The time to act is now

The Nation celebrates its first year of existence in the newspaper world today. As we reach our first milestone in a long journey forward, the country is facing many challenges in the field of economics, politics and social responsibility.
It appears that the country is gripped in a severe economic crisis even as President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed the G11 Summit in Jordon on May 19, spelling out the economic priorities of countries which are on the verge of being classified as middle income nations.
Sri Lanka as a developing nation opened up its windows to the outer world and embraced the concept of a market economy as Junius Richard Jayewardene took over the reigns in 1977. It revolutionised society and at first glance it appears the market economy has done wonders for Sri Lanka. From 1977 to 1982, Sri Lanka forged ahead of other countries in the region until the separatist war made a clear dent in our economy.
From 1983 onwards Sri Lanka was plagued by this acute ethnic crisis, causing severe setbacks to the country, economically and otherwise. Some positive steps taken by the Sri Lankan leaders from time to time had not fully materialised since the implementation of the resolutions fell by the wayside.
The most pragmatic step taken so far in the history of the separatist war was the introduction of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution under the Indo-Lanka Agreement, which sought to set up provincial councils with quasi-federal features included.
The pertinent question that arises is as to why Sri Lanka failed to implement the 13th Amendment fully. Is it because of the parochial political policies of certain politicians of the day or is it because the government of the day did not have enough political will to implement it?
Today, all the other provinces in the country are governed to some extent according to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution while those whom it was created for are in a muddle, waging war with the state for greater autonomy.
The length and the breadth of the problems the country is facing today due to the current situation cannot be gauged; the economy is on a downward spiral, while the cost-of-living is skyrocketing.
It is difficult to comprehend how a middle income level family meets ends in the present economic scenario when they have to pay double the amount for a loaf of bread and a cylinder of gas in a very short period of time when their income level remains the same.
The government is also facing a cut in the assistance given by the Western world, allegedly because of its woeful human rights record. Though what we were getting from the West is not colossal, it may cause hiccups in the economy from time to time.
On top of all this, World Food Programme Director Tony Balbury expressed his concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the north and east and appealed to the donor countries to help meet the mounting aid requirement. The WFP Director also cautioned that the WFP would be forced to make difficult decisions if necessary funds are not raised.
It gives all Sri Lankans a grave reminder that we ought to think in the right direction before it is too late and take corrective action.
The President in his address to the G11 said that what developing countries were asking for was ‘targetted help’ and result-oriented assistance to accelerate the implementation of homegrown development programmes.
“We have all undertaken structural reforms, liberalised our economies, put in place sound macroeconomic frameworks and have achieved impressive growth patterns. To sustain our levels of economic growth and development, enabling our rural poor to benefit, we certainly require targetted assistance,” Rajapaksa said.
In this backdrop, the SLFP’s decision to go backwards on its resolution to solve the ethnic crisis would not augur well globally since it has taken an entirely different course, against what was proposed earlier by the SLFP-backed People’s Alliance government.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as a politician who thrived on taking human rights issues before international forums against the government of the day and a people-friendly President, should take stock of the present economic and political situation of the country before taking crucial decisions on the future on Sri Lanka.
All such decisions taken should be far-reaching and should reflect the aspirations of all communities living in this country.
The President and the government should look at the current problems objectively and find a way – soon – to bring some relief in any form and measure to the Sri Lankan people.