Investing in Mawella
It is heartening to see a report in The Island which says that the Minister of Environment, Mahinda Amaraweera has assured definite action against illegal constructions at the Mawella Bay. This issue has been the bane of existence for the Bay area residents as it has clearly undermined the value of our initial investments.
When the CCD and the Fisheries Ministry made a sudden decision last year to pile up rock in this beautiful Bay, they said it was for the benefit of the fishing community. But it is important to have a sense of history when making such decisions. This Bay has existed for not hundreds but probably thousands of years and fishermen in this area have always used traditional methods of fishing when they go out to sea and have survived the vagaries of ocean currents and wave movements. Today, they use the same traditional, oru boats, to go to sea and as far as we know there have been no complaints from them about pulling their boats up onto the beach or of any erosion occurring in the Mawella Bay.
From what I understand there was no proper scientific study of the Bay area and coastline, before building the anchorage that is now standing. We now hear they are going to build two breakwaters. If they go ahead with this, we fear the serene waters of the Mawella Bay will go through the same devastation that the Unawatna beach went through. That beach was destroyed by such a construction.
Therefore, it would be a great pity if the same occurs in Mawella Bay especially because investors in this area, see a lot of potential for boutique hotels here which will also be a great help to the community. Already there are murmurs and one definite case of an investor pulling out. We know that the smaller boutique hotels work very well with the community because there is a kind of sharing of profits that happens. Undoubtedly the bigger share goes to the hoteliers who invested in the business but there are many ways for the community to earn their living from them and everything counts for these underprivileged families, especially the fisher folk. Every day, we hear of how fishing boats return almost empty and this is a sad situation for those who depend on the catch for their daily living, and our kind of tourism can be a great alternative for them.
If investors pull out due to bad decisions made by some of these state agencies then it would end up being a real disaster for the locals. This is why we are heartened by the Environment Minister’s decision to intervene in this issue. I do hope sanity will prevail and the madness around us will come to an end. Thank you.
IMF and income inequality
Sri Lanka in the throes of the worst economic crisis since Independence has resorted to some desperate action; it has for the first time in its history declared bankruptcy, suspended debt repayment, secured an IMF bailout for the 17th time, and agreed to extremely stringent loan conditions, which have already caused social unrest with people getting on to the streets. Tax and tariff hikes and steep rises in bank rates have caused considerable apprehension among the vulnerable sections of the society. The affected people seem to be unrelenting in their demand that these IMF enforced conditions be immediately revoked. They are staging public demonstrations and resorting to trade union action in protest against the measures. It may be opportune to look at results of recent research on the causal relationship between IMF programmes and global income inequality.
It may be necessary to say by way of introduction that capital development at the expense of labour and environment has reached its zenith in the developed countries. The richest cannot accumulate more without causing abject poverty in their own countries, and worse, destroying the world. World Inequality Report, based on a worldwide study by 100 researchers, presented in Paris (Andrea Barolini 28 Jun 2018), reveals how the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. During 1993 to 2013, in Italy, the poorest 90% lost 15% of their wealth which was pocketed by the top 10% . In the developed countries, the richest 1% are twice as wealthy as the poorest 50%. In China, the top 10% own 41% of the wealth, in Russia 46%, in the US 47%. This increase in inequalities more or less parallels the decrease of public wealth, compared to private wealth. These facts and figures show how diligently these countries have followed neo-liberalist policies, dictated by the IMF.
There are leading economists who think that one of the driving forces of the present inequity ridden global economy is international debt (Forster, et al, 2019). The 2008 recession was overcome by the granting of huge amounts of debt. By 2018 the global debt volume had risen to USD 250 trillion which is three times the annual global output. The developing countries’ share of this debt had risen from 7% in 2007 to 26% in 2017. Several leading economists who have studied the impact of debt on economic growth have reported that increasing public debt has a negative effect on economic growth (Reinhart & Rogoff 2010). A 1% increase in public debt could result in a 0.012% slowing down of growth. The reasons for this could be 1) discouragement of private investment as government borrowing competes for funds in country’s capital markets, 2) higher long-term interest rates caused by an excess supply of government debt, 3) higher taxes to fund rising debt repayments and 4) increase in the rate of inflation. While the recipients of debt end up with negative growth the the system ensures that the flow of wealth is from the poor to the rich. This is how two thirds of the wealth created by the poor finds its way into the pockets of the billionaires.
