The race has begun. Both contenders are running neck-and-neck. If there is a photo finish, it might complicate matters. Whoever wins, would face an arduous task of managing the national debt.
Both contenders are promising freebies left and right. As far as the intelligent voter is concerned, he is wary of promises. Sarath Amunugama once said, “Promises made cannot be kept because of changing circumstances.”
Since 1956, our political history is full of broken promises. One politician, who was anti-American, said, “I’ll bring you rice from the moon.” Another politician retorted, “You’ll find Americans there.” Whether the intelligent voter believed it or not, the masses lapped it and voted overwhelmingly for the party that promised rice from the moon.
A salary increase has been promised. Promising everything free is a transparent vote-catching gimmick. But assuming that the promise is kept, how would it be paid for? Would it be by deficit financing? It would imply printing of currency, which would lead to much cash in the hands of the public, who have a penchant for spending on imports. This would worsen our balance of payments. Obtaining loans would be unwise because we already have a huge debt burden with no positive economic development to balance it.
Some promises are being overdone, like the promise of sanitary pads.
In both manifestos of the prime contestants, promise of employment generation hasn’t been highlighted. Export diversification leading to greater employment is not promised by either of the candidates. If there is employment-generation, the poverty level would be reduced. There won’t be the need to pamper the masses with freebies.
More cash in the hands of the public would make it possible for greater demand. The high demand would induce greater production. The inflationary prices are due to a production gap. If more goods are produced, the demand would be met. There is everything to be said in favour of employment-generation but this has been lost sight of by the candidates.
The UNP government of 1977 did away with subsidies, saying that they were impeding development. At present, all types of subsidies are being doled out, like the livelihood support, free fertilisers, free shoes, free sanitary pads, etc. This is again going back to the old system of subsidies. Won’t it impede development?
Promises are made that all those who pass the Advanced Level would enter university. Would they be able to find jobs, when there are no job opportunities, due to lack of employment-generation?
(Isaac T. Kulendran can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org)