The IMF is the lesser evil among the two options available; it is far better than selling the nation’s sovereignty to China.


  • To give credit where it is due, even if it is to Wickremesinghe, yes, he does. He personally burned the midnight oil, plodding through paperwork and prodding his officials into meeting IMF deadlines until the deal was done.
  • The relatively small amount in terms of international finances—US$ 2.9 billion—is not a panacea for all our economic ills.
  • However, the IMF’s lifeline to the country’s ailing economy is welcome.


After much ado, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has finally delivered its US$ 2.9 billion aid package and the government and President Ranil Wickremesinghe are over the moon, celebrating on a scale that suggests that Sri Lanka’s economic catastrophe is over.

To be fair, the IMF lifeline to the country’s ailing economy is welcome. It is also true that it was the only way out- other than taking more unserviceable debts from China and virtually selling the nation’s sovereignty to that country. Among those options, it was the lesser of the two evils.

However, all is not hunky dory. The relatively small amount in terms of international finances- US$ 2.9 billion- is not a panacea for all our economic ills. It only offers Sri Lanka some breathing space to get our house in order. Whether we do or not will largely determine whether we sink or swim, economically.

Does Ranil Wickremesinghe deserve kudos for the IMF deal? To give credit where it is due, even if it is to Wickremesinghe, yes, he does. He personally burned the midnight oil plodding through paperwork and prodding his officials into meeting IMF deadlines, until the deal was done. If only he had the same enthusiasm for conducting elections and protecting democracy!

The devil though, is in the detail. Slated for privatisation are a slew of state-owned enterprises. Heading the list are institutions such as the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, which generate profits for the government. Wickremesinghe, the nephew of J.R. Jayewardene who famously said, ‘let the robber barons come’, will not hesitate one moment to sell off the country’s economic jewels to appease the IMF’s mandarins.

The privatisation of these state ventures- profitable or otherwise- also provides ample opportunity for the ‘men in grey suits’- the wheeler-dealers in government to make a killing. There is no shortage of those surrounding Wickremesinghe.

Previously thought of as ‘Mr. Clean’, Wickremesinghe had that image permanently erased following the Central Bank bond scam. His actions since then first as Prime Minister of the ‘yahapalanaya’ regime and then after assuming office as President, where he has shown a great appetite for watchful expectation and masterly inactivity against corruption especially against the Rajapaksas, demonstrate beyond any doubt that many a million will be made while selling off the state’s assets.

Wickremesinghe, in the short period that he has been President, has shown that he can and will bulldoze his way through any opposition to the sale of state-owned enterprises. He has converted the fact that his party has only a single Member of Parliament to a strength rather than seeing it as a weakness. That lone MP, Vajira Abeywardena, is his shameless lackey and will only act on the instructions of his Master.

The ‘pohottuwa’ lot, those who previously saw Wickremesinghe as their arch-rival but now servilely serve under him, cannot protest either. If they do, Wickremesinghe will raise the prospect of a dissolution of Parliament before them, they know only too well that, if general elections were to be held now, such is the popularity of their party that most of them will be consigned to the dustbin of local political history.

The IMF bailout package can bring about some short-term economic relief. For instance, when the nation was cash-strapped, it could not purchase fuel on a competitive basis and had to rely on a handful of suppliers who sold at higher prices. Now, with funds available, oil can be bought at lower, more competitive prices and the benefits could be passed on to the public. Possibly, even the ‘QR’ code quota system could be done away with. Although fuel prices will still remain comparatively high due to taxes imposed on it, most consumers will see any reduction as a blessing and praise the government and Wickremesinghe for it.

That is why Wickremesinghe is so happy with the IMF relief package. He has all of nineteen months more as President before he has to call a presidential election. In this short period of time, he will use the opportunities created from the package and do his utmost to manufacture a series of minor economic benefits for the people. Shackled at present by the soaring cost of living, exorbitant taxes and poor wages, many will grab any concession that comes their way- and Wickremesinghe will claim to be the economic Messiah that delivered the nation from the brink of disaster.

At least, that is what Wickremesinghe is hoping for, for the country’s to view him as the genius who saved the country from economic ruin. In this exercise, Wickremesinghe wouldn’t mind the brickbats that come his way for being undemocratic and dictatorial. He firmly adheres to the school of thought that the masses value food on the table and money in the pocket more than democracy and freedom of expression. He believes that the economy, and the economy alone will win him the next election.

To win the next presidential election, Wickremesinghe is counting on another factor: a three-way race between Sajith Premadasa, Anura Kumara Dissanayake and himself. If the ‘ant-establishment’ vote splits between the two opposition front-runners, Wickremesinghe will believe that he can win although, for the first time in Sri Lankan political history, no single candidate will secure more than 50 per cent and a count of second preferences may well be required.

One can bet the last dollar handed out by the IMF that by this time, Wickremesinghe will do what he does best: divide and rule. Having vast powers at his disposal as President, he will dangle the carrot of Cabinet portfolios and lure opposition parliamentarians from the ‘pohottuwa’ dissidents, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the Tamil and Muslim political parties and face the presidential election under the façade of a ‘national’ government. With a divided opposition- as long as Premadasa and Dissanayake are at loggerheads with each other- and a sizeable portion of the minority vote, he believes he can indeed win, improbable as that may sound now.

That is why Ranil Wickremesinghe is so happy with the IMF package: it is the key which enables him to unlock the door to his chamber of presidential ambitions in 2024.




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