With the European Union and the United States still crumbling in their worst-ever financial crisis which signals the collapse of crony capitalism and corporate greed, France’s newly-elected President Francois Hollande, who was sworn in yesterday has pledged he would continue the austerity package, but it will begin with the rich and ruling elite.
The Sri Lankan Government needs to take a lesson from what happened to defeated President Nicolai Sarkozy and the new President's pledge that he will first impose austerity at the top. Despite all the boasting about a good growth rate and gross domestic product, the reality in Sri Lanka is that the gap between the rich and the poor has grown to monstrous levels with some fifteen per cent of the people comprising the rich and ruling elite having eighty- five per cent of the country’s wealth and resources and still wanting to make more by fair means or fraudulent methods as seen in the current scandal involving the National Savings Bank.
As we said in the editorial yesterday, a reality check though not Central Bank reports, will show the bitter truth that forty per cent of our people, mainly farmers and fisher folk, are struggling on or below the poverty line. Malnutrition is the child of poverty. We also know that poverty and hunger are the most widespread diseases or killers. When we try to build or develop the country on a foundation of sand, it will crumble when a storm comes.
The President must act now to enforce an austerity package beginning with the Ministers, MPs, Local Council Members, other politicians and top officials. The perks and privileges they enjoy are often misused and abused and as such must be curbed immediately. They must enter or be forced to enter into a simple and humble lifestyle or Alpechchathawaya which is a hallowed concept of our ancient civilisation.
Horrifyingly, the lifestyles of most politicians and top officials are often at super-luxury if not vulgarly-extravagant levels. When millions of poverty-stricken people see this five-star lifestyle of their so-called leaders and officials, they may wonder whether the prediction of a socialist economist is coming true and half of the population is watching on colour television the slow death of the other half.
It was such a monstrous gap between the rich and the poor, compounded by dictatorial rule that provoked the Arab spring last year and the toppling of the regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya with popular revolts continuing in Syria and many other countries. The President needs to act fast and enforce an austerity package at the top to avert any widespread uprising at the grassroots level.