Billions of people in the Third World, either due to lack of awareness or ignorance, presume that wide-scale military colonialism or imperialism by rich countries ended to a large extent after the Second World War and the setting up of the United Nations Organisation. One of the last big empires was the British Empire, which included Sri Lanka. British political and military leaders boasted it was an empire on which the sun would never set. Though Third World social justice advocates proclaim that legendary statesmen like Mahathma Gandhi brought about the sunset of the British Empire, colonialism by the rich and powerful West continues in a more sophisticated but also a more devastating way.
This new global strategy is described by independent Third World analysts as economic neo-colonialism. The United States, the European Union and other rich countries are working out their economic neo-colonial agendas, mainly through the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation, the third being the most powerful in what is widely seen as an unholy trinity.
While these three organisations are like the Supreme Allied Commanders, the plunder of the Third World’s remaining wealth and resources takes place mainly through a multitude of Trans-National Cooperations (TNCs) which operate vigorously and aggressively in vital areas such as health and food including milk, agriculture and industries.
Sri Lanka today is described in our Constitution as independent and socialist. We need to deeply reflect on whether these noble proclamations are mere platitudes or practical realities, and whether we are to a large degree enslaved to or controlled by the economic armies of rich and powerful countries.
Take the health sector for example, especially the rapidly-growing private health sector which has become a booming business. While local business operators run the private hospitals, the sector is largely controlled by trans-national medicinal drug companies which today also supply all sorts of medical equipment. In at least one instance a big TNC has also taken control of a popularised milkfood product.
A national medicinal drugs policy based on Professor Senaka Bibile’s essential medicines concept was approved by the Cabinet in October 2005. Repeat 2005. Eight long and promise-breaking years have passed, but the Rajapaksa regime has still not implemented the regulations through which quality drugs could be made available to the people at affordable prices, while Sri Lanka could save millions of dollars in foreign exchange by stopping the import of thousands of non-essential drugs which come under highly-expensive brand names. Obviously political leaders and officials in high places have been influenced by TNCs to delay the regulations, though it is done in such a manner that there is little evidence to place before the Commission investigating allegations of bribery and corruption.
Such was the case in the ongoing Milkway crisis also though hopefully the Cabinet is expected to agree to implement proposals made by the Government Medical officers’ Association to gradually reduce powdered milk imports and give incentives to local farmers to revive Sri Lanka’s fresh milk industry. Thankfully there is also likely to be a ban on the unethical promotion of imported agro-chemicals as a first step towards widespread organic farming.
One trans-national giant has been brought to its knees by small groups which campaigned courageously, but there is a long way to go and we hope more little Davids will join the battles against the economic neo-colonial Goliaths.