3rd June 2001

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  • Hanky panky
  • Censorship comes off.
  • Hanky panky

    Political interference in the granting of textile quotas is yet another un- pleasant vignette in the continuing saga of crimes that are committed against good governance in this country.

    That such interference has come from a political dispensation which was prone to crying from rooftops about good governance, honesty and the virtues of offering level playing fields, is an even sadder story.

    It is The Sunday Times which first broke the tale of the covert goings-on in what ought to have been a straightforward administrative exercise. Tales of people lining their pockets, if it may be said, tumbled out like so many bales of dirty linen from a clothes bag. Garment exporters with multi-million rupee orders have had to resort to underhand deals and shady under-the-table manoeuvers to keep the factories humming. VIP's and their underlings have of course, at least on the basis of an educated guess and somewhat solid rumour, been the beneficiaries.

    This is crony capitalism that is at its ruthless best and devastating worst. It's good to take a look then, in this context, at the 25th annual report of Dipped Products Ltd., a Subsidiary of a Blue chip Sri Lankan company, Hayleys' Ltd. The annual report has been bold enough to point to some glaring realities in the operation of the market ethos in this country. It is news in itself that the private sector has made bold to make these blunt truths known in the first place.

    Among the many facts pointed out in the report are: (a) continuous deficit financing and government expenditure whether of a bloated bureaucracy, grandiose projects or the war has kept the real interest rate flush, crowding out investment in the capital sector (b) successive governments having pursued exchange rate strategies which have favoured consumers at the expense of producers. (c) prevalence of delays and administrative snarls in the bureaucratic process.

    The report goes on to say "in all these examples the policy options are clear to all but those who profess to look after the greater good but are actually motivated by narrow interests.''

    That said, it is wagered that this company which employs 15,000 people and earns Rs 900 million in foreign exchange, could grow three times to its present size if it wasn't for these so-called "narrow interests''. May providence and the good deities save us from the people who have pledged to serve our motherland.

    Censorship comes off.

    The insurgency in the North and the East has been going on now for almost twenty years. It is one of the longest insurgencies of recent times anywhere in the world, having been one of the costliest too in terms of life and limb and property and also blood, toil and tears.

    But it is also one of the least known conflicts by the most important stakeholders who are a party to this prolonged crisis the people of Sri Lanka.

    While the authors and perpetrators of the insurgency, the LTTE, has told the "news'' as it is to its own stakeholders in the war, successive Sri Lankan governments have on the contrary either farmed the 'news'' selectively or kept it entirely away from the reach of its own stakeholders.

    One way in which it is done is by picking fights and getting un-necessarily entangled with the local media, which has often been treated worse than the real enemy, the LTTE. The other strategy has been to clamp down censorship and sweep the truth conveniently under the carpet, the fond rationale being that "everything that is not published did not happen.''

    On the opposite page, our defence correspondent, who urged this withdrawal of the censorship only last week, describes the government measures that have gone into effect with the regulations being withdrawn.

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