Dodgy numbers

The economic statistics that Sri Lanka publishes can’t be trusted. For example, in 2009 Sri Lanka claimed the construction industry ‘grew’ – despite falling cement volumes and a plunging housing market. Sri Lanka’s claimed drop in inflation, meanwhile, came after a telling change in the index being tracked, LBO reports .

Coming Contradiction

When Sri Lanka's military finally defeated the Liberation Tigers in May 2009, having also slaughtered tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, President Mahinda Rajapakse and the rest of the Sinhala establishment were confident that not only would the Tamils now meekly acquiesce to Sinhala rule, but so would the international community. They were wrong on both counts. Not only have the Tamils endured the ravages inflicted on them during and after the war, they still stubbornly insist on their demand for self-rule. On the other hand, rather than embrace the Sinhala ethnocracy, the international community is doggedly pursuing its transformation into a liberal market democracy.

Parameters for international investigations into Sri Lanka’s war

There has been some convergence between Tamil and international demands for an independent international investigation into the events of 2009 in Sri Lanka. The international community now largely supports the view that the manner in which the last stages of the war in Sri Lanka were fought may constitute crimes against humanity.

Who benefits from Chinese loans to Sri Lanka?

Whilst China’s massive development loans to Sri Lanka are often portrayed as rescuing the Rajapakse administration from international economic pressure over human rights abuses, the details tell a different story. While China’s loans are an immediate de-facto handout for Chinese companies (which Sri Lanka is obliged through conditionalities to hire and purchase from), future Colombo governments will be left with the debts - at interest rates higher than other developmental lenders ask for. In short, Colombo is borrowing from China but pumping the money into the Chinese – not Sri Lankan – economy.

Less than 1% of rural infrastructure spending in Tamil areas

The Sri Lankan government’s own figures reveal that from a total budget of $10m (Rs 1214 million) earmarked for rural infrastructure development, only Rs12 million was spent in the seven Tamil speaking districts. Over half the total budget was spent in three southern Sinhala majority districts. (See details on p29 of the government's ' Fiscal Management Report - 2010 ') President Mahinda Rajapakse’s home district of Hambantota received the largest allocation (Rs 408 million), while the second highest went to Kurunegala (Rs157 million) ,with Matara the third largest beneficiary (Rs128 million...

Fears for the economy – and of the state

The Sri Lankan state’s debt dependent and public sector heavy economic strategy is crowding out private investment, lowering domestic savings and foreclosing a sustainable economy in the long term, business and economic analysts warned this week. The Central Bank’s growth projection were this week revised downwards by ratings agencies RAM Ratings and Standard & Poor’s who also warned that Sri Lanka’s long term growth depended crucially on cutting government spending. Meanwhile, fear is silencing critics of the government’s economic policies, one business leader protested this week.

Sri Lanka is amongst world's heaviest borrowers - Moody's

In proportion to what it earns, Sri Lanka borrows more than almost any other state, according to the ratings agency Moody’s. Sri Lanka’s total debt was 545 per cent larger than the total government revenue in 2009, one of the highest for any sovereign assessed by Moody’s, LBO reports . Only Lebanon rated 'B1' and Jamaica rated 'B3' had worse credit metrics, among countries rated by Moody's.

Joy by Presidential decree

There appears to be no end to President Mahinda Rajapakse’s pompous self-regard. Having won the election and steam-rolled through the possibility of lifelong presidency, the president, through his ever obliging government, proclaimed the entire week, to be one of festivities, in order to commemorate his swearing in for a second term.

Angaadi Theru – Tamil Cinema’s Dickensian Moment?

The commercial as well as critical success enjoyed this year by the Tamil cinema release Angaadi Theru reflects not just the maturity and range of the Tamil cinema industry but also of its audience. Dealing with the difficult themes of harsh working conditions, rural poverty and exploring the lives of Chennai’s urban poor, Angaadi Theru is refreshingly different from the usual saccharine mix of romance, music and escapism that has become characteristic of Indian cinema as a whole.

Who needs papers?

The Sri Lankan government will support the ‘rightful’ residents of the North and East who have lost the documents proving ownership of their lands, the Daily Mirror reported . Sounds great – exactly what is needed in the Northeast, where after decades of war and displacement, many people do not have the official documents to prove their ownership of their properties. A telling problem, however, promptly arises: what is the criteria by which people can prove ownership of their ancestral lands? And who decides on their validity? The same government, it seems, whose military offensives drove these people from their homes. The real point of all this is underlined by how large numbers of Sinhalese are being hurriedly settled in Tamil areas through government-funded schemes. According to a 2002 survey by the Sinhala-dominated state itself, 81% of the displaced population was Tamil, 14% Muslim and 5% Sinhalese (see Amnesty International's report on Sri Lanka's displaced).