An euphoric end, beginning of a long road to recovery – By Aubrey Joachim

An euphoric end, beginning of a long road to recovery – By Aubrey Joachim

Aubrey JoachimSaddam Hussein crept out of a hole in the ground like a scared rabbit when he was finally captured. Muammar Gaddafi was found hiding in the sewers of Tripoli like a sewer rat. Hitler finally took his own life in a Berlin bunker alongside his partner Eva Braun and his dog. This is the fate that befell once powerful men – despots and dictators – who ruled with iron fists but sadly destroyed their countries and left their subjects in misery for long years.

On July 9th the entire global Sri Lankan diaspora were glued to social media and Youtube following the fast moving drama that was unfolding in their motherland. More than a million citizens were showing the world how a peaceful revolution could topple even a mighty ruler and a dynasty. While it took the might of the American military including tons of armaments and ammunition to dislodge Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, two million walking feet with not a bullet fired by the protestors nor a litre of petrol burned achieved the similar outcome in Sri Lanka. The only weapons were muscle power, loud voices and mobile phones. Citizen reporters were beaming live footage of the unfolding saga using their mobile phones and the power of the internet. The whole world was also watching in ‘shock and awe’ of another sort. Viewers had a choice of thousands of live Facebook feeds. Meanwhile the villain in the play was scampering from one bunker to another like a hunted animal. Hopefully the country’s image and the dignity of Sri Lankans worldwide will be spared the ignominy of their once President being dragged scared from a cesspit. Many however will relish seeing the similarities of a caged Hosni Mubarak facing trial for similar misdemeanours. Sooner or later karma catches up with the wicked.

A twist in the tale is yet likely at the time of writing with a final Presidential resignation still pending. But while the revolution may be all but over and punishments meted out to the star villain and the host of co-stars in due course, Sri Lanka will be scorched earth and 22 million suffering Lankans will have to face immense difficulty and hardships for decades into the future. Countries that went through similar misfortunes are still grovelling 20 and 30 years on. The country has truly been run to the ground and floundering like a beached whale. Vultures would soon be circling the rotting carcass.

So what is the economic prognosis? As indicated by the Prime Minister himself a few days ago the country is a basket case, bankrupt and all but abandoned by the international community. In his reckoning the debt now stands at US$60 Billion – 52 Billion when the wheels began to fall off and now incremented by the various credit lines as well as the steadily accumulating interest bill. With the mounting fuel crisis, the economy has all but ground to a halt. Any gainful wealth creation is at a minimum and therefore local living conditions are sinking further and any foreign exchange earning capacity is severely curtailed. With the World Bank and other lending institution credit lines also being drawn down to purchase a few fuel shipments, medicines and other essentials, the noose is tightening. The Central Bank Governor has indicated that any IMF negotiations have now been derailed. In fact, when the PM resigns there will be no finance minister. Is this a comedy of errors or a self-inflicted mutiny? The situation is so serious that every smart person will be very frightened.

Unfortunately, 22 million people have been left in the lurch with no credible leadership and worse – with no money. A daunting prospect. The worst is yet to come. The resilience of the Sri Lankans will be tested to the limit – for decades. It is unlikely that any semblance of economic recovery will be seen for a long time. The most difficult challenge will be for the people to give up the luxuries that they enjoyed under what was a false pretence of being a developed nation. The sudden appearance of highways, ports, Lotus towers and the grandiose expectations of Colombo replicating a ‘Dubai’ by way of a Port City fooled the masses. The lavish shopping malls, luxury apartments and penthouses, the Mercs, BMW’s, SUV’s and even the reality TV shows were merely a façade behind which a serious situation was festering and a tsunami building up. Blinded by the glitz, glamour and bling the masses failed to realise that the country’s wealth was systematically being drained not only by corrupt politicians but also by the corporate world through various accounting shenanigans. As per reputed global financial watchdogs Billions of valuable dollars were plundered and stashed overseas by corporates masquerading as good corporate citizens. Even Sri Lankans slaving overseas earning a pittance were enticed by such goons to participate in financial misdemeanours. Those at the top were really making hay while the sun shone and friends governed. In one sense it was a giant Ponzi scheme which has now collapsed.

So what now from here? Once the euphoria of July 9th has passed the nation will wake up to the stark realisation of what lies ahead. Who will lead the nation? What political transformations will they see? Will life as they knew it ever be the same? Entire lifestyles will have to change. Future dreams and aspirations will have been shattered. To some the question will be where the next meal comes from. Sri Lanka, Ceylon, Serendib, pearl of the Indian Ocean has never been in this situation in its entire history. Its people have never been demoralised and shamed to levels this low. Such perceptions will also tarnish the Sri Lankan diaspora in the eyes of the world. It will be now be time for such diaspora to dig deep and lend a hand in whatever way they can.

Sri Lanka will lie at the bottom of global credit ratings for years to come. It’s taken 74 years since independence to reach this low point. It may take the next 74 to get back to square one – if it ever will. Meanwhile the masses – 22 million of them, must now pick up the pieces. It is certainly going to be a long long road to recovery.

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