SOS call from the people
By Maurice Lord, Colombo 13

The people of this country are in real distress. They do not know where they are heading. The cost of living has spiralled completely out of control. The prices of basic food items have gone sky-high. Many people may be managingwith only one meal a day. Some may not be able to afford even that.

The soaring petrol, diesel and kerosene oil prices trigger a chain reaction that is felt in other crucial areas. When diesel goes up in price, so does the cost of transport, and consequently the cost of everything that has to be transported, including vegetables. A kilo of just about any vegetable has gone up to between Rs. 75 and Rs. 100. Tomatoes are more than Rs. 150 a kilo, and green chillies cost up to Rs. 30 per 100 grams.

There is hardly anything that has not been affected by the increased oil costs, and there is talk that oil prices will go up even further. The Indian Oil Company (IOC) says it has raised its prices because the Government has raised its fuel prices. This is something that has to be looked into.

The entire operation of the Indian Oil Company should be scrutinised – not by politicians but by competent financial experts – and a plan drawn up in the country’s best interests.

The time has also come to consider a possible total ban on the import of all vehicles into the country. For a small country like ours, the number of vehicles we have appears to be far in excess of our needs. Our roads cannot take any more traffic. It is a virtual crawl on all roads during normal working hours.

It is a disgrace that, in spite of the oil crisis, the Government should decide to import eight Benz cars, at a cost of over Rs. 2 billion. How can a country with such meagre resources indulge in extravagances of this nature? While a minority travels in luxury, the rest must suffer.

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