Cheaper prices; cheaper prices; cheaper prices! This wish will certainly echo across the nation in 2013, more particularly among urban and middle-class communities.
Soaring prices of essential commodities including rising fuel costs have been the hallmark of Sri Lanka’s economy this year and would most likely continue next year. For middle-class people, particularly those living in Colombo and the Western Province and also those commuting to work from outside into these areas, the cost of living has been rising and no amount of statistical data (if it reveals a lower Cost of Living index) would convince Colombo’s residents and travellers that costs have gone down.
So what is the Wish List for Sri Lankans in 2013?
Here is the Business Times Wish List:
=As stated earlier – cheaper prices
=Sharp reduction in corruption in the government, private sector (massive corruption), parliamentarians, ministers, etc
=Better management of the country’s economy and financial resources by the Government, Treasury and other stakeholders
=Independent thinking and thought process by everyone including the country’s professionals
=Rational (rather than irrational) behaviour in analyzing and responding to events of national importance including the lead-up to the impeachment of the Chief Justice and its aftermath. In the rush to object to the absence of a fair and just process (not procedure through parliament) in the impeachment; rationality and fair-play have been thrown to the winds and the debate has lacked independent thinking and thought. The debaters are either pro-impeachment or anti-impeachment and independent assessment (without any bias) has been missing in one of the most significant events in recent history. The anti-impeachment campaign has turned into an anti-government campaign rather that sticking to the core issues and not getting into politics
=Less control by the ‘mafia’ (reality but a word abhorred by the Securities and Exchange Commission Chairperson Nalaka Godahewa and brokers) in the Colombo stock market. Furthermore a resurgence in market activity and its improved fundamentals
=Reducing Sri Lanka’s debt burden, increasing local production and productivity
=Increasing investment in other sectors of the economy rather than only in tourism, finance and banking and services – the main ones which have seen investments in the post-war era
=Better return on deposits (enhancing incomes) in the banking system for average Sri Lankans
=Improvements in the education system which currently has been ruined beyond repair
=Punishing those responsible for destroying the future of the younger generation by persistent problems in local examinations viz OLs and ALs.
=Experienced officers to be posted to Sri Lankan missions overseas and reducing the number of political appointees
=A more transparent Government; more accountability and governance by the authorities
=That trade and commerce chambers would have more courage in commenting on national and state affairs that affect the people, rather than an often muted response or virtual silence on issues of national concern. Chambers have a role to play in the development path of the nation and should not shirk from that duty even if they are afraid of upsetting the authorities or individuals (in the chamber hierarchy) fear losing lucrative (state) contracts and tenders (often through influence) that would affect profits.
=Clean business instead of dependence on favours or using influence
=Less state influence (through indirect third party investments) in the private media and thus extending control through subtle means
=Improving efficiencies in state companies particularly loss-making ones
=Improving efficiencies and reducing corruption at the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and the Ceylon Electricity Board. The Sri Lankan citizen is being penalized with high fuel and power costs owing to the inefficiencies at these institutions
=Reduce Government spending
=Parliamentarians from all sides to look inwards (in the mirror) and stop asking for heavily subsidized meals, increased pay and lucrative car permits which they can now sell without a fuss. MPs, particularly the boisterous ones from the opposition, are quick to lash out at government spending, debt and corruption but are silent when it comes to rising costs in their own backyard like a heavily-subsidised meal (Rs 85 for a 5-star meal which would soon include honey-flavoured cornflakes and bacon). What hypocrisy!
= Better service from mobile phone, banks, insurances and consumer products’ companies. Many consumers have complained of a level of indifference and often rude treatment by these companies in post-sales needs
=Less military control of the economy and less take-over of civilian jobs and contracts by the armed forces. Less militarization of the economy
The list can go on and on but the reality unfortunately is that none of these wishes is likely to come true in 2013. But persist the media must under whatever odds and with these thoughts the Business Times wishes its readers and well-wishers a bright, prosperous and accident-free 2013.