The price of governance
There was a time when posters were pasted on walls criticizing the
government. The 17 years of UNP rule was shattered by the violence that
started along with a poster campaign.
There had been no such demonstrations or attacks on this government
up to now. A government like this will not fall to such a situation. In
the demonstrations held recently no one shouted slogans telling the
government to go home. The reason for this, is that the President
liberated this country from terrorism.
prices on the increase
But all demonstrations which were held during the last few days was
due to fuel prices.
It is true that the fuel price increase affects the fishing
community. Even before the price increase there were signs of fish
prices coming down. But fish prices are low in the fish stalls of the
Fisheries Corporation than other fish stalls. Therefore, fish in the
Corporation stall are sold out quickly. In some areas the expeditious
projects of the Fisheries Corporation have helped keep fish prices low.
The intervention of the Fisheries Corporation has contributed to
maintain the fish prices during the last two years. Therefore, the fish
vendors were not able to raise the price of fish in an arbitrary manner.
It was in such a background that the fishing community became restless
with the increase of fuel prices. But when the government intervened to
provide the fuel concession to the fishing community, fishermen in the
country, except those in Negombo and Chilaw areas, became calm.
It is a traditional thing for the Opposition to demonstrate on the
cost of living. However, now it is a trend for ministers to criticise
other ministers while being in the government.
Due to supplying fuel and electricity at concessionary rates during
the last few years, the combined loss incurred by the Ceylon Petroleum
Corporation and the Ceylon Electricity Board amounted to Rs. 238
billion. It amounts to Rs. 178 billion by the Ceylon Petroleum
Corporation and Rs. 60 billion by the Electricity Board. While releasing
this colossal amount as concessions for fuel and electricity the
government has also released Rs. 132 billion this year as concessions
for fertilizer subsidy, Samurdhi, school uniforms and others. When these
two amounts are combined it comes to Rs. 470 billion. From this amount
the loss relating to the Petroleum Corporation is equivalent to the
total expenditure being incurred for the construction of the
There is a question about this concessionary scheme which has been
formulated on the lines of equitable distribution throughout the
country. It is a great injustice to provide the Rs. 240 billion fuel and
electricity concessions to millionares and billionaires.
There is a problem even in the export revenue as well. The country's
imports have increased while the exports have declined, resulting in a
deficit in the trade balance. This deficit has to be covered from the
foreign exchange reserves in the country. Therefore, there is a
reduction in the amount of foreign exchange reserves held by the
country. The International Monetary Fund's advice to strengthen the
foreign exchange reserves is not a conspiracy. By this, they are not
damaging the sovereignty of the country. It is the way that any
institution that provides loans acts. Therefore, it is not possible to
further implement a concessionary programme of this magnitude. Even if
Ranil Wickremesinghe takes over this country he too will have to face
A government is not an institution that works on a profit and loss
account basis. Therefore, in consideration of the welfare of the people,
a government needs to provide concessions. In this context it is the
policy of this government to provide concessions to the people. But each
cent of these concessions is not given from the pockets of the
government leaders. It is given from public funds. A government has to
think about all these things. Hence a future government cannot look
askance about a fuel and electricity concession amounting to Rs. 238
At least from now on the government cannot sell fuel and electricity
at a loss. However the government should be commended for proposing a
concessionary scheme focusing attention on the sections of people who
are most affected by this price structure.
There could be shortcomings in it. It may not be practical either.
But that policy is not that hard. It is prudent to identify the real
underprivileged sectors and introduce a concession system that will
provide more benefits to the economically down trodden. There is no
dispute that the economic development being carried out in the country
should uplift the living standards of the people.