Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 10 January 2016





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Government Gazette

Sri Lanka's new opportunity

Sri Lankan socialists believed central planning would provide the answer to cushioning the impact of runaway inflationary pressures. They were right in that the turbulent economic and social climate that was created by reforms in the past were preponderantly for the economically advantaged, socially privileged and politically connected. They did not benefit the masses

The new leadership may have good reason to smile in 2016.

Pic: Courtesy

On the day (January 7, 2016), Future Markets in the United States were predicted to plunge, stocks in China plummet and QE (central bank credit - money printing) create an unsustainable boom, George Soros, the billionaire US investor stated in Colombo the current environment reminded him of the 2008 crisis. The ordinary man in the street knowing he cannot change anything, was quietly confident that "we (he) shall overcome."

Who could imagine that with all the debt bondage in Sri Lanka, the volatility not only in currency markets, the oil prices at a 12 year low of US$33 a barrel, the Yahapalanaya Government of President Sirisena 'almost miraculously' surviving a year of tumultuous change -the Constitutional Reform in the pipeline, and the Cabinet reshuffle put off for the time being, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremansinghe could stand up and state at the once in a generation forum, 'Steering Sri Lanka toward Sustainable and Inclusive Development,' that Sri Lanka "would be made a Global Mega City for the region to go between Singapore and Dubai."

This is the courage of conviction, an essential for success.

Some will say there is nothing to crow about, or as is said in the vernacular, bamboo gahanava. But, strangely and no doubt, there is an air of confidence growing behind the scene in Sri Lanka, to live and let live, take the rough with the smooth, to change with the times.


Opportunity knocks and we have to use both hands to grab it when it comes, so they say. With the Middle East in near meltdown, "the flashpoint erupting after Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with Iran,(except for pilgrims to Mecca), as did other countries in the GCC; with wars in Syria and Iraq also raging and the terrorist groups ISIS still on the rampage," could anyone call this an opportunity.

We know UK is in the cusp of a 'Referendum of Consent on Brexit.' Germany and parts of Europe blaming loss of their share of the car export market on the US 'emissions scandal,' as an excuse to allow car manufacturing to take off in the States. France recovering from Charlie Hebdo and other atrocities, while China using its "circuit breaker" mechanism on share dealing; it is difficult to believe that the so called "window of opportunity for Sri Lanka" is open.

We all know where there is risk, there is opportunity. But we have not only to perceive it, believe it, but also seize it?

Seizing the moment

If we talk about the future of our commodities for export - the future of tea or its economic and social importance of tea production is said to be uncertain. Projections indicate that Sri Lanka will experience warmer climate in the near future and it may not augur well for our tea export market.

Let's take coconut. Coconut oil is the rage in the West these days. Apparently, it has 'miraculous' properties that are useful for your skin, your teeth, your hair, your immune system. We all know coconut oil is great in cooking, baking, stir-fry or dairy free replacement to butter.

But, the latest in the West, coconut lotion bars are noted for soft, smooth skin, besides, help prevent or reverse Alzheimer's.

For that matter another export commodity, cinnamon is more than the rage: Its export is much in demand.

But tourism continues to boom, even with the world now in a deflationary situation. Statistics show the influx of Chinese, Indian and Middle East tourists, besides our regulars from UK and Germany to the shores of Sri Lanka. We have to showcase our Ayurvedic medicinal tours, as there is a great demand for herbal treatments.

Our first problem is capital investment, which is rightly the centrepiece of our development policies.

There are ample prospects awaiting capital investment from abroad, provided there is the necessary inducement.

There are ample opportunities awaiting young men and women. The potential is there.

Where there is risk there is reward. The difference is calculated risk or risk assessment in investment capital in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lankan socialists believed central planning would provide the answer to cushion the impact of runaway inflationary pressures.

They were right that the turbulent economic and social climate that reforms in the past created were preponderantly for the economically advantaged, socially privileged and politically connected. They did not benefit the masses.

Economic freedom

The biggest problem today is the level of deprivation and delineation in Sri Lankan society. Irresponsible politicians will want to enhance their own power. Prosperity as seen around the world brings problems. We should learn from the lessons of the past. We should not allow lack of control over the circumstances of the deprived, particularly the ethnic minorities, to stoke unrest.

We now need an open society for 'constitutional liberalism' but not at the expense of national security or the rule of law and ethnic peace. We need more economic freedom.

If the Yahapalanaya Government can deliver more economic freedom, "taking in stock the global economic situation," there is no stopping where we will be in the years ahead.

- Sri Lanka Guardian



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