NO to ETCA: Sri Lanka’s Business Community put Nation before Profit
Posted on October 4th, 2016

Shenali D Waduge

Without a doubt the private sector plays a crucial role in steering the economy of Sri Lanka. Even in adverse times Sri Lanka managed to keep afloat. The capitalist system however is failing globally. Once rich and flourishing nations are all in decline. There is imbalances everywhere. Even the US is trillions in debt. Elsewhere in Europe there is a migrant crisis as a result of the bogus military interventions taking place, again these interventions will only benefit the companies and banks that funded the war coffers. Sri Lanka’s corporate world cannot overlook ground political realities. In such a climate all investments and agreements must necessitate a broader understanding of the ramifications to the country both mid-term and long term inspite of short term profit. The business community of Sri Lanka must put Country First.

Lets’ first look at the global economic structure.

Countries are made to open markets and grow cash crops where all that is grown ends up exported and the people end up paying for imported goods. The businessmen of course reaps the profits. This is not sustainable development. A nation’s victims of the cash crop end up facing economic hardships and eventually the nation too suffers. A good look at the trade deals over the years proves this.

Free-market neoliberal dogma increases competition through deregulation and opening domestic markets to foreign competitors. The victims are social welfare systems, health, domestic labor laws and environmental laws. We see that now happening. Foreigners eventually end up taking back more than they have put in. Politicians are easily influenced because they are pressed for investment and money to sustain their own political existence.

The current government has not understood the magnitude of the situation they have created for themselves. They have been euthanized by wanting to please the so-called international community and fallen prey to pats of their back thereby foolishly abdicating the powers of the State to external forces aligned to NGOs on foreign payroll.

Privatizing initiatives now being ironed out through public private partnership programs (another proven failure) will further limit and diminish the role of the State.

In privatizing state assets and liberalizing economic policies to foreign transnational companies (virtually on par with world governments) Sri Lanka will come under foreign rule. We are drafting a scenario where UN and IMF-WB will end up running Sri Lanka!

When will people wake up to the fact that IMF-WB and the WTO have created a framework to suit elite politician-corporate nexus across the world. GDP growth and per capita consumption model has only promoted debt, ravaged environments and left people in squalor.

IMF and WB advocate neoliberal economics which in other words is maximum market freedom and minimum state intervention. In such a scenario the presence of Indian businesses and Indian people in Sri Lanka is going to drastically affect all of the people including the local business community since the state monopoly will also be reduced and they will not be able to come to their assistance in their own country (govt functions will soon be taken over by private enterprises)

These changes have come slyly. Unknown to third world governments the IMF and World Bank have spent on training to tap opinion-makers and decision makers (state legislators, civil society, bureaucrats, media etc) and who have been spoon fed on the proposed economic framework hypnotizing them to accept the structural adjustments and then tasked to coerce the public.

For those who boast of open market economic success – let them show examples of where IMF-WB structural adjustments in the form of currency devaluation, liberalizing of economy, privatizing public assets, relaxing environmental laws, removing safeguards for employees in labor laws, removing subsidies have benefitted the masses?

Statistics show the economic gap between 1% haves and 99% have-nots increasing resulting in further tensions and future calamities.

What we have is the elitism of the 1% not realizing that they are sitting on a virtual volcano even though they do not wish to surrender their profit.

The UN too has warned of a global fallout from debt crisis in poor countries.

The IMF and WB as a result of their neoliberal policies stand guilty of

  • Causing severe environmental degradation
  • Crashing Third World economies
  • Reducing public welfare systems – health, education etc
  • Create rising unemployment (with ETCA Sri Lankans unemployment will rise)
  • Increase in food prices / fuel prices

What we now see is that at the one hand the IMF-WB is pushing for these very harsh changes from a bankrupt Sri Lankan Government which cannot dictate terms while India is demanding the Sri Lankan Government sign the ETCA entailing Indians to virtually take over Sri Lanka with time. Is the Sri Lankan business community bothered about this scenario or have they not even thought of this scenario?

Can a handful of Sri Lankan business community compete with over 1.3million active private companies in India?

What the Sri Lankan Government and Sri Lankan business community must also be aware of is that India’s economic policy is currently dictated by the IMF-WB and WTO combination which are controlled by the US. Incidentally Manmohan Singh the former Indian PM was a WB employee and when he became PM he made Montek Ahluwahlia the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and Ahluwahlia was from IMF while the RBI Governor R Rajan was also at IMF. Connect the dots and connect the people!

Of course Indian billionaires have increased but the poor have become poorer too. There are 111 billionaires in India – According to WB 276 million people, lived below $1.25 per day.

