Bankrupt Sri Lanka, where did the collapse begin

6 “no keywords” about Sri Lanka


Most of us would have no idea what Sri Lanka is going through if it wasn’t for pictures of Sri Lankans swimming in the presidential palace being posted online. In the photo, three or two people were wearing swimming rings, seven or eight people were cheering in the water, and more crowds crowded around the swimming pool of the mansion, solemnly witnessing this historical moment.
Since March this year, the economic crisis has led to shortages of daily necessities and high prices, and protests and supporters of the Sri Lankan government have continued to clash. In May, protesters occupied the prime minister’s residence as then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa fled the capital Colombo. On July 9, protesters stormed the presidential palace for a swim, and the prime minister’s residence was torched late that night. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and current Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said they would resign.
Sri Lanka is a South Asian country that became independent from the British colony in 1948. In 1978, it was renamed the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The government changed from the cabinet system inherited from the Dominion to the semi-presidential system that followed the example of France. In 2022, the country will enter bankruptcy for the first time in its 74-year history, with massive power outages, fuel and food shortages, and an economic crisis that turns into a political one. From expelling the colonists to expelling the president, what happened in Sri Lanka?
Today’s single reading has compiled six “no keywords” about Sri Lanka as a start to understanding this beautiful and turbulent island country.

6 “no keywords” about Sri Lanka

Arrangement: vegetable market




“Tears of the Indian Ocean”

When the British first came to Sri Lanka, they called it “Ceylon”.

It is located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal and southeast of the Arabian Sea. It faces India across the Palk Strait and is shaped like a teardrop. It is close to the equator, has no four seasons, and is rich in fishery, forestry and hydraulic resources. Before the British came, Ceylon was mainly planted with coffee trees introduced by the Dutch. But in the mid-nineteenth century, an odd “leaf disease” struck Ceylon’s coffee trees, destroying the industry within decades. The British soon tried to replant tea trees, with excellent results.

Ceylon black tea has become world famous since then. The mountain city of Nuwara Eliya is the most famous producer of Ceylon black tea. Every tea picking season, the locals work in the beautiful mountains. But at the same time that British traders introduced tea trees, they also migrated millions of Tamils ​​over as cheap labor on plantations. British colonization destroyed Ceylon’s self-sufficient small-scale farming economy and transformed it overnight into a labor-intensive, single-crop estate.

The dominant ethnic group in Ceylon is the Sinhalese. At first, only a small number of Tamils ​​were distributed in Ceylon. The British moved a large number of Tamils ​​from the southern part of colonial India. In addition to sending them to plantations to pick tea, they also acted as local people’s managers for the purpose of “divide and rule”. As soon as the colonists left, “Ceylon” changed back to “Sri Lanka”, but the Tamils ​​for tea picking or management have taken root on this island, and Ceylon black tea is also called Ceylon black tea forever. The Sinhalese, who re-maintained, immediately implemented a number of policies that discriminated against Tamils, including raising barriers for Tamils ​​to enroll and enter politics.

New hatred and old hatred, the conflict between the two has spread to the realm of religion and language. The main religions and languages ​​of the Sinhalese, Australasia and Sinhala, and the main religions and languages ​​of the Tamils, Hinduism and Tamil, have become part of the political mobilization and division of the enemy. This sowed the seeds for a civil war in Sri Lanka in the future.


Nuwara Eliya | wikicommons


“Annel’s Ghost”

Sri Lanka’s modern history is actually bloodied.

Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje, who wrote The English Patient, was originally born in Sri Lanka. His father is Tamil and his mother is Dutch and Sinhalese, which means that he is related to the two major ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. In 1983, the protracted ethnic conflict between the mainstream Sinhalese and the minority Tamils ​​erupted into an armed division war known as the Sri Lankan Civil War. Ondaatje’s other novel, Anil’s Ghost, is about this historical period.

Ondaatje wrote in his inscription that the rebels in the south and the separatists in the north, mainly the “LTTE” founded by the Tamil leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, worked together. declare war on the government. “In response, government troops, both legal and illegal, were dispatched across the country to crush insurgents and separatists.”

In the story, Anil, a forensic doctor commissioned by a human rights organization, returns to her native Sri Lanka to find evidence of mass killings during the civil war. Not only is the LTTE bloodthirsty, but the brutal repression method by the government forces has also attracted international human rights complaints. Anil saw: “Some people fled in a hurry, some were intimidated, some were frightened, and the ignorant death force, exhausted, was still blood-washing another dissident village in fury.”

Until 2009, the Sri Lankan civil war was ended by the recently ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with violence.

