Fifth Column

4th June 2000

June is the month for cuts and increases

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" Thaaththa," Bindu Udagedera asked, "can I have the electricity bills for the last three months?."

"What for?" Percy Udagedera asked, "are you trying to pay those bills?."

"No, thaaththa," Bindu said, "I am trying to calculate the average for the last three months…."

"What's that for?" Percy wanted to know.

"Why, they say we have to reduce consumption of electricity by twenty per cent this month, or else they will charge us an extra twenty five per cent…."

"But why are they saying such a stupid thing?" Percy was puzzled.

"They say it's not their fault; it is not raining and if we don't cut down on our electricity consumption they will have to impose power cuts again…."

"But," Percy protested, "I thought we were told a few years ago that power cuts had to be imposed only because the greens didn't make the proper plans when they were in power…."

"Yes," Bindu recalled, "and they also said they will never have to impose power cuts again…."

"And now they are saying that we might have power cuts again and that we will have to pay twenty five per cent more if we don't reduce our consumption by twenty per cent…."

"That is not surprising, thaaththa…" Bindu said.

"Why do you say that?."

"Don't forget that electricity is taken care of by someone who is not very good with his percentages; he is the one who said that the war is ninety-five percent over just a few years ago…."

"But, Bindu, they can't ask us to reduce our use of electricity in that manner.

Then, if there is a shortage of water they might ask us to drink four glasses of water a day instead of five…."

"Anyway thaaththa," Bindu said, "we shouldn't blame the electricity people alone…."

"Why do you say that?."

"Why thaaththa, they have increased telephone charges by twenty per cent and now they have raised the price of gas even more than that…."

"Then," Percy said, "the first of June will be a historic day…."

"Why do you say that?."

"Why, the government has raised rates for electricity, telephones and gas on the same day…."

"No wonder then that they call this a historic government doing historic things…" Bindu said.

"Anyway, now we know why Ministers and MPs were given a twenty per cent pay hike…" Percy observed.

"But thaaththa, government servants were not given that pay hike…" Bindu protested.

"I thought they were appointing a committee to consider a salary increase for government servants…" Percy observed.

"But thaaththa," Bindu wanted to know, "how will these people survive on the same salary with all these increases in rates?."

"Well, you are supposed to survive with even less than the same salary…" Percy pointed out.

"Why do you say that?."

"Why, Bindu, can't you remember Satellite asking us to donate two days' salary every month for the war…."

"So, all this is because of the war?" Bindu asked.

"That's what they will say at election time" Percy agreed. "They will again blame the greens and say they started the war and that because of the war they couldn't do anything for the people…."

"In that case we should also tell them the same thing…" Bindu said.

"What's that?" Percy wanted to know.

"Unless you increase the area under your control in the north by twenty percent, twenty five per cent of the Cabinet will be dropped…."

Percy shook his head. "That won't do, Bindu…" he said.

"Why, thaaththa?" Bindu wanted to know.

"Then," Percy said, "very soon, we will have no Cabinet…."

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