Has Sri Lanka become a poor country?
By Dr Laksiri Fernando
After artificially fixing the exchange rate in Sri Lanka for so many years (since 2001), whether the sudden floating of the rupee rate to dollar is a wise decision is altogether a different matter. However, because of this decision the dollar rate has jumped from Rs. 197/203 to 321/328 since this decision was taken on 9 March, just a month ago.
Has Sri Lanka become a ‘low income’ country because of this decision, and other circumstances, is the first question that this short article raises? In 2019, as a mouthpiece of the government, the Central Bank announced that “Sri Lanka graduated to the upper middle income country status as per the World Bank classification of countries published in July 2019.” On the other hand, the World Bank downgraded Sri Lanka to a ‘lower middle income’ country considering the currency crisis and inflation, in July 2020, much to the disappointment of the government and economic bureaucrats.
It is the World Bank that classifies countries as ‘low income,’ ‘lower middle income,’ ‘upper middle income,’ and ‘high income’ countries whether those criteria are reasonable or accurate. The following are the measures that they use, simply said, based on the per capita GDP.
Group GDP Range(per capita)
Low Income 0 – 1036
Lower Middle Income 1036- 4,045
Upper Middle Income 4,045 – 12,535
High Income 12, 535 –
As I have raised this question previously, the income range for ‘low income’ or poor countries is arbitrary and excludes many countries who need international support from institutions and countries. The range could be up to $ 3,000 and not $ 1,036. Sri Lanka is only one country among them. There can be a tendency on the part of international organizations, including the World Bank and the IMF to avoid responsibility to help poor countries as those organizations are dominated by Western or rich countries.
Right to Seek Assistance
To seek assistance from international organisations and rich countries, however, is a right of poor and developing countries. On behalf of the people living in those countries, this right is absolutely a human right.
Strangely enough or ironically, the behaviour and attitudes of many elite politicians in poor and low-income countries go hand in glove with these elite politicians and bureaucrats in rich countries and international institutions. Sri Lanka is a very good examples, and most of the arguments in this direction come from the ‘nationalists’ and ‘leftists.’
Before going into details of this matter, let me first answer the question whether Sri Lanka has now fallen into the pit of low-income or poor countries. Sri Lanka’s GDP or per capita GDP is calculated first based on rupees. Let us take an example.
According to the Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka’s GDP on market prices in 2021 was Rs. (million) 16,809,309. Sri Lanka’s population is 22 million. Therefore, Sri Lanka’s per capita income was Rs. 764,059 million.
As of today, the dollar value of this per capita GDP is just $ 2,380, based on the floating rupee (1 Dollar = Rs. 321), irrespective of the government’s ‘vision for prosperity’! The reasons are bad financial management, wishful thinking and power politics. The reasons apply not only to the present government but to all past governments.
The second question that I want to raise is what is wrong in going to the IMF and seeking assistance? Sri Lanka joined the IMF in 1950 even before joining the UN (1955). One advantage the country has at present is ironically not seeking much assistance previously from this organisation meant to assist member countries (190 members now).
It was in 1965 that Sri Lanka first sought IMF ‘assistance’ and continued to do so until 2002 as a formality even without drawing the full amounts owed to the country under ‘Standby Arrangements.’ It was under J.R. Jayewardene that the country sought ‘Extended Fund Facility’ in 1979 due to the foreign exchange difficulties. But that amount had to be paid back in three years which raised much criticism. In 1988, the same administration sought ‘Structural Adjustment Facility’ again to be paid back in three years.
I happened to meet the IMF representative to South Asia/Sri Lanka in 1990 at a Norwegian friend’s place in Geneva (Inger Nordback). He was one who appeared in picture with JR during a famous ‘Vap Magul’ festival. Our casual meeting led to some talk about ‘IMF conditions’ and he told me that the problem with Sri Lankan representatives was that ‘they don’t bargain but leave with dissatisfaction after meetings.’ I hope this is not and should not be the case today.