Before India comes to help Sri Lanka, shouldn’t India help its own people?


We know that India is not the India pre-1994 – it is a country where neoliberalism influences all 3 pillars of governance including the judicial functions (Essar/Ambani tapes).


There are also accusations that governments end up tweaking statistics just to attract investments. Contrary to what is being projected privatization has not delivered the goods and the scenario will worsen if privatization is handed to foreigners. Have we forgotten the many foreign investors who jumped the ship during President Premadasa’s reign. How many factories were abandoned with these foreigners scooting off with the profits? In opening up the entirety of the country are we not committing hara kiri once more?

Sri Lanka is a small island nation. We are just 20million people. Our immediate neighbour has a population of 1.3billion. Let’s admit – we have never had good relations even diplomatically. We are dealing with a country that even Prabakaran the LTTE leader did not trust. We are dealing with a country that introduced terrorism and Tamil militancy including separatist ideology. That same country is fanning the separatism once more. All these are with intent to continue to destabalize Sri Lanka while economically enveloping Sri Lanka into its fold in an effort that reaps irreversible results. Why are we knowingly walking into traps?

As a small nation Sri Lanka can easily flourish. All we need is a country-centric plan. We have all the wherewithal to develop.

CEPA proposed in 2008 initially resurfaced in 2013 – Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement involves service sector enabling Indians to enter into Sri Lanka. Knowing the opposition the government would probably agree to phase out the clauses. Whether it happens today, tomorrow or a few years’ time, this single agreement is detrimental to the demography of Sri Lanka and if it affects the demography it will certainly affect every citizen of the country as well.

Business people can vouch that dealings with India is no piece of cake. Inspite of existing agreements Indian officials give a hard time to Sri Lanka’s business community – letters are not honoured, undue taxes and demurrage are just a handful of issues they face. Instead of addressing fallacies in them why are we walking into another bigger more dangerous agreement? These are questions that every businessmen in Sri Lanka must be asking. They should not leave it only to the business organizations, many of these entities are compromised and heavily influenced.

Let’s look at some statistics and then think of the ramifications.

  • There are 422,446 unemployed in Sri Lanka majority of whom are women – why cannot they be employed by local companies?
  • India’s unemployment is 44.79 Million in 2012. The difference is shocking. Open service sector, these people will arrive and companies will jump to give them jobs at lower salaries but years later what will happen when they settle down and refuse to go given that all labor laws would have changed to suit the foreigners?
  • India produces 50,000 doctors annually. According to WHO report 57% of the doctors in India, are not doctors at all, just quakes – imagine even half of this number coming to work in Sri Lanka’s hospitals just because they agree to a lesser rate from the private hospitals. The hospitals will profit but what is the outcome for the patients being treated by quakes?
  • 1.5million engineering students pass out annually in India – however over 80% of them are unemployable as per study by Aspiring Minds National Employability Report –imagine these engineers being employed for half of the salaries demanded by Sri Lankan qualified engineers and companies employ them looking only at the low cost!
  • 1 in 5 primary teachers do not possess the requisite qualifications to teach in India. There are 17,100 unqualified teachers are working in publicly funded schools across England – do we want to build an illiterate generation of youth by bringing in Indian teachers for cheap?do not have the requisite qualifications to teach young not have the requisite qualifications to teach young not have the requisite qualifications to teach young children
  • Just look how many Indian foreign BPOs have laid off Indian staff – all these are now searching employment together with the 45million unemployed in India. They will agree to do any job for any salary because they know how hard it is to get a job in India.

Nevertheless, Sri Lankans and in particular the Sri Lankan business community must while placing the Country First also think about giving preference to the Sri Lankan employees first as well. As it has to be a win-win situation it is good for some programs to be organized for people themselves to realize that they too need to change their attitudes and improve their employability and realize that their jobs can be easily taken over by foreigners in particular Indians who if the ETCA is signed can not only open shops in Sri Lanka but bring their families and have them work in these companies as well. We know that already many Indians arrive as tourists and work in Sri Lanka and return to India before their visa is over, renew their visa and return to Sri Lanka and their earnings are taken with them!

Small, medium or large businesses in Sri Lanka cannot live in isolation without understanding the global economic fundamentals most of which are aligned to politics. Look at how UN is plugging human rights into considerations for various loans/grants to governments. All these are wicked means to further stifle development of developing nations. In such a scenario it is only if a country and its people in particular the business community are united and protect the nation and its people that we can build a wall against the multiple influences and plots taking place.

Therefore the Sri Lankan Business Community is requested to seriously think and assess the situation not from the lens of making self-profit but from the need to protect the nation and its people first.