To come to the research mentioned above Valentine Lang (2021) has studied the possible relationship between income inequality and IMF loans. He has analysed, using sophisticated statistical methods, data retreaved from the Standardised World Income Inequality Database, IMF Quota Reports, trends in global poverty, etc. to determine whether IMF loans and their conditionality has a causal relationship with income inequality.
As shown above the latter has been inordinately rising and the IMF apparently has not been able to do anything significant in that regard though they have been trying. Lang has reported that during the period of operation of an IMF programme, countries experience a significant increase in income inequality compared to similar periods without such programmes. His statistical methods appear to have eliminated other possible factors that could impact on income. Lang has found that in Argentina which was under one of the economically largest and the longest IMF programmes from 1983 to 2004 the Gini coefficient, which measures the inequality among values of a frequency distribution and could be used to measure income disparity, rose from 38 to 45 during that two decade period reflecting a significant rise in the gap between the rich and the poor. The Gini coefficient dropped back to 38 after the IMF programme had ended. The study had also found that the effect of an IMF programme of one-year duration on income distribution could last for five years indicating a slowness in recovery.
I cannot do better than to quote from the abstract of the publication. “Does the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increase inequality? To answer this question, this article introduces a new empirical strategy for determining the effects of IMF programmes that exploits the heterogeneous effect of IMF liquidity on loan allocation based on a difference-in-differences logic. The results show that IMF programmes increase income inequality. An analysis of decile-specific income data shows that this effect is driven by absolute income losses for the poor and not by income gains for the rich. The effect persists for up to five years, and is stronger for IMF programmes in democracies, and when policy conditions, particularly those that demand social-spending cuts and labour-market reforms, are more extensive. These results suggest that IMF programmes can constrain government responsiveness to domestic distributional preferences.”
Pressure that international lending organisations exert on the national policies are not as strong as under IMF programmes. Since its inception IMF has initiated more than 130 programmes and the recipient countries have undergone fundamental economic reforms that IMF usually enforces but unfortunately the initial problems that necessitated IMF intervention have remained unabated though it had assuaged the acute economic collapse. Keeping with their general stringent policies the IMF has installed a set of harsh conditions that could have political repercussions. However, there may not be an alternative and even if there was, the acuteness of the problem would rule out any measures that do not entail a bail out.
This crisis should serve as a lesson to the leaders and also the people about the mistakes of the past that had caused it, mistakes of electing corrupt rulers who mismanaged, wasted, robbed and lived in clover while the poor became poorer and the country ended bankrupt. If at least we had tried and achieved self-sufficiency in food and other essentials that could be produced locally, as suggested by Joseph Stiglitz the former head of the IMF, we would not have been bankrupt, also perhaps it may have been possible to look for alternatives to IMF and moreover we would have been in a stronger position to negotiate with the IMF and other lenders to mitigate the effect of conditions. But that is a big IF given the corrupt political culture and the gullibility of the people.
N.A.de S. Amaratunga
Trust deficit and consequences
Three components of political order, namely the state, rule of law and accountability are complementary and to be effective they must exist in a state of healthy tension but complementing each other. States use legitimate power to achieve their political ends by the rule of law and that elicits voluntary compliance. When governments are accountable and transparent, they invite active participation and win electors’ trust.
The decline of trust in governments over the past few decades is due to several factors. Acting outside mandates and, often, totally disregarding the major platforms on which public support was canvassed create huge trust deficits. The issue of the abolition of executive presidency is a promise that was never kept. It speaks volumes for the lack of integrity in the political parties and party leaders. But our electors unlike in other modern democracies keep making the same mistake. Reprehensible behaviour in political institutions, the vilification of fellow politicians, sexism, deceit do not give voters hope and engender trust in our democracy. Some elected members have lost public credibility so much so that since declaring Sri Lanka bankrupt many have not made public appearances.
The current attempt made by the President and some Members of Parliament of the government to intimidate the judiciary by falsely claiming that Supreme Court has violated the privileges of the Members of Parliament is disconcerting. Preventing the conduct of the constitutionally-mandated local government elections and meddling with constitutionally guaranteed independence of election commissions and the like will only weaken democracy. Leadership demands a high level of responsible conduct in building public confidence in our democracy. We request the decent members of Parliament not to lower the reputation of democratic governance any further for there is no ot alternative yet invented to replace it.
