The book is graciously available online, just click the headings for more info
I was poking around Barefoot and I found this interesting (if expensive) report on conflict in Sri Lanka. Specifically, how much the war has cost us. I personally know that the war has been going on my entire lifetime, but it’s great to see the raw numbers on troop strength, money spent and lost, people killed, etc. The book covers basically everything you want to know and I was particularily impressed that they’d published the LTTEs budgets and income sources. It’s also well laid out and there are lots of interesting graphs and stuff. This post is pretty data heavy, just listing some of the facts that interested me, but I’m reading through the thing to try and get beyond the biased media and idealogical hyperbole that seems to be the basis for most opinion making.
The research targets a few movements in Sri Lanka over my lifetime. One is that we’ve become more militarized, more dead, and less wealthy over the course of this war. Specifically, the army has grown, the economy has slowed and many lives have been lost. The country has lost countless leaders (not including the JVP Communist rebellion) and the LTTE pretty systematically assassinates any independent Tamil voices. At the same time, there are ten times as many people leaving the country to work abroad – 213,000, up from 16,500 in 1986.
Basically it’s 150,000 government troops versus 10,000 LTTE. Estimated. The LTTE also used Eastern Cadres as cannon fodder for northern battles, so it’s unclear how weakened they are by Karuna’s defection. On the ground GOSL is tossing up like 52 Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (Pakistani I think) against 434 handheld RPGs. The LTTE has 17 Artillery compared to 162 for the Army, etc etc. The LTTE is also thoroughly outclassed in the air a few planes and 2-3 helicopters against 43 combat aircraft and 41 helicopters.
Sri Lanka has a strong army but the LTTE is still able to achieve parity through terrorism and guerilla warfare. We spend 4.1% of our GDP on the military, which is more than anyone in the region. It’d be better to spend more on development but it’s hard when you have such an intractable security situation. What’s interesting is that LTTE spends most of its budget on salaries for top leaders, arms and international propaganda. GOSL pays its soldiers better and has better arms, but they seem to spend precious little attention to international propaganda.
State of the LTTE
The LTTE makes about 200-300 million dollars per year. Most of that comes (100-250 million) through drug trafficking and arms smuggling. $40-50 million comes through contributions/extortion from the diaspora and $30 million from local taxation and extortion. As its international fund-raising is blocked the book says the LTTE is stepping up its connections to drug cartels to generate income.
State of the North and East
As per a warzone, the North and East are the worst hit. They have almost double the infant and maternal mortality of the nation as a whole, poorer health for chidren, lower literacy and a dropout rate of 15%, three times the national average. There is also spotty access to electricity, water, roads and telecommunications. The LTTE doesn’t provide organized social services so the government still provides basic health and education, but at much lower levels than the rest of the country (simply because they don’t have enough access).
The book has an comprehensive list of leaders assassinated by the LTTE from Alfred Duraiyapah the mayor of Jaffna to Rajiv Gandhi to countless leaders of EPDP and PLOTE (other Tamil groups). They actually devote a whole nother section to assassinations of anti-LTTE Tamil Leaders. It may seem LTTE biased but they have honestly done and awful lot of assassinating. Not that the Sri Lanka forces don’t cause trouble for civilians in the North and East. When it comes to casualties, the LTTE and GOSL are suprisingly quite even. There are 13,393 reported LTTE casualties compared to 12,143 for GOSL. There were more LTTE dead at the beginning of the war but lately there are more GOSL dying.
Loss of Income
Sri Lanka was on pace with Korea, Malaysia and Thailand in the past, but the conflict has left us behind while those countries move into prosperity. The country is highly militarized and has stagnant and bloated government (2.3 Central Gov employees per 100 people, compared to the Asian average of 0.9). The war alone consumes about 4-5% of GDP and the ensuant dips in Foreign Direct Investment and Tourism means the country loses billions of dollars.
And those are all the things that stuck out. The book ends with two scenarios – Hell Let Loose and Paradise Regained. I won’t get into them yet, but lets just hope things work out. It’s good data regardless.