Another year has gone by but what a year it was!
Whoever thought the conflict would end just like that? A near 30-year battle with Tamil militants ended in May with the killing of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and his family.
The LTTE, through its expatriate supporters are trying to re-organise but in a world that frowns on terrorism and has tough counter measures, any revival would be difficult unless the government fails to tackle the root causes of the conflict and a permanent peace still eludes Sri Lanka.
From intensive fighting in the war-front, stalling over an IMF bailout package which ultimately came, questions over the GSP+ concessions and the commander-in-chief facing his army commander in an unexpected contest in the January 26 presidential race, Sri Lanka has seen some positive and strange developments this year.
The business sections of the Sunday Times also underwent a change this year with the renaming of the Financial Times on Sunday to Business Times. But the content, quality and independent views on life in business and the economy hasn’t changed. In fact the new branding has given an extra buzz to the section with new features including email polls – an initiative exclusive to us -, and inhouse panel discussions (another exclusive initiative) among others.
Apart from the bouquets there were many brickbats but our reporting team has stood its ground, unshaken in its goal of stating the truth and analysing events objectively and without bias. Today we publish another exclusive: an email questionaire to the two main candidates contesting next month’s poll on business and economic issues.
We broke many stories and reported extensively and objectively on many developments. The oil hedging scandal which shocked the country was our exclusive; so was the first intimation that the government was seeking support from the IMF.
Decisions in the fundamental rights cases in the Supreme Court against the privatisation of Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation and Water’s Edge and its aftermath were comprehensively covered by the newspaper.
However the biggest scandal of them all - Golden Key – was our crowning glory and the biggest coverage possible, being first off the blocks in the developments. The Sunday Times covered all the angles, deployed reporters to handle various aspects of a complex issues as the Ceylinco Group and some other finance companies collapsed like a pack of cards. With government agencies slow in responding to the crisis and nowhere else to go, desperate depositors turned to us for relief and help, calling us every day for news of their deposits that would provide a silver lining to their lives that had turned upside down.
As depositors this month begin getting their money back courtesy the Supreme Court and the Central Bank, the Sunday Times Business will continue to follow and report on these developments.
In other developments during the year, foreign investment funds began showing interest in Sri Lanka while a huge investment of over $700 million in rupee-denominated bonds by fund manager, Templeton, was the biggest single investment in the markets. Foreign reserves, struggling at one time, was shored up by migrant remittances and ‘borrowed’ money from the sale of bonds and debentures by the Central Bank.
As we move into 2010, rising government spending, sticking to budget targets and inflationary pressures will bug the economy. We’ll be around to follow Sri Lanka’s progress in the new decade where an aging population will be the biggest challenge, not forgetting a peaceful solution to the ethnic conflict which has escaped this country for decades. Season’s greetings to all our readers and go in peace!