Dr D. Chandraratna
Ven Ajahn Brahmavamso visits Sri Lanka in May
by Nanda Pethiyagoda
The next month, soon to be upon us, is of special significance to the majority of Sri Lankans since we Sinhalese and Tamils celebrate our New Year, with festivities continuing for a week or more in mid-April. The month of May is significant to Buddhists as the three major events of the Buddha’s life are commemorated at the Vesak full moon poya. This year, May carries another significance, joyful and to be grateful for. Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso arrives here towards the end of the month for about two weeks. The Ajahn Brahm Society of Sri Lanka (ABS) has completed all arrangements for the visit which is full of great good happenings.
The last time Ven Ajahn Brahm was in Sri Lanka was 2017. I well remember the day long sessions of his speaking to the audience in the BMICH, delivering so easily and absorbingly the Word of the Buddha and conducting meditation. 7000 persons were present to listen to the venerable monk from Australia, spreading themselves in all the BMICH halls and a few even seating themselves in the corridors. The sessions, with Ven Ajahn Brahm moving from hall to hall, with of course TV presentations in them, were deep in significance and of immense benefit to us. However, as is his manner of presentation, the gravity of what was being imparted was tempered by Ven Brahmavamso’s informality and constantly smiling, benign face. One indication of his informality is shortening his religious name to Ajahn Brahm.
This time it is one session on May 30 that the monk will conduct at the BMICH. Passes were available at announced venues from the 15th of this month. I am certain they were all snapped up, so eager are we to listen to this great teacher.
His programme, most efficiently arranged and made widely known by the ABS under the guidance of Ven Mettavihari, includes a resident meditation retreat from May 22 to 30 in Bandarawela for 150 participants inclusive of bhikkhus, bhikkhunis and lay persons.
A singularly unique forum will be held exclusively for professionals and business persons at the Galle Face Hotel on May 29. These sessions are by invitation, sent out well in time by ABS.
The much looked forward to Dhamma talk and meditation instructions for the public will be at the BMICH from 7.00 to 11.00 am on May 30. Anticipatory of the large crowds that will flock to the BMICH on that day, the ABS has organised sessions with the venerable monk moving from the Main Hall to Sirimavo Halls A and B so all can see and hear him. He will speak in English, followed by summarizations in Sinhala.
More information could be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For WhatsApp messages the number is 0720735837. The filled applications are to be submitted before 10th April 2023.
It seems superfluous to give details, even brief facts on Ven Brahmavamso, as he is well known in this country of ours. However, it appears pertinent to mention facets of the life of this very blessed Bhikkhu.
He was born in London in 1951. Having read widely on Buddhism, at the tender age of 16, this promising student and keenly interested teenager considered himself a Buddhist by conviction. When in the University of Cambridge following his undergrad course in Theoretical Physics, his strong interest in Buddhism and gravitation to meditation went alongside his studies. After earning his degree he taught for one year, He then decided to follow his greater interest in Buddhist philosophy and practice and so proceeded to Thailand. He followed meditation under a couple of Thai masters. Convinced of his future as a Buddhist Bhikkhu, he was ordained a monk at the age of 23 by the Chief Incumbent of Wat Saket. He then went for further training to the famous meditation teacher – Ajahn Chah. He spent nine years studying and training in the forest tradition. In 1983 he was invited to help establish a forest monastery near Perth, Western Australia. Within a short period he was Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, Perth. He is also the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia and Spiritual Patron to the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore. These are but two of the spiritual responsibilities he undertakes. His pragmatic approach and his deep conviction in Dhamma have made him a much sought after Buddhist teacher throughout the world.
We Sri Lankans are truly blessed to have him visit our land and share his knowledge, his conviction in the Buddha Word and his encouragement to meditate.
The team that calls itself the Ajahn Brahm Society Sri Lanka of multi-talented and multi-skilled men and woman are all deeply dedicated to helping us, the public of Sri Lanka, benefit from Ajahn Brahm, acknowledged as an excellent teacher and exponent of the Dhamma. We are most grateful to them and Ven Mettavihari who guides the ABS.
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