How The Rich Are Doing In Sri Lanka’s Collapse

A weird display of status, but bicycles cost double now. Got one for Rs 80,000, which was about 80% of the average household income (monthly) in Colombo

I’m rich in Sri Lanka. Indirectly, but it’s one household. What I will detail here is honestly embarrassing and goes unspoken in polite company, but you should know how rich people are doing at this time of terrible suffering. We’re mostly fine, and it’s a crime.

For a brief period, the collapse hit everyone and the suffering was—if not equal—at least shared. Everyone got power cuts, everyone lost money, everyone struggled to get fuel and food. We had most of our money in fixed deposits, and that got obliterated probably 50% by inflation and the exchange rate collapsing. We lost power with everyone else and sweated it out. We also waited in queues, and protested.

Then the unelected Ranil Wickremsinghe became Prime Minister, unelected billionaires like Dhammika Perera become Members of Parliament, and the country became an almost pure oligarchy, backed by foreign powers. Then things started getting better for the rich, while everyone else got even more fucked.

Ranil stabilized things for us and bought us time to regroup and consolidate our privileges once again. His appointment took the momentum out of the protests and gave the government cover to start rounding thousands of protestors up. Now the country has troops on every corner and is arresting people all the time.

In the meantime rising interest rates meant our decimated savings started earning again (which poorer people could no longer afford the other side of that balance sheet, their loans). The stability bought let us buy battery-backups (1.6 million) so no more powercuts, and electric cars or bicycles (which now cost double) to avoid the fuel queues. Which our drivers were waiting in anyways.

If we earn dollars in any way (as I do) our income actually increased with the collapse, but we’re not bringing it back to Sri Lanka. We’re holding our money in foreign currency, as are big export-earning companies. These companies were already causing much of the forex crisis through misinvoicing and transfer pricing, but now they bring even less in, and even use their money to setup factories elsewhere.

Now elites like me are calling for sacrifices, but not by us. We support firing the poorest government servants, reducing subsidies on fuel, and letting prices float freely (ie, letting everything get very expensive). None of this stuff affects us. We’re not poor government servants, fuel is not our livelihood, food is not a huge portion of our expenses. We support the IMF coming in and colonially ‘fixing the country’ because we’re the new comprador class. We’re very comfortable, and comfortably telling other people to sacrifice. We clothe this all in “it’s just economics”, but it’s not, these are choices.

As Leo Tolstoy said: