“There are rumours that Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had to take over the finance portfolio since no member of the Sri Lankan Parliament was willing to take up this challenge of managing the country’s finances. Instead of looking at the scenario negatively, it would be appropriate to think that the Prime Minister taking over the finance portfolio is also a progressive step, as the finance portfolio requires the maximum attention at this stage,” says veteran Indian journalist N.S. Venkataramanan in his latest article, which landed in my email ‘in box’.
He further states that ‘when the Sri Lankan Government negotiated with the IMF to obtain financial support, the present scenario appears to be that the IMF is procrastinating the issue and has not given a firm assurance to the Sri Lankan Government. When Sri Lanka approached the World Bank, they ruled out any assistance to Sri Lanka until the Government of Sri Lanka formulates an adequate macroeconomic policy framework.’ Naturally, Sri Lanka is losing time with fuel shortages and other essentials. That will automatically induce people to lose patience and continue to protest. Everyone is frustrated already.
Ranil Wickremesinghe was criticised from all corners, alleging that he is the only member (from the National List). And the whole gamut of the United National Party (UNP) was defeated at the last Presidential election; he has been the Prime Minister in Sri Lanka over five times. His most alleged criticism appears to be that “he assumed the Premiership solely to bail out Mahinda Rajapaksa. Unfortunately, some of the opposition Members of Parliament and those who dislike his face do not realise the gravity of the country’s present situation today. When President Gotabaya Rajapaksa offered the Opposition Leader, Sajith Premadasa, a golden opportunity to take over the Government, Premadasa did not have the bottle to face the responsibility. He started writing letters to the President putting forward various conditions rather than taking over the Government. The defected party member of the SJB, MP Harin Fernando, publicly announced that Sajith Premadasa was in an ‘Assai Bayai’ (love-hate) situation. Finally, Harin Fernando joined the Government as the Minister of Tourism and Lands to save the country as a true patriot.
However, Ranil Wickremesinghe proved his skill when he became the new Prime Minister and later assumed the Finance Minister’s responsibilities. He wasted no time in rescuing the country when he took the Premiership by speaking to many of his international colleagues to arrange funds as the Country’s dollar crises became serious; he worked throughout in his office during the Vesak holidays. He is popular among international leaders.
New Budget – Sweeping Changes
The Prime Minister spoke to the Nation and announced a new Budget soon. He proposed to increase the minimum wage for all plantation workers and daily wage earners to Rs.1,500. The PM offered SriLankan Airlines to be privatised through an international bidding procedure and other loss-making Government enterprises. Meanwhile, Rs. 2B worth of Indian loan was due on May 23, 2022. So far, only “India has responded to Sri Lanka’s need with a great sense of urgency and goodwill. One needs to bear in mind there is a limit to the capability of India to financially help Sri Lanka since India is a developing country with a huge population.” N.S.Venkataraman insists.
Those who protest claim that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigns voluntarily. The new Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe says: “The President cannot be removed constitutionally as the peoples’ wish, and it is a long process! Within a month, M.P’s in the Parliament need to appoint a suitable candidate for the Presidency. At present, most Parliamentarians are members of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. What would guarantee that the newly appointed President would be any better than Gotabaya Rajapaksa?”
Meanwhile, addressing the media, the Leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumya MP Udaya Gammanpila said everyone should put an end to the ‘Ranil Go Home’ and ‘Gota Go Home’ protests aside and work together to solve the crisis in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka sought fresh assistance of USD 500 million from India towards fuel imports. “So far, only India has responded to Sri Lanka’s need with a great sense of urgency. But, there is a limit to the capability of India to financially help Sri Lanka since India is a developing country with a huge population,” says N.S. Venkataraman.
Sri Lanka urgently needs a short-term macroeconomic plan and a long-term action plan. Printing more currency at this stage is not the only solution to solve Sri Lanka’s economic sorrows. Sri Lanka has several mineral deposits of gems all over the Country, currently exported lethargically. The Country has ilmenite (iron-black, heavy, metallic oxide mineral composed of iron and titanium oxide) used as the primary source of titanium.
Usually, jet engines are made of titanium. There are so many other immediate opportunities and avenues that the Government does not talk about. The new Minister of Trade, Commerce and Food Security–Nalin Fernando, should encourage local technologists and scientists.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a Sri Lankan developed a robot where any medical staff should not attend COVID-19 patients. It consisted of a trolly carrying all required medicines for COVID-19 patients. Another Sri Lankan produced a car that runs on water. These inventions were seen on T.V. only, and these inventors did not get their due place! With queues extending these days due to the non-availability of fuel, had the Government shown any interest and supported them, today we should have been laughing. ‘Capable and talented have no place in Sri Lanka’ is a popular theme.’ However, politicians and responsible officials seem to be deaf and blind to such inventions! One wonders whether it is due to the extreme corruption prevalent today!
Another chance to earn dollars
Here is another chance to earn dollars by exporting ‘Thiruwana’ powder (Silicon out of which semiconductors are made). The writer is known to a company in Castle Street Colombo 8. The company exports this raw material to Japan, Korea, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore and the USA and brings the US$ 15 million a year. This company currently has a capacity of 2000 tons, but the writer understands they could increase the capacity to 5,000 tons by increasing their output by 33%. The company states plenty of Government-owned lands are full of raw materials (Tiruwanastones). Still, administrators who control these lands have become a hindrance rather than helping the industry to earn more dollars during this crisis period. Should the Government, therefore, interfere and help the company to have access to these lands, the company says they will be able to double the number of dollars that they bring to the country. The crushed powder is used as a raw material to manufacture semiconductors. The chairman of the company wishes to have a meeting with the Prime Minister to explain the procedure in detail.
As the Indian journalist N.S. Venkataraman, says, “Sri Lanka needs fewer politicians and more technologists to be a self-sufficient country.” He points out that “Sri Lanka is now becoming counter-productive as many politicians seem to have a prejudiced approach and forget about the national interest. Tragically, politicians belonging to different political parties in Sri Lanka are not coming forward to offer unconditional support to the Prime Minister in implementing the strategies to overcome the present crisis. The utterances and behaviour of so many politicians in Sri Lanka are so disgusting.”
picture credit: Daily News