Myths and madness

Saturday, 18 June 2022 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Everyone wants Lanka to win. It is a story we must endow with a happy ending; all this travail and grief must “fertilise” a better future. But it needs facts as guiding lights, and it needs governance that is decisive


In all the industries there are natural challenges: pricing, competitiveness, branding, positioning, human capital, execution, innovation. Understanding and turning the right levers on these fronts are required to catapult them forward. These enablers are unique to each industry, to the marketplace, and each of the main economic pillars deserves a “recovery scorecard” to reinforce a national one. This way we ensure we are not just peddling commodities but offering true value added products and experiences, dramatically memorable, meaningfully differentiated, reflective of our national assets and offerings


There are truly crazy people around and they abound! And too many occupy seats of power which leaves one confounded, perplexed and vexed, in equal order. This is partially because they are endowed with any “legitimacy” by us. And in retrospect, our collective judgment has clearly been enfeebled.

Crazy people create crazy policies. The US has just removed all COVID related restrictions for travel, but still insists only “vaccinated” travellers can enter the US!

This is diabolically stupid. To quickly unpack it (yet again):

Even though the “tests” are diagnostically suspect, even PCR and Antigen are not now required for travel. Ergo, even by the mythical consensus of the “testing” charlatanism we have been subjected to, you do not need to show you are currently “COVID negative.” Fair enough, at last! COVID is so resolutely mild, the hysterics were always idiotic.

But as per this policy you would be fine to be currently infected with mild or no symptoms, you may be recovering but still infectious. By comparison, had you been “vaccinated” we know that has only therapeutic efficacy which also wanes. There is zero debate now as to whether these “vaccines” stop spread or re-infection. They don’t. 

Bill Gates himself on more than one public occasion decried these “vaccines” for being unable to be of lasting benefit (benefits don’t last, don’t stop reinfection or spread), saying therefore he was “against” vaccine mandates and passports! Ye gads! If only his wits had kept pace with the evidence two years back, given the megaphone he has!

The never-ending issuance of utterly futile boosters also testify to the same conclusion. Therefore, if current infectiousness need not even be ruled out, there can be no medical grounds – theistic perhaps – for demanding proof of “vaccination” once upon a time. It is now no more than a pledge of allegiance. No “science” or “medicine” enters the picture. 

Especially as the variants have so moved on from the original Wuhanese strain the “vaccines” were designed for, we are magnifying the irrelevance.

Lanka woes

In a similar vein, the litany of things I was told Lanka would “miraculously” skirt and needn’t change its behaviour regarding are shocking in their comprehensive disdain for reality. These include:

  • Cost of government versus effectiveness of government
  • Soul destroying bureaucracy and productivity sapping complexity
  • White Elephant projects that don’t deliver value and leave us beholden if not in the equivalent of economic serfdom to others
  • Debts beyond our ability to service which led us mystifyingly to cutting taxes rather than imposing them.
  • The most repressive version of “lockdown” for the least terrifying of COVID stats, extended to the point of economic devastation, particularly for daily wage earners, SMEs, tourism and more.
  • Huge outlays for pointless “testing” when the mortality needle showed nothing remarkable, and the tests were woefully misleading.
  • Madcap money printing as if “inflation” was an unheard-of concept. 
  • Overnight attempt at fertiliser conversion despite global clamour against its feasibility
  • Foreign currency reserves depleted by more than 90% while our neighbours during the pandemic added 35-40% to their reserves over the same period. 
  • Currency float “overnight” as well, ravaging remnants of the economy. 
  • Refusing to manage donors or restructure debt until the absurd pathology literally drove the country to its knees, leaving it a beggar with barely a bowl, doing the global rounds, hoping it was too attractive a domino to allow to fall. 
  • Still hold-outs on all sides, hanging on to obsolete, corroded, power structures, thinking their flailing outrage has any relevance. How many weeks for the 21st Amendment, even with much of the wind taken out of its sails? 

“Fortune favours the brave” and “castigates the wimpish.” We are now experiencing lacklustre execution on numerous fronts. First, indeed the 21st Amendment, no longer seeking to outright abolish the “Executive Presidency” still seems to require inordinate polishing and placating of party hacks (called “leaders” by some). Instead of a decisive manifesto, it feels like Constitutional constipation. 

I shall salute its passage, as should all of us if it moves us at all meaningfully forward. But the global optics of a basic premise of the offer which Ranil accepted, getting waylaid as the spectacle surrounding Basil’s “exit” detains everyone, is hardly heartening.

