As the fuel crisis worsened, the Petroleum Ministry has warned that if big state consumers exceed their quotas, they will not be given fuel on credit, and will have to open their own lines of credit. Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa was referring particularly to the Ceylon Electricity Board which owes the CPC as much as Rs. 28.3 billion while Sri Lankan Airlines - which flies into all kinds of extravagances - owes the CPC Rs. 27.4 billion. The Petroleum Ministry has also warned independent power producers they would not be given fuel on credit if they exceed their quotas. Last week the CPC stopped fuel supplies to two independent producers, and they reacted by curtailing power supply at peak hours.
While the Petroleum Ministry is blaming the CEB and other big state consumers for plunging the CPC into the current debt crisis and the CEB is blaming big state institutions for not paying their electricity bills, ultimately millions of consumers including poor people are likely to be given a blackout blow. According to power sector sources, the Public Utilities Commission is likely to allow the CEB to increase electricity rates by as much as 25% this year also. As usual, millions of hard working people who are struggling for survival will have to pay for the extravagances of the rich and ruling elite and the hundreds of city lights in various parts of Colombo.
The solution to this power crisis and the overall economic crisis is an austerity package, large-scale spending cuts in the Government sector including the Defence Ministry and the restoration of a simple and humble lifestyle or alpechethavaya, which has been a hallowed part of our civilisation for more than 2500 years. But for this to happen, the example must be set at the top – by our political, social and even religious leaders. The political leaders especially need to drastically cut down their expenses, change their sometimes vulgarly-extravagant or luxury lifestyles and learn to manage with basic needs. For instance maintaining the office of the Executive Presidency costs as much as
Rs. 20 million a day, and this could be cut down by about half as an example to others. The huge budget of the Defence Ministry mainly to maintain tens of thousands of security forces also needs to be cut down because there is no war now and the unprecedented international crisis Sri Lanka is facing is mainly due to party politicisation of the Diplomatic Service. As revealed in Parliament recently, as mercy as 33 of Sri Lanka’s 46 diplomatic missions are headed by party political appointees. Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge, whose family started and sustained the ruling SLFP for half a century, told the Sri Lanka Psychiatrics’ Association last Friday that the appointment of family members and unqualified people to high positions was a clear sign of deep-rooted insecurity and lack of confidence, which could be diagnosed as some form of mental imbalance.