“How often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit and to the obstinacy of individuals” Alexander Hamilton
It is a publicly acknowledged fact that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Prime Minister and the Ministers in particular and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government in general should be held responsible for having failed and that too, miserably to adopt timely counter-measures to preempt the current political and economic crises engulfing Sri Lanka resulting in farmers being left without fertilizer; tens of thousands of consumers compelled to languish in kilometre-long queues to obtain their quota of petrol, diesel, kerosene and domestic gas while essential commodities such as milk powder, medicinal drugs and medical equipment are in short supply and power cuts are a daily feature. It is also a publicly acknowledged fact that the government has lost its way and is drifting along going here, there and everywhere unable to provide solutions to the burning issues faced by the country and the people at large.
The bottom line in Sri Lanka’s worst ever political and economic crises and their unprecedented consequences, is the shortage of US dollars and foreign currency reserves making it impossible to import essential commodities that this country urgently needs to sustain the lives and livelihoods of its people.
We are in this terrible plight today essentially because of the wasteful and hugely loss-making projects launched by the Rajapaksas using borrowed money or foreign loans to boost their ego and their vanity resulting in the country being plunged into rack and ruin. The Rajapaksas have always, especially after the end of the war — the much-hyped humanitarian operation with ‘zero’ casualties — imagined they were what the doctor had ordered or the panacea for Sri Lanka’s ills.
The following are some of the egotistic projects described in some quarters as monuments to folly, which carry the Rajapaksa name, now detested by the people, who have been forced to pay the price for Rajapaksa narcissism and extravagance:
The Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre in the heart of Colombo; the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) in Hambantota; the Lotus Tower or the ‘Nelum Kuluna’ (incidentally the lotus is the symbol of the SLPP founded by Basil Rajapaksa); the Diyagama Mahinda Rajapaksa Stadium in Homagama; the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium at Sooriyawewa in Hambantota; the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port and the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa International Convention Centre.
The foregoing gives an indication as to where our dollars have gone making Sri Lanka and its people poor and hard-pressed to keep hunger at bay with even a single meal a day despite Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s empty boast, on assuming office, to ensure that every family would have three meals a day and under his watch, the era of queues and shortages would be a thing of the past. Under the current circumstances these empty boasts could only be described as wishful thinking or building castles in the air.
It is in such a backdrop that the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy said nearly 22% of Sri Lanka’s population or 4.9 million people live in need of food assistance.
“We have also seen that low-income households are the hardest hit and are adopting negative coping strategies,” she said in an interview with the Daily Mirror. “A reduction of a 40% to 50% reduction was recorded in the Maha season paddy harvest because of the lack of chemical fertilizer”.
Sri Lanka, formerly known to be an upper-middle income country, is currently facing its worst economic crisis since independence. In May, food inflation stood at 57.4%, while shortages of key food items, remain widespread, with ongoing daily power outages.
Meanwhile, an ‘Economy Next’ report says activities at several key economic sectors requiring transport are grinding to a halt because foreign exchange shortages is making it difficult to finance oil imports, severely affecting the industrial, fisheries and agriculture sectors, passenger and goods transport in addition to the never-ending queues for fuel and domestic gas.
The government’s abject failure to solve the ongoing political and economic crises has resulted in public servants being asked to stay home on Fridays, schools to be closed for at least a week and the transport sector forced to restrict its services. Without doubt the Gotabaya Rajapaksa-led government has badly let down the people and the sooner it realizes that it has overstayed its visa, the better it would be for Sri Lanka and for the people.
Disclaimer: Govt. going round in circles as crises worsen - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view