months. Then we got motorways, city centres etc in a very short time. But for some traitor Sinhalese, that’s
    no good. They want to help create tamil dreelam!

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