What’s Sajith stance?5 min read

What is Sajith’s position? For those genuinely interested in how Sajith might have managed the crisis differently, there is one main source of information, which is fortunately available on YouTube[i]. To minimize bias in my summary, I used ChatGPT to provide an overview.

ChatGPT Summary

In his speech, Sajith Premadasa outlines his solution to Sri Lanka’s economic crisis through the launch of the SJB (Samagi Jana Balawegaya) Economic Plan, which includes a detailed 10-point program aimed at stabilizing and growing the economy. Here are the key components he highlighted:

  1. Team and Expertise: Emphasizing the collective strength of the SJB team, comprising experienced professionals and academics, who can effectively address the crisis.
  2. Private Sector Involvement: Utilizing the efficiencies and expertise of the private sector to drive growth and productivity.
  3. Investment and Innovation: Positioning Sri Lanka as an innovative manufacturing market, a world-class service provider, an investment destination, a logistical hub, and a tourist paradise.
  4. Political Stability: Highlighting the need for political stability and the role of local elections, though they were postponed, in achieving this stability.
  5. Anti-Corruption Measures: Implementing stringent anti-corruption measures, including independent declarations of assets by leaders and officials.
  6. Independent Central Bank: Establishing an independent central bank to ensure effective monetary policy and control inflation.
  7. Unified Revenue Collection Authority: Creating a unified authority to streamline and reduce corruption in revenue collection from departments like Inland Revenue, Customs, and Excise.
  8. Focus on Sustainable Development: Moving beyond immediate economic stabilization to achieve sustainable and equitable growth.
  9. Evidence-Based Policies: Basing their policies on evidence and successful examples from other countries.
  10. Public Engagement and Transparency: Maintaining transparency and involving the public in the economic recovery process.

The overarching message is that with the right team, plan, and expertise, SJB can lead Sri Lanka out of the current economic crisis.

Analyzing the Summary

While accepting these goals at face value without criticizing their considerable vagueness, let’s examine them further. Remember, we’re considering a hypothetical scenario where Sajith’s plans are implemented without any obstacles. Regarding the concrete proposals, it seems that objectives 6-10 have been somewhat addressed. Now, let’s consider objectives 1-5.

Regarding his team and expertise:

Sajith hasn’t introduced any new parliamentarians to his core team; they are all former members of Ranil’s team. Additionally, his previously staunch supporter Harin Fernando has defected to Ranil’s side, now serving in the relatively minor role of Sports Minister. The younger leaders within the SJB are highly criticized and are mostly former members of the UNP. They are accused of improperly taking resources from the UNP to form their own factions. The manner in which these resources were transferred to the SJB upon their departure from the UNP raises significant concerns.

Private Sector Involvement

If by private sector involvement, you mean a plutocracy, then Sajith is certainly leading the charge. It’s important to remind those who plan to support him financially this time that he has already outspent all his competitors combined in previous attempts and yet failed to secure a win.

Concerns should also be raised about how he manages to raise such significant amounts of money, especially given his history of unpaid rental and advertising expenses from his last campaign. The election hasn’t even been announced, and he is already in full campaign mode.

Sajith’s connections in the business world are well-documented. Those interested should scrutinize the financial health of the companies he is associated with. His approach to involving the private sector could prove to be very costly for the nation.

Investment Hub

Focusing on investment, let’s revisit the issues during the Yahapalanya government era. As the housing minister, alongside his now SJB rival Champika Ranawaka, Sajith failed to attract significant investment to what was then a promising sector.

Recent reports[ii] suggest that he also attempted to construct more housing than his budget permitted, allegedly using questionable accounting practices and securing excessive loans through lending agencies connected to the housing ministry.

Additionally, he has controversially labeled Israel as a “terrorist state,”[iii] a stance that could prove costly from a diplomatic perspective. Unlike Ranil, who maintains a pragmatic approach, Sajith positions himself as a transformative figure in India-China relations[iv], aiming to mediate peace between them. This could be counterproductive for Sri Lanka, as the ongoing rivalry between India and China has proven financially beneficial for the country. It’s believed that recent economic booms in industries from furniture to property development, including the expansion across Galle Face, are due to the competitive presence of Indian and Chinese interests.

At international forums like Davos, Ranil has shown greater success in engaging with global leaders, casting doubt on how effectively Sajith could perform on the same stage.

Anti-Corruption Measures

Regarding anti-corruption, I see little distinction between the political options available. However, it’s worth noting the irony in our situation: we’re in the midst of a debt crisis largely due to numerous unprofitable infrastructure projects, yet international financiers audaciously point to minor corruption as the root cause.

Among these so-called white elephant projects—be they expressways, airports, ports, or massive government buildings—none have significantly become cash-flow positive. Additionally, it’s puzzling why the financing for these projects wasn’t structured to begin repayment only after they started generating profits.

Political Stability

This is a man actively attacked by both Champika Ranawaka and Sarath Fonseka. He doesn’t have a loyal deputy. I don’t see how he is going to have political stability especially when he invites all his new SLPP allies to contest on the SJB-alliance ticket.

Call for a Policy Document

I believe many would concur with my views. Sajith, since you are already actively campaigning for the upcoming election, I urge you to release a manifesto. This document would provide a foundation for meaningful discourse and engagement with the public. Will you continue with the reforms Ranil has made or in which ways will you deviate?

[i] https://youtu.be/QpynVW3M0lY

[ii] https://www.dailynews.lk/2024/07/08/admin-catagories/breaking-news/583563/nhda-lost-rs-5564-mn-during-sajiths-tenure/

[iii] https://mawratanews.lk/news/opposition-leader-sajith-premadasa-condemns-israeli-attacks-on-palestinians-affirms-sri-lankas-support-by-end-of-the-year-i-sri-lanka-latest-news/

[iv] https://www.dailymirror.lk/breaking-news/Sajith-surprises-all-wants-to-play-mediatory-role-in-Indo-China-conflict/108-281703

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