GSP+ To sustain economy or to Mutate society?
By Riza Yehiya
Reinstating GSP+ status to Sri Lanka by the European Community (EU) comes with 58 conditions that can potentially undermine social, political and economic stability than sustain the economy. A cost benefit analysis of this will be required to fully understand the long-term socio-economic and political impact on Sri Lankan society. The EU demands Sri Lanka to adhere to 27 international conventions on the core of human rights, labour rights, and conventions on environment and good governance principles. Most of these conventions are already ratified by Sri Lanka though with ambivalence, half-heartedness and ignorant of long-term impacts on body politics of Sri Lanka. On the surface, these conventions seem to carry universal values, benign and beneficial but are also double edged swords that are used to discriminate 'the other' just because the codifiers of these belong to 'another' in respect to their values and civilizational thoughts. Hence these conventions force feed what they deem 'right' to the other who bears different and contentious views about what was deemed 'right'.
GSP+ came about through the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a preferential tariff system to help least developed countries to access the industrialized market. This is accorded to developing countries with discriminatory conditions that benefits the EU most and harms the beneficiary in several ways.
The 58 conditions imposed on Sri Lanka to reinstate GSP+ are discriminatory, not uniform and not equally applied to all other GSP+ beneficiaries. Though the primary objectives of GSP + is of trade and commerce, the conditions they stipulate are not directly relevant. There is variance in their conditions due to political, economic and geopolitical objectives of the EU pertinent to the beneficiary country. These conditions are discriminatory, interferes with the social, political and economic state of the nation and undermines stability with the myth increasing GDP.
If GSP+ comes with preconditions to restore the reasons for which it was first withdrawn will be justifiable. As opposed to that, it has come with newly loaded conditions that are not easily applicable by the government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) without further damaging the socio-political edifice of Sri Lankan society. GSP+ must first and foremost lift and rescue Sri Lanka from the current state of its economy by strictly imposing conditions upon the state to be transparent, free of corruption, apply rule of law using good governance principles. The rest of the conditions that aspires to influence change in the 'way of life' of the Sri Lankan must be left to the people to decide.
Is the government seriously keen on solving the economic ills of the country? They should explore more alternatives than the GSP+. GSP+ should not be considered as the sole and ultimate solution provider to our economic ills. Instead the GOSL must put the country on a development overdrive, first by curtailing all forms of wastage that drains the economy, educate the citizens about resource and poverty management, establish law and order to create safety and security to all citizens to invest in their future to enable them to earn their living through sustainable means and contribute to economic and social sustainability. The GOSL should stop talking of new promises and instead effectively and genuinely implement what was promised to the people and correct their ways of handling state affairs as responsible democratic leaders.
Disturbingly, the failure of Yahapalanaya government policies and lack of direction and vision is apparent in their performance of last two years. How can foreign investors come when there is rampant corruption in the present system? How can there be business confidence to invest when the government is spineless, shaky and fails to implement what is right and appropriate? How can citizens invest in their future in the country in the absence of effective law and order? The returns from GSP+ is a pittance to sustain our economy unless we get the basics right to open other avenues of income to sustain the economy.
Among the 58 conditions of the GSP+ there are 27 international conventions. These 27 conventions are not ratified by all the countries but by a majority of countries and with variance in implementations. The reason why some have not ratified is because these conventions are not universal and therefore cannot be applied to all countries, societies and cultures & regions etc. More than being universal, these conventions are created by the powerful countries for their benefits and long-term power perpetuation than global sustainability and good governance.
Sri Lanka as an independent nation, representing the will of its citizens in the international fora, must not ratify conventions that are not aligned to the aspirations of the nation, its values, cultures and religions. Blind ratification of these so-called international conventions can potentially harm the socio-economic and political stability of the nation and capitulation of its independence as a sovereign nation.
To analyze the long-term impact of the GSP+ on society require exhaustive research which cannot be covered within the limits of this article. However, as a surface scratch, matrimonial age limit of 18 years, decriminalization of homosexuality and law on marital rape advocated by these conventions are delved here to give insight about their damaging effects on Sri Lankan society, its traditions, cultures and, religious and moral values etc.
Matrimonial age limit of 18 years
Age of marriage is a natural variable that cannot be fixed to a clock. In Sri Lanka, rarely anyone marries below 16 years and most get married in their 20s.Average girl attains puberty by around 11 and boy 14 years respectively. Imperatively they should be groomed to be socially and economically mature to take up marital and thence social responsibility. Most of the international conventions stipulate 16 years as the age of marriage.
Fixing a higher limit of 18 years has harmful impact on the individual, family, society and the economy. The individual who is less than 18 and have the wherewithal of socio-economic and emotional maturity will have all the inclinations of seeking a partner.
