Failures of the Caretaker Government—It Should be Replaced
Posted on June 20th, 2024

by Dr. Sunil Wimalawansa, MD, PhD, MBA, DSc., Prof of Medicine

With misplaced priorities, the caretaker government continues to make significant financial and policy errors that harm the country. It engages in untransparent secret deals and takes deliberately destructive and risky actions. With such a pitiful history and flawed policies designed to benefit themselves and stay in power, the trustworthiness of any member of parliament and the president is highly questionable. Meanwhile, the trend of intimidating and discrediting the judiciary under the parliamentary ‘cover-up’ by the unelected executive is unprecedented and threatens the democracy of Sri Lanka.

Flawed Policies, Misplaced Priorities, Tretcherous Laws by the Caretaker Government

To date, the caretaker government has failed to focus on economic recovery, a safety net for people experiencing poverty, and job creation. Instead, the government desperately attempts to pass new legislation with nothing to do with the economic recovery but to centralize and strengthen its power base. This is vivid in observing their actions of selling national assets (illegally), contracting unnecessary mega-projects when the country is bankrupt, benefitting themselves and their cronies, and suppressing freedom of speech, unity, progress, and growth. These short-sighted acts threaten the unitary nature and sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

The temporary caretaker government, led by an unelected president, is hastily privatizing national resources, public assets, and state-owned enterprises, despite they have no right to do so. Besides, they are blindly emulating failed and disastrous approaches aimed at destroying Sri Lankan culture, Family Units, and religious entities by introducing wholly unnecessary and dangerous trends like transgender and attempting to legalize marijuana (leading to an epidemic of addiction to hard drugs), prostitution, etc., seemingly driven by the USA (democratic party, leftist) agenda. These actions raise questions about whether these sales and long-term leases are meant to benefit the public or serve the personal gains of executives and their political survival.

None of the current politicians seem true patriots who love the country. The interventions mentioned have deep motives, intended to break the ties between the family and the religious entity (i.e., temple or church) and destroy the unique Sri Lankan culture, leading to a socialistic/communist system in Sri Lanka for political purposes. Nevertheless, these actions threaten the religious beliefs, family units, and culture of Sri Lankans, as well as the country’s unitary nature, security, and sovereignty. Moreover, these unnecessary and desperate actions by the executive will harm the economic recovery and long-term sustainability. If those mentioned are allowed to be enacted, Sri Lanka might end up like Venezuela.

Rotten Constitution and Worthless Amendments

The poorly constructed 1978 constitution has been tainted with multiple amendments to strengthen political authority and control over the public. None of the constitutional amendments enacted by the parliament over the past two decades were designed to help the country, economy, or its citizens. Instead, they were crafted to protect themselves, strengthen the political power base, restrain the judiciary, facilitate treasury looting, and open additional doors for corruption. None of the amendments benefitted we the people.”

Missed Opportunities and Out-of-Focus Plans

During the past two years, instead of reducing the deficit (and loans), government erroneous policies have significantly increased it. The executive (who opted to be the finance minister) must be made accountable for his failures to reduce government expenses (size), increase GDP (not what faithlessly portrayed recently), and reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio (i.e., comparing what a country owes with what it produces)  to a sustainable level—bring down to less than 90% allowing paying off high-interest loans. Two years was sufficient to implement actions to lower government expenses and increase productivity, exports, and GDP, allowing loan repayment. This would have re-established confidence among investors and creditors, balancing the budget, reducing the deficit, and creating a path to food and energy security and prosperity. However, the current government has completely failed in all these goals and targets, including restructuring debt properly.

Apart from enforcing multiple tax burdens that added more hardship to the population, it has done little to revamp economic growth, export industry, and reduce governmental expenditure. Despite the country’s bankruptcy, government expenses have increased, and it still relies on additional loans to run the government. The unelected president and conflicted cabinet continue failing to take crucial steps toward debt reduction and sustainable economic recovery—as per recent economic data, debt and interest payments have increased!

International Monetary Fund (IMF)—Are They Honest Brokers?

The dealings of the IMF in developing countries illustrate a duality of interest. They ensure the best deal for themselves—the capital and the interest paid to them first, while their enforced policies often keep the recipient countries poor with a poverty trap. The current IMF conditions that Sri Lankan leaders accept are beyond a debt trap—a death trap. As per the agreement, a significant portion of the 2023 IMF loan was paid back to the IMF to service previous loans,” allowing little to be utilized for the country’s growth. The IMF has provided no specific plan or solutions for the growth, expansion of exports or GDP but it prolonged public suffering.

Sri Lanka needs a complete system change and a change in people, replacing the current, tainted constitution. That should allow complete separation of the executive branch (which should be abolished soon with the new constitution) from the legislative and judiciary branches of the government. Without that, Sri Lanka has no bright future and will likely lose its unitary nature.

Qualities of the Leaders Sri Lanka Needs Now

The above summary shows the lack of honest leaders in Sri Lanka to recover from its current state. Sri Lanka needs new and younger leadership. Voters should make them all retire at the next presidential and parliamentary elections.

The country’s next leader must be young, preferably under 55, intelligent, able to multi-task, a true patriot, and a champion of honesty and integrity. He/she must be fully conversant with macroeconomics, uphold freedom of speech and the country’s laws, and treat all Sri Lankans equally. The new leader must be educated with a minimum degree from a credible university and 15+ years of business and international experience. Must be broad-minded, analytical, and capable of making data-driven, informed decisions and actions for the country’s benefit.

These qualities would allow the restoration of the economy and the confidence in all elected democratic institutions, appointed bodies, and the judiciary—i.e., protecting the interests of all Sri Lankans—united under one law, one flag, and one anthem. It must re-establish judiciary independence and eliminate corruption by creating United Sri Lanka” by replacing the current constitution as soon as possible. The country had a 76-year history of pitiful party-political maneuvering by failed selfish leaders only interested in maintaining power and benefiting themselves. For them, people and the country come last. So, why would any Sri Lankan trust or vote for the current lot of politicians?

Conclusion Sri Lanka needs new, competent leadership to steer the country (currently a sinking ship) away from economic and social disasters and ensure a prosperous future. The current government’s flawed policies and misplaced priorities harm the country’s recovery, long-term stability, prosperity, and sovereignty

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