Government need not clasp everything – Anura Dissanayake
The government should not clasp everything “like grasping a heap of oranges” in handling the country’s economy says Anura Dissanayake, the leader of the JVP and National People’s Power.
He emphasized this while addressing the conference organized by the NPP on “The Truth Hidden behind the Selling Story”, held at the ‘Koloma’ Foundation Institute.
He said, “Should the government embrace all this like it clasps a heap of oranges? The government is running mills, the government is going to buy paddy, the government is making salmon, the government is making cheese, the government is making sauce, the government is selling spices. We are not there. We don’t say that the government should clasp all this as it clasps a heap of oranges.
However, there is an obligation that the government cannot waive, the private sector has no responsibility, but the government has a responsibility. It is the responsibility for the society – the social responsibility. The government has to undertake that. It is not undertaken by a private hotel of by the private entrepreneur. The government should take responsibility for social responsibility and society. Therefore, the government has the responsibility to provide goods and services at a reasonable price and quality. The government also has other responsibilities like security etc. But when it comes to goods and services, the government should fulfill the social security and social responsibility of buying goods and services at reasonable prices and quality (without standing in queues). The IOC does not do that. It is not relevant to the IOC whether there are queues or not. No private company is committed to social responsibility. Of course, there may be a few who would act responsibly. Someone will
bring some goods and distribute them among people. It is something to do about compassion or humanity. But the social responsibility lies with the government. It is the government’s responsibility to provide goods and services at a fair price, to provide quality goods and services, and to provide goods and services without scarcity. The government is bound by this responsibility. We would make it our responsibility.
We hope to do this in four ways.
One, we can control some things in the market through regulation. We accept that. Consumer Authority is a regulatory body. Public Utilities Commission is a regulatory body. Regulatory agencies should control the pressure that the market puts on the people. A powerful regulatory body is needed. Regarding the goods and services provided to the people, some areas should be controlled by regulatory agencies for their quality, reasonable price and availability. We accept that.
Two, the fields should be controlled through a network of cooperative societies (many say this is an old concept, but it is still modern today). Today, the Amul Dairy Factory in Gujarat, India, is run entirely through a cooperative system. The anchor that comes to us here is one created through the Fonterra co-operative process in Newzealand. When we think of cooperatives, don’t you think of mice? It is not a mistake of the cooperative concept. The cooperative concept is still in operation in many parts of the world today. The cooperative system is used as one of the tools to manipulate the market. It must be accepted.
Especially in the rice market, 23% of the rice market in our country is owned by the 05 main mill owners. 77% is in the hands of small and medium mill owners. But the ownership of 23% has been able to completely control the rice market. Why is that? These 77% are not organized. It does not come from one brand. They do not have one quality. They are unable to supply continuously. On the other hand, the authority of the 23% has quality, has a brand name and can supply the market continuously. It has enabled them to monopolise the rice and paddy market. But there are more mill owners in the country. They lack capital. There are no facilities to store paddy. That’s why their costs are high. That’s why they cannot supply the market continuously. Their mills are not modernized. Therefore, quality cannot be given. Due to that, they cannot compete with big mill owners. Because of this, a monopoly is created in the hands of those big mill owners. What is to be done now?
Mahindananda said that the government would set up eight mills to alleviate the distortion in the rice and paddy market. It is because of that that this government is building rice mills. We do not do that. What do we do with the small and medium businessmen, Those small mill owners will be given technology and capital and will be organized through a network of societies so that they send rice to the market continuously under one brand name and one quality. Then this monopoly can be broken. We would not do anything like clasping a heap of oranges. We are not going to put up rice mills as Mahindananda proposes.
The third is handling competition in the market. It is not wrong to do so. Some things can be handled by competition. Now, look at the tile market. Suddenly the government decided to stop importing tiles. What happened? The bathroom set, which was 17,000 rupees, went up to 51,000 rupees. Now it is more expensive. Why is that? There are only a few people in the tile market. There are two owners. Those two were able to create a monopoly in the tile market. You have to stay for 09 months in some places after paying. Now, what do they say? “Open market, competition through good service”. What has actually happened? A monopoly has been created in the tile market. We do not allow monopolies to develop in the market. What we do is, before we stop importing tiles to Sri Lanka, we will select four or five more businessmen and invite them to the tile industry. We plan to give them the capital they need at a slightly lower interest through the banking system. If we don’t have the technology, we will call for technology. We give them confidence. After that, we stop importing tiles. Then there are four or five tile manufacturers. We also accept the market behaviour caused by the competition in the market.
The fourth is the government ownership of certain sectors. 51% of the IOC belongs to the Government of India. We are selling our government company, saying we cannot continue with it. It is taken by an Indian government company – Bharat Oil Govt of India. What I say is very important. The government handles the economy in accordance with our national economic strategy. We will not give up on it. The government can do this. The main problem here is the interference of politics in managing these institutions. When Arjuna Ranatunga becomes Port Minister, Dammika Ranatunga becomes the chairman of the port. Arjuna Ranatunga was removed from the port ministry and made the kerosene minister. Then Dammika Ranatunga becomes the chairman of Petroleum Corporation. When Sagala Ratnayake becomes the port minister, Kavan Ratnayake (brother) becomes the chairman. Alizabri’s younger brother Sabri is today’s petroleum chairman. Who headed Airlanka? The brother of Shiranthi, who failed at the GCE. Charitha Ratwatte is a person who has more power than the ministers in Ranil’s government. Who is the CEO of Airlanka? Suren Ratwatte. Charitha Ratwatte’s brother. Consider the few things I have mentioned here. People cannot be appointed to places such as ports, Petroleum, Air Lanka, Agricultural and Agrarian Insurance Board. This politics interferes in the places where great wealth is accumulated. Because of that, first of all, the government should own the important strategic centres of the government. Politicization should stop. We would do that. We have done that.”
The full story can be heard in the video below.
Do not change these fields following
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