Be proactive when resolving crisis
Daily Mirror Editorial
Feb 21, 2011

The much hyped statements by several government spokesmen and even the Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal that Sri Lanka’s economy was doing much better than most western countries came to a thundering crash last week when the government increased fuel prices by an unprecedented margin triggering unrest among the ordinary people.

The fuel surcharge on electricity bills, the 20 per cent increase in bus fares and the likely increase in the prices of gas, bakery products, milk powder and other food items have shocked and shaken consumers as never before. The talk that Sri Lanka’s economy was on its way to becoming second to China and well on its way to becoming the wonder of Asia was dealt another blow when the rupee was devalued further by allowing it to float freely against the dollar. Overnight the rupee depreciated from Rs.114 to a dollar to Rs.120 a dollar. Many political and economic analysts ask whether these unprecedented moves were the result of pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or to cover-up the increasing waste, corruption and the misuse or abuse of public resources in the public sector.

With the cost of living soaring, especially with the price of diesel being increased by Rs.31 and kerosene by Rs.35 it was no surprise to see trade unions, fishermen, farmers, civic action groups and opposition political parties taking to the streets. The massive protest by fisherfolk in Chilaw came to a tragic end when police firing killed 38-year-old Anthony Fernando who was a father and mother to his little children after his wife flew to Doha, Qatar for employment as a means of supplementing the family’s meagre income.

To placate the protesting fishermen, the government promised subsidies but the fisherfolk refused to buy it because they said that on an earlier occasion too, the government had given them cards to obtain subsidies but soon thereafter the cards and subsidies were all drowned.

Should not the government think through its plans or proposals carefully and in detail before attempting to introduce or implement them? Is it not better to tell the people of the relief packages or subsidies on offer at the same time the prices are increased or unpleasant or unpalatable decisions are contemplated for the greater good of the country? This approach will increase the people’s confidence in the government and its assurances will be taken seriously. But if the government responds to crisis situations in a knee-jerk manner that is reactive rather than proactive, the ordinary people will easily see through such posturing and refuse to be taken for a ride on the expressway to wonder.

Whatever is done to pull Sri Lanka out of the economic crisis which analysts say may explode at any time, it is essential for the government to take the people into its confidence without repeatedly feeding them sugar-coated bitter pills that Sri Lanka is an economic Shangri-la.

The truth however unpleasant is a vital ingredient and a catalyst for economic recovery. Another is the example of a simple lifestyle, a genuine desire not just to keep voicing empty rhetoric but by sincere action to eradicate the terrorism of waste and corruption at all levels of public administration. These would surely help Sri Lanka to extricate itself from the economic mess or morass it is facing.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka