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Saturday, 6 October 2012

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Price control, greening and wealth-creation

Our front page lead news story yesterday on the need to increasingly usher in 'greener and cleaner cities' captured very graphically some important dimensions of Sri Lanka's current development experience. As pointed out by Defence and Urban Development Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, whom we quoted extensively in the report, giving our metropolis and major urban centres a major face-lift and rendering them conducive to wholesome living, is an urgent need of our times.

We need to think on these lines and think out of the box, as it were, if we are to make development, correctly conceptualized, a reality. After all, Sustainable Development needs to be our aim and the greening of cities is an integral part of development, thus understood.

The observer of Sri Lankan affairs could also be glad that this engagement with the greening of urban centres is being taken far and wide in this country, including Jaffna, where the legendary Jaffna Fort is being renovated and adorned with a museum. Certainly, Jaffna seems to be, Phoenix-like, emerging from the ashes of war, and this is as it should be.

This is development understood in somewhat broad terms and it is our wish that these national-level plans will bear fruit 'on the ground' in the form of increasing wealth creation which would be experienced by even the smallest in the land. In other words, national level development plans should impact the people positively at the more micro level, in our small towns and villages as well. For, we would be having skewed development in the truest sense if wealth is to continue to accumulate in a few hands and the lower income groups are to be bypassed by the 'development process'.

Therefore, the larger and smaller pictures in the development experience must converge and national level 'development' must tangibly and positively impact people at the more local and provincial levels. This is the reason why tools such as price control will never outlive their usefulness. The so-called common man cannot comprehend how there could be 'development' in Sri Lanka at all if his essential goods and services remain out of reach and prove not at all purse-easy or easy to buy.

The average consumer's befuddlement is perfectly understandable. If the prices of essential goods and services are usually high and beyond his means, how could he be blamed for being skeptical about any 'development' ever taking place?

Accordingly, the ordinary people need to possess the means or the purchasing power to buy their essentials or the prices of the latter must be kept at reasonably moderate levels, if the average citizen is to believe that the country is indeed developing. If this is not happening, we and the 'ordinary people' could only conclude that the 'development' which is occurring is only benefiting the wealthier strata.

In these times, when much is being said about Sri Lanka being a Middle Income Country, these points need to be borne in mind.

The relevant question to be asked is, if Sri Lanka is on the fast roads to development and more and more wealth is being created, who is really benefiting from this much-trumpeted exercise.

Considering these dilemmas of our times, we welcome efforts by institutions such as the Consumer Affairs Authority to crackdown on those wily traders who fleece the citizenry by arbitrarily putting up the prices of essential goods and services. These efforts at swooping on errant traders must continue and prices kept under control if the people are to have the evidence of their eyes that 'development' is indeed benefiting them.

Economic crimes in post-conflict SL

The thrust of what I want to say in the next few minutes is to highlight extremely briefly few challenges out of the several daunting ones posed by economic crime in post conflict Sri Lanka. It is universally recognized that economic and financial crimes, manifest in various dimensions and with deleterious effects which threaten the very foundation of any civilized society and thus must be eliminated.

Full Story

Not jumping the gun

On Thursday, hundreds of monks demonstrated outside the High Commission of Bangladesh in Colombo in protest at the violent attacks on the Buddhist community in the area of Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh.

Full Story

Geneva endorses Sri Lankan success:

Laying to rest the ghost of IDP horror

The recent closure of Menik Farm, the main IDP village, signaled a major success in Sri Lanka’s handling of the most pressing post-conflict issue. It has given the lie to all those sceptics and peddlers of misinformation about the actual treatment of the IDPs from the time the armed conflict came to an end in May 2009.

Full Story

 

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