‘Post-mortem’ Economists In a ‘Sitting Duck’ Economy

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“The Laziest Nation in the World is a ‘Nation that laments and accepts’ a development as inevitable and therefore unquestionable. In Sri Lanka do people really need ‘brains’, as they shall need such, only if they have to use?. So, only a very small number of citizens are known to be thinking, and they think that it is their thinking that makes this Nation exist. On the part of the people, they lament, grumble, but in the end, they accept development as unavoidable. They take turns in blaming someone else, and there too, they are too lazy to exert a little, and look for that one and instead waiting for others to look for that someone, as it is easier to join others who have found themselves the one to be blamed or someone might have found through their hallucinatory minds. The problem that needed attention is still there, multiplying but have no reason to be alarmed. There will be another day, so, why worry? Let that day also dawn. Sri Lanka is a place where logical thinking has no place. Therefore, Sri Lanka is that place where the laziest can be found.”

We are a ‘sitting duck’ economy because we are like that ‘duck’ just ‘sitting and waiting’ to be hunted down. When the economists who are expected to guide us to become smarter, so that we shall not be sitting any more for the hunters to catch us just so easily as it happens, ironically though, those economists are incapable of guiding. So, it happens they move in to guide us only after the duck has been hunted in that actively sitting posture. Then our wise economists, have their ‘Post-mortem’ analysis and say that the duck had neglected what had to be done, and it is too late, and more sacrifices will have to be done in the future, so that it will not happen again.

This self-incriminating system shall continue until such the ducks will stop sitting and waiting. It can happen only when the people select not to be so lazy.

We have a wonderful land where, what we have to do are simple. But, according to the ailment we have, we are too lazy to look for solutions without waiting for the solutions to fall from the sky. When what we expect does not happen, we will look for someone to take the blame. In the meantime, we take necessary action to ensure that the system is not disturbed.

But the most absurd thing is that prominence is given not to change the economists, as it is the responsibility of those who shall be selected to be elected. Then comes the selection procedures so that it is believed that everything will be alright, only if those elected are capable of competing with the adversaries based on the same kind of qualifications. And the contending parties will patiently choose promising characters to represent them.

All the contenders think that it is a game where players have to be chosen to ‘counter’ those who will become their contenders. The secret is that all think that their representatives should be better than those of the others. This is how unsuitable and uncouth fellows had crept in. They have no care for decent and serious work. Imagine what can happen when such persons get the ‘authority guide’to monitor the work of the economists! When they understand the quality of those who have to guide, what can be expected?

If the problems were foreseen, the economists also would have done something.

Negative tendencies that developed

Today, we have to spend Rs 270 or more for a loaf of bread while that loaf could be bought for 25 cents or four Loaves for a rupee, sixty years ago. That means an increase of 1080 times, which means that the value of the Sri Lanka Rupee has lost its worth by 1980 times. A measure (quantity that was about a kilogramme) of rice also was 25 cts. Even if we take it as Rs 200 a kilogramme, it is a value loss of 800 times within a span of sixty years. Another simple example is the price of an egg. It had lost its value by at least 200 times, over the same sixty years. Why was it that it never appreciated in value? For that to happen, the par value of the Sri Lankan Rupee should have appreciated and so would the buying power. It never happened and whatever was imported wanted more Sri Lankan Rupees. Those examples from food would give us a more impressive feeling. In between, the costs of other items also did not remain stable. Then, salaries of people also increased. What really happened was the consolidation of buying and selling price levels. In short, Sri Lankan Rupee continuously depreciated against all the foreign currencies.

Why are our experts POSTMORTEM Economists? Because they are very good in interpreting the reasons. Except for a few, they do not impress as real experts for the reason that they explain why our Lenders- the IMF have taken a stern stand. But did those experts ever give reasons to defeat the arguments. Instead, conveyed the true wishes of the Money Lenders. Beyond that, they simply withdrew into their shells.

Let us take a simple thematic example. There is the capital and that mountain of interest. They were correct in pressurising. It is not rocket science to calculate. The mistake they did was the determination of the way recovery was programmed. That is where the sources that could have helped in building up of the additional revenue component for allocations. For example, what would be the measures that could be made use of?

