The Ranil Wickremesinghe-led President Gotabaya Rajapaksa‘s Government has been very generous when it comes to doling out the naked truth, sparing no pains to tell the public how bad the economy is and how worse it will get in the months ahead. Right from the start, the new Prime Minister has gloated on giving the [...]


Hope’s Messiah or Doom’s Prophet


The Ranil Wickremesinghe-led President Gotabaya Rajapaksa‘s Government has been very generous when it comes to doling out the naked truth, sparing no pains to tell the public how bad the economy is and how worse it will get in the months ahead.

Right from the start, the new Prime Minister has gloated on giving the low down on the state of the bankrupt nation and exulted in spelling out the sufferings it has caused to the people as if they needed to be told of their daily woe by any Jonnie-come-lately-to importance.

His unique position as the hired help come to clean the Rajapaksa stables has granted him a license to tell the bad news, the whole bad news and nothing but the bad news of how the Rajapaksas and their clannish grooms had made a pig’s breakfast of the barn, without fear of getting shot down by the man still holding the reins.

But the saviour who came with the promise of ‘instantly ridding the germs other detergents cannot reach,’ seems to have fallen short of the hype created since, after three weeks on the job, the varnished sheen of his sixth and latest halo has begun to dim in the manner the earlier five dulled, while the stink of the stable has worsened and hangs as an immovable pall over the country.

But while the Prime Minister who is transparent to the hilt when revealing the bad news of the disastrous Rajapaksa record and gives a surfeit of truth unasked, he is unusually sparse, and miserly in supplying the results of his own promise to hold Washington’s lending agencies spellbound with a wave of his liberal wand, and lay even Fort Knox at his disposal.

Perhaps the magic that sleeps beneath his silvery locks hasn’t risen yet from its sepulchre, and the idle genie has fled the long unburnished lamp. Thus, the rattling bad news from the international front remains muffled, shut up in the
skeleton closet.

Last week the World Bank gave formal notice that, whilst they grieved the people’s distress,   ‘until an adequate macroeconomic policy framework is in place, the World Bank does not plan to offer new financing to Sri Lanka.’ It was the same with USAID. The IMF said it was unable to lend until Lanka restructured her sovereign debt and made her USD 51 billion debt sustainable.

Ranil’s failure to live up to great expectations, that he can single-handedly open the sluice gates for the dollar rush to begin, was perhaps viewed as an opening for Foreign Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris to shatter the myth about the miracle maker, the deified Ranil, and show the President that he can deliver where Ranil has flopped.

On Monday morning the Foreign Ministry issued a statement that the World Bank’s Country Manager in Colombo, Chiyo Kanda, had called on Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris at his Ministry. During the meeting, the Minister sought assistance from the World Bank until long-term assistance materializes through the IMF. The Foreign Ministry statement claimed that Ms. Kanda had assured the Minister that the World Bank will grant USD 700 Million to Sri Lanka within the next few months.

The World Bank was quick to deny it. Within hours the same day, the World Bank refuted the Foreign Ministry’s claim that it has promised to grant USD 700 Million to Lanka within the next few months. Its Country Director for Sri Lanka Hadad-Zervos said, that while it was ‘currently repurposing resources from previously approved projects to help the government with some essential medicines,’ it had no plans to offer ‘support for Sri Lanka in the form of a bridge loan or new loan commitments.

If the Foreign Minister had put his foot in it by misunderstanding at best or distorting at worst the World Bank’s humanitarian gestures as ‘bridging finance’ or other loan commitments, Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Central Bank too committed a devious blunder which is even worse.

A BRIDGE TOO FAR: Lankan envoy in New Delhi Moragoda sits laid back and relaxed, with left leg suavely tossed over the other, as he conveys Ranil’s pleading request for a bridging loan to Indian Finance Minister Sitharaman, listening erect and earnest, before replying, India will consider the possibility of restructuring the existing credit line for essentials.

