Fifth Column

22nd April 2001

Cutting down crude expenses

5th Column

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"Thaaththa," Bindu Udagedera asked, "what is all this fuss about oil prices?"

"That is because they have increased the price of diesel again." Bindu's father Percy explained.
"Why is that, thaaththa?" Bindu wanted to know.

"They say it is because the world market price of crude oil is rising."

"But thaaththa," Bindu protested, "they have increased the diesel price about three times over the last five months."

"So," Percy said, "it may be that the world market price also rose three times in that period."

"Thaaththa," Bindu asked, "doesn't this world market price ever come down?" "Why do you want to know about that?"

"Why, thaaththa, if they increase the local price according to the world price, they should also decrease the local price whenever the world price falls." "So far," Percy said, "I haven't heard them do that."

"So, thaaththa, all these years when the local diesel price remained the same, did the world price also remain the same?"

"I am not so sure about that either." Percy confessed.

"That means that even though world prices may have increased, the government did not increase local prices each and every time until now." Bindu observed. "I suppose so." Percy agreed.

"Why can't they do that again thaaththa?"

"Now they say they have so many expenses." Percy said.

"What are those expenses, thaaththa?" Bindu wanted to know.

"Why, Bindu, we are fighting a war."

"But I thought there was a ceasefire."

"But," Percy argued, "even in a ceasefire we must be prepared for war."

"In that case, shouldn't they try to minimize their other expenses" Bindu queried.

"They should," Percy agreed, "why, what makes you doubt that?"

"Why, thaaththa," Bindu said, "they have recently appointed two more deputy ministers."

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

"Why, thaaththa, each and every minister costs an awful lot of money a month, don't they?"

"That's true," Percy conceded, "but that's not the thinking behind appointing more ministers."

"Do they think before appointing ministers, thaaththa?" Bindu wanted to know. "Of course they do." Percy said, "and they seem to think that the more ministers you have the better it is because then one minister has only a little work to do."

"In that case, thaaththa, they should try to save money by some other means." "Like stopping the construction of palaces for important people." Percy suggested.

"In that case, the opposition should protest and demand that those constructions be stopped until the country can afford it." Bindu said. "But they won't do that, Bindu." Percy said.

"Why is that, thaaththa?"

"Because one of those houses is for their own one who speaks." Percy explained.

"But they can still oppose that on principle." Bindu said.

"It won't matter, Bindu." Percy said.

"Why do you say that?" Bindu wanted to know.

"Because," Percy said, "blood is thicker than water."

Bindu didn't disagree with that.

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