Dear Sri Lanka

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jun 19 2021

Dilshani Palugaswewa addresses the recent fuel price hike

Like every other week, we had our so-called leaders creating problems and then pretending to be functional enough to solve the crisis when said problems started to spiral down to an even greater disaster. This week again in the ‘Blame Game’ edition of parliamentary proceedings, we saw them fuelling their agendas and beating their own horses out of the stable. 

Missing a key strategy in oil plans, the Government had apparently not set up a Fuel Stabilisation Fund, after they said they would, owing to COVID-19 pandemic that unexpectedly took the world by storm. Thus, the Minister of Energy explained we have to deal with a price hike and insecure safety net. 

How many times is COVID-19 going to be pinned down as a reason for the Government’s missteps and misadventures of whom we are the collateral damage? Plenty to come I would say! Especially when there seems to be a mysterious question mark in the Finance Ministry’s reports, according to which there was in fact a Stabilisation Fund that was set up last year, and contributions to the fund seemingly came to a screeching halt just when the prices started picking up, in addition to the removal of a tax surcharge at the same time. 

Further, it indicated that the underlying account of the Fuel Price Stabilisation Fund was in fact minus Rs 26 billion by end 2020. Are we going to know what happened? Probably not. More interesting though is that many fingers were pointed at subject Minister when the price hike was announced, even calling for his resignation from within the Government he is part of. 

Having none of that the Minister in question revealed that he wasn’t the one calling the shots on this matter, in fact, the higher-ups were very much part of the decision making and he was merely the messenger (he also proudly noted he was the first subject Minister to announce a price hike). 

Fair enough. Firstly, if parliamentarians went to resign each time there was a price hike, we probably would be holding elections every few months. And secondly, the Prime Minister who also happens to be the Finance Minister is also on that sinking ship although he has opted to hop on the life boat and sail to safety. 

This clearly was a collective decision by the Cabinet SubCommittee that was appointed to look into matters the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) was supposedly facing and so they all should be held responsible – but of course they want to shoot down the scapegoat. To keep the drama rolling, the Opposition has also filed a No Confidence Motion to remove the Minister of Energy from his portfolio as they deem him solely responsible for crisis we are facing.

 How will all this internal conflict and he-did-it acts help our economic or health crisis? Answer is, it simply wouldn’t. But either way they expect us to be, “Mindful of how we use oil in the near future.” I presume because they won’t be affected the same as the carcinogenic diesel used to power the SUVs of most members of parliament, is taxed lightly. 

Their explanations have been more bizarre than usual. Although they are deflecting the blame onto the person, they also acknowledge it is a decision that is here to stay because that is what they deem necessary for economy. The President justified the price hike noting it strengthens the local economy.

 “Further, it is a decision taken to safeguard the health and welfare of the people and to transform the import-dependent consumer economy into an investment and consumer economy dependent on domestic production.” Does that mean it was indeed a unanimous decision? Either way, this doesn’t quite reflect the strategy they promised to uphold if they came into power. Mind you, these are the same people who ridiculed and criticised the Yahapalana strategy planning in the same regard who did the same thing. 

Worse, not only did they not have a strategy, they haven’t even been maintaining the fund they ideally should have. But I believe when you’re the one in power you are always doing the right thing, no matter what. As for the claims about the CPC having been running at a loss, how exactly did and could that have happened? Because we sure were not buying fuel on credit, right? Or have I just missed out on some great offers?

Sincerely, An onlooker 

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jun 19 2021

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