The Sunday Leader

Rajapaksa’s Billion-Dollar Question

  • We hope the Finance Ministry or Treasury whiz- kids will provide the figure in digits that will astound the people of the enormity of the debt involved rather than express in meaningless terms of billions to them
  • Rajapaksa should answer the ‘Billion-Dollar Question’ himself by declaring the amounts borrowed by him from his Chinese pals to build roads, bridges. harbours, airports, etc. and the revenue, if any, now being generated by them
  • Bamboozling the people at large, even the more discerning type of reader for the political resurrection of Mahinda Rajapaksa is being actively pursued by some pro-Rajapaksa newspapers

by Gamini Weerakoon

A triple barrel headline that caught our eye last week was: ‘MR fires billion-dollar question to govt.: What have you done with your massive loans in years?’

It was not a ‘billion dollar question’ having being asked repeatedly and answered by the government even though ‘the loans’ from China taken by him ran into billions of dollars.

‘The billion-dollar question’ which the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, now MP for Kurunegala, asked while unveiling a ‘golden fence’ at the Nandaramaya temple in Battaramulla would have been better understood by the Lanka’s citizens had he specified the amounts spent by this Yahapalanaya government and the amounts he had spent taking loans from China to ‘build roads, bridges, harbours and airports’.

 

Express billions in digits

Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa Airport, described as the loneliest airport in the world, is incurring losses of $(US) 17 million

The debt owed by Sri Lanka to China at the end of last year was more than $ (US) 8 billion [in simple arithmetic, Eight thousand million - that is $ 8,000,000,000 - 8 followed by nine zeros]. It is important to give it in digits at this time in Sri Lanka when billions are spoken of like Kadju nuts (Kadju kanawa wage, they say in Sinhala). Multiply that 8,000,000,000 by 150 [as the rupee equivalent of the dollar) and the man-on-the-street and the man on the fields without a cent in their pocket will realise the hell-fires this paradise isle has been thrown into by that suave undisputed leader for nine years. We hope the Finance Ministry or Treasury whiz- kids will provide the figure in digits that will astound the people of the enormity of the debt involved rather than express in meaningless terms of billions to them.

Cynics however defend the Rajapaksa regime saying that they did not take the Three Rs - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic - seriously. To them - as we said in this column years ago - it stood for Rajapaksa, Rajapaksa and Rajapaksa (You know who).

 

Debt trap

To come back to the ‘Billion Dollar Question’ of Rajapaksa, according to official statistics by September last year, Lanka’s ‘debt to GDP ratio stood at around 75 per cent to 95.4 per cent of the all government revenue going towards debt repayment’.

That is what PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake have been saying for quite some time. The debt burden incurred by Rajapaksa’s narcissistic projects is mounting and not generating revenue. In 2016 the annual debt payment for the harbour with the grandiose name, Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port, reached $(US) 73 million (Rs. 10.6 billion). Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa Airport, described as the loneliest airport in the world, is incurring losses of $(US) 17 million.

Now Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has come up with a debt for equity swap with the China Merchant Port Holding Co. that will invest $ 1.12 (US) billion in the loss making port but Mahinda Rajapaksa and his political cohorts are opposed to it tooth and nail. The billion-dollar loss making harbour and airport have been proclaimed as Jatika Vasthu [National Treasures] to dupe the masses.

Rajapaksa should answer the ‘Billion-Dollar Question’ himself by declaring the amounts borrowed by him from his Chinese pals to build roads, bridges. harbours, airports, etc. and the revenue, if any, now being generated by them. He should also state the amount he alleges the present government had borrowed from China.

President Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe too should make their declarations they have borrowed and how it was spent for the benefit of the public.

 

What’s the Rajapaksa solution?

It is also incumbent upon Rajapaksa to provide a solution to the billion-dollar debt burden he created and bankrupted the nation.

The former president no doubt wants to topple the government – as he has publicly declared – and seise power. He has not said how he hopes to eliminate the debt problem if ever his dream materialises. Attempting to rule a country without having any proposals/solutions to resolve the main financial problem undoubtedly is an attempt to bamboozle the masses and grab power for the power and privileges now lost.

 

Media bamboozle

Bamboozling the people at large, even the more discerning type of reader for the political resurrection of Mahinda Rajapaksa is being actively pursued by some pro-Rajapaksa newspapers.

