Sky-Rocketting Cost Of Living And A Beleagured Nation
Nothing has more strength than dire necessity -Eurepides –Helen
This column no more dedicated to the notion of making Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia as it appears to be a mere slogan propounded by an indifferent regime to the suffering of the masses turns its spotlight on the ever escalating cost of living while the politicians appear to be wallowing in luxury as Sri Lankan society would aspire to be free from abject poverty.
The media reported last week that price of bread had risen by Rs. 3 a loaf but some bakers were selling bread at a even high increase in price of Rs. 5 per loaf, a bag of cement went up by Rs. 70, a cylinder of LP Gas went up by Rs. 350, 1kg pack of imported milk powder by Rs. 163 to sell at Rs.810 and a 400g pack by Rs. 61 to sell at Rs. 325. The electricity rates went up by 20%. Price of petrol and diesel were increased earlier. All these increase will have to be borne by the impoverished consumers in Sri Lanka. At the inception of the French Revolution, the French people marched to the Royal Palace and demanded bread as the prices had been increased by the Regime. The Queen Marie Antoinette was astonished at the people demanding bread and she asked the people why they demand bread when there are plenty of cakes available in the market. The Queen living in the Palace where everything was plentiful like some of our Cabinet Ministers who profess to be expert economists did not realize that cakes are even more expensive than bread and the impoverished people were even unable to afford the price of a loaf of bread. For this ignorance she paid the price on the guillotine during the French Revolution. As stated at the outset of this piece nothing is stronger than dire necessity.
When people observe the wasteful expenditure of the regime and the colossal sums spent on dinners, banquets and opening ceremonies of various projects undertaken by the regime and the people are required to switch off their lights to save electricity when street lamps are burning during daytime unnoticed by the relevant authorities and the people are asked to bear an addition 20% on their electricity bills hatred towards the regime would undoubtedly build up. On top of all this the Banks have jacked up the interest rates on credit card payments from 24% to 28% while the Banks only pay 11-12% on fixed deposits, which is more than double what the Banks pay. The Governor of the Central Bank; while flying around the Globe with public funds, turns a blind eye to the suffering of the masses. Monthly wage earners depend heavily on credit cards for their daily purchases.
Using the draconian law Recovery of Loans by Banks(Special Provisions)Act the Banks go on increasing interest rates at will and use the provision on parate execution by passing resolutions to auction properties which are scantly advertised and then grab private properties at their whim and fancy. Sri Lanka has arrived at a very pathetic state to say the least. Although the Government has undertaken many projects to improve the economy one wonders whether such projects have been carefully planned. For instance although the Government gives the farmer manure at a subsidised rate has the Government provided adequate storage facilities to store the increased harvest and to export the surplus before the paddy becomes unsuitable for consumption? It was reported that large stocks of paddy were rotting in the stores due to lack of proper storage facilities. It is the function of the Government to properly plan for the anticipated increase in production. The Government introduced the crate system for storage of vegetable but have they ensured a proper distribution system to distribute the vegetable to the entire island. Recently it was reported in the media that tons and tons of vegetables were spoilt and had to be buried as they had become unsuitable for consumption. What a colossal waste of money and human effort?
Then it was reported last week that in Hatton thousands of litres of milk were poured on the highway as the Government had not taken adequate measures to purchase this milk and preserve it in cold storage. These mishaps indicate the incompetence and inadequacy of the Cabinet Ministers and the Authorities functioning under them who are directly responsible for these tasks. If the Regime fails to correct these errors and lets these politicians off the hook without being called upon to answer for this colossal waste the Government will soon fall into utter disrepute with the people of this land. Some of these politicians appear on television and propound economic theories that a person in Sri Lanka can live on Rs. 2,500 a month. If this were correct, the Government should reduce the Cabinet Minister’s salary accordingly in the public interest and pass on the benefits to the people. Paying lip service and trying to misguide and fool the people of this country will not hold water for a long period of time. There is a saying that one can fool some people for some time but not all the people for all time. The day of reckoning is drawing near as people would undoubtedly loose their patience with the regime if this pattern continues to prevail unabated. The few politicians who love this country more than themselves should take immediate action to avert the present downward trend. As Sir Ivor Jenning said ‘A politician is a selfish person who is only interested in devising ways and means to remain in power whereas a Statesman is a selfless person who places the interests of his country before his own personal interests’. I ask my fellow Sri Lankans whether they see a statesman in Sri Lanka today. Alas what is happening to our beloved motherland where the rule of law lies buried and the economy is going asunder with the escalating cost of living making Sri Lanka a beleaguered Nation.
Let me conclude as usual with an amusing anecdote to turn away my dear readers from the bleak picture I have painted above.
A wealthy local politician was throwing a lavish garden party attended by the cream of local society. While dignitaries and minor celebrities like provincial councilors enjoyed themselves, two gardeners were busy weeding a flower bed behind a low hedge. As the guests watched, one gardener suddenly leaped high and did the splits in mid air. Impressed by the spring in his heels and his obvious athleticism, the guest remarked to the host: That man is such a talented dancer. I will pay him Thousand Rupees to dance at my next party. When the host mentioned the offer to the other gardener he called over to his colleague: ’Oy Bandula do you think for Thousand Rupees you could step on that rake again?”