Fifth Column

21st January 2001

Price hikes and protests in Lankan democracy

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"Thaaththa," Bindu Udagedera asked, "what is all this fuss about the 'jeevana viyadama'.?"

"People are concerned because everything is going up in price." Bindu's father Percy explained.

"Why do you say that, thaaththa?"

"Because they raised water charges this week and electricity rates are also due to go up soon."

"Why did they increase water charges, thaaththa?" Bindu wanted to know.

"Because they say the water supply operates with electricity."

"And why are electricity charges being increased?"

"Because the electricity generators operate with fuel." Percy tried to explain.

"And why are fuel prices rising?"

"That the government says happened because world market prices are rising."

"Then thaaththa, why should these other parties blame the government?"

"Of course, the people say the government is responsible for all this."

"But thaaththa," Bindu argued, "the government is claiming that it is doing everything possible to try and control the prices."

"I agree," Percy said, "it is indeed doing everything possible to try and control this 'jeevana viyadama'."

"Why do you say that?"

"Bindu," Percy said, "the only way of doing that is to increase our productivity."

"And how are they doing that?" Bindu queried.

"Why, they have appointed more ministers."'

"How will that help?"

"Why, when there are more ministers each minister has a smaller subject under his supervision; so he can do a better job."

"But thaaththa, there is a lot of expense involved in having so many ministers."

"That is also part of the plan." Percy suggested.

"How can that be?"

"Why, when they have more staff, they can work more and develop the country more."

"But they also have more vehicles and telephones which cost money." Bindu argued.

"Then they can travel more and talk to people more which also helps to do more work."

"So, thaaththa, do you think that all this is designed to develop the country."

"Of course, it is," Percy assured, "Otherwise, why would Satellite do a thing like that?"

"But thaaththa," Bindu argued, "the people are still protesting."

"That's democracy, Bindu," Percy said, "you can't please all the people all the time."

"So, who are they pleasing now?" Bindu wanted to know.

"They are pleasing themselves." Percy observed.

"But that's not what the people want, thaaththa," Bindu argued.

"That's not all, they are pleasing some other people also." Percy pointed out.

"Who is that?"

"Why, the Opposition, at least the greens, seem to be pretty pleased with what they are getting."

"That's true" Bindu conceded.

"So, if the Opposition is not bothered, why should we complain?" Percy asked.

Bindu did not know how to answer that question.

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