Mihin Lanka was a vanity airline started by Mahinda Rajapakse, named after himself, funded with public money (like people’s pensions) and leeched into the ground by corrupt and incompetent cronies. Now the airline has lost over 1.6 billion rupees (about $16 million dollars) and no one is giving them credit. No credit means they can’t afford the $223,000 monthly lease on their airplanes, and the last one has been seized for non-payment. To clarify, Mahinda gambled with the peoples money on a pet project and it went broke. There will, of course, be no consequences but it’s the most visible example of the shameless extravagance and incompetence of this government. Mihin Lanka was a very expensive joke, at the taxpayers’ expense.
To start with, the branding is pretty unsavory. The name Mihin is a version of Mahinda – the President’s name. The logo is a lotus, in fact, the exact logo of the SLFP (his party). So you have a publicly funded airline advertising a politician and a political party. Kinda leaves a bad taste in your mouth, especially if you’re an LTTE supporter like me (and everyone else who doesn’t support the government). Now that the government controls Sri Lankan Airlines (after Mahinda cancelled the old CEO’s visa) the political branding is now appearing on that national airline. The red and blue swoosh at the bottom, with platitudes about ‘our pride’ and stuff. Which is sweet, but pride doesn’t put gas in the tank. It certainly burns, but not for long.
Mihin Lanka was a vanity project undertaken with no national conscience or business sense and it has rightly failed. Personally, I think the mismanagement in Mihin Lanka is endemic to this administration and I think that ‘repossession of the plane’ is imminent on all economic and even military fronts. Mihin Lanka had impressive advertising, PR, etc … except the service sucked and the business didn’t work. Everything looks good while it’s burning money and everyone likes a bonfire. When all the fuel is gone, however, the people of Sri Lanka are left with the check and a rapidly depreciating currency (like 25% inflation now) to pay for it.
This is our money being mismanaged, and Mihin Lanka is just the most visible example. As ‘good’ as the war is going and as patriotic as you want to be, don’t forget that the mismanagement of this administration is as bad as this flagship airline indicates. The market has brought Mihin Lanka down, but it has to be the political process that brings the bad management to heel. Like a canary in a coal mine, this bird has croaked. We, of course, will remain in the coal mine irregardless. I hear there’s terrorists outside.