Are we a Reckless and Profligate Nation?
Posted on April 15th, 2017
Dr Upatissa Pethiyagoda.
You may call it foresight, development, modernization, progress or whatever self-satisfying term that you like. I call it reckless profligacy, and I shall attempt to tell you why.
But first, we are broke and possibly soon join the ranks of “defaulters”, our exports (Tea Rubber and Coconuts) are as habitual, in the doldrums, we are jolly close to losing GSP Plus, our behavior is such that any thinking person would see the compelling need for “Hybrid Courts”, wild cat schemes for inappropriate “metal houses”, a little needed Port City and “Megapolis” are promoted with stubborn intent. Add to all this, the rash decision to jack-up Public Service (1.2 million) salaries by Rs 10,000/= per month, the Bond Scam fiasco, the obscene increase of MP bonanzas, Duty Free imports of needless vehicles, renting and re-furbishing of official houses and offices, the endless foreign jaunts, where it was explained in Parliament that 25 Ministers (Most have ceased or cared to ask “out of how many”?) were abroad. Mercifully, the President and Prime Minister (“& family”, as wedding invitations say) are seldom out together – each waiting to take the baton as the others return. Good for us, to have the rudder always in safe hands.
When all the indicators are dismal, and while an impotent “Blame Game” continues, a little speculation is permissible. The War, concluded in May 2009, was said to have cost us Rs 60 Million per day (less the necessary maintenance costs). Anyway, it is a huge amount of money saved – a hefty temptation for any spendthrift – especially when it has no identifiable owner. A massive and greedy cluster of Ministers have no difficulty of identifying “Projects”. After all, each has to score “Brownie Points” to secure tenure. As that Pithy Sinhala saying translates, “It is like tying ladders for leaping Monkeys”.
So, bigger the Project, the more likely it is to attract attention (not to mention that x% of “transmission losses”, increases with the value of x). So, the ploy is to trump up projects, exercising every ingenuity conceivable. Thus Electronic identity Cards and Driving Licences, Dialysis Units and Electro-osmosis Gear, Computers for every school (toilets can wait),
A handy word is “Policy”, used variously, but often equally well-expressed as idea, intention, goal, objective, plan, design and a multitude of other words. So, we have Policies for Agriculture, Health, Housing, Education, Foreign Affairs, Employment, Tourism and so much else. Does this mean that we have wandered aimlessly for the last 69 years? What the “Sanguinary Hades” have been doing then, without a compass to guide us? We have had so many “Policies” from time to time, so why more? Policy formulation means Consultancies – handy gifts for friends and relations. After all, we have amended the Constitution (The Supreme Law) no less than nineteen times, so why not periodic “policies”? It was hilariously (and solemnly) announced that 2018 will be declared as “The Year for the Alleviation of Poverty”. How thoughtful and attainable! What’s in it for 2019, since 2020 has already been designated Election (or Atonement) Year?.
We have disdained many sources of Income, passionately identified on Election Platforms, the Hundreds of Bank Accounts held for the LTTE by former leader-in-waiting Kumaran Pathmanathan? The 18 tons of gold not found in the Swimming Pool of Ambassador-designate ASP Liyanage? The stashes of Stolen Assets in Foreign Bank Accounts? The elusive Ukranian Envoy? These are all resources that were to be recovered and ample to meet every Budgetary need. Why not declare the rest of 2017 as “The Recovery of Loot Year”?
Our tank of National Resources is leaking faster than it is replenished. Those who spend money that they do not have are Reckless and Profligate. When such monies are committed for future generation to repay, we are Criminals.
Dr Upatissa Pethiyagoda.