seven years of missed economic opportunities
the country has never celebrated her regaining of independence in
such a sombre manner as two days ago. Nonetheless, since it was
a natural devastation that impelled this sobriety, we cannot lay
blame on anyone.
we say the same of the many other upheavals that have strewn the
path of post independent Sri Lanka? The communal riots of 1958,
the insurgency of 1971, the communal violence of July 1983, the
insurgency of 1988-89, acts of continuous terrorism and the civil
war unleashed by the LTTE, are among the catastrophic events of
the past. They have no doubt been important reasons for the country's
underlying causes for these tragedies are complex and these have
not been the only reasons for the country's modest economic progress.
The reasons for the country remaining a poor country after 57 years
of independence are many. Economic, political, social, cultural,
international and other factors account for our underdevelopment.
As a nation we have failed to mobilise our material and human resources
to achieve the kind of economic growth that nations that were poorer
than ours have done. The notable examples are of course Malaysia,
Singapore, Republic of Korea, Taiwan and several other East Asian
and South East Asian countries. India and China are currently achieving
high rates of economic growth reaching near 10 per cent per year.
country's economic history has been characterised by many as a series
of missed opportunities. Unfortunately as we pass the 57th anniversary
of independence we appear to be once again frittering away another
opportunity to lay the foundation for rapid economic growth. The
destruction caused by the tsunami has also offered the country an
opportunity to rise again and cross the threshold to a rapid path
of economic growth and development. There are several pre-conditions
to rapid economic growth that could be established.
possibility of ethnic reconciliation and a durable and lasting peace
is no doubt the most important. There have been magnificent expressions
of goodwill by people of all communities that is a basis for a political
settlement. The reconstruction of the country's economic and social
infrastructure through foreign assistance is another. The use of
social capital for development as demonstrated by people all over
the country is another resource that needs to be drawn on more in
the coming years.
are many lessons that the tsunami disaster has thrown up and as
many opportunities offered. Whether the nation would accept the
challenges is the question people are asking. There is, regrettably,
evidence as we pass the anniversary of independence that we are
once again frittering away the prospect of national reconciliation,
political integration and commitment to disciplined hard work. The
symbolic gestures of political unity are proving to be a farce.
Even the constituent elements of the government are accusing it
of political bias and disregard of their views and threatening to
main opposition party is having dissension within its own ranks
about co-operating with the government. These dissensions within
the southern parties do not augur well for a peace settlement with
the LTTE. The ineptness of our administration is quite evident.
Impartial observers have found the bureaucracy unable to deliver
the goods in the literal sense not merely the metaphorical. Relief
goods lie stored up in places, while the affected people are without
their basic requirements. True some administrators are working hard
day and night, but these do not make up for the many who are inefficient
is different to the administrative responses and efficiency witnessed
during periods of previous crises in the 1950s in particular. Corruption
is discernible in many areas with even public officials involved.
Doctors called a strike on a matter that should be resolved by an
objective and disinterested adjudication of the facts, not through
trade union action. It demonstrates the irresponsibility of even
professional personnel in the face of a national crisis.
the bright spots of people working hard to alleviate the suffering
of the victims are being negated by these inefficiencies, irresponsibilities,
politicisation, callousness and corruption. These are danger signs
which if allowed to grow would cripple the efforts of rehabilitation
and resettlement of the displaced, retard economic reconstruction
and deny us another opportunity to improve our momentum of economic
growth, reduce poverty and unemployment and improve the living standards
of our people. For all these reasons, the 57th Anniversary of independence
is hardly likely to be a milestone in the country's economic progress.