WHERE IS THE ROADMAP TO RESTORE SRILANKA’S GLORY? – by N.S.Venkataraman
Most people in the world , whether Sri Lankans or otherwise , are concerned about the present plight of Sri Lanka due to what appears to be a sort of economic collapse and consequent unrest amongst the people.
Several experts and observers have commented liberally as to how this country with beautiful landscape and glorious culture have been reduced to this state. The diagnosis is complete. But , it appears that the process of evolving prescription to overcome the crisis is yet to be convincingly evolved and crystallized.
At present, the focus is on getting loan or aid from abroad ,as if this by itself could sort out the grim issues facing Sri Lanka in short term or long term.
Sri Lanka already has huge debt to service and repay and Sri Lankan government has said that it cannot pay the debt or interest at the present stage and admitted that it is a defaulter.
With a huge debt on it’s head and with more loan being availed now , it is urgently necessary that a credible roadmap to overcome the present crisis has to be prepared, discussed knowledgeably and firm decision should be taken , which should be implemented in a time bound manner efficiently.
While there is lot of news about mass agitation and the demand by the opposition parties and some activists that both the brothers, namely the President and the Prime Minister, should quit office and the brothers not obliging , what is conspicuous by absence is that neither the government nor the opposition parties nor the activists have suggested a credible , time bound roadmap to bring the focus of debate on economic and industrial revival plans rather than change of political leadership.
The ground reality today in Sri Lanka is that the present ruling Rajapaksa brothers have mismanaged the economy and brought it to a seriously damaged level. I t appears that the leaders in the opposition parties , some of whom have already been tested in government leadership position and failed and others too do not command widespread public confidence that they have the capability and expertise to lead Sri Lanka to restore it’s glory anytime soon,-.
In such circumstances, the emerging view appears to be that mere change of President or Prime Minister would not bring about any change for the better.
The suggestion of the President of Sri Lanka that a national government should be formed ( perhaps, without the present Prime Minister), appears to be an appropriate solution at this critical stage. After one year of governance by such national government , that would evolve and commence implementation of the roadmap and restore confidence amongst the people and the world , national election can take place to have a popular government.
While Sri Lanka does not have resources such as crude oil and natural gas which are now considered as very valuable asset for any country, there are many other strength the country has and the options for revival of the national economy are many.
The agriculture sector contributes about 7.4 percent to the national GDP, out of which the fisheries sector contributes around 1.3 percent, and the livestock sector accounts for 0.9 percent. With regard to tea and rubber, Sri Lanka is a significant exporter and it’s product enjoy considerable world reputation. Although Sri Lanka is a fertile tropical land with the potential for the cultivation and processing of a variety of crops, issues such as productivity hamper the growth of the sector. With focussed agricultural management adopting modern technologies, Sri Lanka can be made nearly self sufficient in food production. Technology inputs from developed countries would be much needed.
Sri Lanka is endowed with a variety of mineral resources, such as feldspar, clays (including ball clay and kaolin), dolomite, graphite, limestone, mica, mineral sands (including ilmenite, rutile, and zircon), phosphate rock, quartzite, and salt. There are many exciting opportunities in this area , where overseas investment and technology can be invited for mutual benefit.
For example, from ilmenite , valuable titanium dioxide pigment can be produced , which has huge global demand of nearly 7 million tonne. From natural graphite, anode can be produced for use in lithium ion battery , where the demand is steadily increasing in the world due to the rapid growth of electric vehicles, where lithium ion battery is used.
In Sri Lanka, due to it’s vast coastal area, there could be many opportunities in the production of marine chemicals and launching research efforts in marine biology . Many multinational players would be interested in participating in such ventures due to Sri Lanka’s unique advantages in such fields.
Of course, tourism is a big thrust area for Sri Lanka where it has already made a mark. There are several innovative projects possible to boost tourism.
Many similar examples of growth opportunities can be readily pointed out.
Sri Lanka need to have a progressive and forward looking policy with stress and focus on international cooperation to promote rapid industrial and technological growth,.
Today, Sri Lanka needs Singapore model of governance where stick and carrot policy is elegantly used , with citizens living with confidence in the government about maintaining law and order and fair play.
One problem for Sri Lanka like other nearby countries is an excessive level of democracy without adequate check and control, which is doing more harm than good. People of Sri Lanka and the politicians should realise that liberty to state their views and indulge in protests cannot be a mere personal affair but it has to be a part of social contract coupled with responsible attitude.
The sad fact is that there have been lot of corruption allegations in Sri Lanka for which Rajapaksa government is responsible to some extent and particularly since Rajapaksa has made the government virtually a family affair. Perhaps, the national government should evolve some policy approach with regard to the place of family interest in the government and permissive level of liberty and freedom.