Daily Mirror - Print Edition

The Repercussions of the ‘Shape’ Theory on our Economy

29 Nov 2023 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

Commemorating 87th Birth Anniversary of Hon. Lalith Athulathmudali



Tense situation in Parliament recently over Opposition Leader's remarks



There is a famous or infamous Sri Lankan theory, that any mistake or violation can be ‘ shaped up ‘ or can can be swept under the carpet if you know someone influential . From a traffic violation to tax evasion, things can be turned in your favour with the “santhosam approach “ . It is tragic that Sri Lanka has not been able to keep to its rules and regulations and ethics due to this ‘shape’ theory.

If we as a nation do not get together, we are in serious trouble. The protests are mounting and the suppression of protests and other avenues through which people express themselves is not the answer. The Government should understand why the people are protesting. It is vital to engage with the Protestors and also declare when the elections will be held.
The conduct of parliamentarians will it ever improve ? Recently when the Leader of the Opposition’s file was forcibly taken, the Speaker declared ‘ the file is now with me’. He did not see the gravity of his own statement . However, everyone in Parliament should understand by now, that fighting is not the answer. This is a time to join hands with the Executive , if all Parties join, then the Executive will be able to steer this country at least this short time .

There are some short term avenues to be pursued to assist the economy and increase our Revenues ; through Inland Revenue , Excise Department , Customs, Exports and Remittances from Sri Lankans working overseas. However, we still have not been able to ensure that these avenues work properly to bring in the desired income to our ailing economy.

Inland Revenue

It is a Fact that many people who should; do not pay taxes. This could be due to the official taking handsome amounts of ‘santhosam’ to keep them at bay. However the IR continues to ‘ take to task ‘ those who are already paying. No one is interested in widening the net . In the last two decades both the IR and Parliament has failed miserably to rope in the non- tax payers. Instead they collect ‘ hefty incentives ‘ for doing their job . The ‘ shape’ theory is at work for the benefit of the officials and not the country.


The Sri Lanka Customs is not excepted from the ‘shape’ theory. There too, officials can bend the rules for a fee to importers to pay a lower rate. Again the loss is to the country . Here too

Lalith Athulathmudali

the hefty incentives continue to be paid out to do their job . It is a known fact that if someone works in the customs, they are assumed to be quite well off.


This is another avenue to be pursued vigorously to boost revenues to the economy . No sooner they introduced the ‘sticker operation’ realization dawned that this too is another avenue for ‘’ some “ to mint money. Many now think that the sticker operation has become a stinking operation

Exports and Tourism

These are avenues to be pursued for much needed Foreign Exchange . On the other hand, there should be better tracking of our exports by the Central Bank to ensure foreign Exchange earnings are brought in . The auditors’ role is crucial in this , but there is always room for the ‘ shape theory ‘ to permeate into this arena .
 There are many things to improve for the tourism industry to thrive. At the least our railway service has to improve. With constant strikes, tourists are not going to appreciate the last minute cancellation of trains. Also, tour guides and others in the field should be more professional and not exploit the guests.

Foreign Remittances

It is sad but true that many Sri Lankans have opted to go abroad to find greener pastures. They work hard to send money to their loved ones. This contribution is invaluable to the country’s economy and there should be better opportunities for them to go as skilled labour. At the same time we should encourage entrepreneurs who want to stay in Sri Lanka, thrive and enter the export market.

Heavy Public Service

It is no secret that we have a bloated Public Service including the Forces . We very urgently need to rationalize . Recently the retired Secretary General was to be appointed as the Secretary of the Constitutional Council with an allowance of Rs 500,000 !!! . The salary of a top class CEO . The Cabinet refused . When you reach retirement you need to understand that your capacity , commitment and contribution DROPS . If a retired officer needs to be engaged, pay a conscionable allowance , as they are already receiving a pension.


Ethics in this country needs to be reinforced, starting with the Parliament. It has been noticed that when a court has given a verdict on a particular member of parliament we don’t act . We become the laughingstock of the rest of the world for having renowned snatch thieves and murderers and ‘’ kappam takers ’’ as law makers in our parliament.


 Despite the annual budget that is passed in parliament every year , supplementary budgets are passed practically every month which shows a lack of commitment by Parliament itself to adhere to their own budgets .
According to the World Bank Good Governance - is epitomized by predictable , open and enlightened policy making , a bureaucracy imbued with professional ethos acting in furtherance of the public good , the rule of law , transparent processes , and a strong civil society participating in public affairs
Poor Governance - on the other hand is characterized by arbitrary Policy making , unaccountable bureaucracies , unenforced or unjust legal systems , the abuse of executive power , a civil society unengaged in public life and widespread corruption .
It is vividly clear to which category we belong to .
The Parliamentarians seem to doing everything else but their main role. This is due to the lack of experienced and knowledgeable persons . A majority are in favour of the ‘shape’ theory with no awareness of what the economic downturn is all about. It is not that this country lacks learned leaders, but simply that no one in decision making power has insight, oversight or foresight.