ETCA has become the talk of the town lately. What really is ETCA?
We welcome the response by the Pathfinder Foundation on June 30, 2015 to our critique of its economic blueprint on June 24, 2015, both published in Daily Mirror, as a vigorous and informed debate on economic reforms is important, especially with the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The Pathfinder Foundation’s prescriptions in its recent report, ‘Charting the Way Forward: Prosperity for All’ are a blueprint for the failed neoliberal policies of the past and would lead to prosperity for few and misery for many. While vague and superficial in its analysis and conclusions, the Pathfinder Report’s conceptualization of structural changes to Sri Lanka’s economy has many faulty if not dangerous assumptions. In particular, the Report proposes cutting back on state budgets while promoting labour regimes that will further undermine workers’ rights and incomes.
While most Governments promise to carry out 100 day programmes after the elections, few in reality do so. Thus the pace with which the newly formed Government has moved on its election promises during the first month of its tenure is welcome. Here, the Government’s mini budget announced on 29th January 2015 has brought some relief to the rising cost of living, addresses in part those who are indebted, besides increasing payments to public servants and pensioners.
While the election victory for President Maithripala Sirisena was due to a unique political moment that united minorities and many in the Sinhala electorate to vote out an authoritarian regime, expectations of major change in economic policy need to be tempered. The momentum gained from overthrowing an authoritarian regime should now be channelled into a radical democratic agenda for social justice through mobilisation and struggle in which the leftist forces in Sri Lanka have to play an important role.
Over the past several years, since the end of the war, Sri Lankans have been assaulted with advertisements of economic progress. The Rajapaksa regime has loudly proclaimed the advent of a new era of development, making much of showy spectacles such as the construction of Hambantota port and new features being added to the city of Colombo. More abstractly it touts figures such as 8 per cent GDP growth, a lowered budget deficit, inflation under control, and higher foreign exchange reserves as evidence of its economic prowess.
The geography of the Uva highlands is the product of the plantation political economy whose basic systems of extraction in relation to nature and labour have remained largely unchanged since the late 1800s. The imagination in Sri Lanka is now conditioned into accepting the ‘estate’ as spatially distinct, socially and politically, from both the ‘rural’ and the ‘urban’. The tying together of four key vectors of disadvantage—caste, class, gender, and ethno-national identity—with the rule of the company-state has thus been normalised.
The recent devaluing of the Indian rupee and the capital flight from India are warning signs for Sri Lanka and increases pressure on its foreign reserves. The long term trend in developing countries since the 1990s is to increase foreign reserves as a form of “insurance” against short-term borrowing in addition to controlling their exchange rate. The IMF has been promoting the increase in reserves, flexible exchange rates and effectively the inflow of short-term capital.
The ongoing controversy and debate over devolution and the future of the 13th Amendment only underlines how far from being resolved the ethnic question remains in Sri Lanka. Effective devolution, including of land and police powers, and other legal and policy measures to safeguard their rights are seen by ethnic minorities both as an entitlement and as necessary to transit from a post-war to a post-conflict polity.
மின் கட்டண உயர்வுக்கு எதிராகக் கிளர்ந்துள்ள பரவலான அதிருப்தியும், போராட்டங்களும், அரசின் பொருளாதாரக் கொள்கைகளின் போக்குகளின் மீதான மக்களின் எதிர்ப்பின் சமீபத்தைய வடிவமே ஆகும். தாம் எதிர்கொண்ட அநீதிகளை பொதுமக்கள் நியாயமான முறையில் எதிர்த்துள்ளனர். இவ்வாறான பல போராட்டங்கள் கடந்த இரு வருடங்களாக நாட்டில் இடம்பெற்றுள்ளன. தனியார் ஓய்வுதிய மசூதாவுக்கு எதிராக 2011 ஆம் ஆண்டு நடுப்பகுதியில் இடம்பெற்ற பாரிய போராட்டங்களின் போது ஒரு தொழிலாளர் கொல்லப்பட்டார். ஜனவரி 2012 இல் மாணவர்களால் மேற்கொள்ளப்பட்ட கடுமையான போராட்டங்களின் காரணமாக தனியார் பல்கலைக்கழகங்கள் அமைப்பது தொடர்பான மசூதா தள்ளிவைக்கப்பட்டது.
වෘත්තිය සමිති උද්ඝෝෂණ සහ සමාජ ක්රියාකාරකම් පැන නැගෙමින් පවතින අතර මුලික කාරණය වන්නේ බඩුමිල ඉහල යාමට සාපේක්ෂව අදායම් ඉහල නොයාමයි. ඒ වගේම, ශ්රී ලාංකීය ඉතිහාසය පුරාවට, අඩු වැටුපක් යටතේ වුවත් දෛනික ජන ජීවිතය යම් දුරකට හෝ පහසු කල නිදහස් අධ්යාපනය සහ සෞඛ්යය වැනි සමාජ ශ=භසාධන ප්රතිපත්තීන්ද වර්තමානය වනවිට තර්ජනයට ලක්වී තිබේ.
Widespread discontent and public protests witnessed recently over the electricity tariff hikes are but the latest form of resistance to the government’s economic policy trajectory.