Sri Lanka has received the last ‘Extended Fund Facility’ from IMF in 2016 to the amount of $ 952,230,000 to be paid in 2020 and still 892,283,000 is outstanding. Perhaps this is understandable, given the Covid pandemic and other circumstances. Otherwise, Sri Lanka has a ‘clean slate’ thanks to the ‘nationalist and leftist’ antipathy against the IMF!
Let me touch on some other IMF matters. When Rajan Philips wrote ‘Mayhem in Mirihana; Shaken Gota is Home Under Curfew’ (Colombo Telegraph, 3 April), I posted the following comment and there were scathing attacks on me as usual!
“The declaration of curfew is acceptable to prevent further anarchy and violence today based on the experience at Mirihana and other places. However, this should not continue. The immediate root cause should soon be addressed. The government (whatever) should immediately negotiate with the IMF to obtain $ 10 billion to end the fuel crisis, energy shortages, essential imports, and loan repayments of this year. Then the unrest might subside. Debt restructuring can be done from next year. If the government is multi-partisan, it is very much better in negotiating with the IMF. There is no point in obtaining ad hoc loans from countries although those could be utilized later. It is already too late. IMF officials completed discussions with the government officials in December although the Report came out in February. This is April. Whatever the weaknesses or biases of the IMF, it is the main international mechanism to rescue countries under international monetary constraints. Undoubtedly, Sri Lanka must agree for strict conditions which could be negotiated. When you fall into a pit, you must escape from the same pit.”
I was looking at the economic side of the crisis and still maintain the same positions except the fifth sentence of the above quote: ‘Debt restructuring can be done from next year.’
Obviously, debt restructuring should start forthwith. Past governments, including the present, have irresponsibly depended on international sovereign bonds at higher rates of interest and purely on commercial conditions even with China. A poor country like Sri Lanka cannot afford that. The present debt obligations for this year appear to exceed $ 7 billion. Forex reserves at present however do not exceed 2 billion, necessary for even essential imports.
The government has appointed a good three-member expert panel to advice and negotiate with the IMF. The appointment of the present Central Bank Governor is also commendable. While negotiating with the countries, like India and China, or institutions like the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to postpone the dept repayments, if Sri Lanka could obtain around $ 10 billion from the IMF, some of the economic reasons for the present crisis can be ameliorated.
The present political mobilisations with the slogan ‘Gota, go home’ are mainly political, of course based on economic and social reasons. However, to seek IMF assistance to resolve the economic crisis there should be some political stability. This is something Sri Lanka is lacking not only under the present government, but it was there even under the last government.
The spontaneous protests from non-political sources at least have understood this calamity without supporting any political party. The question however is what are the alternatives?
During the debates on the IMF report in Parliament, no MP on the government side or in the Opposition never came up with a constructive proposal. Even Sajith Premadasa’s argument was to resolve the Forex crisis acquiring money laundering revealed in the Pandora Papers. The gravity of the crisis was undermined. The debates were focused on personal attacks and trivial political matters.
The Opposition is now proposing a ‘no confidence motion’ on the government and an impeachment against the President if the former is successful. On the other hand, the so-called ‘independents’ who broke away from the government are proposing an ‘interim government’ until the economic crisis is resolved, and the country can hold elections. That kind of a government could include Ranil Wickremesinghe, M. A. Sumanthiran, and Harsha de Silva if not Sajith Premadasa. No Rajapaksa should be included except the President who should promise to leave politics within two years. Under such an interim government the President’s power should be curtailed. This could be the opening for changing the presidential system among other things.
WHO taken hostage by global corporate network
by Dr Wasantha Bandara,
Patriotic National Movement
According to the reports of various independent research institutes in the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently contemplating bringing the entire decision-making authority of the global health system under its control. It is also reported that WHO is planning to use two main devices for that purpose: the revision of the International Health Regulation system (IHR), and the signing of a new global epidemic convention to bind all countries of the world to the organisation’s strategic plan and the guidelines based on it.
