Struggling Amidst Reforms: Sri Lanka’s Austerities Unveiled by President’s Actions

-By Shantha Jayarathne

(Lanka-e-News -29.July.2023, 1145PM) Economic reforms, implemented under IMF guidance and touted as the solution to Sri Lanka's woes, have yielded apparent short-term gains. However, beneath the surface lies a nation grappling with the weight of austerities inflicted by President Wickremesinghe and his UNP-SLPP allies. Despite the reduction in electricity tariffs, gas prices, and inflation, an alarming number of citizens are being pushed towards or below the poverty line, leading to a growing malnourishment crisis, inadequacies in public healthcare, and an unprecedented exodus of people seeking a better future elsewhere

Disinflationary Policy as a Fragile Crutch

The stability and progress observed so far are a result of a deliberate disinflationary policy. However, this policy's efficacy has its limits, and debt restructuring with foreign creditors looms ahead, potentially burdening the nation's treasury further. As certain restrictions on imports, capital transfers, and currency transactions must be lifted, Sri Lanka faces an uncertain economic landscape, where IMF's austerity measures continue to disproportionately impact the vulnerable strata of society, further deepening the economic disparities

The Cancer of Corruption Eroding Progress

Despite the touted reforms, a pressing issue continues to undermine any meaningful progress - corruption. Rampant and deeply ingrained within the nation's governance, corruption hampers the effective implementation of progressive legislation, rendering many measures ineffective in practice. From the tax administration's inefficiency to notorious corruption within non-ministerial departments and questionable deals made by politicians, this institutionalized corruption plagues Sri Lanka's political culture, obstructing any hope of real economic reform.

Ethnic Reconciliation and Elusive Accountability

Sri Lanka's post-independence ethnic discord, born out of an aggressive Sinhala Buddhist majoritarian democracy, presents another obstacle to progress. With ethnonational democracy enabling corruption to flourish, the issue of ethnic reconciliation remains unresolved. The alleged All Party Conference (APC) which was held on 26 July at the President’s Secretariat was another disguised attempt by the Selected President Ranil Wickremesinghe to deceive the Tamil vote base in the Northern and Eastern districts and at the outset it raised doubts about his true intention to address the core issues. Without genuine efforts to achieve ethnic reconciliation and tackle corruption at its roots, long-term economic development and prosperity will remain elusive.

NPP’s Ray of Hope for a Changing Political Culture

In this landscape of challenges, only the National People's Power (NPP) party seems to recognize the urgent need for a change in the nation's political culture. Their aspirations to combat corruption and achieve true ethnic reconciliation offer a ray of hope for a brighter future. As Sri Lanka stands at a crossroads, the question remains whether the nation will embrace this opportunity for transformation and grant NPP the chance to shape a new and prosperous path forward.

-Shantha Jayarathne

Former Senior Consultant
Sri Lanka Institute of Development

by     (2023-07-29 18:29:46)

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