Prudent management pays dividends
Debunking all doomsday predictions by the many
cassandras, the IMF has awarded the much awaited stand by
facility to Sri Lanka even surpassing the originally US Dollars
1.9 billion applied for. The first tranche of $ 313 million of
the $ 2.5 billion pledged will be available immediately
according to Finance and State Revenue Minister Ranjith
Siyambalapitiya who made the announcement in Parliament.
This certainly is a remarkable achievement by the Government
of President Mahinda Rajapaksa given the bleak picture painted
in many quarters against the chances of Sri Lanka succeeding.
Particularly, so after the remarks of the US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton that the time was not yet appropriate for Sri
Lanka to qualify for the loan, with the US being in the top
among the movers and shakers in the matter. There were many
local interests with pro-West leanings who nodded wisely and
gave Sri Lanka no chance.
The Government for its part was not overly concerned, with
the position of our foreign reserves improving given the
positive pick up of the economy in the aftermath of the war.
This position was even reiterated by Central Bank Governor Ajith
Nivard Cabraal who maintained that the loan if it was ever
forthcoming would only be a bonus. Be that as it may the fact
remains that the Government has been vindicated and has come out
of the imbroglio with its credentials in tact.That the lending
institution had chosen to relent is as much a personal victory
of the President as the pragmatic economic policies followed by
The IMF in deciding to grant the facility had seen the need
for assistance to rebuild the country in the post-war scenario
and had also expressed its satisfaction at the pace of which the
rebuilding process is continuing. It has also not imposed any
conditions relating to human rights or extracted any other
undertaking as feared by the Opposition for the granting of the
loan. In fact the release of a sum more than was asked for
without any strings attached is a resounding slap to the main
Opposition UNP which had all along tried to belittle the
Government’s achievements on the economic front and place it in
the dog house vis a vis the international community.
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe should at least now
realize that it is not only the UNP Governments which have the
monopoly on international loans albeit being subjected to strict
conditions such as the pruning down of the Government worker
force or the drastic cuts on subsidies as the country witnessed
in the past.
On the contrary, President Rajapaksa as he did with the war
has stood his ground with regard to international aid refusing
to compromise on the country’s sovereignty and independence. It
is now up to him to ensure that the monies are used wisely for
the optimum benefit of the people it was intended for. It is
opportune that he has declared war on corruption at a time like
this when the world is beginning to open its purse strings on
Sri Lanka. For, the country saw how corruption thrived in the
name of progress in a by gone era and money meant for
development found their way into Swiss banks. No such thing
should be allowed to occur this time around where astronomical
sums are bound to pour in for the rebuilding of the war ravaged
areas. The country will need every penny it gets to rebuild the
vast devastation wreaked by three decade of war and see the
country back on its feet.
Spare the children
This seems to be a bad period for children. We hear
and read of teenage schoolgirls being waylaid in lonely
stretches, raped and murdered. There was also an incident where
four schoolboys who were part of a school excursion getting
drowned while bathing in a waterfall, recently.
Yesterday, we carried a front page story of 20 schoolchildren
being injured when their school van collided with a lorry in
Chilaw. Mercifully the children are out of danger.
This of course is not the first time that vans transporting
schoolchildren have met with mishaps and sometimes tragedy. It
is obvious to anyone that a majority of these school vans are no
better than overloaded private buses where profit is the motive.
Parents have little option than to leave their children at the
mercy of these school van drivers who not unlike the self same
private buses speed along to get to school on time.
They have no option but to hare away since a single school
van driver has to collect dozens of children until the van is
chokeful increasing the risk and danger. Most of these school
vans are rickety jalopies which endanger children not just from
road accidents but also from noxious fumes emitted from their
polluted underbellies through the many open holes on their
It is time that the Transport Authorities set up a specific
body to monitor the conduct of these private vans who too like
their private bus counterparts are becoming a law unto
themselves. These should include a limit to the number of
passengers and also the physical condition of the van
transporting these children.