Should he or she wishes to marry, the international conventions bars him/her till s/he is 18years. These are exceptional situation where maybe one in a thousand would wish to get into marital responsibility. In such a situation, what are his/her alternatives to satisfy his/her desires? The conventions having put a stop to such responsible way of taking on marital responsibility, has no alternatives on offer. Instead they are creating leeways by decriminalizing homosexuality as an alternative. Which parent would prefer their children to become homosexuals and lesbians? Why are international conventions barring the responsible initiate of youth under 18 to embrace social responsibility through marital relationship? Potentially these conventions are driving youth to indulge in premarital sex and homosexuality by eliminating the opportunities to form responsible family making. These are injurious to society and the consequences of these can potentially influence heterosexual marital failure due to dominant homosexual behaviour. Dr. Alfred Kinsey in his book The Sexual Behaviour of Human Male, published in 1948, invents Kinsey's Scale which shows how heterosexual behaviour, the prime progenitor of humanity is impaired by homosexual behaviour that stifles human development.
0- Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual, 1- Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual, 2- Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual, 3- Equally heterosexual and homosexual, 4- Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual, 5- Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual, 6- Exclusively homosexual
These impede individuals' wholesome development and also worsens the suffering of the family in the marriage market to find a suitable partner when idiosyncrasies are matured, peer pressure and other social anomalies influence individuals. This is the first step to eliminate the institution of marriage in society and then to eliminate family as an organized institution that protects the welfare of the members of the family and children. This can potentially lead to the phenomenon of unwed mother and fatherless children hitherto unheard of in Sri Lanka but rampant in the western societies.
Delayed marriage (untimely marriage) leads to unsustainable human productivity loss. Sustainable human replacement rate differ from country to country. Developed countries require a rate of 2.1 and developing countries 3.3 respectively to sustain their economy and society. Currently Sri Lanka's Total Fertility Rate(TFR) or human replacement rate is 2.35 which is unsustainable as it can cause major demographic shift impeding national development, cause geriatric dependency undermining society/economy. Imposition of 18 years and delayed marriage would have far reaching damages to the economy and society than the GSP+ sustains. Sri Lanka is one of the countries in the third world has a fast growing geriatric population. In the prevailing scenario, children under 18 and adults over 55 years are dependents on the earnings/productivity of the population bracket between 18 and 55 years. This is a disproportionately large dependency ratio which can undermine sustainable development. Reversing this is vital to sustain the nation and therefore maintaining a sustainable TFR is more important to sustain the future which our planners and politicians seem to neglect.
Decriminalization of Homosexuality
This only helps a very small segment of the population suffering from emotional disorder caused by systemic failures of social, educational and economic system by not invoking the innately available natural system to satisfy human emotional/sexual desires on demand. When the young attains puberty/adolescence and need for sexual gratification prompts, the system must be able to satisfy such demands in sustainable, practical and responsible manner. Failing which leads to seek alternative means of sexual gratifications and homosexuality is one such negative alternatives. This is caused by the society by failing to address human needs in the way they need to be addressed as human nature demands to sustain them well on time. Decriminalizing only legitimizes homosexual behaviour but it does not protect the society against corrosive impact on heterosexual behaviour that result in impeding human progenitor. Homosexuals, lesbians and same sex couples don't produce children but heterosexuals do produce children and contributes to TFR to sustain human population.
Law on Marital Rape
Marriage is a natural, social, religious and moral instrument through which the union of man and woman is legitimized to take the responsibility of the care of each other and provide mutual services on demand. Marriage fails when one party fails to respond to the other in their due diligence and duty of care. Care of the sexual needs of the other is the responsibility of either parties and to respond on demand is the responsibility of the other too. The concept of marital rape is a new phenomenon in the lives of humanity. This, more than engendering love, understanding and mutual response, builds a partition wall in the marital life and opens the ways to suspicions, dissolution of marriage or to seek sex outside marriage. A pernicious behaviour that damages human society, individuals and families.
In a nutshell, the results of limiting of matrimonial age, decriminalizing homosexuality and importing Marital Rape Law only makes our society unsustainable beyond the tipping point. This only atomizes the whole society as individuals running about in their own directions unsustainably rendering them weak without the organized system of family, community, society to protect them. Individuation, atomization and rising divorce rate, the burden of unwed mothers and fatherless children and preponderance of sexually transmitted diseases will be having a debilitating impact on our society. These will neither benefit the individuals, family or the society. Instead, atomization, individuation and the assortments of divorce and dependency would make humanity become like cannon fodder facing the arsenals of the neo liberal industrialists, the eight (8) wealthy persons in the world owning 50% of the humanity's wealth and their local ilk holding disproportionate wealth in the local economy to benefit from these conditions.
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