| by Gamini Weerakoon
(December 19, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Keeping up with the Joneses (or as we Sri Lankans say, Pereras or Silvas) is perfectly natural. The Caveman would have no doubt been harangued by Mrs. Caveman to have the granite grinding stone in her kitchen replaced by white quartz which her neighbour had.
Today, Mrs. Silva wants her ‘luxury’ re-conditioned Japanese car replaced with a brand new automatic hybrid. Such is the craving among all human beings which Buddhists say is ‘the cause of all suffering’.
The natural desire for ‘Thathvaya’ or status is also there in the psyche of our national leaders. They want our country to be of a better Thathvaya than other countries whose leaders they have to rub shoulders with. Some of them are quite snooty with leaders of this little isle talking big.
Still a low middle income country
That may be a cause for the sheer joy of the Rajapaksa regime, supporters, hangers on, cheer squads et al for the claim of elevation of Sri Lanka to the status of a Middle Income Country by the World Bank.
Low Middle Income country
But are we a Middle Income Country as being proclaimed from the roof tops? We went to the World Bank site on Internet to find our status and found that we have been elevated recently from the status of Low Income category only to a Low Middle Income Category and not to a Middle Income Category which is quite a different thing. In the Low Middle Income Category we are in not too flattering company such as: Bhutan, Kosovo, Bolivia, Laos, Timor Leste, Fiji, Nicaragua, Ghana ,Indonesia, Egypt and even India despite its billionaires.
The World Bank categorisation has been done on the GNI index—Gross National Income Per Capita index. Those whose GNI are above $ (US) 12,196 are placed among High Income Countries includes developed Western European countries, United States, Japan, and Australia. Macau and Singapore are the Asian countries in this bracket. Even China is in the category below, the Upper Middle Income countries, which has a GNI between $ (US) 3976and $(US) 12, 272).The Low Middle Income Category which Sri Lanka is placed in has a GNI of $(US) 1006 and $(US) 3975).Sri Lanka’s GNI is $(US) 1990. Below $(US) 1990 are the Low Income countries from where we have been elevated.
We do not take delight in downgrading the false financial status claimed for our country but in this modern age we cannot as realists and rationalists con ourselves. We will not project to our readers of the ‘wonderland’ ahead and the ‘miracles’ that are to be performed even though it is Christmas time and the time for hope good cheer.
|All nations that send their women as housemaids to the Middle East stand exposed to double standards of morality and rank hypocrisy in the treatment of women…….|
The climb to the status of a Low Income Middle Class country has been long, hard and arduous. It has been made by three generations through back breaking toil and sweat in the scorching sun during the day and blood being sucked by malaria mosquitoes at night in the Dry Zone which is now a verdant stretch of smiling paddies thanks to their labours and in the steep terrain of the rain drenched hill country that is covered with verdant tea and rubber plantations which has kept our economy going for long years.
This national endeavour is still continuing in other fields: The humble women in an attempt to raise their families from perpetual poverty are risking their lives as well as: rape, torture and slavery in the Middle East to send back home a meagre salary near 100 dollars a month and so are the men toiling in the desert sands. They are the biggest contributors to today’s Low Middle Income Country’— $ (US) 4.1 billion being sent annually. The underpaid exploited women in the garment industries with bare facilities for a decent living and a meager salary earn as much as $ (US) 2.33 billion a year for Lanka while the Tea and Rubber plantations which have been ‘the goose that laid the golden eggs’ for the British Empire and now for independent Sri Lanka still props up the economy with around $(US) 2 billion annually. The backbone of these industries are poor men and women who labour day in and day out in sun and pelting rain without any prospects other than the freak chance of their children making a breakthrough in education. Real heroes and parasites.
We laboured through all these statistics to show that getting into this Low Middle Class Economy was the sheer effort of the toilers and not that of glib demagogues going round the country posing off as being the creators of this ‘Middle Income Country’. Certainly winning the war against terrorists has to be appreciated but it is not the beginning and end of it all.
Yet, what have we, the rest of the country living off the sweat, toil and anguish of these workers done for them? Who rides the luxury vehicles: Lamborghinis, Ferraris, bullet proof BMWs, Aston Martins and Mercedes of the exotic varieties? Without the labour of these unfortunates could they have built their super luxury mansions with swimming pools, had new and better golf courses, wined and dined at the best of hotels and sent their not too bright progeny abroad for their ‘education’? They are entitled to these good things in life if their earnings are legal but legal or illegal shouldn’t a thought be spared for at least a duty free channel for migrant workers, transport for returning ex-patriates from the airport to home to save them from touts and scoundrels? Much better staffed embassies to look after their welfare instead of sending dumb political appointees, government subsidised accommodation to garment workers are some of the little things that this nation owes them. The plantation workers after centuries of exploitation are beginning to receive some form of attention but much more remains to be done.
Women for White Slavery
All nations that send their women as housemaids to the Middle East stand exposed to double standards of morality and rank hypocrisy in the treatment of women. No government — not even other South Asian or South East Asian governments— can today consider banning of women of their countries being employed as housemaids in Middle Eastern countries considering the foreign exchange they generate, despite the poojas paid to human rights, women rights and the dignity of labour. This is utter hypocrisy. All nations of the Orient stand on high pedestals when speaking of safeguarding their women but they know very well that we are sending women into to slavery — tantamount to even White Slavery — for the blood money they send back home.