|Friday, 11 July 2003|
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Oil exploration and economic pragmatism
By an interesting coincidence, some ideological under pinnings, which presumably prevented the JVP from voting for the constructively-debated Petroleum Resources Bill in Parliament on Wednesday, found prominent emphasis in the Communist Party of Sri Lanka's 60th anniversary celebrations.
While globalization and its perceived disastrous spin-offs constituted the principal theme of CPSL General Secretary Dew Gunasekera's key analysis at the latter forum, the JVP, which also lays claim to the central tenets of Marxism, decided against voting for the Bill which makes provision for the exploration of oil and gas reserves in Sri Lanka with private sector participation including foreign private capital.
Essentially, the JVP's opposition to the Petroleum Resources Bill was based on the strident claim that preparations were under way to sell the country's resources to "foreign smugglers" - a populist plank which has apparently still not outlived its usefulness among JVP ideologues and pedagogues when it comes to debating the "perennial ills" of foreign investment. Simultaneously almost, South America's failed experiments in privatization were being copiously elaborated on at the CPSL commemorative forum, with dire warnings of what would befall the rest of the Third World, if they too followed suit.
Ideological tussles of this kind are both welcome and useful because they help immensely in the clarification of the issues of the day as well as aid in the fine-honing of policy and legislation.
Going by Wednesday's Parliamentary debate, the Petroleum Resources Bill is no blank cheque for the mindless exploitation of our oil and gas reserves by foreign interests. Rather, oil exploration would be carried out in the relevant locations within a collaborative and cooperative framework between the Government and firms specializing in the oil exploration field. In fact the Bill, as we understand it, is also a comprehensive legal framework which has as its central point the national interest.
It is significant that constructive inputs to the debate on the Bill came from some PA members although the JVP preferred to mouth its tired slogans on foreign investment perils.
True, all has not been well with all Third World countries which have preferred to swim with the globalization tide. However, we also have as reference points, states which have immersed themselves in the currents of globalization with care and caution. For instance, Direct Foreign Investment has been closely regulated by such states and made to comply with national priorities. A fine balance has been effected between the common good and individual and corporate interests. In short, a spirit of pragmatism has been introduced into the policy-building process.
Economic pragmatism should really be the spirit of the new age and this, apparently, will be the cornerstone of our oil exploration efforts. Accordingly, it is not globalization per se which ought to be decried but the short-sightedness of states which look upon it as a magic mantram of easy success.
Produced by Lake House