ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 08
Financial Times  

Sri Lanka has potential to make the free market work

By Trevor Jayetileke

Introducing Sri Lanka to a market economy in 1977 was the genius of Junius Jayewardene who was the co-architect of the Colombo plan in 1951 after World War II.

The first five years of the free market economy went well till Indira Gandhi who was stuck in a closed economy for her own selfish reasons holding India back (like our Dynasty), cast a 'Green Eye' at our market economy and gave the 'Green Light' to the LTTE to fight for their cause thereby putting a spoke in the wheel (1983) and stopping us in our tracks just when the free market was starting to gather momentum.

The free market concept is like an aphrodisiac which stimulates human endeavour, enterprise, innovation and ingenuity which can be made to play like a Symphony Orchestra, backed up with the -- appropriate regulation, institutional strength, strong legal system, quality public policy, right infrastructure and the human resource to manage and implement public policy and thereby become the engine of growth of the country.

Unfortunately SWRD and his dynasty starting with his ultra nationalistic 'Sinhala Only' slogan took our country 50 years backwards.

The most damaging aspects were the mass exodus of our people into the diasporas of the world thereby deprived us of our most vital asset to our country starting with the Burgher minority and the others to follow. It also made our minority Tamil Bretheren the brilliant/latent asset of Lanka to get disenchanted and unable to serve Lanka with their ability in a individually rewarding way. Finally the 4th amendment to the 1978 Constitution on 22.12.82 broke the camel’s back and the LTTE with the covert assistance from across the Palk Strait took their grievances to the battle field. If we are to put the Free Market Lanka back on track and to unravel this Gordian Knot, a Houdini is required with the right balance of ideology, pragmatism and political shrewdness to perform the 'Abracadabra' and melt the hardened hearts and capture the imagination of our people.

The Tamil people as it stands are stranded between a rock and a hard place in that their cause is engulfed by the dilemma of their hero becoming the Gandhi nemesis. But with a little leverage from India who is the key to our solution and some compromise from all our peace yearning citizens a lasting and meaningful solution could be found for all our people to inherit the goodness of Lanka.

Not only can we get the Free Market back on top gear we can also infuse the dynamism into SAARC to make it a SAFTA like the Euro Zone. We can be the Hong Kong to India because we are now the Gateway by the FTA we share with India.

The founding members of the Colombo Plan were UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It was devised by our own genius JR and Percy Spender of Australia to uplift South Asia and SE Asia after World War II. While SE Asia has performed well as we see from the strength of ASEAN, we in South Asia are a poor relation. If India can give us the leverage to solve our problem we can help SAARC to match ASEAN.

Today ASEAN needs us geopolitically because their energy security is increasingly under threat from terrorism and piracy. Sri Lanka is well positioned geographically sitting in the most important position between the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Malacca to serve this need if we are peaceful and stable.

The potential for Sri Lanka is unimaginable to say the least if only the Phoenix could rise from the 'Ashes'. With the gradual shift in the World's centre of Geopolitical and Geoeconomic gravity into the Pacific Ocean, the time has come for the Indian Ocean to play its role. Sri Lanka sitting between its neighbour India and friend China the two powerhouses of the 21st century can we ask for more?

The Thurstan College-educated Mahinda Rajapakse has the invisible hand to help him as I see to bring back Sri Lanka to the rightful place it belongs in this crazy world we presently live in.

This article is in response to the series this newspaper ran last week on 30 years after Sri Lanka embraced the free market. The writer is a Sri Lankan professional who lives and works in Australia.


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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.