“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx


Sri Lanka's Election Time Promises Costly to Keep

With the election campaigns for the presidential election in full swing, the candidates are making a wide range of promises to an electorate that has not become cynical enough not to hope again that these might be kept.  The promises are mostly with regard to the economic benefits that people can reasonably expect from a government that has their interests at heart, and include economic development, employment opportunities and subsidies.  According to the World Bank, which recently promoted Sri Lanka to the status of an upper middle income country, extreme poverty is rare and concentrated in some geographical pockets; however, a relatively large share of the population subsists on slightly more than the poverty line.  

The World Bank also notes that spending on health, education and social protection is low compared to countries at similar levels of development and attributes this to low tax revenues combined with large expenditures on government salaries and interest payments.  Sri Lanka has huge international loans to repay and the infrastructure it has put up is not yielding sufficient returns.  The contesting presidential candidates are not specific about how they will achieve the ambitious targets they have promised to meet, or how they will finance them.  Their promises range from reducing taxes to increasing salaries, providing free fertiliser and a guaranteed price for agricultural products and ensuring that the environment is protected better.   

Sri Lanka has a long history of extravagant promises that are made to influence voter behaviour at election time.  One of the more dramatic of them was the promise to even bring rice from the moon in the event that earthly supplies were not forthcoming.  This was in the context of the demand that was anticipated for rice that was to be given for free to everyone, the rich included.  However, that particular promise boomeranged on the government when it had to face a world food shortage that occurred shortly thereafter in the aftermath of the world oil price hike that followed the formation of the OPEC oil cartel.  In the case of the present election promises, most of them will cost the government a large amount of money and how this is to be financed when taxes are reduced will need to be explained.  


There is another key election issue that is likely to have economic implications.  The focus on issues of national sovereignty has been a feature at virtually all elections that took place after the heightening of the ethnic conflict.  Especially after the synchronised bombings on Easter Sunday in six locations and the failure of the intelligence services and political leadership to adequately respond to the threat, there has also been an increased demand for strong national leadership.  In this context there has been criticism of the manner in which Sri Lanka has agreed with the international community to deal with the issues of past human rights violations.  The co-signing by the government of UNHRC resolution 30/1 of 2015 figures high on this list.  

In his first media briefing at Shangri-la, one of the hotels targeted by Islamic suicide bombers on April 21, 2019 presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa emphasised the importance of national security.  He also said that while he is committed to work with the UN system he rejects the Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by the present government in October 2015.  The UNHRC resolution has been a matter of national controversy especially as it has national sovereignty implications in terms of ensuring accountability for war time violations of human rights.  It was agreed to by the present government after its predecessor did its utmost to resist the UN effort to get involved in the country’s post-war processes.  The government headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa was adamant that it could deal with the issues of the past without having to be prodded by the international community and resolve them in a manner that would meet national interests rather than international interests.   

During the period 2009-15 when Sri Lanka failed to meet the expectations of the international community, the country was subjected to a variety of sanctions.  One was to be confronted periodically by the international community in Geneva at the UNHRC sessions and be questioned and subjected to strictures by the leading countries in the UNHRC.  In addition, there was the tangible price that the country was called upon to pay when in 2010 the European Union withdrew their GSP Plus tariff privilege that it reserves for those countries that are poor but are yet making a genuine effort to improve the human rights of the people they govern. The ability to access the EU market can be indicative of a country respecting basic human rights, rule of law and good governance.  It also sends a signal to the international investor community which will facilitate the attraction of inward foreign direct investments.  


GSP Plus offers incentives in the form of duty reductions on exports as a reward to developing countries for their commitment to upholding the 27 core international conventions on human and labour rights, sustainable development and good governance.  Due to the withdrawal of the GSP in 2010 Sri Lanka's exports to the EU dropped as a result and along with it thousands of Sri Lankan workers lost their jobs in the export industries that could no longer produce and export as much as their markets in the EU were suddenly made smaller and more competitive. In many apparels categories duties rose from zero to 9.6 percent, in the seafood sector to 18.5 percent, in the fresh and processed fruits and vegetable sector to 12.5 percent, and in the porcelain and ceramic ware sector to 8.4 percent.  

Looking at how Sri Lanka's competitors fared in the EU market, gives some sense of how Sri Lanka lost out to Asian apparel exporters. According to the International Trade Centre, Vietnam, Pakistan and Cambodia all trailed Sri Lanka in 2009, with EU exports at USD 2.1 billion, 1.5 billion and 1.09 billion, respectively, against Sri Lanka's 2.3 billion. By 2015, however, Vietnam's apparel exports to the EU had risen to USD 3.9 billion, Pakistan's to 2.9 billion and Cambodia's to 3.7 billion, with Sri Lanka behind at 2.4 billion.  This situation was only partially reversed in 2017 after the government elected in 2015 accepted the need to abide by the UN desire for Sri Lanka's reconciliation process to take place according to international standards.   