Nor does the dual briefing system whereby the President and Prime Minister take turns briefing the same people on the same topics on different days (ranging from agriculture to tourism) demonstrate unity, or coherence, or decisiveness, or clear accountability. One knows speeches are flowing, but is actual action being taken? 

How does Sri Lanka propose to settle its debts is the question all the donor agencies and donors are asking? Should this not have been addressed from the outset of the post-Mahinda period, as it is the nub of everyone’s concerns? 

The track record of mismanagement is such, clarity and discipline are being demanded. Surely a “Manhattan Project” or “Man on the Moon Safely in 10 Years” equivalent in terms of our best thinking and expertise should have been, and still should now be mobilised, and fast-tracked, without all the distracting political preening and buffoonery. 

The dismal science

Not for nothing has economics been dubbed the “dismal science”. Though post-COVID, public health could readily supplant it. The “public health experts” failed to snuff out a virus, which thanks to animal reservoirs was never going to disappear. And their prescribing of fictions such as locking down the healthy to somehow contain an already widespread airborne pathogen, have certainly exposed them as dangerous charlatans. 

The credentialed “modern” economist isn’t much better.

For reasons that baffle understanding, mainstream economists and the US federal government, with the total support of an addled Congress, pathetically quaking before a pathogen where the average age of death was beyond life expectancy and had a 99% global recovery rate (for those below 65 or not with multiple comorbidities), ran riot. Extensive money printing and other forms of “aggressive” monetary policy were indulged.

Despite 400 plus PhDs and countless research assistants and access to the best real-time economic data, all of them were untutored as to how inflation works somehow? It is essentially a “tax” levied on ourselves.

Representative Thomas Massie reminds us inflation (now above 40% in the US) soared after the biggest spending bill in history, and then more ladled on, approaching $ 7 trillion. This debased the entire monetary system – of course they said “due to COVID.” 

Now two years after the mania we have a toxic form of “stagflation.” Money printing and interest rate manipulation have run out of runway space. And we gained nothing from it.

We now know from multiple research papers that studied the data scrupulously no lives were saved from lockdowns, our overall health is no better, excess non-COVID mortality is soaring, small businesses have collapsed, children’s mental and emotional health and their educations have been compromised. And we are globally facing massive debt, weaker money, record inflation and rising costs. Sheer leadership brilliance!

Lanka economic derangement

Our economic expertise here was also alas suspect. We said we will have a high social net and low taxes. The incoherence of the approach is precisely how you get to Debt to GDP ratios of 110% as a writer in these pages, Deshan Pushparajah recently pointed out. 

We have things at lower cost than our neighbours, even with today’s inflation in many cases. Possible how? Subsidies, otherwise called “product mis-pricing.” 

The new fad is declaring how currently moribund industries will flourish and produce blossoming returns without ever confronting “how.” 

We are taking a major swing at tourism this coming week gathering numerous stakeholders. But the new fad is to just declare how much income will be forthcoming to make the numbers add up. 

In a recent plan it was suggested we extend the length of tourist visas. A great idea, once we have people captivated by coming here, being here and staying here, in the aftermath of all the advisories and panic fuelled reporting. The issue is to get more here, before we start focusing on how long they can stay. 

Of course, if length of stay is part of the value, “Winter in paradise” for example, that’s different. But then we have to demonstrate a true “bubble” where fuel and electricity, local and imported food and drink, medicine, are all givens, not a weekly dive into an abyss of uncertainty. 

We can next compete on “price” and “value”, certainly. But presumably we want higher end travellers as well. Here is a report from a colleague who lives in India who took a trip to Trinco a few months back:

“We had some issues finding gasoline even then. A bit of difficulties in finding restaurants open in the Trinco area. Once we had gone to one at eight and they did not want to let us dine because they said it was too late! Some issues with Colombo tourist guides being a bit pushy. One of the resorts up north was nice, but clearly needed maintenance.”

This is a random sampling from a discerning traveller, but a fan of Sri Lanka. Such uneven provision of services and standards will not provide however, for the well-heeled traveller’s “winter in paradise.” Such a traveller though is well within our ability to entice and woo and convert, and we should do so, as soon as the cobwebs of our complacency can be removed. 

My point is that in all the industries there are natural challenges: pricing, competitiveness, branding, positioning, human capital, execution, innovation. Understanding and turning the right levers on these fronts are required to catapult them forward. 

