Despite talk of social justice and claims of growth by government leaders and top officials, the economic factors in Sri Lanka are similar to world statistics as we are directly linked to the globalised capitalist market economic system. In this light ,we need to reflect on some shocking figures disclosed on the eve of the world economic summit on the mountain resort of Davos in Switzerland. The humanitarian organisation Oxfam International revealed that the 85 super billionaires in the world now have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the global population.
As business and political leaders negotiated new systems or deals for the world economy, Oxfam gave figures which showed how much the rich had become richer — and how much further the poor were falling behind, individually and as countries.
“It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world’s population own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all sit comfortably in a single railway carriage,” Oxfam’s executive director Winnie Byanyima said. The Uganda-born Ms. Byanyima—an aeronautical engineer, politician and diplomat—said the widening inequality was creating a vicious circle where wealth and power were increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest to fight over crumbs from the top table.
It is in such a situation that Daily Mirror in its lead story on Tuesday reported that the Rajapksa government had decided to construct a luxury high-rise condominium for MPs with modern amenities at a cost of a staggering Rs. 6 billion. The luxury housing complex on a 2.5 acre site at Thalapathpitiya will have swimming pools, gyms, restaurants and playgrounds. If that is not enough the government has also decided to renovate the parliamentary complex at a cost of Rs. 500 million.
According to our report, a cabinet committee appointed for this purpose will obtain the services of Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Company which built the Parliamentary Complex in 1982.
Chandralal Kalansuriya the Parliamentary Assistant Director in charge of Administration, said an MP, occupying a house at Madiwela pays a meagre Rs. 1,000 a month as deposits and the accumulated amount is re-paid when the MP leaves the house. Earlier reports indicated that some of the MPs have not even paid this small deposit or paid their electricity and water bills.
As many people are struggling to find even two square meals because of the soaring cost-of-living and the high cost of healthcare, education, transport and other essentials, they would rightly question the need for such a luxury project. At a time when narcotics, casinos and ethanol rackets are getting entangled with politics, this could be seen as a case where wealth is being used to rule or dominate people instead of serving them. If that is so the government might find itself in the position of the rich man who gave the poor only the crumbs that fell from the banquet table.