In the coming years, Sri Lanka will face a challenge in retaining the GSP Plus tariff privileges on account of graduating to the ranks of an upper middle income country.  This can make the country ineligible within a time frame of about three years but a longer period can be negotiated by showing that the label of upper middle income is only a statistical concept for the vast majority of people.  If Sri Lanka were to unilaterally withdraw from its commitments made to the UNHRC by rejecting the co-sponsored resolution, the likelihood of the country preserving the GSP Plus tariff privilege will diminish further to the detriment of the national economy and to the people's standard of living.  An option to consider would be to renegotiate the commitments made under UN Resolution 30/1, as some of them require constitutional change, and to make them more workable instead of withdrawing unilaterally.    


  • The Taj That is India
  • The BJP and Triple Talaq
  • Rohingya: A People Condemned!
  • 9 Key Qs Raised on First Day of Aadhaar Hearing in the Supreme Court
  • A Critical Analysis of Delhi's Human Development Index
  • 3 Army Divisions For 300 Terrorists In JK But No End to Violence: Certainly the Answer Does Not Lie in Force
  • 'It is Not the Left But the Congress That's the B-Team of the BJP'
  • Kasganj: A Story of People's Unity Fractured by Engineered Hate and Violence
  • Invisible Children Of Delhi
  • India 81 in Corruption Index, Amongst the "Worst Offenders"
  • Economists Hit Out Against Move to Privatise Public Sectors Banks
  • Tripura Trades Decency For False Eldorado
  • Syria's Bloody War
  • Pakistan And China Fill Space In Maldives Willfully Vacated By India
  • The Big Private Crop Insurance Scam: Farmers Par Premium of Rs 482, Receive Rs 5 as Insurance!
  • US Attack on Syria Violates International Law, Total Hypocrisy
  • Death Penalty Is Not The Answer To Sexual Violence: Implement Justice Verma Committee Report
  • Walls on Every Side: Trying to Get Data in India
  • The Ascent of Multi-Politics In Malaysia
  • Why the Objections to Marxism are Mistaken
  • The Rise and Fall of the Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim
  • BDS Has Placed Israel on Notice
  • Can We Promote Peace in India, Today?
  • Burying The Two-State Solution
  • Corruption And Class Rule
  • Is Ethnic Cleansing Coming to India
  • Our Real Heroes
  • Confronting Journalism's Misogynistic Trolls
  • After 17 Years of War, A Peace Movement Grows in Afghanistan
  • Taking Play Seriously: Time to Make Sports A Fundamental Right!
  • Law Commission Publishes Consultation Paper on Sedition
  • Foreign Policy: Between Folly and Foibles
  • Suu Kyi's Continued Denial And Bangladesh's
  • Economy Crumbles as Fuel Prices Skyrocket, Household Budgets Hit
  • Rupee's New Low: A Dangerous Drift
  • Are We Still Ruled by The British?
  • From Anti-National to Urban Naxal: The Trajectory of Dissent in India
  • Learning the Power of Lies: Facts vs. Falsehoods in the Age of Trump
  • The Indian Economy is in a Tailspin
  • China Walks a Tightrope on The Uighur Muslim Issue
  • Is Ram Mandir a Mere Election Strategy of the BJP?
  • The Harsher Counters of India's Drug Legislations
  • BJP's Election Strategy: Data is the New Opium
  • Geographical Indication - India's Untapped Resource
  • Climate Change to Make Prediction of Furious Storms More Difficult
  • Mountain echoes for India
  • Maldives: Has the Wheel Turned Full Circle?
  • President Sirisena Needs to be Reached Sooner Rather Than Later
  • Plastic Pollution in India
  • Prejudice by Any Name
  • 29 Years After Fall of Berlin Wall, Europe Has 1,000 Km of Walls to Stop Migrants
  • The Leftover Women of Afghanistan
  • Harmony of Music and Politics of Silencing
  • The Economics of Policy: Prohibition and Free Water Supply
  • Threat to Democracy in the Age of Social or Anti-Social Media
  • Intellectual Property- A Vital Discipline
  • What Happened in Britain, and What's Next
  • Assembly Debacle: BJP Got Taken in by Its Own Fake News
  • India: Secular Democracy or Hindu Rashtra
  • Adani is Byword for Government's Climate Inaction as Australia Gears for Elections
  • How The Modi Government is Killing Off MGNREGS
  • The Year of the Gazan
  • Assembly Polls: Ten Crucial Takeaways Ahead of 2019
  • The Real Effects of Fake Propaganda on Migrants
  • Why NGOs in Pakistan Are at The Brink of Extinction
  • Dogged by Brexit
  • In My Own Voice: Citizenship Amendment Bill And You
