Notes to the People “Four Wasted Years”: A Balance Sheet of Good Governance
Posted on May 16th, 2019

By Sumanasiri Liyanage Courtesy Ceylon Today

Political parties often times come to power making promises. As one of the TV advertisements says, politicians can avoid the blame by saying that they give promises” but not guarantees”. The so-called Yahapalana Government came to power on 8 January 2015. Parliamentary democracies seem to believe that a four or a five-year term is an adequate time to draw a balance sheet and to give once again a chance to the voters to revalidate their decision. A couple of weeks ago, the Annual Report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka giving a portrait of the Sri Lankan economy in the year 2018 was out. Anyone who wishes to write a balance sheet has to depend to a great extent on the data and figures given in the report. However, the economy is not the sole factor measuring the success or the failure of the Government. In my opinion, what is key to evaluate the performance of a Government is how people, especially the lower rung of society think about the Government that they elected four or five years ago. So I thought my point of departure would be different.

A Small Survey

I conducted a small survey posing two simple questions. The first question is: (1) If, you prefer to disclose, could you tell me to whom did you vote in the last presidential election held in January 2015? The second question was posed only to the people who disclosed their decision and the question read like this: (2) Assume, you live in January 2015 and are given a second chance to vote once again. In that case, would you make the same decision? I posed this question to very small sample of 25 women and men. Hence, I do not claim that the results are generalisable. Out of the 25, seven were tuk tuk drivers, 10 were daily train commuters, two were pensioners, four were school teachers and two were university lecturers.

Seven people refused to give an answer to the first question so were dropped out from the survey. Among the 18 persons who disclosed their decision in 2015 were seven tuk tuk drivers, seven train commuters, three school teachers and one university lecturer. Out of these 18 women and men, 15 stated that they would not vote like they did in 2015. Although a generalisable claim is not warranted from this small sample, one can reach a tentative conclusion that the voter consciousness has gradually changed in the last four years and people believe the responsibility lies with the Government itself.

The Economy

The Yahapalana coalition envisioned a faster economic growth and to make Sri Lanka a Singapore. According to Vision 2025, Sri Lanka will be included in a rich country category in year 2025. However, since 2015, Sri Lanka has experienced a sluggish growth record with only a marginal increase in per capita income. The following Table from the Annual Report 2018 shows the downturn of economic growth after 2015.

Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Dr. W A Wijewardena has the following to say about the pathetic situation of the Sri Lankan economy under Yahapalana government. However, an important line graph which has depicted the sad story of Sri Lanka’s economic performance during the last four-year period. Showing the annual real economic growth rate during the reign of the present Government, it has drawn a downward spiralling staircase with a growth of 5% in 2015 but falling continuously since then to reach the lowest stair of 3.2% in 2018. On average, the annual growth during this period has been at 4% and when it is adjusted for an annual population growth of about 1%, the real income per person, known as the Per Capita Income, has increased only by 3%, a rate much below the planned growth rate of 8% needed to become a rich country within a generation”. It was in this context he called the Yahapalana years of governance four wasted years which cannot be recovered by Sri Lanka now.”

The interesting point is that the growth record also demonstrates the bankruptcy of the IMF and World Bank Mullahs and their neoliberal fundamentalism. Future seems too bleak and the sluggish growth pattern will continue. As I have pointed out in my writings prior to the presidential election in 2015, the Yahapalana coalition did not have a plan based on proper analysis as far as economic development is concerned. It simply believed that saving money from eliminating corruption would pave the way for economic growth and development.

Waste and Corruption

The Government that came to power promising that it would eliminate corruption continued on the same path at increasing speed. It appears that the high priests of the Government were directly involved in the Bonds scam. The United National Party had shown in the past that it had a better record in economic management. However, the present Government may be named as the worst Government so far as economic management is concerned.

Defence and Security

Even a minimal State should provide defence and security to its citizens as its principal and key function. The event on Easter Sunday has proved that the present Government is incapable of performing this basic function. Terror attacks may come at unexpected times and places. However, in this instance it was a bolt from the blue for ordinary men and women but the same was not true for the high ranks of the Government. The clear lapse in the sphere of defence and security is part of the social ontology of the country.

Back to Survey Results

Let me go back to the survey results. The answer given by all seven tuk tuk drivers is interesting. They buy a three-wheeler on lease and so have to save some money to pay the finance. They all thought the decision they had made in 2015 was wrong. What led them to come to such a simple conclusion? My regular tuk tuk driver has informed me that business has become very bad after the Easter Sunday terror attack. He questioned the double standard of the Government. While it offers a concession package to tourist hotels and operators (he thought it was justified), the so-called price formula for petrol and diesel continues to be operative for three-wheeler drivers.

(The writer is a retired teacher of political economy.E-mail: [email protected])

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