Shenali D Waduge

Further reading

12 Responses to “NO to ETCA: Sri Lanka’s Business Community put Nation before Profit”

  1. Christie Says:

    Shenali the so called Sri Lankan Business community is Indian Colonial Parasite merchants. This started with the 1840 Trade Registration Ordinance.(If I remember correct). British-Indian Empire did not make it easier for the locals to register and Indian colonial parasites prospered. Most pf these parasites came to the island without a penny as they did in arriving other colonies tropical colonies.

    That is why Banda was put in place and then Sirisena.

  2. AnuD Says:

    If the Sri lankan business communityi s Indian, they will never like Indians as employees. Even Indians don’t like indians. the reason is they are very cunning and difficult to manage. Sinhala – people, in that sense, are innocent and easily manageable. Indians do not mind whether their company goes bankrupt or not. they look after themselves always.

  3. AnuD Says:

    US is importing every smaller item. So, Sri lanka also has got some peanuts. but, when the Sri lankan govt gives just one contract to a law – firm, Lobbyiest or a consulting firm, that money comes back.

    Increasing slaries do not work for Sri lanka exceot for politicians who get votes.

    US ikept on increasing salaries, out sourced the manufacturing of smaller items to thrid world countries and they built mega cities in which all handled international businesses. These businesses earn money bye selling larger itmes such as machines. they earn money by selling internationlized dollar. Even petroleum business is mostly changeing the dollar from hands to hand and from that they earn money from the fluctuating dollar. NOw that economy is disintegrating. but, they want other country to stay in that because it works for them.

  4. Sirih Says:

    Few yrs ago, local bookie was was the head of SLT and involved with upgrading the IP network.. Cisco won the contract and Cisco india was handling the sale… bookie put his relative with a dummy company in SL and indian cisco office inflated US2 million as kappam to the bookie.
    Implementation was done by the SL company and its manger approached me at Bangkok Cisco even and told me about this 2 million bribery issue and asked my help… I was a Cisco BU head but not involved with apacj sales. Since its a global event, I immediately set up a meeting with Cisco apacj VP and told him to not to give in to this indian bribing SLT head.
    All hell start to break and US asked me to go to colombo and fix this… I told Cisco CEO that aim not a salesman and this is nothing to do with me.. He told me Iam a Sri Lankan and pls. go and fix it since US cannot trust the indian office. I told US, I would do this on one condition, that is Cisco must open a SL office and report to Spore and not india.
    I came to colombo and stayed at hilton and also had a body guard since I was told bookie and the indian now know the issue at hand.
    I met the Japanese SLT, CEO and told him bluntly that if you allow this to happen I will go public and he pretend that he did not know this but some how he will fix it. Later it was fixed but also Cisco got Colombo office.
    Last last year when I checked I was told colombo cisco office now run by indians, so the whole exercise was in vain and some how indians got control of the colombo office. I blame the SL govt. for allowing indians to run overseas offices based in colombo.
    In china they will never allow this since I ran Cisco R&D in China and know the rules.
    Also I found out that so many foreign based company reps are in colombo illegally and our govt. is keeping a blind eye to this practice.
    The whole ETCA issue need to be checked and must go through the parliament select committee with industry experts and academics from SL to check the whole document. Unfortunately Ranil is out of his depth here and hope he get expert help to formulate this deal.

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    Endians working in SL are very cunning. They get FREE FOOD and FREE LODGING as part of the deal. This is UNFAIR. They should be given a flat salary and let them find their food and lodging.

    Already tens of thousands of Endians are working in SL ILLEGALLY in white collar jobs.

  6. plumblossom Says:

    India has over 400 million poor people and over 40 million people in India are unemployed. If this ETCA is signed and the Hanuman bridge is built all these desperate people in India will come in droves to Sri Lanka since the socio-economic situation of Sri Lanka is a million times better than the socio economic situation of India. I would urge the uncaring and cruel Indian government to provide basic housing, clean water, sanitation, healthcare, education, food and clothing to these desperately poor 400 million Indians rather than spending US 5.2 billion dollars in building a Hanuman bridge to Sri Lanka. If Sri Lanka signs this ETCA with India it will be Sri Lanka’s end. Sri Lanka should not sign any such trade deals where people can come here to work freely, unless the country we are signing the ETCA with has a similar or a better socio-economic situation than Sri Lanka. I would urge the uncaring, corrupt and cruel India Government to immediately stop building space stations and nuclear weapons and use that money to provide basic housing, clean water, sanitation, healthcare, education, food and clothing to the 400 million desperately poor people of India which is a government’s basic responsibility. Sri Lanka should stop immediately the signing of ETCA with India and urge the Indian Government to carry out the above task rather than serving the rich people of India only which the uncaring and cruel Indian Government seems to be doing.

