BMICH during the Deyata Kirula exhibition.
I welcome the new developments in Sri Lanka (roads, ports, airports, buildings, malls). Dev isn’t a zero sum game and that’s part of it. It’s important, however, to invest as heavily (or more) in education and health, which is what sustained the country even through war. Many of the things we’re building are for a middle class that doesn’t exist yet. Without education and health, there won’t be enough people for the shops or cars for the roads.
People decry the lack of democracy, but there’s a bigger decline in the socialist part of the Democratic Socialist Republic. Mahinda’s party, the SLFP, was once considered to the left of the UNP, but so many UNPers have crossed over that it’s now moved to the capitalist right. Hence you get privatizations, big developments, big business – all from a party that once mocked the UNP for such things. People talk about the decline of the UNP, but if you look at UNP plans for Colombo or Sri Lanka, they’re not very different. Indeed, some of the projects ongoing now are old UNP ideas.
Why Social Policies
While infrastructure and stuff is important, it’s important to remember why. Most of this money comes from the people of Sri Lanka, via taxes. If you account for the fact that most Chinese money is loans, then the vast majority comes from Sri Lankans, either now or future generations. If you buy a car, the tax ensures that the government gets a car. If you buy a meal, the government gets a bite. Et cetera. Its our money.
Hence, while it’s nice to have stuff, it’s also important to develop people that can afford that stuff, and preferably build it in the first place. For me the most obvious investments here are education and health. Education because you need trained people that can hold and create jobs. Sri Lankans are ready to learn, parents spend money even in a ‘free’ education system, but the system doesn’t work.
The Universities are both overcrowded and broken (leading to higher unemployment) and most education goes entirely around the public system (international schools, tuition classes, private diplomas and degrees). The government should invest in some proper schools so we can build the next generation of infrastructure ourselves.
I say health because it’s essential for everything else, and people are going around that as well. Those are investments in people, and we need that with equal or greater priority to investments in stuff.