What is it like to live in Sri Lanka as seen from abroad?

Sri Lanka has experienced a virulent spread and has taken all the necessary action. Due to mass vaccination and strict guidelines followed they were able to see a dip in the numbers requiring ICU hospitalisation, but the virus is not tolerant.

by Victor Cherubim

It is quite natural on the minds of almost all Sri Lankans living abroad to want to connect.

But, for the many in the outside world,Sri Lanka has always maintained an air of mystery. 

Understandably, people who don’t live there neverreally know what’s happening, whilst people who are non-citizens are coming to think of us today as the country which has got all different types of vaccines donated, as well as bought from many nations, but find it difficult to manage the medley. 

They think of us as a country with a raging Delta variant, but not wanting to acknowledgeit, and/or able to take the scientific advice to control it. They blame us for our predicament.

Sri Lanka has experienced a virulent spread and has taken all the necessary action. Due to mass vaccination and strict guidelines followed they were able to see a dip in the numbers requiring ICU hospitalisation, but the virus is not tolerant.

What is not understood by the world outside is the shielding the numbers of COVID-19 deaths as if, it was a secret. It is because one minute we tell the world that the virus is contained, the next minute that there has been 8300 deaths reported since the pandemic to date,

The dichotomy of life in Sri Lanka?  

There is nothing wrong to show the world the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome in Sri Lanka. Identity politics however, is tearing our people apart. 

The ordinary person, if there is one/or many in Sri Lanka, are clamouring that the cost of living has spiralled out due to dollar shortage, with the price of sugar Rs.190/- or more a kilo, Mysore Dhal Rs.240/- and Mung beans Rs.900/- a kilo.Does this also cause the price of a coconut to rise to Rs.200/-or is it a feature of untrammelled market forces?

What we fear to say is that simultaneously we have hadto manage our economy due to our repayment of our external debt which in 2000 was Rs.456 billion and Rs.575 billion in 2019.Managing our external debt has caused steep rise in prices not only of food but also of essential drugs and medical equipment, withRating Agenciessuch as Standard & Poor (S&P) Fitch and Moody’s downgrading our rating to“CCC” or below.You cannot have the cake and eat it at the same time. We have to establish a strategic plan how to manage our debt at the same time as manage both the pandemic and the cost of living?

Is austerity for ever?

The fear of austerity for ever for our people may have caused the Government of Sri Lanka which owns 40% equity share in De La Rue, Sri Lanka’s Currency and Security Printingto print currency as a short term measure. Long term external liquidity pressures have eased somewhat in recent months following bilateral international loan disbursement and our expectation of the forthcoming US$ 8 billion IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR).

Anticipation of Sri Lanka’s Medium Term External Debt Service Challenges 

It is well known in Government that a total of US $29 billion in foreign currency debt obligations are due between now and 2026. There also remains a high degree of uncertainty with forecasts. Ratings by Agencies are sensitive, so is the Corona virus morbidity data.

Coronavirus has wreaked havoc not only in Sri Lanka but also on the global economy. It is the poorest countries to be hardest hit by the virus, for which they were unprepared.

Some suggested ways to reconnect 

Sri Lankans around the world have a special obligation to communicate with their countrymen and women, to cool down the temper back in our homeland and send whatever funds they can.If they are so concerned they may even despatch SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (Self Testing) kits which have been distributed to commuters free of charge at Train stations in and around London and other cities, to their kith and kin as a token of their deep concern to control the imminent viral spread. 

We Sri Lankans living abroad have a duty of care for our families back home. 

Sri Lankans living abroad can canvass our local MP’s to seek assistance from their governments to raise the issue with international bodies, such as WHO, UN, IMF, WTO and other world organisations by recourse to some of the following actions:

As international cooperation is vital to minimise the Debt Distress and Debt Sustainability Assistance of the IMF, we alone in Sri Lanka cannot make the necessary applications for aid. We know worldwide action is necessary. 

(a) International assistance is also necessary to minimise the duration of the COVID Crisis 

In order to ensure a resilient and early recovery in all poorer nations. This needs help from WHO.

(b) Supply Chains must be maintained by WTO to poorer nations, request nationalGovernments toseek assistance both from the IMF and WTO for Emergency Financing for poorer countries.

(c) Appeal to their families in Sri Lanka to seek assistance from their MP’s to obtain to allocate emergency funds to manage national waste as well as to implement “Green Recovery plans” as part of Climate Change, “as part of help to help ourselves”.

Sri Lanka more than those abroad, knows what is needed?

Let us at the same time remember that seeking assistance and advice is a two way process unless we on our own want to spin out and want to get sucked into an emotional quicksand. 

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