The arrest of three officials of the Intelligence Service including a major resulted in an editorialist saying that the arrest of such officials is not enough to probe who was ultimately behind the crimes of the abduction or murder of journalists during the Rajapaksa regime.

Who gave these officers in lower ranks to carry out the orders, it was rightly queried.

 

And then came political ‘Goondu’.

The editorialist suggested that Joseph Michael Perera, the former Chief Whip of the UNP, alleged that a special team for attacks on journalists and media institutions was being controlled by the then Army Commander Sarath Fonseka. Perera should be queried to get at the truth. The military intelligence officers should be asked whether they were members of Sarath Fonseka’s team, the editorialist suggested.

Certainly the former Chief Whip of the UNP should be questioned on the statement he had made 8 years ago. But this truth seeking commentator failed to make the most obvious of suggestions: Should not the President of the country at that time, who was also commander-in-chief of all armed forces and his brother, the Defence Secretary, who was then considered the all-powerful officer in the armed forces, be also questioned about this special team supposedly commanded by the then army commander Sarath Fonseka?

The implications caused by this seemingly editorial oversight are many.

All we say is: Rather Nelsonian, what?

 

Free Weerawansa!

Posters have come up in Colombo and probably in other parts of the country as well saying: Free Wimal Weerawansa. The appeal made in the posters smacks of attempts to liken it to the call: ‘Free Nelson Mandela’, made worldwide when the iconic South African leader was being held prisoner in an isolated island off the coast of South Africa by the dreaded apartheid regime.

Weerawansa is being held in remand prison for alleged misuse of government vehicles while being a minister and not on grave charges like Nelson Mandela such as attempting to overthrow the apartheid regime. Weerawansa is even being transported from remand prison to attend parliamentary sessions.

But the hoopla being built around his arrest has given rise to speculation that he may become Sri Lanka’s Nelson Mandela! A development which admirers of Nelson Mandela would call a comedy of errors.

3 Comments for “Rajapaksa’s Billion-Dollar Question”

  1. ed

    WHY CAN’T WE GET THE CHINESE GOVERMENT OR THE COMPANIES WHO HAD PARTICIPATED TO GIVE US THE COMPLETE FIGURE ON COMMISSIONS PAID !!!!!!!!!!
    FOR WHICH PROJECT !!!!!!!!
    TO WHOM !!!!!!!!! AT WHICH TIME !!!!! TO WHICH BANK DID THEY TRANFER THE MONEY!!!!!!!!

    WE HAD ENOUGH STORIES FROM 8th January 2014 NOW IS THE TIME WE ARE LOOKING FOR THE CORRUPT OFFICIALS this will make EASY FOR OUR JUDGES TO TAKE PROPER ACTION AND JUSTICE SHOULD PREVAIL.

    IF NOT THE UNP OR THE SLFP WILL HAVE TO FORGET COMING BACK INTO POWER…………..

  2. We all the know about the foreign debt the country had during MR regime. Apart MR nobody denies that we have to service this debt. I mean pay massive interest. MR wants to get the power. But MR is not in a position to tell us how he is going to pay this debt. If MR can tell us his plans then we can ask MR to form the government. There is no point get into power and then put the blame on MS-RW. Today the only people who are enjoying live is nobody other than politicians. The poor people like us are the one suffering. God help the poor people.

  3. aggydaaggyddddsd

    hope the Finance Ministry or Treasury whiz- kids will come out with actual figures the enormity of the Bond Scam……………..
    The Billion Dollar question at the moment is why Mr. Clean became suddenly Dirty overnight and is now protecting his friend?

    Now Mr. Dirty & his friend has pushed Rajapakshe to shame in that with their Bond Scam there are no returns to masses whose money they pocketed …
    At least the Rajapakshes have some White elephants on show.

    Gamini Weerakoon pursuing any hidden agenda along with Enna Nirmala.K ?
    Gamini, why don’t you figure out the Zeros in that Bond Scam ?
    If you are baboozled by the zeros, give a call to the Auditor General, Dr. Wijewardene or to Rusiripala Tennakoon, they will provide you with the number of zeros involved in the Bond Scam.
    You yet continue to thrash a dead leather to lift your morale & fame as a journalist.

    Amir…… When it comes to China, MR does not have to be burdened with loans taken from China as China will either write-off some of the loans as they did to Cambodia or lessen the burden with generous extentions or they will work with us and assist us to to generate income to payback the loans & in the meantime bring in more development…. That is China-MR friendship.

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