The economy as one of the vital
A home-grown solution is what President Mahinda
Rajapaksa offered to the long drawn conflict in this country
after assuming office. That is, it would be a locally or
indigenously worked out solution which would not necessarily
conform to the formulae which have been hitherto worked out
particularly on the basis of foreign inputs. In other words,
Mahinda Chinthana would be the foundation of this solution.
Accordingly, the shape and substance of this solution could
not be predetermined and prefigured, because it is unlikely to
be akin to any of the solutions which have been bandied around
over the years and which have been found to be adequate for
problems of this kind in other countries but not necessarily for
ours. However, the bare outlines of how the problem in Sri Lanka
is going to be resolved are already making themselves visible
and one could see that typically down-to-earth common sense and
practical wisdom are being applied.
The reason why our solution needs to be ‘home-grown’ has been
outlined by the President. This conflict had been of 30 years’
duration and had acquired a complexity which is not at all easy
to pin down. Its contortions and dimensions are such that it is
not amenable to simple-minded solutions. Above all, it is only
those who have lived through the horrors of this turmoil who are
best suited to figure out a solution to this conflict and
particularly not those who are seeing it from ‘outside’.
One could observe that without any fanfare and fuss, more and
more money is being channeled into the North-East economy. We
have it on the authority of Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor
Ajith Nivard Cabraal that over Rs. 250 billion has been siphoned
to the North alone for development purposes. Likewise, Rs.
116,000 million has been already spent on development in the
East over the period, 2006-2010. The funds allocated for the
East for development this year stand at Rs. 26,611 million.
The Mahinda Chinthana or thinking thus manifests itself in
clear terms. At bottom, it was a glaring lack of development
that led to the separatist rebellion in the North-East. Tamil
grievances were, essentially, based on the perception that the
North-East was left out in the development process. Besides,
there was a lack of opportunities for advancement for these
sections of the population in the rest of the economy. Of
course, the rebellion compounded the problems of the North-East
in that the conditions in these regions precluded the
possibility of developing them on a sustained basis. For
example, during the tenure of the J.R. Jayewardene
administration we had a District Minister for Jaffna, but it is
an open question whether anything by way of development could
have been initiated in the district in those troubled years.
Now that the terror menace has been wiped out, the path has
been paved for a sustained development effort in the North-East
and the state is, very rightly, focusing on this ambitious
project, which, we hope, would bear fruit.
The thinking behind these timely initiatives is crystal clear
and very intelligible - so intelligible that one does not need
to have any special knowledge of the discipline of economics to
understand it. If frustration over a lack of jobs and other
essential requirements led to a youth rebellion, then, the way
out of it is a provision of these needs, and development is the
key avenue to the supply of these requirements. A dynamic
development drive is the answer to the frustrations of the
North-East people and herein we have the answer to our problems.
Nothing could be simpler to comprehend. If the lack of a
livelihood and the feeling that they were discriminated against,
drove some among the North-East youth to take up arms against
the state, one of the most effective ways of removing such
frustration and disenchantment is to give them those ways of
improving their lives and to make life worth living for them.
There is absolutely no need to split hairs over solutions of
this kind but to go ahead and implement them and this is what
the well meaning hope is happening.
But as we have time and again pointed out, there is a huge
difference between economic growth and development and it must
be ensured that what is finally achieved is development. That
is, growth plus equity. It is equity or the equal distribution
of prosperity that will usher in development and not the mere
churning-out of goods and services, which growth alone accounts
We hardly need to stress that Sri Lanka is facing a challenge
in the form of convincing some sections of the international
community that she is meaning well by all her communities. In
the development effort in the North-East, we have the proof that
this is so. Such achievements need to be showcased to the rest
of the world without delay.