  • Oil Giant Shell Finally Faces Its Day In Court For Complicity In Rapes And Murders in Nigeria
  • The Geopolitics of Pulwama
  • Shah Faesal Cuts Through Calls for Blood and Lays Out a Roadmap for Kashmir
  • Modi's ABC: Avoiding, Burying, Confusing
  • The Kashmir Question: A 'Made in India' Problem
  • Opposition Must Take a Stand Against the War Politics of Hindutva
  • 'Patriotism' Made Easy in Times of 'WhatsApp Elections'
  • Urban Poor Have Set Agenda for 2019 Elections
  • Will the US End Up Putting Sanctions on Every Country That Doesn't Bend to its Will?
  • Minority and Indigenous Women Human Rights Activists More Prone to Harassment UN Report
  • Tribute to Speaker Rabi Ray (1926-2017)
  • International Participation is Necessary Where State is Part of The Problem
  • Italy Takes Belt and Road to The Heart of Europe
  • The Legacy of Shaheed-e-Azam
  • In My Own Voice: Heroes or Hiroshima
  • The Modi Years
  • Election in Israel: A Race to the Bottom
  • Why Bangladesh Overtook Pakistan
  • Digital Monopoly Platforms, Modi Regime and Threat to Our Democracy
  • Elitism and Development
  • Jawaharlal Nehru and Organised Religion
  • A Brief History of the IUML and Kerla's Muslims
  • The Immunisation of Human Rights
  • How Can India Win The Struggle on Poverty?
  • The RSS's Chanakya Neeti
  • Diversity, Belonging and Multiculturalism
  • The Chinese Ambition
  • The Role City Govts Can Play in the Health of Citizens
  • Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew: Forgotten Warrior of Our Freedom Movement
  • Fighting Climate Change, Building Resilience
  • Mridula Sarabhai(the orignal anti-national)
  • Right to Education: A Dream Half Forgotten
  • Decoding One Nation One Poll
  • Tunisia Heads for Polls Amidst Economic Slowdown, Squsbbling and Crack Down on Islamic Extremist
  • Lynchings, Litchis and No Water: What the International Media is Saying Abount India
  • Blood in the Nile
  • Will the BNP Ever Again be a Major Political Force in Bangladesh?
  • 'Real Estate Brokers' Cannot Dampen The Palestinian Spirit
  • The Indian Liberal's Conundrum
  • Hope For Democracy in Sudan
  • In Depth: Water Crisis Looming Across Tamil Nadu
  • Missing Secularism in New Education Policy
  • Religion, Nationalism And Insurgency in Balochistan
  • Dim Lights, Closed Blinds: History Lessons From a Party in Power
  • Loan Waivers Need Better Designing to Prevent Farmer Suicides
  • Makimg Best Use of Sri Lanka's Strategic Location
  • FDI in Coal: Look Who's Coming to the Party
  • Weapons and the Never Ending Space Race
  • Thirty Years the Berlin Wall Brought Down
  • Reclaiming the Opposition and Political Space in India
  • An Interreligious Conference to Build Bridges in Sri Lanka
  • On 'Correcting' History and Akbar's Invasion of Kashmir
  • The Evolution of the 'Nobel Prize' in Economics
  • Close Coordination Between Turkey and Russia in Syria
  • Sri Lanka's Election Time Promises Costly to Keep
  • The India Economy and The Cobra Effect
  • Fascism: Is Liberal Use "Trivialising" This "Destructive Phenomenon?"
  • Treating the Poor as Development Guinea Pigs
  • A Not sp 'National Education Policy: Analysis Reveals Exclusion in Education Sector
  • University Fee Hikes Pave the Way for Selling Public Assets
  • The Truth About Middle Class 'Revolutions?
  • 50 Years of US Arms Trade: The Lasting Impact on West Asia
  • India Abjures Secularism in Bangladesh's View, Will Regional Cooperation Take a Hit?
  • Amidist Resistance to "De-Tribalisation", A Look at Why Jharkhand Polls are More Critical Than They Appear
  • The Dangerous Game of Citizenship: BJP Creates Divisive Agenda Through NRC
  • Revealed: US Losing Aghan War Due to "Fatally Flawed" War Strategies and Lack of Clear Objetives
  • 'Politics and Prejudice': Can Dalit-Bahujans and left Progressives Join Hands?
  • State Power's Attempts at Rewriting History
  • Afghanista's Tumultous Fourty-Year Journey
  • Nepal: Citizen's Needs Remain Sidelined as Turbulent Game of Politics Continues
  • "Enough is Enough": Secular India Revolts Against a " Majoritarian State"
  • Looking at Cuba's Revolution 61 Years On
  • Soleimani Murder Set to Spiral Out of Control, US Expected to Pressure India Under LEMOA
  • The Rise of Digital Media and The Viral Phenomenon of "Nowledge"
  • Thus Spake JP: Beware the Writing on the Wall
  • Sri Lankan Government Must Pay Attention to Problem-Solving in the North
  • Drowning Nation Clutches at Military Might?
  • India's Neighbourhood First Policy Crumbles
  • A Gobal Assault by the Far-Right