By Namini Wijedasa/ naminiwijedasa.wordpress.com
Colombo, February 23: It is impossible to fathom the depths of the morass that #SriLanka is in. Or the brazenness with which the “government” treats this unprecedented economic freefall.
The total citizenry is today swallowing a lot more mismanagement, corruption, idiocy, incompetence, pig-headedness, irresponsibility and, frankly, crap from its “government” than any voter with an iota of intelligence, self-respect or dignity will ever do.
This is not a child. And we are not indulgent grandparents.
Still, we are suspended in a strange dimension between survival and total calamity. We’ve made adjustments. Yet, we function. We line up at petrol stations to milk the last bit of fuel from the pumps in the illogical belief that the “government” will find more for next month, next week, tomorrow.
There’s no fuel to generate thermal electricity and the reservoirs are depleting. But, save for the hours of chaotic, unplanned power cuts, the shop windows are lit up and consumption continues as usual. Because we think the “government” will do SOMETHING. Next month, next week, tomorrow.
There are questions about how to procure medicines, essential food and inputs for export industries. Yet we live as if the “government” will find a way to keep supplies coming without particularly caring how it does this.
At the same time, fixing the rupee against the dollar contrary to all sane advice has allowed non-essential imports to continue in the illusion that this is how all economies in dire crisis function.
Strictures from the gilded palace—occupied by a chief who negotiated Cabinet status, two pensions and a hefty salary increment (in addition to a pre-existing unlimited credit card allowance) before taking that position—for the hoi polloi to deposit their damn dollars in the damn banking system hasn’t worked.
We may not have the courage to question the status quo, but we know how to stash our dollars where a financially, morally and fundamentally decrepit “government” cannot find them. Right?
Tourism has picked up. But it merits looking at how much of the loose forex it brings ends up where it is now desperately needed, the state coffers. As long as the exchange rate is fixed at these levels, nobody will use the banks. You have to be incredibly naïve not to see that. Naïve, or just not care.
Remittances will not come in as long as this persists. That conclusion is evidence-based. Not politically-motivated, self-serving, illusory chicanery confidently spouted to heads of state that don’t know better.
What is particularly worrisome is how the “government” does not offer any—ANY—solutions to this complex situation other than piecemeal borrowing and, from the gilded palace, platitudes.
It is bizarre to dwell in a country that has made live-for-the-day its CENTRAL policy; its answer to every dire crisis it encounters or creates. And COVID-19 the sole excuse for ineptitude, incompetence and every negative connotation of the word “chutzpah”.
Urgent meetings summoned to discuss this or that crisis end up with more instructions to do nothing. To carry on. To continue to provide goods and services when there is plainly no money to purchase them with. What are we surviving on, exactly?
Because politics takes precedence—the next election, the numbers in parliament, ego, supremacy and one-upmanship. We are all expected to be the adoring aunts and uncles of a political dynasty whose only interest is itself.
Every sane counsel from economists of all schools of thought is ignored. The repeated, now frenzied, call to apply for assistance to the International Monetary Fund, is stubbornly disregarded. Are we restructuring debt? Maybe.
There’s been drama after drama.
Who, then, are the economists that guide the “government”? The public must know. The public pays the price for this. The public must hold all administrations accountable regardless of which party is in power.
“Power” is the keyword, isn’t it? What they hanker after. That is not our business. Our business is to get the entitlements we elected them for. Not to help them line their pockets. Not to make excuses for their obvious lack of interest in the voters who put them there. Not to ensure that their political hangers-on and bootlickers are kept employed, replete with contracts or the promise of politically-orchestrated personal futures. And certainly not to ensure that their dynasties are intact.
If you feel a lack of focus and absence of policymaking, perhaps you’re not wrong. If you feel the “government” has lost its grip, perhaps it has. If you feel their only plan to earn revenue is to extract it from us, perhaps it is. If you can’t understand ISBs, credit lines, currency swaps and what-not, perhaps you’re not supposed to.
If you feel let down and scared, perhaps more people than you imagine feel the same. If you’re worried about securing your child’s future in an environment where nothing makes sense, where chaos and directionlessness overshadow everything else, I am too.
And if you fret that, however much you work, work and work, the money you earn won’t be enough to send your kids the hell out of a country you raised them to love and serve, I do too.
The problem, however, is us. This isn’t the first “government” that treated us with such contempt. The last administration, with its infighting, personality clashes, subterfuge, deal-making, dire inefficiency and corruption, did the same. The dispensations before that were also awful. We have come to accept and tolerate varying degrees of badness.
Do we believe we don’t deserve better? Why are we not demanding more or, today, even the basics?
Surely, the answer isn’t in changing who is in charge? It is in making whoever we elect DO THE JOB.
Our failure to be unrelenting and unyielding in holding them to account for their promises is what got us here. And our willingness to turn a blind eye when they stuff our institutions–our departments, corporations, ministries–with political henchmen that serve the appointing authorities and not the public that pays their salaries.
Whether it’s Gota, Mahinda, Sirisena, Sajith, Anura Kumara or anyone else, unless we demand better–and not negotiate on that–they will all treat us with the disdain we deserve.