These enablers are unique to each industry, to the marketplace, and each of the main economic pillars deserves a “recovery scorecard” to reinforce a national one. This way we ensure we are not just peddling commodities but offering true value added products and experiences, dramatically memorable, meaningfully differentiated, reflective of our national assets and offerings.

So we must put an end to “declaration economics” and look for pathways with real milestones and be data driven, looking towards extending the “value added component” of each industry and core offering. And simplicity is often what it takes. 

Staying with hospitality and tourism, the Japanese tea ceremony is a marvel of artistry and grace and culture and composure. People will pay handsomely to sit transfixed, to participate, and to imbibe the glorious brew produced. 

There is nothing labour intensive, equipment intensive or otherwise inhibiting about staging the experience. By contrast while we have genuine spice gardens in and near Kandy, we also have horrifyingly commercial rip-offs overseen by touts, which degrade and literally desecrate these treasures and the gifts they embody. 

You can have a priceless experience put together with exquisite quality control or ride roughshod over people’s sensibilities and create something manipulative, slick and of no real interest to anyone wanting to experience the authentic appeal of the culture here.

Can we tell the truth?

The world is completely topsy turvy. Pfizer in responding to whistleblower Brook Jackson, perhaps the most significant whistleblower triggered case in US jurisprudential history, admitted in court that they “may” have committed fraud. 

This relates to the claim that the Pfizer “vaccine” clinical trials were riddled not only with errors but with false proclamations to the US government.

Their defence is it doesn’t matter if they committed fraud or even perjured themselves, as they did so to the US government who was well aware of the facts, and in fact were tantamount to being co-conspirators! 

His Honour however did not find this compelling, and so “discovery” will continue. 

In another detachment from facts, looking at the “prodigious” transmissibility and harm asserted for COVID, the German National Reference Centre swabs, showed that in fact C-19 resembles only a fifth human-infecting coronavirus through 2021, well behind RSV and rhinovirus. It then stole the show after Omicron in January, and by mid-April was again ceding ground to long “missing” influenza. None of this was ever discussed or shared for perspective in any mainstream media. We were just asked to quake and mindlessly slap on our face nappies. 

As for mortality, ubiquitous testing will provide a myriad of distortions. Very simply, test the elderly and seriously ill for anything, and if it is circulating, you will find yourself ascribing high fatality rates if you peg deaths “by” it to its very presence in this population.

So you see we have become “fanciful” with facts. 

And so we are back to Lanka. There is an understandable clamour for elections, and the sheer wanton wastage we have seen by comparison suggests we “could” have them if we wished. 

However, we need to inject sobriety here. Yes, we must have them soonest, and the people deserve them. The shocks, the horrors, the humiliation, the never-ending queues and uncertainties at least require some fresh electoral justice, so the argument goes.

But the “time out” to do them justice is currently unaffordable, forget the election itself. And the day after, every single economic issue will still be there, exacerbated by our having taken a “time out” to salvage the ship of state. 

Not one economic indicator will have improved, and not one crisis will have been averted. We must stabilise first, there is no choice. Rail as we might against the inequities and injustices, and rightly so, we must govern our passions to find the debt restructuring framework and donor arrangements that give us the breathing room to breathe life back into our key industries and remove the economy and society from the intensive care ward. 

And then yes, let’s get Sri Lanka properly represented!

And this also buys time for those wishing to contest elections to do more than find populist slogans and grandiose checklists and references to past glories. We need to hear a real manifesto, a true game plan, strategies for national revival and ways to sustain national flourishing. This is a chance to hone a message, and gather a team, and establish priorities, and for once, to seek to inspire by telling the truth. 

The myths and the madness will make for fascinating stories to recount over kegs of beer or around the campfire, but we cannot default to them, or steer by them. 

We are in a world in which jurisdiction after jurisdiction is defaulting to insanity, offering “sobriety” to others and heading off towards derangement themselves.

Here in Sri Lanka, we’ve had our outing with toxically unhinged thinking. So let’s set standards others can cheer, and people here can be proud of. We can draw on the chorus of goodwill not wishing Sri Lanka to be a trigger, or an omen, or a ghastly catalyst, in a region already enfeebled by Pakistan’s volatility, and in a world rendered ever more volatile by desperately bad leadership. 

Everyone wants Lanka to win. It is a story we must endow with a happy ending; all this travail and grief must “fertilise” a better future. But it needs facts as guiding lights, and it needs governance that is decisive. We do what we say. We finish what we start. This is the leading edge of credibility. The gamesmanship must end. And governing, the type that leaders rise to because at last they must, at last must truly take over.  


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