Opinion

This not the time for Olympian spending spree

Summary

Sri Lanka can ill afford to fritter away two billion rupees at a vanity project that does not offer any benefit to the people.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s 2021 budget proposals included rupees two billion to mount a bid for the 2032 Olympics. It is good to hear that the Prime Minister (PM) is thinking big and aiming high. Nevertheless, one must question the economic clarity of such grandiose ambitions of a nation in the midst of a pandemic.  

The World Bank (WB) estimates that more people of South Asia will be added to the ranks of extreme poor than any other region in the world. Main economic sectors of Sri Lanka, textiles, tea and tourism have all shrunk dramatically in the first two quarters of 2020. Import driven sectors have slowed down to a trickle due to import restrictions. The country has laid off 400,000 in the manufacturing sector.

Those numbers suggest that Sri Lanka is facing massive economic pressures and is ill positioned to venture into fanciful ventures, ventures such as bidding for Olympics.

Bidding for Olympics is a costly venture where applicants typically spend US $50 to a 100 million. If Sri Lanka is serious about making a credible bid for the 2032 Olympics, the minimum initial budgetary allocation needs to be in the region of nine billion rupees, not two.

Then there’s the remote likelihood of Sri Lanka succeeding in their bid against countries such as Germany, China, Indonesia and Qatar. A losing bid will, which at this stage looks almost assured will be costly. Tokyo, which bid for the 2016 Olympics unsuccessfully is estimated to have lost $150 million in that effort.

Since 1996, only Beijing has not lost money while hosting the summer Olympics. The only way a city could expect to profit from hosting the Olympics is if the city doesn’t have to spend billions for infrastructure, as with Los Angeles. Sri Lanka does not fit the pictures of either China or Los Angeles.

Sri Lanka can ill afford to fritter away two billion rupees at a vanity project that does not offer any benefit to the people.

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