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).

Sri Lanka wages war on ‘wheat terror’

The ultra-nationalist Sri Lankan government’s efforts to manage the economy has spurred a new war – against ‘wheat terrorism’. The government drive to slash consumption of wheat-based food, especially bread, is decimating what are presumably some of the worst purveyors of terror: bakers. Other bakers are trying to use rice flour to make bread ... because "we consider it our patriotic duty."

Learn Tamil, don’t employ Tamils

The Sri Lankan government is to apparently pay incentives to state employees to learn ‘local languages’, such as Tamil, to “reduce the communication gap with people of Tamil origin,” the Indian Express reported. The move "aims to reduce the communication gap between those in the Tamil-dominated northern and eastern parts and the rest of the Sinhalese-majority country.” Sounds like a good idea, moving towards bringing together the peoples of the island. That is until you read another piece of news – one that did not make it into any of the English language publications. The Sri Lankan...

Al Jazeera reveals photos of Sri Lankan military atrocities

Al Jazeera has obtained photographs that appear to show Sri Lankan army atrocities against Tamil civilians and captured or surrendered Tamil fighters in the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war in early 2009. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say that the new photographic evidence warrants an independent, international, investigation. Sri Lanka rejects outright any probe of its military's conduct. Along with the International Crisis Group, the two groups Wednesday again rejected the Sri Lankan government's own inquiry as "warcrimes whitewashed". Earlier this year, the ICG...

Shining case in point

Sri Lanka’s government denounces those fleeing its repression to the West as nothing but economic migrants. Consider then the case of the wealthy gem merchant who has sought asylum in Canada with his family.

India-US partnership on 'creating order' in Sri Lanka

Amid the newly enhanced ties between the United States and India, the contours of a shared approach to Sri Lanka’s ethnic crisis by the two states appeared in little reported comments last month by Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon. Speaking in Washington, he outlined a twin track Indian strategy, which he said was supported by the US: first, restoring normalcy in the war-shattered Tamil areas, and, second, “creating an order [in Sri Lanka] within which, not just the restoration of democracy, but … an order within which all the communities feel that they can determine their own futures.”