This process is called “One Health Agenda” and that will give power to make decisions in respect of all areas affecting public health under the authority of the World Health Organization. Accordingly, the World Health Organization will have the power to influence decision making at the global level in relation to many fields such as food, agricultural production patterns, animal production process, environmental protection, population variables, etc. This situation is very serious due to the fact that the big companies that provide funding to the World Health Organization have been given decision-making power over the process and fields of deploying those funds. For example, if funds are provided for a specific project, the organisation does not have the power or ability to deploy the funds according to the priority, no matter how critical the priorities are. As such it cannot be hidden that the World Health Organization currently determines technical decisions and set priorities according to the wishes of funders.
As such, many researchers have revealed that WHO is almost completely dependent on private funds for all its budgetary requirements. According to Dr. David Bell’s research reports, the biggest funder of that organisation is Bill Gates and the umbrella organisations dominated by him. Dr. David Bell accuses Bill Gates of using his funds as leverage to shut down the entire world and introduce mandatory vaccination programmes during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is no secret that a large vaccine market was created and the accounts of large companies were fattened. It has now been revealed that the Bill Gates and Melinda Gates Foundation invested large amounts of money for it even before the pandemic. However, even though the orders are given by WHO for epidemic control, the programmes in every country of the world should be launched with the funds of the taxpayers of those countries.
Accordingly, WHO is accused of having destroyed 200,000 small businesses in the world while 40 new billionaires were created by the end of the Covid epidemic. The whole process has been dubbed by various researchers as “epidemic industry”. Therefore, in the future, it is possible to present an “epidemic package” with measures such as new epidemics control measures and mass vaccination programmes, as well as imposing restrictions on economic and social activities and shutting down the entire world in the end. The cost will be borne by the taxpayers of the respective countries and the profits will be credited to the accounts of Global Corporate network.
Accordingly, the billionaires can ensure that the process is carried out the way they want through the International Health Regulations and the New Pandemic Convention, which gives WHO “global police powers” as mentioned above. New regulations revealed to be currently being drafted will introduce new criteria for declaring a global pandemic and health emergency. Consequently, by creating an epidemic or emergency situation that can happen or is likely to happen, it is possible to recommend actions to be taken in a real situation. For example, it is possible to completely shut down a country and create a global mass market by implementing mass vaccination programmes or preparing for other medical interventions.
According to the new international health regulations, the directives given by WHO are mandatory and all the countries that were parties in 2005 are obliged to implement those directives. Also, the new regulations empower the Director-General of the World Health Organization as an individual to independently declare a health emergency or a global pandemic. As such, the possibility of the independent expert committees to challenge the objectives of the funders is minimal. A mechanism will also be set up to ensure that the relevant orders are strictly implemented by establishing a very comprehensive centralised enforcement process. Accordingly, member countries are constrained in their ability to seek other options other than submitting to the directives of the Director General of the World Health Organization. As an extension of that, the Director General will be empowered to publish any country’s data without that country’s permission, as well as to provide it to the requesting party to be used for any purpose.
Above all, the Director General will have the power not only to deploy the resources of member countries but also to make decisions on intellectual property rights and will also have the power to censor the disclosure of information. Also, it is considered a very autocratic situation to make individual people bound by regulations. Accordingly, the public will have to be obliged as individuals to submit to the closure of borders, the imposition of travel restrictions, to follow the quarantine process, to submit to medical research, to submit to mandatory medical treatment and vaccinations.
In that way, it is very clear that in addition to binding countries and individuals by the new international health regulations, the new Epidemic Convention creates many other obligations. According to the draft currently under discussion, the power of the World Health Organization will spread beyond epidemic control. For example, a global supply chain will be created under the supervision of the World Health Organization for health supplies. In addition, each country must allocate 5% of the national health budget to maintain the emergency situation management structure of the WHO. As an extension of that, each country should create a specific governance structure for the health emergency situation management process under the supervision of the World Health Organization.
This new global pandemic agreement will expand the mandate of the World Health Organization indefinitely under the umbrella of ‘One Health Agenda’. Accordingly, the control of climate change as mentioned above is also considered as a health emergency and the power to impose restrictions and orders related to it has been submitted to the authority of the World Health Organization or in other Words the authority of the funders. In this way, the World Health Organization will have the power to impose orders overriding the local laws of a country. In such a situation, in the name of controlling climate change or in the name of controlling a related health emergency, the Director General of the world health organization will be able to take over the power to control the entire world’s food production system.
