Crisis, confusion and moral right
Posted on October 3rd, 2018

The Editorial Courtesy The Island

Thursday 4th October, 2018

Desperate measures the government has adopted in a bid to tackle the current economic crisis have irked its yahapalana ally, the JVP, beyond measure. The latter has said the former has no moral right to restrict imports and ask the people to tighten belts. Here, we have an outfit which considers itself Marxist flaying a capitalist party for opting for statist policies, albeit temporarily, by way of crisis management!

Ironically, this confused situation has come about under a UNP-led government, which celebrated the 40th anniversary of the introduction of open economic policies, only a year ago. Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara points out in his latest book, Danawadayata Vikalpayak (‘Alternative to Capitalism’) that to mark the aforesaid occasion, the UNP published a newspaper advertisement with a picture of a small girl eating an apple as if to tell the public that they would not have been able to eat apples but for the change of government in 1977.

However, given the government’s desperation, the day may not be far off when apple imports will have to be stopped to strengthen the rupee. J. R. Jayewardene, who opened up the economy and liberalised trade, must be turning in his grave.

Socialism may not be able to make a comeback with a vengeance. Capitalism is also not free from existential problems. The US has adopted some protectionist policies which, the Trump administration says, have worked for that country; about ten years ago, an unprecedented state intervention had to be made to bail out the American banking system during a disastrous financial meltdown. What we have witnessed in the US runs counter to the tenets of capitalism.

The JVP has torn into the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government for restricting imports, ranging from cars to lentils or parippu, without curtailing its extravagant spending. It has said two cars worth about Rs. 600 million were imported for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and President Maithripala Sirisena also got similar vehicles. One can agree with the JVP that the government has no moral right to ask the people to adopt austerity measures while the yahapalana leaders and their kith and kin are living high on the hog. They are seen savouring sangria at Shangri-La.

The yahapalana propagandists are trying to make light of the current crisis, but they cannot fool the people. The Central Bank (CB) has already released USD 184 million in a desperate bid to shore up the rupee. This method is effective, but the CB cannot go on releasing millions of dollars indefinitely in this manner. The government has to get its act together on the economic front urgently and do everything in its power to attract foreign investment in adequate amounts. But, given rampant corruption, inefficiency, etc. within the government ranks and the country’s low ranking on the ease of doing business index, this is a tall order.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is reported to have directed some state institutions to prepare strategies to overcome the present crisis so that they can be implemented when he returns from his current overseas tour. This course of action is like giving swimming lessons to a drowning man!

The JVP is one of the main architects of the present regime and had a slot at the yahapalana high table after the 2015 regime change; it was represented at the National Executive Council under the interim government (Jan-August 2015). It was also given the post of the Chief Opposition Whip for services rendered.

Now that the JVP has questioned the yahapalana leaders’ moral right to do what they are doing, and embarked on a campaign to oust the current dispensation, the question is whether its leader has any moral right to function as the Chief Opposition Whip any longer.

Shouldn’t the JVP give up what it has got from the yahapalana government it is purportedly planning to dislodge?

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