Austerity package begin with leaders
Daily Mirror Editorial
Apr 25, 2012

The bankrupt Spain where the new government recently enforced tough austerity measures gave an example to the rest of the world on an issue relating to the country’s widely-respected King Juan Carlos. While tens of millions of people were without jobs and struggling for survival, the King decided to take a private holiday in the African tourist resort of Bostwana. The trip would have gone unnoticed but unfortunately or fortunately the King fell from his horse during an elephant-hunting adventure. The controversial writer Oscar Wilde would have described it as a case of the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable. Wilde’s brilliant quips apart, King Juan Carlos was seriously injured in the accident and had to undergo urgent surgery.

It was at this point that Spain’s media splashed the issue -- not only the validity or virtue of the King going on an elephant-hunting expedition, but more so whether it was morally right for the King and the family to spend or waste so much money at a time when millions of Spanish people were jobless, hapless or even hopeless. After being released from hospital, the king responded positively to the media criticism and apologised to the people not only for the elephant-hunting escapade but for spending so much of public funds on an untimely holiday.

The people accepted his apology and the king did not lose his crown or his status. Instead through the pain and the crisis he set an example to other political leaders.

Sri Lanka’s political leaders also need to take an example from the Spanish king’s response to an error of judgment or lack of sensitivity to the pain and suffering of the common people. Sri Lanka’s economy despite all the balderdash or blown-up and deceptive statistics of some government officials is plunging towards breaking point. Over the weekend the rupee fell to more than 130 to a dollar while reports said the Government would accept the next two installments of the loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with all its conditions including austerity measures. Millions of ordinary people in Sri Lanka are finding it increasingly difficult if not impossible to manage or survive because of the soaring cost of living. Reports say prices of essential items including sugar, flour, dhal powdered milk and fuel are likely to be increased again soon.

If government leaders shamelessly use the cliché of asking the people to tighten their belts, they need to be reminded that most people cannot event afford a cheap belt. If any austerity package is to work we reiterate that it must start with government and other leaders. They must take a decision and make a firm commitment to cut down on their expenses, avoid luxuries and live in a simple and humble way. Ministers like Bandula Gunawardana who insist that a person can manage with Rs.7,500 a month, need to walk the talk and show us how to manage with Rs.7,500 a month. Government leaders also need to take stern action to curb rampart corruption, frauds and a vulgar waste of public funds. Multimillion rupee five-star trips or holidays abroad for ministers, officials or stooges must be reduced and only essential visits allowed, that too at a minimum cost. Issues such as accountability, good governance and transparency must be effectively enforced so that politicians and officials give an account for whatever they spend in public funds.

As Sri Lanka tackles bigger issues relating to reconciliation and accountability for alleged war crimes, government leaders need to act immediately to save the economy by changing their attitude approach and lifestyle.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka