Economy First!

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jul 21 2021

Re-opening the country was to put the economy on track, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa said, recently. The lockdown of the country, in the past few months, has disrupted the flow of funds to State coffers from local and foreign entities, as a result a decision was taken to re-open the country and put the economy on track as soon as possible, the Finance Minister told at a meeting of heads of Local Government institutions at Temple Trees, adding that he would bring relief to the people through appropriate economic management. 

Finance Minister Rajapaksa very significantly mentioned, at the meeting, that the country had just $1.2 billion in reserves at the time of the war against the LTTE and that with a current reserve of roughly $4 billion, the prevalent economic crisis could be resolved with competent economic management. 

The Minister said he is prepared to face the situation and that it was his goal to meet the SLPP’s commitments as well as those of the responsibilities of the Minister of Finance. He said it was the unity among those who were in his favour that enabled him to form a party and win many triumphs without even being the Leader of the Opposition. 

The development efforts of Local Government Institutions and the challenges they face were discussed in detail with a view to obtain their fullest participation at grassroots level for speedy economic development. The heads of Local Government institutions briefed the Minister on the problems they had to surmount in this regard. 

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said all parties must work together to bring the country back on track. The Opposition Leader said so at the inaugural conference for an All-Party Coalition of the Opposition, organised by the National Movement for Social Justice. Continuing he said that the Government had different rules for the Opposition, the ruling party, anti-government protesters, government officials and civilians. 

Premadasa went on to say that the country was on the verge of a catastrophic disaster and it was time for all parties to work together to halt it immediately and bring the country back on track. It is laudable for the new Minister of Finance to put economy first while also managing the COVID19 situation. 

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa saying all parties must work together to bring country back on track, too, augurs well vis-a-vis the achievement of both goals – economic revival and COVID-19 control. However, it cannot be gainsaid, despite criticism to the contrary, that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has succeeded in containing the COVID-19 pandemic that emerged hard on the heels of his being elected as President, commendably well. 

The fact that he was able to hold a General Election without any major breakdown of the health situation, hardly a year afterwards, ensuring that he was equipped with a Government favourable to him to further his efforts in bringing the coronavirus under control, is a reminder to those oblivious to the reality owing to political blindness! Granted that the country is in economic difficulties though not to the extent it was during the Tamil terrorist war, as pointed out by Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, that its reserves then were $1.2 billion as against roughly $4 billion now, what has to be the bounden duty of ‘all parties’ is to not disrupt the economy by acting in irresponsible ways. In such a context it goes without saying that the indecent howling at trade union agitations should not drown the helpless cries of those stricken by the virus. 

The United Nations Organisation, it is ventured to say, is the ‘milking mother’ of all of humanity. It is silently extending succour to all and sundry through its myriad of agencies active day and night in all corners of the globe. In the present context three responsible hands of United Nations have ventured to lay down in their IMF Blog titled, ‘Could Renewed Social Unrest Hinder the Recovery’ that protests driven by the pandemic’s economic fallout are on the rise with potentially long-term economic consequences, add that such protests can be catalysts for political reform and social change and ask, but what impact do they have on the economy. 

So, all have to agree that economy comes first and all other considerations are secondary. Agitators for whatever cause have to be enlightened on the fact that this is not the opportune time. Further, part of the reason for the chemical fertiliser shortage was unravelled, the other day, by the find of a 100,000 metric tons stock, hidden away in a godown, giving credence to the conspiracy theory advanced in a previous editorial column.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jul 21 2021

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