G FOR GROUCH
Has been and washed out media pundits have reacted
predictably to the lead story in one of our editions last week
about Colombo being one of the least expensive cities on a
comparative global scale.
One such columnist Gamini Weerakoon writing in a Sunday
weekly proved what was apparent all along when he was writing
daily commentaries to a newspaper published from a quaintly
named street in Colombo 13 -- the gentleman is unable to think
straight. Hansi Putuwa therefore is prescribed, on a more
Apparently, our contention that Colombo, on the strength of
EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit) statistics is relatively
inexpensive – relatively being the operative word here -- for
the city resident and the commuter, was a little too much
information for this man to process with his unique quantity of
That he is weak on logic is made abundantly clear when he
quoted verbatim from our editorial in a clear admission that
elementary reading comprehension is not his strong suit, but be
that as it may, we’d rather get to substance. His grouse is that
on Sri Lankan salaries Colombo cannot be easy on the wallet,
even though the city may be relatively inexpensive for the
tourist or the outsider, as per the survey that was quoted.
That we’ve conceded this too in our editorial is something
that’s not divulged in the said comment. The writer would rather
that the reader imagine that something as elementary and self
evident as this may only occur to him, but do let that pass.
Who or what authority was quoted as saying that Colombo is
inexpensive? It was an organization that collated information on
cost of living for the benefit of executives in order that they
may benefit from the result in order to make informed choices in
deciding where expatriate workers employed by them should live
How such a document could be relevant to the local dweller is
somehow lost on GW, whose irrelevancy drives him these days to
go to extraordinary lengths to please partisan yearnings of the
paymasters of the privately kept media. The man has to earn his
keep, in other words, but facts, however, are sacred though
feces is free.
Expatriate workers are not a breed that fell from heaven to
exist on caviar and champagne. The lowliest Sri Lankan housemaid
working in the Middle East for instance is considered an
expatriate worker, in case the word ‘expat’ carries gravitas
that makes anybody -- or GW -- want to buckle at the knees.
Certainly any definition of expatriate workers serving in Sri
Lanka would encompass by and large the Chinese workers on
various city construction projects, and the Indian workers on
technical advisory capacities, for example.
No rocket science is necessary to discern that this vast
swathe of expatriate middle class is in many ways comparable in
terms of their earning power to sections of the Colombo
population, if not in the lower middle, at least in the middle
The problem is the obtuseness which makes the bitter and the
borderline grouches want to ignore the facts and the statistics
that stare in the face, and believe in their own narratives that
are shaped by their rather spent and defeated existences.
Those who spend the bitter, correction, better half of their
salaries at a Colombo watering hole would probably not have much
to get by even at the best of times, and that’s not necessarily
the experience through which an assessment should be made about
the relative cost of living in diverse cities.
As was stated in the original editorial on the subject, no
modern city is in fact easy on the wallet. Modern life in a
metropolis is almost by definition expensive, with utility
costs, food prices etc., being prohibitive worldwide
particularly due to a global economic downturn at present.
Colombo dwellers -- even those not necessarily wearing clean
suits with empty pockets -- may not feel it at gut level
therefore, but that does not necessarily mean that on a relative
scale, the cost of living in Colombo is prohibitive.
It compares relatively well with other cities, and though the
irrationally bitter and crotchety cannot get their heads around
it, this reality is more than well reflected in the recent
survey done by the Economic Intelligence Unit that gives a good
acquittal of Colombo as a city that’s reasonably easy on the
purse-strings for all comers.