26 years of bloodshed and unrest have not only left long-lasting scars on the Sri Lankan people, but also changed the way society produces in places that are invisible. At the beginning of its independence, Sri Lanka was expected to become a rapidly developing new country due to its well-developed infrastructure, high human development index, and being the oldest democracy in Asia. In the 1970s, Sri Lanka pioneered the transition to a free market economy in an attempt to develop an export-oriented open economy. But with the onset of the Civil War, this developmental framework was almost immediately destroyed. Sri Lanka has lost the opportunity to attract foreign investment to build a long-term diversified export base, and its vulnerability in the global market today has historical reasons.


Movie “I’m Famous”


Rajapaksa family

The owner of the pool, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has announced his resignation, and former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who stepped down in May this year, are a pair of names. Brother. The Rajapaksa family is a political family in Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksa of this generation were born before and after the independence of Sri Lanka, and they wielded unprecedented power in the process of maturing with the country.

Gotabaya and Mahinda’s father, DA Rajapaksa, was a political figure active in the 1940s and 1960s, holding the highest position as deputy speaker of Congress. He lost his parliamentary seat in 1965, less than five years after the family lost power, and his third son Mahinda won the parliamentary seat in the 1970 general election, becoming the youngest MP at the age of 24.

His younger brother, Gotabaya, number five, took a very different path from him at first. He joined the army as a lieutenant colonel during the Sri Lankan civil war, and was later discharged early to enter the IT industry, moving to the United States for many years. Gotabaya returned to Sri Lanka in 2005 when Mahinda was running for president of Sri Lanka. In Mahinda’s first term, Gotabaya, with his military background, assisted Mahinda, who has become the president, to fight the rebel “LTTE”. This is the most prominent political achievement of the Rajapaksa family, but he is cruel The military tactics of the CCP have also been criticized at home and abroad.

Mahinda abolished presidential term limits in his second term, but Sri Lankans did not give him a chance for three consecutive terms in the 2015 election due to the military domination and economic corruption of the Rajapaksa family. It wasn’t until the Sri Lankan bombings of 2019 that the Rajapaksa family returned to power — this time with Gotabaya as president. With his strongman image and nationalist sentiment, he became Sri Lanka’s first non-professional politician with a military background.

Gotabaya then appointed his elder brother Mahinda as prime minister, and then his sixth brother, Basel, who had previously served as minister of economic development, as finance minister, and his elder brother Chamar as minister of irrigation and water resources. Until this year, Mahinda and Gotabaya resigned in the riots and protests of the people and have not appeared in public. The Prime Minister’s Office also confirmed on the 11th that all members of the cabinet will resign after the reorganization of the new government. The party at Gotabaya’s pool seemed to celebrate the end of a “dynasty” of a group of political elites.


The movie “The Elephant Palace”


Serial bombings in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s economic slump began to emerge from a series of bombings in 2019.

On Easter Day, April 21, 2019, a series of bombings that shocked the world occurred in Sri Lanka, also known as the Sri Lanka Easter Massacre or the Sri Lanka Terrorist Attack. At about 9 am that morning, six bomb attacks occurred at about the same time in three churches where Easter Mass was being held in different cities of Negombo, Batticaloa and Kochi Kede, and three luxury hotels in the capital Colombo.

Around 2 p.m., an explosion occurred near a zoo in southern Colombo, followed by an explosion at a private home, and a bomb near Colombo Airport was defused. In the eight attacks, a total of 269 people were killed, including six Chinese nationals, and more than 500 people were injured.

The Sri Lankan government says the seven suicide bombers involved in the bombing are all Sri Lankans linked to an Islamic jihadist group known as the National Monotheistic Order. This is the first major terrorist attack Sri Lanka has experienced since the end of the civil war. The local people are panicking, and many countries, including China, have issued travel warnings to the people to Sri Lanka.

In May and June after the explosion, overseas tourists more than halved compared with the previous year. Compared with the beautiful natural scenery of Sri Lanka, the bloody scene of the bombing occupied everyone’s impression of this country for a while. Tourism revenue began to decline, and combined with the impact of the outbreak the following year, it fell from 5.6% of total GDP in 2018 to 0.8% of total GDP in 2020. Tourism is one of the most important sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka.


Documentary “Wild Sri Lanka”


twin deficit economies

A report titled ” Sri Lanka’s Macroeconomic Challenges: A Tale of Two Deficits ” released by the Asian Development Bank in 2019 pointed out that Sri Lanka is a typical twin deficit economy. This is believed to be the underlying reason for Sri Lanka’s economic collapse.

