Sunday, September 05, 2010

18th Amendment: Constitutional consolidation on Sinhala chauvinism

By Vikramabahu Karunaratne | Lakbima News

Hitherto, the left in general considered the UNP to be the party of the pro imperialist, conservative bourgeois. Hence the breakaway party led by the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranayke was accepted as the party of liberal nationalist capitalism. People were made to accept that the western colonial traditions were protected by the UNP, whilst the SLFP stood for local traditions. Even Sajith Premadasa insists that the UNP is not a party of the Colombo 7 elite, implying that such an opinion exists in society. This widespread belief is used by the present leaders of the SLFP, the Mahinda crowd, to attract the rural Sinhala middle classes and also to cover up the regime’s total subjugation to the neo liberal policies of global capitalism. I have tried to explain in this column, in the past, the changes that have taken place in imperialism. The latter, defined by Lenin and others before the First World War, has developed on to become present day global capitalism. These are qualitative changes and very significant in relation to the struggle of the masses.

We cannot talk of American or Yankee imperialism today as we used to do in our undergraduate days. The economic, political hegemony that the US had has been replaced firstly by G8 and then by G20. The multilateral organisations, WB/IMF/ WTO have substantial supervisory powers and their significant role was very evident during the last period. They were instrumental in controlling the competitive trends among the global powers during the worst part of the economic crisis. No longer is the image of US imperialism, with a tall white man in a three piece suit and a top hat, valid for the regime controlled by Obama. He is black enough to be classified with the ex-colonial masses, and in fact he could be a Muslim. As far as the masses in the Indian subcontinent are considered, imperial looking Sonia is easily identifiable as an oppressor!

New face of global capitalism

The system of monopoly capitalism has changed. The economic system of multinational companies has no specific imperial image. The military and political options are secondary. What really matter are the agreements made by the dependent regime with the global financial institutes. The latter has enough managerial powers to press the borrower to take the suggested path by the system. Ethics have changed so much that very often the traditional servile sections in the dependent society are ignored, to tie up with the nouveau rich. Neo liberalism is truly liberal in that context. The search for the westernized elites as the dependable elements in the developing world is virtually over. What the neo liberal capitalist matrix wants, is the man with the power and the eagerness to go along with its path of development. The leader could be conservative, liberal, chauvinist, nationalist, socialist or even Marxist. It does not matter as long as he agrees with the technology transfer and modernization given by the system. So, global capitalism is marching along silently with a benevolent face.

Now, we hear from the IMF mission who came recently that, “Overall economic conditions are improving as expected in the last visit, and the economy is likely to show strong growth this year. External balances are strong, remittance inflows continue at a high rate, tourism prospects continue to improve rapidly and gross reserves remain at comfortable levels. We assess the Central Bank’s recent rate cut as appropriate. With bank lending only slowly beginning to rebound, and economic growth still below potential, we see little sign of emerging demand-driven inflationary pressures, and average inflation for the year as a whole is expected to remain in the single digits... Performance under the programme has been good. End-June performance criteria on domestic budget borrowing, reserve money, and net reserves have been met. With budget revenues increasing and expenditure restraint continuing, fiscal performance so far remains consistent with achieving the government’s full-year deficit target of 8 percent of GDP. Financial sector reforms continue to go forward in line with the programme.” Cheers! Well nothing to worry, Mahinda is doing well. Lankan women even with iron nails in their bodies have remitted money, the workers have not challenged even though their salaries are intolerably law, and the cuts in welfare and increases of taxes are tolerated by the suffering masses. So, Mahinda should continue on this path.

However the mission advised: “First, a fundamental tax reform is needed - and planned - to simplify the existing system, broaden the tax base (including by restricting concessions), spread the tax burden more equitably, and support economic growth, all while boosting the revenue-to-GDP ratio. The resulting fiscal space could allow increased public capital spending on reconstruction and infrastructure as well as social spending to support the vulnerable, but it is clear that the country’s large investment needs cannot be met through the government budget alone. Private sector investment will be needed to play a critical role. To foster this investment, policies will need to be geared toward preserving macroeconomic stability, ensuring external competitiveness, facilitating capital market development, and improving the investment climate, all of which would lay the basis for higher sustainable growth in a post-war environment.” If you are prepared to forget the cliche about the vulnerable, the command is clear: tax the poor more, help the rich and preserve the stability.

We were dependent heavily on these organizations since 1977. In addition to the IMF standby agreement, we are today attached to the World Bank Group’s current Country Assistance Strategy for Sri Lanka, covering the period from July 2008 to June 2012. The CAS supports the government’s 10-year Development Framework, with an annual lending envelope of around US$200 million. Then there are other project agreements. According to their evaluation reports we have done well. But in the last three decades we had in addition to the struggles of the workers for better living, two massive insurrections by both Sinhala and Tamil youth. They were fighting for their land, human rights, culture and traditions - in short for their natural existence. Workers lost jobs and the youth lost everything; the suffering of the masses was unbelievable.

But now the global exploitative matrix has selected their new server. He is pushed to strengthen his power by meddling with the constitution. What is going on is the constitutional consolidation of the regime based on Sinhala chauvinism. With the new legitimacy it will be used against the workers, peasants, fishers and all minorities. Mahinda has done the job better than J.R. Jayewardene; that is the ruling of the global capitalism. JR was not able to fool anybody in the left, but MR, with his past credentials of being a friend of the workers and the left, could drag even Vasu to the guillotine!

© Lakbima News

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