On May 17, Ranil Wickremesinghe, on his first day in Parliament as Gota’s Prime Minister, told the House that the World Bank had granted Lanka USD 160 million in cash as humanitarian aid. He said, “The World Bank funds can’t be used to purchase fuel. However, we are to make a request from the bank whether some of the money could be used to solve the immediate fuel crisis.” On 19 May, the Central Bank Governor revealed that the entire USD 160 million had been used to settle fuel instead.

The World Bank may not have been amused but rather miffed that the USD 160 million cash grant had been used in its entirety by Ranil’s administration to meet diesel and gas bills; and not to purchase life-saving medicine for what it had been given after government doctors had raised the alarm that vital drugs and other essential medicines were fast running out at government hospitals. International lending agencies are strict on Governments utilising the money lent for the approved purpose for which it is given and do not take too kindly when it is diverted for something else.

No wonder the World Bank has raised its guard when dealing with the Lankan Government and rushed on Monday to reiterate its ‘no bridging finance’ decision, lest humanitarian assistance is misrepresented as long term aid granted; and trumpeted, in a shabby public relations exercise, to show that the world has placed its total confidence in the new outfit’s credentials and that the dollar rush had already begun.

With three international lending agencies saying a firm ‘no’ last week to his plea for an immediate bailout, it was back to the drawing board for Ranil Wickremesinghe. He now faced the arduous prospect of raising ‘bridging finance’ from friendly countries willing to lend to a nation his master had rendered bankrupt. He turned to India.

Last Friday, the Lankan envoy in New Delhi met Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and made a formal appeal for ‘bridging finance’. The answer, as reported, was that India will consider ‘restructuring’ the already existing credit line for essential items and fuel and balance of payment support. In other words, no ‘bridging finance’.

So, all that the much-acclaimed miracle of May that greeted Ranil’s sixth coming as Premier, has wreaked so far is a verbal pledge to enlarge the already existing credit line to buy essential items and fuel from India.

The rosy hue of hope that appeared to settle on the land will have to delay its landing since auspicious events foretold at the sudden reappearance of a blinking star haven’t still come to pass. Until they do, it’s back to the hand-to-mouth existence, servilely dependent on the same old Indian credit line which, to give the devil its due, Basil Rajapaksa negotiated and, thankfully, put in place before the crisis blew full scale.

On the domestic front, too, the ghost of Basil seems to haunt the new Finance Minister’s office.

Basil’s rash policy to print money at a rate to meet shortfalls in government which top economists warned, will court disaster and give unreined flight to inflation, has been retrieved, rehashed and reused by the new Finance Minister Ranil when confronted with similar difficulties. Suddenly, necessity has made it respectable.

Two weeks ago, Ranil announced that, despite his misgivings, he will print Rs.100 billion to pay public salaries. After his elevation as Finance Minister on May 25, he told Reuters: “We have no rupee revenue and now we have to print another trillion rupees. If it had taken a nine-month term as Finance Minister for Basil to print a trillion bucks, Ranil plans to do it within a month of his tenure.

Ranil also warned that inflation will rocket above 40 percent as a consequence of printing money though this is but a conservative estimate. But it hardly inhibits the man who sees a limitless depth in people’s pockets to forbear the increase with equanimity, never mind their stagnant incomes dwindling in value. But after having made the most out of the least so far, what further legal means exist for the people to afford even one square meal, let alone three full, as promised by Ranil on temple ground at Walukaramaya, minutes after his Prime Ministerial appointment.

Furthermore, he has no qualms about raising taxes and increasing electricity bills by three to fourfold, no qualms about whether the extra load might be the camel’s back-breaking last straw, and no trepidation whether it’ll lead to a violent social implosion. But having no electorate of his own to answer for his actions, and pinning all the blame on his master, the president as the architect of the disaster, Ranil is the ideal choice to wield the surgical scalpel as the executioner’s axe.

However, if the art of government consists of nothing more than applying textbook solutions, sterile of feeling, to given situations that concern the lifeblood of the nation, why need an expensive elected body of politicians, bedecked with costly privileges, to discuss and solve people’s problems in a glorified talking shop of their own, when a group of faceless bureaucrats under a robotic commissar can do the same at a lower cost. Politicians should also not forget that the money they claim they need to raise by taxing the populace to the bone, is also to finance their pampered upkeep.

Even on the political front, Basil’s spectre looms large.  On May 11, the President in his TV address, promised to re-enact the 19th Amendment. Technically the President has no power to enact anything since he has no political party of his own in Parliament to ensure the successful passage of even an innocuous bill with a simple majority, let alone a constitutional amendment which demands a two-thirds majority. He is not even a member of the SLPP but only was its nominee, due to blood ties, to contest the Presidency. The same blood support caparisoned him with the 20th Amendment’s near-dictatorial powers.

UNP and quasi SLPP dual MP Ranil, who also does not have a party of his own to command in the House, plans to bring fellow party orphan Wijeyadasa’s version of a 21st Amendment to undress the Presidency to the bare minimum while the joint opposition, comprising the SJB, the JVP and the TNA, demand it should not be left with even a fig leaf of power but stripped to the skin and attired in ceremonial robe.

SLPP founder Basil has stepped into the fray and has begun drumming up support among SLPP MPs to scuttle it for reasons of his own, notably the repeal of the Article that enabled him to enter Parliament and permits him to sit in the House. To vote for it with his right hand will be for him to commit hara-kiri with his left.

Though presented as the amendment the nation was demanding, this wishy-washy version masquerading as the impressive 21st Amendment falls far short of the people’s expectations and has attracted nothing but disdain from the masses who view it as yet another instance of politicians wheeling and dealing amongst themselves to usurp – without any reference to them by Referendum on the spurious basis it is too costly- the powers of the presidency to enhance their own in Parliament.

In the public eye, the only plausible reason why President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had thrown constitutional discretion to the winds and chose a National List MP, who had lost his own seat and did not command the confidence of a single MP in the House to be the Prime Minister, was Ranil Wickremesinghe’s promise to bring in the dollars by bedazzling lending agencies to rush to aid the bankrupt nation with more than a fistful of dollars and pull it out of the quagmire.

So far neither his much-hyped personal charisma nor the nation’s full-blown tragedy has driven the host of lenders to part with a dime, except to expend a trifle on humanitarian aid to mitigate a people’s anguish; and to say Lanka must first get its act together with a macroeconomic policy before meaningful development aid can be extended.

All that his impromptu advent as Lanka’s saviour has so far achieved is to have aggravated the burdens of the people and not to have eased  them, with the people’s demand that ‘Gota must go’ placed in abeyance to enable Gota’s continuance as President and ensure unelected Ranil’s position as Prime Minister for another two years.

No doubt, any other party would have been in the same boat if they had assumed the seat of government after their precondition for the President’s early departure had been accepted by the President with a letter to that effect signed by him had been sent to the Speaker bearing a specified date. The problems may have been the same but, at least, the people’s demand that Gota must go would have been met.

Today, under the new government, we have the same economic problems, the same dearth of dollars, ceaseless political unrest and, to cap it all, the same pervasive presence of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the all-powerful president, sitting pretty on centre stage, with the rest of the Rajapaksas lurking in the wings as well.

Once the Messiah of Hope now turned Prophet of Doom, Ranil, it seems, has grabbed the ball of fire from the President only to toss it to the people’s begging hands to scorch it even more.

Share This Post


Buying or selling electronics has never been easier with the help of! We, at, hear your needs and endeavour to provide you with the perfect listings of electronics; because we have listings for nearly anything! Search for your favourite electronic items for sale on today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
Comments should be within 80 words. *


Post Comment

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.