With extreme capitalism and socialism going into recession or depression all over the world, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday outlined the comprehensive and revolutionary socio-economic policy which would bring Sri Lanka to the hallowed middle path. He described it as a third generation policy, the first two being the Jayawardene era and the Premadasa Era.
The regular crises in the United States, Western Europe and other countries have proved that the wholesale globalized, capitalist market economic system does not and will not work mainly because it widens the gap between the rich and the impoverished people. About 150 years ago the legendary ideological visionary Karl Marx promoted the principles of socialism because he saw how the rich and ruling elite were exploiting the impoverishing the people, sometimes using the name and cover of religion. In line with this the Marxist-Leninist Russian Revolution took place in 1917 but eventually Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union produced an ideology that was more like state capitalism than socialism which means an equitable distribution of wealth and resources and community life. This communism or socialism spread far and wide to China, Eastern Europe and other countries but the system that still exists today is widely seen as colour-washed state capitalism.
After centuries of experiencing or experimenting with the two extremes, many countries are now moving to the middle path which had been proclaimed by leaders of liberative spirituality. We are glad that Sri Lanka is also now being taken on this journey on the middle path in broad terms, Mr. Wickremesinghe on Thursday described it as a socialist market economy.
In a regularly applauded 17-page speech in Parliament the Prime Minister focused on the revival of the rural economy, agriculture and the farming community who for thousands of years have been a vital part of the heart of Sri Lanka’s time-honoured culture and civilization. The Premier said the opportunities that existed for rural families and communities to make a successful living had been destroyed. Large and medium scale ventures that enriched the rural economy had been deactivated. He said Sri Lanka must urgently address this issue and take meaningful steps to develop the rural economy by addressing the crises through an upliftment of the rural economy within a short-term development framework. Mr. Wickremesinghe said 2,500 state rural development centres would be setup through the grouping of many villages under one development centre. He assured the national government would also strengthen and build the rural infrastructural facilities such as village roads, village wewas and the village fairs. Large-scale agricultural enterprises in which farmers could be members would be established under the plan to develop the rural economy. Through this the government would initiate a competitive agricultural market and revive the export of agro products.
Summing up the socioeconomic and social justice strategy, the Prime Minister said Sri Lanka needed to make sure the golden era of prosperity that we had during the period from King Manawamma (684 - 719 AD) to King Maha Parakramabahu (1153–1186 AD) could dawn again. He called on all political parties and people of all religions and races to cooperate with the national government in rebuilding a new Sri Lanka where diversity and plurality are not only respected and promoted but also celebrated.
On the eve of the Prime Minister’s landmark speech, the Jathika Hela Urumaya’s frontline parliamentarian the Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera told national television that a vital feature of the new economic strategy would be a gradual growth towards organic agriculture. He said instead of the large subsidy for imported chemical fertilizer, farmers would be given Rs.10,000 to Rs.12,000 to buy or make natural organic fertilizer. When this mission is in full bloom Sri Lanka within three years would be able to produce all the nutritious food we need from hundreds of varieties of non-polluted vegetables, fruits and grains.
Despite fumbling and failures amid widespread public criticism of delays in bringing to justice the former VIPs who allegedly plundered billions from the people’s resources, the national government appears to be on the right path which is the Middle Path. All parties and all people need to cooperate in this new vision and mission. While we are entitled to various rights including the Right to Dissent, which are linked to responsibilities. To the extent we fulfill our responsibility to put our country first, only to that extent will we be entitled to our rights.