Editorial

Does Sri Lanka have an alternative to neoliberalism?

Summary

Rhetorical rejections of neoliberalism are most certainly welcome. But, in the long term, what Sri Lanka needs is a plan.

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Last week, State Minister of Money, Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal, declared in Parliament that Sri Lanka would never seek financial assistance from the IMF and resort to neoliberal restructuring.

Bold words. But what, pray tell, is “Greek Bond” Cabraal’s alternative?

Back in December last year, days after his appointment as the Governor of the Central Bank, W.D. Lakshman said:

“Questions are been raised extensively about the validity and relevance of neoliberal policies and its ability to achieve the desired goals of inclusive, sustainable and shared development.”

Yet concrete steps to de-liberalize the economy are hard to pinpoint. Sure, a Comprehensive Rural Loan Scheme has been introduced. But capital controls and import-restrictions have only been implemented to fix short-term foreign exchange woes, and are already being eased.

The government has indicated it will not privatise state assets. That is welcome. Yet it has no clear vision of the structural role SOEs should play in the economy. The rhetoric remains that the private sector, and foreign investors, will lead the way forward.

The Eastern Terminal is to be signed away to India and Japan against the wishes of the people. Assuming the government has “no choice” but to compromise, what steps are being taken to ensure that the SLPA will benefit from skills and technology transfers from these deals?

Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor are all well and good. Rhetorical rejections of neoliberalism are most certainly welcome too. Sir Kew Laws may have their place in the short-term. But, in the long term, what Sri Lanka needs is a plan.

Does the government have the discipline to make one?

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