5 year Austerity Plan under Caretaker Team of Experts
After 74 years of independence & 40 General Elections since 1947 (1st Parliament) & 7 Presidents since 1978, the erosion of governance is no understatement. Every election people vote with much hope that the representatives they send to power, will govern as per the mandate given to them. Sadly, every party/individual that has come to power has digressed from the assurances given. Faith in one’s representatives has thus been eroding over the years as have their governance styles. Corruptions and mismanagement has only worsened to the level that it is no exaggeration to say that both Government & Opposition have sold their souls to external parties who are using them as pawns in a larger game unbeknown to the ordinary citizens. They remote control our representatives to enact geopolitical games shifting power from one bloc to the other. Unfortunately, the people of Sri Lanka have become unfair victims in this game where the deals are cut with nothing coming to the People of Sri Lanka while country is cut up & distributed. As Anagarika Dharmapalathuma predicted – are we destined to jump into the sea?
Not only the quality of governance has declined the quality of representatives entering Parliament has also declined. Once in power, it has become easy for both government & opposition to berate each other as part of a drama to keep the voters happy. They pretend to hate each other in public but join each other for tea & hearty laughter at the expense of the People in the evening. To this coterie joins their cronies who are also replicating same template & they too bounce their allegiances with every change of government. All of them having a whale of a time at the expense of the tax payer.
It is these practices, increasing with each year that has led to the current impasse. It has been easy to ignore the deficit in revenue & expense & follow the path of taking loans and happily committing the People to pay the taxes. Do these cronies, politicians & their thugs pay a single tax? But they give themselves plenty of tax holidays and incentives.
Joining this bandwagon are the business tycoons who enter the fray by funding election campaigns & then bring out their list of payback demands. Thus, majority of State tenders end up falling on their laps with opportunity to make far more than they have given.
With such corruptions within taking place, there is nothing to be surprised when external players watching the circus realize, they too can enter the fray. Geopolitically important Sri Lanka, thus becomes a treasure trove especially when there are weak leaders, corrupt politicians & a vulnerable set up. These external players fund election campaigns, insert their proxies into various senior roles & from within tap corrupt secretaries & officials to get their agendas through.
By now we should be able to picture why the State of Sri Lanka has become so fragile.
It has now come to a boiling point, made worse because the present government has to carry the legacy of the mismanagement of 39 previous governments combined with the covid crisis hitting the country’s economy.
It is natural that the people who had to weather the mismanagement of all previous governments are angry & want answers.
The answers are not easy & means greater hardships for the People.
We must all by now understand that taking loans is not the answer.
Loans (whatever name it is given) is in reality a business deal where money is given on conditions often not disclosed to the people knowing the people’s objections. The level of secrecy of these deals directly violate the constitution & general decency towards the citizens whom politicians are bound to serve. How many of these pacts for “loans” have ended up with the other side giving “commissions” and walking away with resources & assets belonging to the nation without giving a cent? How many of these “pacts” for loans end up with the giver giving with one hand & taking it back from the other (ex: money to buy petrol but petrol has to be pumped from stations belonging to the giver).
As such it’s no surprise that people ask where these loans are as however much we take loans our burden never reduces!
So we have a situation where the option is not to take further loans unless we have a plan to generate revenue to incrementally pay back the loans taken.
Thus, there is a need to think of ways we can make revenue & ways we need to cut down on expenses, which is why we need to have a planned austerity program that is applicable to all with exemptions to none. One of the main reasons for any program to fail in Sri Lanka is that the upper echelons of society think they have a carte blanche to do as they like while only others have to suffer. This mentality has to change.
Governments / Organizations / Individuals (cut down debt & stimulate growth)
Austerity measures will require people to restrict imports on food & instead embark on a national program to grow food at home & commence a barter system of exchange at town/village/district/province level. Government will have to declare a moratorium on luxury items & ban on excessive petrol consuming cars & luxury goods. There will also have to be restrictions on use of national grid (electricity/water) & excessive usage by those who do not pay.
Do we cut down on expenditure or do we increase taxes?
We are all in unison that government spending has to be pruned. All extravagances must come to a halt including extravagant programs/openings & events. What is extravagant & what is essential must be immediately identified at govt/organization & individual levels. We will need to see the elimination of special tax exemptions & preferential treatment & fines on tax evaders from the biggest violators downwards.
Ministers will need to take a step aside & wastage on travel & fuel will need to be curbed inclusive for their families. The services by ministries will be identified on essential basis only & funding streamlined for essential requirement only.
A humane-set of austerity measures
For a period of 5years, a team must have a centralized control over state budget & expense & decide on the role of private organizations & individuals in the austerity measures being rolled out.
We must all get into the mentality of becoming committed to play a role in salvaging Sri Lanka out of this economic crisis by realizing that taking loans to pay a loan or taking loans for day to day survival is going to get us nowhere.
We are faced with a predicament that our expenses are above our revenue & we need to lessen this deficit.
While we cut down on internal spending – we need to think of ways we can generate revenue that can either be used internally (to avoid import) or externally to gain foreign currency. We also need to slowly pay back previous loans.
We have enough of talented people who love their country & wish to chip in with ideas to take Sri Lanka out of this mess, sadly greedy opportunists who wish to waste & spend other people’s money for their luxury lifestyles are ruining the country. This has to stop. We have come to a stage where the corruptions and opportunism has gone on for far too long.
People’s protests will stop if they are shown a plan & they deserve answers.
Every country has had a period of recession & depression – it is now our turn. Those countries have come out with consistent & systematic programs applied to all & abided by all. It is now our turn. All austerity measures should be mandatory with no exceptions or favoritisms. The challenge for the team is to ensure those that suffer currently, do not suffer more under austerity!
Who is capable for heading this team to roll out these austerity measures, coordinate & monitor them.
Shenali D Waduge