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The post of Governor of the Central Bank is not only one of the most prestigious posts in the country but also a key position in the management of the economy. Since the Central Bank was established many have held that post. Not all of them were of equal caliber or integrity.

But the current Governor, Nivard Cabraal is the pits. The man is fundamentally dishonest and that more than his lack of qualifications for the job has had disastrous effect on the country’s struggling economy.

The problem with Nivard Cabraal is that his ambitious are much greater than his abilities. A mediocre accountant, he decided that politics would be where he could rise quickly. He is very ambitious and shows glimpses of his liking to be a rich man. He was a dismal failure in electoral politics losing more than once to get elected to the Western Provincial Council from the UNP. When Ranil Wickremesinghe became Prime Minister in 2002 Cabraal asked for a top post in the Treasury or the Central Bank. Ranil Wickremesinghe whatever else his faults are can see a fraud miles away and just laughed it off. A miffed Cabraal backed Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2005 presidential elections. As the pay off he asked for and got the post of Governor of the Central Bank. The career officials of the Central Bank were appalled. But the President values loyalty and those who supported him when few others did over ability, qualifications and integrity. Even the fact that the Central Bank at the time was investigating the Gold Coin pyramid scheme and Cabraal was accused of being  neck deep in that fraud was not an issue for the President.

The reason why Cabraal wanted the post so desperately was exactly for that reason. He not only stopped the investigation but dismantled the unit that was carrying out the investigation.

That was Nivard Cabraal’s first act as the Governor and since then it has been one disaster after  another.

Our lead story today is how Cabraal squashed a report from the Central Bank warning serious wrongdoing by Golden Key as far back as 2007.  If action had been taken at that time, thousands of depositors would not have lost their savings. Deshamanya Lalith Kotelawala  and his wife Doctor Lady Kotelawala  would not have creamed off billions of depositors money. The biggest financial fraud in the country’s history estimated at a massive 100 billion rupees could have been prevented. 

The good news for the depositors especially those who deposited money after 2007, can now sue the Governor and the Central Bank. But here again they will have to wait until Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva retires in early June. Both are deemed to be good pals and the Chief Justice has made clear that he would not tolerate any petition with Cabraal as a respondent.

In most countries, public utterances of the Central Bank Governor, is studied closely as it would indicate the fiscal policy of the government. But in Sri Lanka every time Cabraal opens his mouth, economists and business leaders double up laughing and Central Bank officials hide their faces in embarrassment.  Even the President is now known to refer to Cabraal and a “nariyek”

If Cabraal had an ounce of intelligence, he would take the advice of the highly qualified and experienced staff at the Central Bank before he opens his mouth. But what is lacking in Cabraal is intelligence. When the whole world was taking emergency steps to cope with worldwide economic downturn, Cabraal confidently assured the nation that it would have no effect on Sri Lanka because of all things enshrined in the “Mahinda Chinthnaya”.

In most countries other than in a Zimbabwe style dictatorship, that statement would have been enough to sack the governor of the Central Bank. But then this is Sri Lanka and we have learnt to suffer fools. Just like the President we too should just call him a “nariya” and have a good laugh every time he opens his mouth.









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