The Government must be lauded
for taking a series of effective measures to reduce the Cost of
Living. There has been a rise in the CoL mainly due to factors
beyond the Government’s control, but that has not deterred it
from seeking solutions.
The steep rise in oil prices was one of the prime causes for
the upward momentum of CoL as transport costs have to be taken
There was a similar hike in gas prices. The prevailing
shortage of milk powder in the world market sent prices soaring,
until the Government stepped in and stipulated a maximum retail
One of the most effective measures taken by the Government
was the scrapping of taxes and duties including VAT on more than
10 essential items. The Government incurred a loss exceeding Rs.
10 billion in doing so, but public interest came first.
This measure resulted in a considerable drop in the prices of
many of these items including sugar, canned fish, potatoes and
dhal. These ‘tax holidays’ have now been extended in view of the
Nevertheless, the Government was mindful of the impact on
local producers in the case of some food items and it was made
clear that any tax relief measures would not affect their crops
as duties are re-imposed during the local seasons.
One of the lasting ill effects of the open economy was that
Sri Lanka began to import every food item, regardless of whether
it can be grown here or not. Thus the country spends millions of
dollars for importing foods every year.
The answer, as enunciated in the Government’s the Let us grow
more food to build the nation campaign, is increasing local
production of food items so that certain imports can be
eventually phased out.
The complementary Ganna Apey De (Buy Sri Lankan products)
campaign will also be a boost for local food items.
Another issue that has to be addressed by the authorities is
the massive wastage of perishable foods in the form of
Some fruits and vegetables are so abundant in their
respective seasons that the prices plummet to unbelievable
levels leaving farmers unable to make a profit. Most stocks go
waste as a result.
A mechanism should be evolved to export surplus produce and
preserve fruits and vegetables for out-of-season use.
The Government has already exported rice consignments in this
manner and hopefully the programme can be extended to other food
items. Such innovative strategies are vital in the fight against
It was just one week ago that
science fiction guru Sir Arthur C Clarke listed three wishes on
his 90th birthday. Among them was making contact with aliens.
Now Japan’s Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba has entered the
debate, expressing a firm belief in Unidentified Flying Objects
(UFOs) and even speculating on how Japan should respond to
Does life exist on planets outside Earth? This is a question
that man has been trying to answer for millennia. Is Man alone
in the universe? Or are there are other life forms out there?
Either way, it is an exciting prospect.
There are billions of stars in our own galaxy as well as in
other parts of the universe which could be harbouring
Scientists have already discovered several planetary systems
outside our solar system and even some Earth-like planets (at
least in terms of size). Chances are that conditions for life
could exist in one or more of these celestial bodies.
Scientists have a fairly good idea of how life arose on Earth
and these conditions could by no means be unique to Earth as
similar chemical structures have been detected elsewhere in the
The discovery of life, even in microscopic forms, in our own
solar system would clear any doubts on this issue. Perhaps the
numerous robotic probes surveying the outer planets and their
moons would yield a clue.
There is another school of thought that mankind is still at a
very low level of advancement in celestial terms and that far
superior extra-terrestrial beings are watching our progress.
Their argument is that these beings could be inspecting us from
the vantage point of their UFOs without making ‘contact’.
Making ‘contact’ is a hot issue. As Sir Clarke points out,
making contact with aliens is a life-long wish for many people,
scientists and laymen alike. This is exactly the aim of the
Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project
undertaken by scientists around the world.
The logic is simple: We have been broadcasting radio, TV
signals for the last 100 years or so, which could have been
intercepted by aliens. They could be sending messages to us. So
far there has been no success, but scientists are not giving up
Man’s other dream is exploring space for life-bearing planets
and planets which can support life. Man will someday have to
settle down in other planets when a dying Earth cannot support
them anymore. That day is still millions of years away. In the
meantime, Man would be delighted to meet counterparts from
elsewhere in the universe.