A crisis-ridden Sri Lanka limped forward gradually during the festive season, with many people indulging in traditional New Year rituals and other customary activities.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in a Sinhala New Year message to all Sri Lankans, said, I am gratified that the commencement of this year has presented a salubrious environment for us all. Therefore, we should strive to be more affluent and prosperous than we are today. We can undoubtedly achieve this aspiration by moving forward together as one Sri Lankan nation. Accordingly, despite differences in political affiliation, ethnicity, and religion, a fresh beginning is imperative to create a brighter future for our nation and us in this New Year.

Although he has sincere wishes for the country, this is not different from his predecessors, who all wanted good news for the people. But so far, the opposite has been true, and the people are at the receiving end. The people have been reeling under the pressure of the cost of living for the past two years without a pause to take a sigh of relief, singularly due to the mismanagement of the economy by the country’s rulers.

Since independence, the people of the country have been looking for a leader with courage and dedication who could lead the country through difficult times to achieve economic prosperity. People also expect him or her not to trample on their rights and engage in cronyism. It is difficult to imagine that present-day leaders would lead the country towards economic emancipation without first looking at themselves and their families. This is because many present-day leaders lack the vision, courage, and tenacity to lead the country to its desired economic targets. As a result, their primary focus is self-enrichment and clinging to power. This leads to a lack of trust in the government as citizens are left feeling powerless and their voices unheard. While the people are left in the lurch, the politicians are more focused on short-term gain and often skirt the law to enrich themselves and their families.

The people hope to find a leader who delivers and takes the country to the forefront in the global arena. However, it is a challenging task given the politicians today who are casting their lots to be in the driver’s seat.

Sri Lankans at present are vaguely realizing that the politicians whom they elected, at least during the past twenty-five years, led them to a political and economic abyss. To prevent further destruction, the nation must take responsibility for its decisions. It is also essential to elect politicians committed to rebuilding the nation.

The main reason for today’s predicament is haphazard planning by political leaders to stay in power and help the people from where the support comes. This is typical of South Asian politics. This kind of short-term thinking has caused long-term problems in the region, like rising poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation. As a result of poor planning, the region has been unable to address the root causes of these issues, leading to a lack of progress and development. The failure to execute meticulous planning lies with the leaders who failed the country for decades.

Sri Lanka is a classic case of mismanagement and haphazardly planned development that is causing environmental destruction that contributes to global climate change and eventually global warming.

The lack of proper planning has put the country in such an economic bind that the government sought help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to rescue the country from the economic abyss. An incumbent president was forced to quit, and parliament had to choose one among themselves to be the stand-in president for the remaining period. Parliament elected alone parliamentarian from the UNP to decide on the country’s destiny.

The lack of proper planning has resulted in excessive national debt and the government’s inability to raise funds for recurrent expenditure. This has amounted to a sharp decline in the currency’s value, skyrocketing inflation, and a lack of investor confidence. The government’s only recourse was to go to the IMF for assistance. This led to the need for a new president to lead the country out of its economic crisis. Parliament’s choice was one-time Prime Minister and United National Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is a direct result of the Aragalaya launched by the youth and the people of this country around this period. This resulted in the ouster of both the incumbent president and the prime minister.

One of the priorities of the new president was to seek help from the IMF which approved a bailout package after the bilateral lenders and others agreed to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt. The government was bound by the IMF to introduce a strong anti-corruption law encompassing several laws that are in operation now. As a result, the country will be better equipped to reduce corruption and improve transparency in its operations once parliament approves the bill.

At a meeting with university deans, President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that the agreement with the IMF will be presented to parliament for a vote on whether to support it.

Following this, the key points of the agreement will be enacted into law. The president also indicated that the Anti -Terrorism Bill, Prevention of Terrorism Bill, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Anti-Corruption Bill will be submitted to parliament by June. He shared these updates with university professors and heads of economic departments as part of a discussion about the IMF program. This was done recently in the Ministry of Finance auditorium.

During the same discussion, President Ranil Wickremesinghe also urged universities to send ten of their most talented economics students to engage with government officials. They were asked to provide their opinions on the IMF program. He also proposed that a group of students be awarded scholarships to attend recognised foreign universities.

The president highlighted the need for automation in production and services for the country to remain competitive with nations like India and Bangladesh. He emphasized that the education system must be reformed to achieve this goal. However, he made it clear that he did not intend to approach the IMF for the 18th time.

The IMF’s enhanced fund facility program will be presented to parliament on April 25 for extensive discussion.

However, Sri Lanka’s government will face stiff resistance from international organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to the proposed anti-terrorism bill.

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said there are provisions in the bill he cannot agree with. This includes the wide powers conferred on a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) to issue warrants under the Anti-terrorism Act. According to him this requires an urgent review. The Minister has raised concerns that the DIG could potentially misuse their powers as they would not be subject to the same checks and balances as the Inspector General. This could lead to a lack of accountability and transparency in the enforcement of the law. Amnesty International has already expressed its vehement opposition to this bill, which will be presented to parliament soon by the justice minister.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe has said that tough policy measures adopted by the government to overcome the ongoing economic crisis are vital to stabilizing the island nation’s economy.

“The difficult and painful policy measures implemented by the government and the Central Bank thus far have helped to stabilize economic conditions, compared to the unprecedented socio-economic tensions witnessed in 2022,” Mr. Weerasinghe said.



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