France’s new President Nickolai Hollande, taking a courageous step to pull his country and the European Union out of economic recession, has announced that the austerity package is being relaunched at the top with a pay cut of 30 per cent for him and his Cabinet. This was a pledge Mr. Hollande had made during his election campaign and within four days he put the promise into practice to set a powerful example to the people and political leaders all over the world.
Sri Lankan leaders also need to follow the French President’s example. Instead of boasting about high growth rates and plans to make Sri Lanka the economic hub of Asia, they need to launch an austerity package by taking a pay cut of at least 30 per cent for themselves and also reducing the perks, privileges and other allowances which often amount to about 10 times as much as their pay. Unfortunately there is speculation that the giant cabinet may get even larger with a reshuffle soon.
However if the government leaders have the moral courage and stature to take a pay cut and enter into a simple and humble lifestyle, it will be a great inspiration for the people and a major step towards bringing about social justice and a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources. If and when this happens, it will be a solid foundation to build a new Sri Lanka with sustainable growth and development plans.
Along with this major change of course and attitude, whereby our political leaders really become just stewards and servant leaders of the people, Sri Lanka also needs urgent and major surgery to cure the cancer of rampant corruption and fraud. At present this cancer is raging from top to bottom, with allegations that some political leaders have built huge barns or secret bank accounts in foreign countries to store hundreds of millions of dollars which they have plundered from their poor country. The Holy Scriptures will warn them – “Thou fool, tonight if you die, then who will own all this?”
Aware that leaders are plundering hundreds of millions of dollars, politicians at a lower level and officials are also plundering. Little or nothing is done without a kickback or a commission, the heart is rotting. The rule of law has broken down to such an extent that Police investigations are often seen as a public political joke.
If political leaders begin the austerity package themselves and stop the plunder of the country’s wealth, then only can Sri Lanka move on to the high road of sustainable development, peace and justice.