The bigger, the better?
Posted on August 3rd, 2018

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has done a President Maithripala Sirisena. Whenever the government takes unpopular decisions and riles the public in the process, the President, invariably, claims to be unaware of them. His stock excuse is that he has got to know about them from the newspapers. What a song and dance he made about the recent fuel price hikes; he went so far as to halt their implementation only to make an about-turn a few days later.

Now, the PM is reported to have demanded to know from the Finance Ministry how long the massive increase in import duties on small cars is going to last. The impression he has given the public is that the highly unpopular move, which has sent the ordinary people reeling, has been made unbeknownst to him.

The yahapalana leaders ought to realise that the masses are no asses; they have their own way of taking revenge; they dealt a knuckle sandwich to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015 and gave both President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe a body blow each at the last local government polls.

In times of forex crunches, imports have to be controlled to prevent the depletion of foreign reserves. Such measures make economic sense. The rupee is depreciating rapidly against the US dollar, aggravating the country’s balance of payment woes. The economic pundits of the yahapalana government have manifestly failed to manage the economy properly, much less live up to people’s expectations. They promised economic miracles and gave the state workers a huge pay hike immediately after coming to power. They now regret having ever done so. Never did they tell the public that the going would be tough due to debt servicing and other such issues.

The government and the country are in the current predicament because the yahapalana leaders’ dream of receiving funds from their foreign masters did not materialise. Promises are said to be like babies—easy to make but hard to deliver. It may be recalled that the UNP-led UNF government crashed in 2004 because the US and other self-appointed Co-Chairs of Sri Lanka’s peace process did not honour their aid pledge (USD 4.5 bn). A similar fate has befallen the UNP-led yahapalana administration without any financial assistance from its international allies.

The problem is not the government adopting measures to curtail imports to maintain dollar reserves as such, but the fact that its politicians do not care a tinker’s cuss about forex crunches when it comes to feathering their nests. If they led by example and opted for austerity measures themselves, the public would follow suit without complaining. But, the yahapalana leaders waste public funds to the tune of billions of rupees unconscionably to buy themselves super luxury vehicles while trying to save forex at the expense of the people who can afford only small cars. Their foreign junkets also cost Citizen Perera an arm and a leg.

The yahapalana alliance has been in power for more than three-and-a half years. If it had cared to develop the public transport sector and promote the use of renewable energy it would have been able to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuel and cut down on the import bill considerably. It promised flyovers, more trains, track development, solar power projects, expressways and monorail. If a mass rapid transit system had been introduced as promised, the demand for small cars would not have increased so drastically.

Thanks to the new duty hike, the ordinary people who were planning to buy small cars will have to suffer in congested buses and trains while the yahapalana leaders and their kith and kin move about in luxury vehicles. The government seems to think small is ugly and the bigger, the better.

3 Responses to “The bigger, the better?”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    There is a 250% salary increase for MPs but no one take this up! They are all part of the fraud on the people. At this rate people will lose faith in all political clans and the entire system.

  2. aloy Says:

    “If a mass rapid transit system had been introduced as promised, the demand for small cars would not have increased so drastically.”

    Nobody proposed this. What they are hellbent on providing is an LRT which will be an another white elephant to gain commissions. As you said what we need is an MRT to provide for the Sinhalas travelling from Kadawata, Wattala, Moratuwa in congested buses and trains where as the minorities live one on top of the other in Grandpass, Maligawata, Kotahena etc and have quick access to work places. Even if we start today it can be completed in stages and the problem can be solved in 10-15 years time. Get started on it now. Follow what Singapore has done. Get their help to plan and obtain funds from countries China or Japan if necessary.

  3. aloy Says:

    Sorry please correct as “….from countries like China or Japan”.

    And do not give salary increases to unproductive civil servants again just to gain votes from them and their dependents or recruit unproductive jobless graduates to put them in offices even without a chair to sit. Instead give them an allowance and place them on a training program to give some basic skills. As at now 50% graduates coming from universities out are useless and add to the burden of finding transport to Colombo.

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