Responding to reports that India’s growth rate had fallen to 5.3 per cent, the lowest in more than ten years, and the value of the Indian rupee was plunging, the Indian Government last Friday ordered immediate austerity measures at the top. Visits abroad by big Government delegations and their extravagant spending were banned as were five-star hotel meetings for state institutions.
Earlier last month France’s new President Francois Hollande launched a new austerity package with a 30 per cent pay cut for himself and the Cabinet. This was one of the promises he made in the election campaign and it was fulfilled within four days.
Sri Lanka’s political leaders need to follow these examples and launch an austerity package beginning at the top because our economy is also crumbling as seen in the huge trade deficit and the Rajapaksa regime is seeking another loan from the IMF to survive for a few more months.
In recent years the Government has been depending largely on China and India for loans and investments. Now with both those countries also facing economic crises the Government has no option but to launch an austerity package and begin it at the top.
As in France and India, the President and the Ministers need to take a substantial pay cut and a major reduction in the perks, privileges and allowances given to them. This could then be extended to all MPs, members of provincial and other local councils. They need to enter into a simple and humble lifestyle or alpechchathawaya which was a hallowed concept of our ancient civilization though it faded away when Sri Lanka swallowed wholesale the concepts of the globalised capitalist market economy in 1977.
If the political leadership sets the example, then the people will follow and it could help them cope with the cost of living which is soaring beyond the reach of millions of people.
Along with austerity and a simple lifestyle, Sri Lanka also needs to review and drastically reduce non-essential imports. For instance if we implement Professor Senaka Bibile’s Essential Medicines Concept (EMC), we could reduce the number of drugs being imported from more than 13,000 to less than 1,000. Sri Lanka could save millions of dollars in foreign exchange and use it for preventive or primary health care. If we do this, we could make available quality drugs to all people at affordable prices.
Besides the National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP), Sri Lanka also needs a food and nutrition policy whereby we could reduce food imports while encouraging and educating people to eat nutritious local food.
Through these and other ways Sri Lanka could reduce its trade deficit and put the country on the path to sustainable development.
Yes, it is about time to reduce their salaries ast least by 20 - 30% and privileges like tax import of cars over 1.5cc and over 110hp, and addtional rent allowance given by 50% etc.and should make it mandatory for them to contribute to pension fund for at least 10 years like any other Govt. servant for them to become eligible for the pension. This way those who get elected will not be able to draw a pension for life just being in the parliament just for five years. After all they enter politics to serve the people and not to have an extra ordinary luxary life performing less work than an Engineer.
Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.