The Supreme Court recently held the once most powerful political family in South Asia, also cash rich (amassed allegedly during their three tenures), accountable for the economic mayhem which resulted in Sri Lanka becoming a beggar nation. The list included their disgraced economic hitman Dr. P.B. Jayasundara. The Rajapaksas must know the court decision was widely applauded by the majority. Even the non-productive Parliament was able to draw some attention from the public by crucifying the Rajapaksas for the worst economic crime. Many have now forgotten that the country during the war was losing 2.5% of its GDP annually and that Mahinda Rajapaksa had put a stop to the bleeding in 2009.
Several interesting revelations were made last week in Parliament during the Budget debate. Starting with the President giving pointers as to who may have been behind the Aragalaya. He revealed that the former BASL President Saliya Pieris was ready to take oaths as Prime Minister. He joked that Saliya had even got his suit ready for the swearing in ceremony. Perhaps the ambition and the Colombo 7 attention of the aunties got the better of Saliya?
Then the controversial MP Rohitha Abeygonsekara from Kalutara revealed how Sajith Premadasa called former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the telephone after his victory and requested him not to harm him after his resounding defeat. Premadasa polled the lowest % so far for a main opposition candidate. Also that Premadasa was contemplating retirement. For which Gotabaya had said that he must not do so, but to fight on. Later in the day Opposition Leader MP Sajith Premadasa reminded the President that whilst he was Prime Minister he had accused the Rajapaksa family of corruption and was now protecting them. Further he said the UNP had only got one seat in Parliament, that too a free seat. Therefore, he must have elections without delay.
MP Namal Rajapaksa who criticised the Budget and threatened to abstain with his team, turned up in their numbers to vote for the second reading. Mahinda Rajapaksa had advised him against doing that. The President who thanked those who voted in favour of the second reading also thanked those who voted against the Budget. He sarcastically noted that the opposition now knows the actual support they have in Parliament.
For many citizens other than for the one million plus public servants the Budget offered no real financial relief. The Budget was prepared by them, one private sector chairman remarked at a Budget seminar. The country’s economic downfall cannot only be heaped on the politicians of this country. Dr. P.B. Jayasundara and Nivard Cabraal made several cardinal mistakes. For example P.B. Jayasundara introduced a self-assessment scheme for tax declaration. Which turned out to be a huge disaster for the Government revenue. It is said he was advised by a MNC Audit Firm head, who has now shifted his allegiance. We hope for the sake of the Sri Lankan public the current administration does not gobble a big rope from this man again.
The Finance Ministry has become today the worst performing ministry. Even Minister Bandula Gunawardena has said officials in the Finance Ministry who have no sense of business sit in judgment over crucial projects and allocating Government funds. They delay implementation and giving approvals, he said. The Sri Lanka Customs and the Inland Revenue are classed as the two of the worst performing departments. Both institutions come under the oversight of the Ministry of Finance that occupies valuable commercial property in the heart of downtown Colombo owned by the people.
The CBSL Governor who was selected as one of the Best Governors in Asia by the Global Finance Magazine, ironically the respected Banker Magazine picked former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake in 2017 as the best Finance Minister in Asia. Both certainly have shown what they are capable of. For example, Weerasinghe has brought inflation down to almost nothing. By doing that he has contracted the economy significantly, destroyed many businesses and has virtually made the tourism sector bankrupt. In a recent webinar it was clearly articulated that the majority of the tourism sector entrepreneurs can never pay back their loans to the banks, due to the massive penalties and the massive interest premiums that were heaped on them over the last two years.
The 2022 interest rate policy adopted by the CBSL ended unfortunately as a double-edged sword. Only God can now save the Sri Lankan Government when it is called upon to start paying back those very expensive LKR bonds to the public with interest. The President said recently in a televised interview the No. 1 creditor of the Government is the international commercial debt. There again the commercial debt borrowed at commercial rates fell under the purview of the CBSL. There is a need for an independent inquiry and an asset declaration of those who borrowed money on behalf of the people of Sri Lanka during 2010-2020. When history is finally written of the causes of the crisis and the recovery measures taken to come out of the crisis, the interest rate policy of the CBSL and the cost of the post crisis high cost Bond issues will certainly not be taken too kindly by the future generations for heaping more burdens on them.