What is a twin deficit?

The twin deficits refer to the fiscal deficit (Fiscal Deficit) and the current account deficit (Current Account Deficit).

Fiscal deficit refers to the fact that a country’s fiscal expenditure exceeds its fiscal revenue, that is, it cannot make ends meet. After the end of the civil war in 2009, the government has been adopting an economic policy of using foreign debt for infrastructure. Not only has Sri Lanka accumulated tens of billions of dollars in debt, but Mahinda’s enthusiasm for these massive port and rail projects has brought him allegations of corruption.

While the government is spending heavily, revenue has fallen to an all-time low of 9% of GDP under the current government. It is difficult for large infrastructure projects to generate significant benefits immediately, and Gotabaya also promised to take tax cuts in the 2019 election, from 15% to 8% value-added tax. High expenses and low income. The immediate cause of Sri Lanka’s bankruptcy is the government’s inability to repay more than $7 billion in foreign debts due this year.

A current account deficit means that an economy’s total imports are greater than its exports, which means that Sri Lanka buys more and earns less in international trade. Even since the 1980s, Sri Lanka has shown the shortcomings of dependence on imports and insufficient production capacity, but this deficit has only expanded sharply since 2009.

Sri Lanka has spent a relatively stable and optimistic ten years after the end of the civil war. It is catching up with the era of the great easing of the US dollar and the expansion of the global financial market. Not only the country, but also many institutions and individuals have borrowed money to Sri Lanka through credit products. At that time, A lot of imports seem to be fine. However, under the dual influence of the epidemic and the Russian-Ukrainian war, the price of fossil fuels that Sri Lanka first relied on for imports rose sharply, and the export orders of Sri Lanka’s textile industry gradually shifted to Vietnam and Myanmar, and the current account deficit reached a record high in 2022.

Twin deficit economies are not uncommon in emerging market economies similar to Sri Lanka. Under the influence of the epidemic and war, inflation in developed countries began to rise, and interest rates also rose. Investors can no longer take risks in emerging markets, leaving developing countries with previously unsustainable capital flows at ultra-low interest rates. According to the Financial Times, Sri Lanka’s problems are a microcosm of the global emerging market crisis.


Train in the mountains of Sri Lanka|wikicommons


hungry oriental granary

In early 2021, the Rajapaksa government abruptly banned the import of fertilizers, claiming to be the first country to have fully organic agriculture. With costs rising and yields falling, many farmers simply let their land go to waste. In just six months after the fertilizer ban, domestic rice production in Sri Lanka fell by 20% and prices soared by 50%. Sri Lanka had to import rice worth $450 million.

World Bank data show that Sri Lanka’s agriculture-to-GDP ratio has been declining since records began, from 50 percent in the 1950s, 35 percent in the 1970s, 20 percent in the 1990s, and a low of 7.9 percent in 2019. Sri Lankan academic Kadigama warned that “Sri Lanka’s macroeconomic policies have attempted to advance infrastructure development, real estate investment for tourism with the support of foreign capital, but have harmed small-scale agriculture and food self-sufficiency.”

Sri Lanka used to be called “the breadbasket of the East”. Rice consumption has been recorded in Sri Lanka since 800 BC, and there is evidence of large-scale early rice cultivation in 390 BC. Some varieties of rice have been passed down from generation to generation, providing the world with thousands of indigenous rice varieties.

But staples like rice, sugar, lentils, and milk have become difficult to buy in this economic crash. Both China and India have provided 10,000 and 40,000 tons of rice aid to Sri Lanka respectively.


“The Wandering Dupin”


1. Sri Lanka’s problems are an alarm call for emerging markets,

2. Mashal, The Rajapaksa family has dominated Sri Lankan politics,

3. Komireddi, A Reckless Dynasty Has Brought Calamity to Sri Lanka,

4. Sri Lanka: Timeline of a crisis,

5. Sri Lanka attacks: What we know about the Easter bombings,

6. “Sri Lanka Economic Crisis: Five Things You Need to Know About Antecedents, Consequences, Chinese Elements, etc.”,

7. “Sri Lanka declared bankruptcy, how are people in this tourist country now? “,

8. “Sri Lankan Scholars: The Real Reason Why My Country Is Collapsing | Cultural Aspects”,

9. Sri Lanka,\_Lanka

10. Agriculture in Sri Lanka,\_in\_Sri\_Lanka

11. Sanlian Life Weekly, “Sri Lanka: A Flower with Thorn”

12. Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost

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