Could they show any programmes to show how that component would be earned? Instead, the ready answer was that some taxes could be used. The so-called best brains about whose abilities were publicised, started talking about how difficult, life would be. Logically their answers were right. On one hand the expected targets were very large. After causing the cost of living to rise, with all of their overflowing confidence, there was nothing refreshing, rather than some feeble suggestions to overcome the crisis; that concentrated on one effort and that was to slam some taxes and causing the prices of the major items that would contribute meaningfully towards the effort.

The whole crisis revolves around the Free Trading Practices, that in turn revolves in their own spheres, spinning around and easily getting away from lame excuses like market conditions which automatically, get adjusted. The moment, a progressive idea is forwarded, it is killed.

Whatever reasons, our big brains had given to the IMF, there are so many arrangements that can be made to support such commitments. Can our Economists who are very efficient in analysing situations and proposing solutions on paper and discussions, which are based on statistics which make themselves feel drowsy; over lengthy meetings and enjoyable refreshments ending up increasing levies that would increase current prices; do anything better than analysing a disaster and imposing some increases? What they do not realise is that they are already in a bottomless pit and therefore still falling.

Absence of new thinking 

Let us take some examples at random. Take the food security. Imagine a situation where XYZ decides not to cultivate his paddy lands as he can buy his rice from the shop. The shop-keeper cares less, as he likes the scenario where he can sell the old stocks at higher prices and his prices shall always be well cushioned. The situation goes beyond control and there shall be no chance of that land contributing to any revenue.

Imagine that there are such paddy lands and the Cooperative Department initiates the formation of a Village Vocational Labour Cooperative Society mobilising village youth who have been increasing their numbers every year, ensures that such labour cooperatives sign agreements with all the land owners, for mutually agreeable ‘Crop Sharing’ arrangements, and the land gets cultivated so that after the normal duration the harvests are collected, converted into cash and the bank receives the money from a source that would never have created such a revenue. Such a Labour Cooperative Society, could be engaged in sending some of their members to help in Rubber Tapping, again on the same basis of crop sharing, while another group can be sent to harvest the Cinnamon also on the same basis, would not such a village labour cooperative society make some revenue that would never have become a reality if such an initiative was not taken? It is not an unimaginable dream, as all the tools are available and the only missing link is the entrepreneurship, which is supported by the Commercial Banks.

There can be opportunities, several other areas like Community Dairy Farming based on the same principles. One landowner gives an empty land to erect cowsheds to accommodate about a minimum of fifty cows (Not the best breed of cows) and those cows may be for one or many villagers, men or women.

The Village Labour Cooperative for Dairy production can also attend to this endeavour as well, according to the traditional system; a cow being tied to a coconut tree will not have to go in circles, till the grassroots are also uprooted baring open the face of the earth for rains to wash away the soil.

As the cowsheds will have cemented floors constructed,sloping towards the edges to the drains meant to carry the cow urine, and remnants of fodder can get collected in three to four cemented pits that would be used taking turns, will become Biogas Units which may be used for various needs in traditional food preserve preparation such as for Milk Toffee, Pickles and Chutneys.

The other opportunities can be extended to Tea Plucking for Tea Small Holders, and for Poultry Farming etc in the land related ventures while the same principle can be extended to Fisheries based activities too; and such a society can become the owner of such vessels which can generate revenues and what shall prevent such a programme from generating wealth without waiting for traditional solutions?

Absence of Objective Oriented Planning

I M F is not a casual and just an incidental experience and its influence in Sri Lankan Economy is not a factor that can be just shrugged off. As a Lending Organisation it has reached the end of the line. In the past, the legacies had kept on passing from one era to the next and every time it has passed on from, the era just finished, it did not come as a completed story and had dragged itself to the present times.

There are three things that have to be done using energy mobilised through ‘co-operative movement’

1. Work to achieve self sufficiency in Food Security

2. Increase both Agricultural and Industrial Production in all the important spheres. Do not worry about the surpluses that may be caused, aimed at Import Substitution, to conserve foreign exchange reserves.

3. Increase Exports of merchandise of both Agricultural and Industrial Production.

That will stabilise the capacity required to establish a comfortable local economic scene, which will ensure a more productive Human Resources Base.

By Ananda Ariyarathne