Breaking the Country’s Backbone

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It is no exaggeration the country is at present going through the worst economic crisis in its history. As a country that has recently come out of a decades long ethnic conflict, a devastating tsunami and a debilitating terrorist attack on Easter Sunday, it has never before experienced an economic catastrophe of today’s proportion.

The present crisis cannot be simply blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic. Not just Sri Lanka, but the entire world was taken by surprise when the coronavirus first started taking countries across the globe hostage. Two years down the line, many countries have managed to come out of the emergency situation and their economies have started to recover.  

Yet, despite stringent guidelines and a successful vaccination programme having effectively controlled the virus spread, Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has gone from bad to worse. 

It is true the tourism industry was badly affected due to the pandemic-related lockdowns and travel bans, which dealt a death blow to the country’s dollar income. And, it has created a domino effect where lack of dollars has led to the Government being unable to pay for fuel imports. Lack of sufficient fuel stocks has then halted diesel power plants, which has led to effecting seven plus hour power cuts.

But, no one can deny the reality that the present dollar crisis and the related crises of fuel, electricity, transport, milk powder and many more, is a direct result of decades of economic mismanagement, bad policy decisions, wastage and rampant corruption, starting from the top tier to the very bottom of the public and political institutions. 

No amount of blame games and passing the buck to the other side will absolve any of the political parties, either in Government or Opposition, of the responsibility for the present crisis in the country. The blame for the present crisis should be squarely and fairly placed at the door of both past and present political authority that governed the country since 1948. 

Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, our political parties and leaders who ride to power on the shoulders of the common man, the moment they get elected, begin to assume that it is their God-given right to enjoy the perks and privileges at the expense of the tax-paying public. They forget that they are but servants of the State and its people, not the owners.

The best example for this is the unpaid water and electricity bills racked up by ministers during their stays at official residencies, and their shameless silence when their names were revealed by the media. 

However, the Government appears to be preoccupied with internal conflicts, and seems to be ignorant of the scope of the disaster caused by the fuel crisis. One only needs to take a walk past a couple of filling stations to realise how every single segment of society has been severely affected by the crisis. 

It’s a common sight to see hundreds of people, with dejected looks in their eyes, stand in queues for hours, carrying whatever utensil they can find, to buy a litre or two of kerosene to cook their meager daily meal. Joining them are dozens of passenger buses, goods delivery trucks, lorries, tipper-trucks, vehicles used in the construction industry, standing idly in kilometre-long queues near filling stations, waiting for the next fuel bowser to arrive, wasting precious time. 

All these vehicles contribute to the economy in one way or the other. Lack of sufficient fuel can create a ripple effect, affecting a range of businesses, in turn, disrupting the incomes of many middle-income and low-income earners. 

The country is teetering on the edge of a precipice. Gaping at us from below is an economic calamity the country may not recover from for a very long time to come. People have lost hope. Those who can, are leaving the country. Those who cannot, are fast losing patience. Meanwhile, the political authority is bickering among themselves, in an attempt to safeguard their empires, with absolutely no care for the people. Anarchy is on the way. Beware!