  7. plumblossom Says:

    It is best to counter the wide ranging privatization of state assets programme of the UNP which envisages privatising even healthcare, water, electricity etc., to ensure that the rice farmer is empowered and not destroyed as this yahapalanaya government is doing and to ensure that 2600 years of rice farming is not destroyed, to ensure that other crop growers get a fair deal for their produce, to encourage local industries and companies by taxing imports, to create and empower and rehabilitate local industries like the Valachchanai paper plant, Puttlam, and KKS cement factories, Kanthale and Pelawatta sugar factories, to build new tyre producing factories, to build new fish tin canning factories, to build new fruit juice, jam producing factories, to create a more efficient food storage and transport to market system including proper storage and refrigeration of vegetables, fruits etc., to encourage local companies by taxing imports, to encourage school leavers to take up vocational training programmes and to create a vocational training to youth employment creation programme where youth are helped to start up their own SMEs, to change our diet from a wheat based diet to a rice based diet, to encourage farmers to produce our own milk by encouraging the dairy industry and to build factories to produce our own powdered milk etc.

  8. plumblossom Says:

    Dr.Garvin Karunaratne Sir,

    Your articles are very inspiring and totally accurate. I agree that we need to produce our own food and create a more efficient system to convey perishable food items from farm to market. I also agree that with so much vegetables and fruit, we need some plants to produce our own fruit juice and jams. We need the Palewatte and Kanthale sugar factories to produce our own sugar. We need to reinstate the KKS, Puttlam cement factories and the Valachchanei paper factory.

    We need to reinstate a tyre producing factory. We also need a number of fish tin canning factories. We need to convert from a wheat based diet to a rice and kurakkan based diet. We need to encourage our own industries and entrepreneurs by taxing imports. We need to reinstate the handloom industry.

    We need more vocational training colleges and most importantly a comprehensive vocationally trained youth to employment programme where the youth are helped start their own SMEs and helped until they succeed.

    We need to vastly improve our dairy industry by importing milk cows and ensuring that we produce all the required milk we need. We need to build our own milk power producing factories. We also need to expand massively Sathosa and the cooperative system islandwide.

    We also need a number of organic/ inorganic fertilizer producing factories.

    If we do all this by taxing imports and encouraging local farmers, vocationally trained youth to employment programme by encouraging youth to start SMEs, local industries we will be able to reduce spending our foreign exchange, create massive employment opportunities, reduce massively cost of food and develop our country further.

  9. plumblossom Says:

    This UNP is trying to privatise state enterprises suggesting that they are loss making. I would like to point out to this treacherous UNP Government that they have no right to privatise any state enterprises since they belong to the people of Sri Lanka in general and is not their private property to privatise as they wish. If state enterprises are loss making, appoint a good management team to manage the state enterprise properly. This treacherous UNP Government is privatising state enterprises citing loss making as an excuse since they are also privatising even profit making state enterprises. Actually this UNP Government is selling all state enterprises to their friends in high places and to companies of those foreign powers who helped them come to power monetarily and via totally false propaganda during their election campaign and this is their pay back.

    We would warn any buyer of any state enterprises being privatised by this treacherous UNP Government that as soon as a a new Government comes to power, all these selling of state enterprises will be considered null and void and anyone who buys up any of these state enterprises will have to bear the loss of buying any state enterprise. Therefore we urge all potential buyers not to buy any state enterprise since as soon as a new Government comes to power, all such selling of state enterprises will be considered null and void and they will only end up making a loss.

  10. Nimal Says:

    Just to inform you that spent most of my junior engineering days in BT setting up CISCO and Sun system routers.

  11. Nimal Says:

    Politicians are extravagant and the taxpayers like the business people have to work hard under trying conditions to make a profit and pay their share of taxes for the extravagance of the politicians.Today most of my workers from the same village didn’t turn up,the reason was a funereal that wasn’t.
    This morning there was a demonstration in the streets wanting more wages that the tea estate find it difficult to earn.

  12. Fran Diaz Says:

    From Yahap govt. :

    ETCA for INDIA, plus other Grand Plans :

    – Sea Tunnel to Tamil Nadu
    – 5,000 acres lots on 99 yr leases to foreigners
    – New Constitution – what might that bring ?

    Also, add the very possible TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), where TRADE will be under foreign control. TPP rules will prevail over local law.
    This would be the cherry on the Yahap Cake offered to the Nation – such a lovin’ govt !!

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