Cost of living: The writing on the wall
Daily Mirror Editorial
Feb 29, 2011

Following Monday's countrywide demonstrations intended to build up patriotic sentiments to face the unprecedented international pressure on human rights issues, the Government needs to now focus on realities which directly affect the day to day lives of millions of people.

For instance with the cost of living crisis turning into the proportions of a calamity, Government leaders are facing their moment of truth. The only way out now is for the leaders to stop the stage plays of economic bluff and blunder, lies, damn lies and statistics and tell the people the truth.

After the shocking and explosive fuel price increases on February 11, the Government was forced to allow the biggest ever increase in bus fares and millions of people who are struggling for survival have to bear this extra burden. On Wednesday February 15, the Ceylon Electricity Board announced it was making the biggest ever increases in electricity tariffs. For more than two weeks thousands of fishermen in various parts of the country had refused to go fishing though a substantial kerosene subsidy was offered to them. The fishermen said that with all the hard labour and risks they took in the sea what they earned was not enough even to meet their basic needs.

The tragic story of the slain fisherman Anthony Fernando is the story of thousands of fishermen. One month ago his wife had pawned her jewellery and borrowed money on interest to raise about Rs.300,000 to get a job in the Middle East, leaving their two children behind with the father. But one month later she returned as a helpless weeping widow to join thousands of fishermen in burying her husband on February 18.

Last Friday the prices of bread and all bakery products were increased. The prices of gas and powdered milk are also likely to be increased soon. Yesterday importers suspended the packaging and marketing of milk powder in a move that might create a major shortage. With the devaluation of the rupee and the decision to allow a controlled float of our currency the prices of medicinal drugs and hundreds of other imported items are going up making it virtually impossible for millions of people to exist.

Till the biggest ever fuel price increases were imposed on February 11, Government leaders have been boasting that Sri Lanka would soon become the wonder of Asia with its economy more vibrant than the economies of most Western countries and its growth rates would be second only to China which is known to have the fastest growing economy in the world. Now these government leaders may have to eat their words and concocted statistics.

If government leaders enter into a simple and humble lifestyle or alpechchathawaya, an important precept in our hallowed civilization, then most people would also agree to manage with their basic needs.

Though the government is conveniently blaming world oil prices for the ills of Sri Lanka, rampant corruption and the scandalous waste of public funds on non-essential events and projects have also contributed much to the economic crisis which independent analysts say may explode at any time. If the government does not take immediate and effective steps to stop corruption and waste and bring about social justice through the equitable distribution of wealth and resources, then the writing is on the wall for it and what happens next is uncertain with the possibility of the calamity turning into a catastrophe.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka