Turn around before it's too late
Daily Mirror Editorial
Feb 17, 2011

Last Saturday's fiery fuel price increase blazed into public outrage which now appears to be growing to the proportions of a public uprising, with strikes or demonstrations by private bus operators, and fishermen's associations, trade unions and political parties.

But millions of heavily burdened lower or middle income families, which have no association, union or effective opposition party to protect their rights have been forced to carry the full load of the biggest ever increase in the prices of the common people's diesel and kerosene. So much for the sovereignty of the people who see this as a constitutional joke.

With the turmoil and huge demonstrations continuing over the fuel price increases, another blackout blow was given to the people yesterday when the debt ridden Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) announced it also would heap its burden on the people once again with the biggest increase in electricity tariffs. This means that most people would be forced to pay about 40 per cent more for their electricity from this month. In addition, the devaluation of the rupee and the decision to virtually allow the local currency to float have sent the rupee plunging to about Rs. 120 to a dollar. This means the prices of imported goods including essential items such as milk powder, sugar, dhal and other food items will increase by a huge margin and again the burden will be heaped on the common people to the extent they might come to a breaking point.

World lending agencies such as the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are known to insist on austerity packages and withdrawal of all subsidies to overcome an economic crisis. They have been doing this for several decades in poor or developing countries and in recent times even in rich Western countries like Greece and Spain, which were going bankrupt over their debt burden. But for reasons known to them and probably because their officials also indulge in a luxury lifestyle filled with privileges, perks and extravagant world tours, the lending agencies do not insist that any austerity packages or withdrawal of subsidies and privileges must begin with the political leaders.

In recent times after the war victory Sri Lankan political leaders have been boasting of providing a prosperity package to the people. Experience has shown that any such prosperity package must begin with an austerity package and the austerity or a simple and humble lifestyle must first be practised by our political and other leaders. Then and only then will the common people agree and learn to manage with their basic needs so that they would spend less and save more for the common good of the country. Instead of setting such an example, we see most political leaders giving the people an overdose of platitudes, and pious proclamations, which often come from the lips and not from the hearts. Instead of the simple and humble lifestyles which is part of our culture and hallowed civilization, we see most political leaders busting up billions in extravagant lifestyles with millions spent on their security alone while all their expensive bills are also paid from the people's money. In effect, the burden of maintaining the luxury lifestyle of politicians is also heaped on the people. This must stop and stop now.

The events of the past four days have shown that the people cannot or will not take it any longer and unless the politicians turn from their path of deception, hypocrisy and corruption, we are on the expressway to a hell of a mess.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka