Turn Words To Deeds
Ceylon Today in its editorials of Tuesday and Thursday, highlighted the immediate need of the Government to arrest the rising cost of living (CoL).
This was in response to the statement made by Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament last Friday (8 December) saying that the CoL will be treated next month and in February.
Nonetheless, in response to our proddings, realization dawned on the Premier in regard to the urgency of the situation with the Prime Minister's Office, in a press release issued on Thursday, saying that Wickremesinghe at a meeting with State controlled Lanka Sathosa and private supermarket heads at 'Temple Trees' on Tuesday, had decided to provide budget packs to the consumer in order to arrest the rising CoL this season.
It said that this pack will comprise eight items, including rice, dhal, sugar, sprats, onions, tinned fish and potatoes. Those comprise a total of seven items. Hopefully the eighth item is coconut?
Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy speaking at a function in Colombo on Wednesday said that the two drivers of inflation currently were rice and coconut (See this newspaper's Thursday's edition).
The Premier's Office release of Thursday's mentioned rice as one of the seven items that would comprise this budget pack, but failed to include coconut in the menu. However, Wickremesinghe's Office mentioned a total of eight budget items. Consumer expectations are that the missing eighth item is coconut.
The Premier has taken the first step in driving down the CoL by making this announcement. The next and the most crucial step is implementation. It's, nine more days to Christmas and shoppers will wrap up their purchases amongst those their Christmas groceries in another eight days time, i.e. by 24 December the latest.
Therefore, it's up to Wickremesinghe to act now. Even a few days delay at this critical time of the season may be too late. He has no better example to follow, as said in this newspaper's editorial of Tuesday's, than his own uncle, the then newly elected Premier J.R. Jayewardene.
Jayewardene who was threatened with economic terrorism by the country's chicken farmers during the 'Christmas 1977' season who said that there will be no chicken that Christmas because he didn't allow a hike in the then controlled prices of that meat, responded 'in kind' by importing 50,000 metric tons of chicken from China, thereby ensuring that the masses had their chicken to celebrate the season.
'Economics' doesn't operate in a vacuum. It also requires good politics to take the country's economic agenda forward. Practising good economics sans good politics only led to Wickremesinghe's defeat at the April 2004 Parliamentary Poll, resulting in the country being almost thrown into the abyss in the near 11 years that followed afterwards.
Wickremesinghe has a sound Finance Minister in Mangala Samaraweera who feels the people's pulse. It's 'bread' that wins elections not economics and Local Government elections are round the corner.
Recent examples are the 1970 Parliamentary Election which Sirimavo Bandaranaike won by making the false promise of providing two measures (kilos) of rice to the masses, the 1977 Parliamentary Poll electoral win of Jayewardene was due to a combination of the CoL and shortages of essential items delivered by Bandaranaike and the 1994 Parliamentary Poll win of her daughter Chandrika was due to the false promise made by her of reducing the controlled price of bread. But after she was elected, she increased the price of bread.
Coomaraswamy said that CBSL has built a reserves portfolio of between Rs 100 and 120 billion to meet the country's rupee debt servicing commitments next year (See this newspaper's yesterday's edition).
Use part of that money to subsidize only coconut and rice to the masses as a matter of urgency whilst recouping the losses made by divesting non-strategic State enterprises. As Coomaraswamy said, nearly 30 per cent of the island's population is in the poverty borderline.
It's, equivalent to 6.3 million of the island's 21 million people: A matter that should be of concern not only to the country's politicos and its people, but also the international community who are good at praising the present regime.
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