Prophets of Doom Eat Humble Pie | Daily News

Prophets of Doom Eat Humble Pie

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with USAID Chief Samantha Power
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with USAID Chief Samantha Power

The appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister is bringing relief to the people who have been suffering for quite some time owing to the grave economic crisis.

Placing him at the helm of financial affairs by appointing him as the Minister of Finance as well is another wise move enabling him to connect with countries eager to help Sri Lanka at this difficult hour.

Opponents of these moves are biting the dust as Ranil Wickremesinghe has achieved much with only just about a couple of weeks in office making unfounded claims that his one trillion rupee currency note printing will help only favourites, seeing crocodiles in the wash basin.

The fact that the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) is increasingly issuing dollars to pay for essential imports now is being conveniently ignored.

It is a fallacy to say that it is only economists who make good Finance Ministers as proved by Ronnie de Mel who presented 11 consecutive budgets. Economists and university dons are unquestionably treasure troves on the subject mastering the various branches of economics and theorizing on TV talk shows but a Finance Minister has necessarily to be practical and an economic strategist. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is eminently so.

The economic crisis is easing rapidly with fuel queues getting shorter hour by hour and day-by-day. The supply of cooking gas is improving and with the opening of the Sapugaskanda oil refinery, having been shut down for nearly three months, will improve the situation further. Fertilizer imports that need only about US$ 160 million are to begin soon.

In an extremely salutary development the US Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator Samantha Power has held a telephone conversation with Premier Wickremesinghe to discuss how the USAID is responding to the country's political and economic crises. She has pledged her support to Sri Lanka and committed that USAID would help the country tide over the crisis.

Central Bank of Sri Lanka

Meanwhile, India and Japan have also agreed to work together on assisting crisis-hit Sri Lanka, the Japanese Government said, following a recent meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Fumio Kishida in Tokyo.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the leaders “discussed the situation in Sri Lanka and confirmed that they will cooperate with each other in light of the current economic crisis and deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the country.”

As Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining Independence in 1948 it is not surprising that the cost of everything has skyrocketed, sending food prices beyond the reach of the vast majority of the people creating unprecedented food inflation.

But with aid coming from the above sources the situation will ease appreciably, especially in view of the fact that “the US Development Agency has pledged support to the people of Sri Lanka, saying that it is committed to helping the island nation weather the present financial crisis”.

It may well be useful to examine why demonstrators including the learned and university students cry out that all 225 Members of Parliament (MPs) have to be sent home and that nothing has been achieved in the 74 years since Independence was gained in 1948.

There have always been ascetics, stoics and playboys in Parliament but one of the factors that has earned infamy for MPs is the supply of rich food at very low rates.

If the food supplied to visitors in the canteen meant for them after the J.R. Jayewardene regime is the measure where a very costly meal cooked at the Parliament kitchen with a dessert also was given at a very cheap rate of around two rupees, whereas during JR’s time a stoic fare from a star class hotel, served onto a soup plate was given at five rupees plus a desert for another five rupees, one can imagine what was served at the MPs’ canteen.

One of the other factors is the belief is that there is favouritism by MPs in providing employment to the people which had actually been there intermittently during the 74-year period.

Generally, jobs were given on talent up to 1970 when any village boy or girl passing the Senior School Certificate (SSC) or General Certificate of Education (GCE) examinations, if not desirous of pursuing higher education, could sit for the General Clerical Service (GCS) or any of the other clerical service examinations and for tests to recruit employees for any other job such as nursing, telephone monitoring in a Government Department or semi-Government institution, receive the results by Registered Post, face a routine interview and get employed through the Employment Exchange or enter a Teacher Training College (TTC).

Somewhere thereabouts the Employment Exchange situated across the road from the Central Telegraph Office (CTO), Fort, was closed down the building itself having been demolished to make room for a car park and the chit system came into being.

In1977, the J.R. Jayewardene Government introduced the Job Bank Scheme and did justice to those affected by the chit system, not taking into account the political colour.

However, again after the J.R. Jayewardene regime, sham interviews and bogus tests began to be held to recruit employees at least to a semi-Government news agency and a newspaper house affecting the work of those places, the recruits being incompetent and to correct this situation the newspaper office had to hold tests to net in competent hands after 1994.



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