WHO is not the only organisation that comes forward to confirm the need for this so-called one health agenda. Not only the United Nations Organization, the European Union, the United Nations Children’s Fund, but also the Global Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have come forward to spend money for that and popularise the concept. Even if this organizations invest in the so-called epidemic industry in this way, the operating costs should be borne by the taxpayers of the respective countries. Hence, Dr. Bell states that the public must invest money for billionaires to make profit and ultimately to become victims of exploitation and destruction. The World Economic Forum has introduced a new theory to provide protection for this evil process. It is known as Public Private Partnership. In order to give it further legitimacy, it is termed as the transformation of the process from the dominance of shareholders to the dominance of stakeholders.
It is very clear that the end result of this private-public or private-government partnership is that the profits of the entire process are accumulated in the accounts of a handful of big companies. To facilitate this process, the World Economic Forum and the United Nations signed an agreement in 2019 and thereby impose the business interests of large companies on sovereign countries through this United Nations and its affiliated international multilateral organisation network. It is in the context that the World Economic Forum gathered in Davos, Switzerland in 2020 presented a new theory called “The Great Reset”. A key device in that theory is contractual private-public cooperation. In other words, the global multilateral institutions system is used to re-establish or reset the world according to the wishes of the global billionaires’ forum or the World Economic Forum. In that process, a Global Decision-Making system will be established.
Eventually, that so-called decision-making system becomes a global governance system or a global government of billionaires. The seriousness of the process is hidden by not naming it the global government but created as a technical decision-making system at global level. But the real situation is the creation of a global government above the independent states of the world. The World Health Organization will become the most powerful tool used to manipulate or control states in the way that the global government desires. Accordingly, the ultimate goal of the new International Health Regulations and the new Global Epidemic Convention should be understood and redefined in this greater context or bigger picture.
It can now be clearly seen that the current moment in which the world is undergoing a great economic depression is being used to pass a critical juncture related to the process of re-establishing the world. It is obviously a kind of imperialist operation. Accordingly, the next World Health Assembly will be used to adopt international health regulations. If that operation becomes a success, the relevant amendments will be put to the vote in May 2024. There, only a simple majority is required to pass those resolutions. But according to the procedure of the conference, the member countries will have a period of 10 months to reject the relevant amendments. As such, in March 2025, the process of creating a new world will begin. If a country has the courage to oppose it, only that state will have a limited space to act according to the international health regulations that have been in force since 2005.
Meanwhile, the World Pandemic Convention will also be put to the vote in May 2024, but will require a special two-thirds majority to pass it. After the adoption of the convention, if endorsed by 30 countries, all signatory countries are bound to implement the convention. But global giants are not waiting until then, and will launch an operation in September 2023 to begin a rehearsal through an operation called the Global Pandemic Response Platform. There is no doubt that it is a rehearsal to guide countries to the 2024 Agenda.
Of that proposed ‘Climate Change University’
by Dr. Ranil Senanayake
With the Sri Lanka country statement to COP21 held in 2015, Paris being ignored by the ‘Climate Change’ bureaucrats for eight years, there is concern that the agricultural community is running out of time. The recent change in management seemed to show some promise by appointing Eric Solheim as the Advisor on climate change. Thus in August of 2022 the Sri Lanka country statement to COP 21 was submitted to him in the hope that he could initiate the urgent actions that need to be attended to. Sadly, there seems to be no acceptance of this statement by the Government up until today. One trusts that the stupid public statements like “Sri Lanka will take the lead in ensuring the developing economies have the resources to mitigate climate change” have been crafted by the bureaucrats and not the advisors.
Now, we are presented with another silly political gundu, a ‘Climate Change University’. In terms of climate change, they are compromisers of our farmers and our fishermen. They are guilty of not putting in place the official machinery, to prepare for the oncoming stress factors, driven by climate change. Heat stress to our crops and the loss of ocean productivity are the most obvious. A nation would respond to such a scenario by having its agricultural scientists focus on breeding heat tolerance into our crops. We do not need a university to tell us that heat is going to be a problem. It was stated eight years ago in the Sri Lanka country statement to COP21. It said:
“(1) We are aware that the optimum operating temperature of chlorophyll is at 37 deg C. In a warming world where temperatures will soar well above that, food production will be severely impacted. We would request the IPCC to address responses to this phenomenon.”
