The recent utterings of Messrs. Ravi Karunanayake, Eran Wickremartne and Harsh de Silva attempt to portray a picture that Sri Lanka’s economy is in a mess. I have serious issues about most of the points that they articulate and I think they are only just hell-bent on discrediting the country and economy to suit their own political ends. Otherwise, how can anyone ignore the following facts:
(1) That Sri Lanka had more than 8% growth for two years consecutively in 2010 and 2011, and this year’s growth has been projected to be 7.2%
(2) That our unemployment has reached 4.2%, in 2012, the lowest in our history
(3) That the poverty levels in our country have reduced at the sharpest decline ever, and is today at around 8%
(4) That our foreign reserves are at a comfortable level of more than three months of imports although prior to 2005, we were struggling at levels of less than two months of imports.
(5) That our recent rupee depreciation in percentage terms is one of the lowest ever in our history, since in the past we have suffered from depreciation of our currency by even more than 100% in five-year spans.
(6) That our inflation has been in single digit levels for the past 37 months, and is expected to be at similar levels going forward, and that has been the longest period ever at such benign levels.
(7) That the Government’s fiscal deficit has been at 6.9% last year, and that it is due to be reduced to 6.2% this year, way below the 10% levels that we have been used to in the past.
(8) That after 30 years, our Debt to GDP level came down to below 80%
(9) That every two minutes, a motor bicycle is registered; every three minutes, a three-wheeler is registered; all the newspapers including your newspaper carry more advertisements than ever before; there are more than 105 telephones for every 100 persons; the number of radio channels, newspapers and TV channels has grown more than 100% in the past five years; the number of Sri Lankans travelling abroad on holiday has increased five-fold in the past five years.
(10) That the number of cars imported has increased four-fold and many such imports have been small cars, which obviously show that these are being used by people who did not own a car in the past.
(11) That rural electrification has taken place rapidly, when electricity coverage has increased from 72% to 92% today.
(12) That we are now travelling on more than 10,000 kilometers of concrete village roads that have been constructed over the past four years, and hundreds of kilometers of urban roads that have been upgraded.
(13) That our cities including Colombo are much cleaner, and there is a bright look in our environment in all parts of the country which has been acknowledged by many thousands of locals and tourists.
(14) That new big names in tourism like Shangri-la, Sheraton, Sun City and others are investing in Sri Lanka.
In my view, if someone ignores all of the above facts and attempts to impose their view that we are living in “terrible times”, they are either not living in Sri Lanka or are deliberately blind and refusing to see reality. So if they are really living in Sri Lanka, maybe it is a good time for them to pinch themselves and wake up!