Citizens are Waiting; Let the Show Begin
As Sri Lanka marks another successful expression of its democracy, let us turn our attention to the elephant in the room. The Easter Sunday terror attacks as well as the COVID-19 pandemic have been burning roadblocks in Sri Lanka’s post-war recovery, seemingly stopping our bid to rise above the conflict-ridden past to take on new challenges. Things were definitely hopeful for a time and our tiny island showed promise. We started seeing high-rises popping up in Colombo and multilane roads crisscrossing the country; connecting cities. The influx of tourists surged so much so that we had to almost built hotels overnight to accommodate them all.
According to the World Bank’s overview of Sri Lanka, the country’s economy grew at an average 5.3 per cent during the 2010 to 2019 period. Social indicators also rank the country among the highest in South Asia and compare favourably with those countries in the middle-income range. However, the growth estimated to have been 2.3 per cent in 2019, an 18-year low, was partly explained by the impact of the April terrorist attacks. The entry of COVID-19 following the Easter Sunday attacks further rubbed salt into the wounds, plunging the economy further into recession.
But now, as we enter a new decade, we have once again voted for a change. The public went to the polls on 5 August with many expectations. Key among those expectations is getting Sri Lanka back on her feet and heading towards clear progress in the coming five years. As turnouts and results of the poll bears witness, Sri Lankans of all stripes and creeds, from farmer to hotelier cast their ballots with the assurance of a brighter future. Furthermore, seeing the victor’s large mandate puts an equally large responsibility on their shoulders. But as the triumph of one day can be called historic, only a consistent and dedicated plan of action to elevate all Sri Lankans, starting today, can be defined as making history. The citizens are waiting, let the show begin.
It all started with the Central Bank Treasury Bonds Scam and it was down the rabbit hole from there, followed by fiscal slumps, arrested development, the return of terrorism and COVID. But the people had the last word – the puppet masters of Sri Lanka’s biggest white collar heist were humiliated by ballots alone. A political career, marred with dishonour, arrogance and elitism was snuffed out in one day by long suffering constituents. On the other hand, the polling in the North and the East with diverse political factions showed the trust the region has in democracy, which was denied to them during the 30-year separatist conflict. And we the people also saw our country being carved up by global powers akin to a modern Sikes-Picot Agreement with headlines abuzz about harbours, airports, land and industrial zones being auctioned off to the highest bidders.
The first order of business is recovery. For most of us, the last couple of years had been nothing but thrill ride with more ‘downs’ compared to ‘ups’. As soon as the Cabinet is assembled, we expect the administration to revisit all trade pacts and bilateral agreements to glean and implement ones that are favourable to Sri Lanka in terms of cultural compatibility and which respect the island’s territorial integrity. What the citizens want is a fast track of development which will get us out of the current economic quagmire as soon as possible; therefore, the new administration has a duty to cut waste and focus the most of its time and resources to uplift sectors that had taken the worst hits after 21/4 and COVID-19. Agriculture, manufacture and hospitality are some of the cardinal industries in Sri Lanka, but with the global paradigm shift after the Pandemic, we should seriously plan on expanding essential industries such as pharmaceutical making, information technology and logistics. The latter three of which if combined has the mammoth potential to create a business in medical supplies akin to successful corporations such as Amazon.com and Alibaba! Nevertheless, recovery will also require amends in politics and Government as well. Enormous scale backs and spending cuts in the new administration is only fair when the rest of the country is sacrificing with pay-cuts during this time. In conclusion, it is imperative that all citizens, regardless of who we voted, have patience with the incoming Government in the coming days and just have hope that the new programme will be favourable.