|Wednesday, 2 July 2003|
Please forward your comments to the Editor, Daily News.
Email : email@example.com
Snail mail : Daily News, 35, D.R. Wijewardana Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Telephone : 94 1 429429 / 421181
Fax : 94 1 429210
Economic data which please and ground realities
The 5.5 per cent growth figure in the economy, while providing proof of the wisdom of seeking peace by peaceful means, speaks volumes for the Government's deft handling of the economy. Following closely on the heels of news of a much improved investment climate, our encouraging economic performance could be considered a pointer to the possible prosperity that awaits the country in the event of greater progress being made in efforts to resolve the conflict by political means.
The vast distance we have traversed on the path of economic recovery could be gauged by the abysmal depths into which the economy had slipped in the bad old days of war, which we hope would never be the country's lot again.
Outlining the factors behind this satisfactory growth rate, Finance Minister K. N. Choksy was quoted saying that, a 4.6 percent increase in industrial production, an increase in tourist arrivals by 28 per cent and an expansion of private remittances to US dollars 457 million, among other reasons, had given the country this economic boost. The US dollars 4.5 billion which has been promised us by the Tokyo Aid Conference is likely to sustain this degree of buoyancy in the economy.
Along with this news of an economic revival of sorts come reports of an ambitious land distribution scheme among the landless and the indigent. A news report attributed to Lands Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that landless citizens would be allocated 20 perch blocks of land for housing construction and two acres of land for agricultural purposes.
This scheme would be also extended, apparently, to the North and East.
The coincidental disclosure of these developments on the economy and on the allocation of land among the landless, helps to bring into focus important dimensions in our development experience.
As is well known, growth in the national economy doesn't necessarily mean that economic dividends would seep down to the masses, of whom the peasantry constitutes a substantial proportion.
Our experience thus far is that growth rarely "trickles down" to the people who need it most - the poor. Accordingly, as we have on and off been saying, economic development should be directed to percolate down to the people, if our development experience is to prove meaningful.
The land distribution scheme could help considerably in this effort, provided it is done on an equitable basis, sans political and ethnic consideration.
Moreover, an accelerated skills development program needs to be conducted at the rural level to enable the beneficiaries of the land to make maximum use of it. For instance, the peasantry may be needed to be taught advanced agricultural practices and upgraded land-use methods.
Therefore, impressive economic data shouldn't lull the authorities into a sense of complacency. A host of socio-economic challenges lie ahead, and we need to brace for little encountered, troubling aspects of the development experience.
Produced by Lake House