If we are a nation unable to listen to its own voices or even the voices of others. What can be done to penetrate the echo chamber that politicians benefiting from earmarked funds have created around themselves? Globally, the scientific community are warning us that the crisis coming, we can see the wave on the horizon, but most people are still rooted in the dream that life will proceed as normal and are willing to let the corporations and politicians, calm us by moving the deck chairs a bit more, for us to enjoy our ride on their Titanic.
The oceanic levels are going up as a consequence of climate change. In Sri Lanka the current rate is around 3.6mm per annum. However, research published in February 2022 shows that sea level rise is accelerating and projected to rise by a foot by 2050. If there was any coordination on climate change, we should be mapping out the rice-growing areas prone to salinisation. We should be accessing salt tolerant rice varieties into the national rice breeding programme. We should be evaluating alternate crops for saline areas. We have the resources to respond, we do not need to wait for a climate change university to tell us that.
Without awaiting the lucrative construction of a new university, could we not consider the request of the Sri Lankan Country statement to COP 21 to be considered by the line ministries today and action plans drawn up? If we have funds for this new university is it not better to award the funds to existing institutions to respond to the oncoming crisis.
Sri Lanka Position Paper
To the UN Conference for Climate Change (COP21) Paris 1-10 December 2015
Sri Lanka is a vulnerable island in the face of Climate Change. An increase in the intensity of rainfall will erode our mountains and create increased flood damage. An increase in the sea level will render much of our productive agricultural lands saline. An increase of ambient temperatures will reduce our agricultural productivity. We are in agreement with the view that an increase of the Carbon Dioxide concentration in our atmosphere will contribute to this vulnerability.
We are aware of the great difference in carbon dioxide that is emitted from biological sources and carbon dioxide emitted from fossil sources. One has sequestered rates measured in thousands of years while the other in millions of years. Yet the cost is still the same. We would request the IPCC to address the relative costs of each.
We are aware that the optimum operating temperature of chlorophyll is at 37 deg C. In a warming world where temperatures will soar well above that, food production will be severely impacted. We would request the IPCC to address responses to this phenomenon.
We are aware that the critical Ecosystem services such as; production of Oxygen, sequestering of Carbon, water cycling and ambient cooling is carried out by the photosynthetic component of biomass. This is being lost at an exponential rate, due to the fact that these Ecosystem Services have not been valued, nor economically recognised. We would request the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to examine the value of photosynthetic biomass.
Sri Lanka will place her development agenda on a fossil free target and will promote an economic recognition of the ecosystem services generated by the photosynthetic biomass. In this way we offer to act in a globally responsible manner as well as to contribute in creating a cushioning effect for the climate extremes that are before us.
The gold and phone smuggling MP
A rogue caught with the goods, literally in the act of walking through the VIP lounge at Katunayake. He walks home Scot- free after paying a fine of some millions; and to cap it all, he walks in to Parliament next day, as though nothing had happened! I wouldn’t have been surprised if the govt. ranks clapped in unison to welcome him! At least the opposition could have booed. Maybe it is not parliamentary practice, but they have done worse time and again.
I think Parliament should rethink the moral code for MPs. It is pretty obvious that there is neither moral rectitude nor ethical conduct among parliamentarians. Or else would the culprit have the brass to walk in to parliament the very next day?
It is a sad state of affairs when people don’t understand, that perks and privileges go with responsibilities and a high moral code. Walking into a VIP lounge with contraband gold is the lowest depths an elected official can descend to.
His explanation after the event is almost vulgar. He says he does not know ,who put what in his bags although he has mentioned a golaya who accompanied him and packed his bags. I doubt even his strongest supporter would believe him. Instead he must be cringing in shame. That statement alone should cost him his seat. He is not worthy of the appellation Hon. MP.
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