Grease lightning: Mr. Ten Percent emerges
President Mahinda Rajapaksa told the country's national editors this week that should Britain decide to restrict the flow of aid into the country, they are entitled to do so -- and that we can manage with our own resources. "We will take what is given and if there's nothing to be given, then we will manage on our own," he said.
The fact that the President left this same week to a meeting of the World Economic Forum though, suggests that he is mindful that what he said was easier said than done.
We, and everybody else, are living in a global inter-dependent village with each country's economy inter-linked to the economies of other countries.
In addition to this, Sri Lanka -- sixty years after Independence -- relies very heavily on foreign aid just to survive and foreign remittances by its many workers abroad to sustain thousands of families in this country.
Expatriate remittances have now been classified as one of the top three foreign-exchange earners to this country.
With the shaky performances of garment exports, tourism and foreign investments -- partly due to the vagaries of international trade and partly due to terrorism here -- foreign remittances are one of the loyal mainstays of this country's economy.
There is some truth in the President's words.
We probably can manage with our financial resources. But how well are we managing our financial resources?
This very week, the JVP was howling that the COPE (The Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises) report submitted by our own MPs has been shelved. Regular readers of this newspaper and the Press in general must have noticed that there was an outcry demanding that the Government take affirmative action on the findings in this report.
No doubt, it is awkward for the Government to do so, because some of the MPs they recruited from the Opposition UNP as Ministers to strengthen their Parliamentary majority are among those who had to be investigated.
Instead, the President himself said on national TV that there was a misconception that the matters reported in that COPE report occurred under his Administration.
No, that was not the case, and nobody would say so -= but the President's reluctance to take action is what begs the question: Why?
This report was the successor to a previous report on similar lines submitted by the Auditor General on the wastage and corruption in Ministries and Government Departments is gathering dust and the Treasury, the Department that must thank the Auditor General for highlighting these defects finds fault with him for doing so. Moves to make the Auditor General more independent have been scuttled by the same Brahmins at the incompetent Treasury.
What has the Government to report on the multi-million rupee VAT scam? After the initial exclamation of surprise by the President of the sheer enormity of this scam (he said how the railroad could have been extended from Matara to Hambantota with this money), investigations are just "proceeding" with no sense of urgency.
And now, with each passing week, more and more scams keep surfacing.
One-time Cabinet Minister Mangala Samaraweera referred to how the Hambantota Port feasibility study report given to China was shared between two local agents close to the President.
He also accompanied the complainant who went to the Bribery Commission to say that there was some hanky-panky with the purchase of military hardware.
Our Financial section today carries a story of a pending financial transaction in the Telecom arena, and our Defence Correspondent refers to transactions in the military arena - both complaining the lack of transparency.
The talk is not good, of people being placed in strategic positions so that the 'greasing' is easier to do. It is no longer rumour that a Mr. 10 Per Cent has emerged in Sri Lanka.
This week's appointment of the Minister of Ports and Aviation from the First Family does not augur well for the President.
The fact that the Ministry of Irrigation has been abandoned by this new Minister for a Ministry that has some juicy financial contracts in the offing only adds to the speculation that the creaming the fat off the land has started already.
The President cannot talk of Sri Lanka's willingness to being an insular State, invite the people to be patriotic and at the same time allow unbridled nepotism.
He must be careful about his own name and reputation, and that of the country.