Globalized world overlooks Sri Lankan crisis

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By S Jha

New Delhi, July 14: After the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ignominiously fled his country, fearing the mob, the world or at least the people in the island nation broods over the roadmap for the reconstruction, with no clarity yet in sight.

China and some other countries are eying Sri Lankan assets on the coastal lines in lieu of any bailout package. That’s in line with Beijing’s stake in the Hambantota port, built with the Chinese money in the constituency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

With the island nation under a state of emergency, which was imposed after Renil Vickremesinghe was handed over the charge of the working president, the road ahead is tricky, as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seems to have grown tired bailing out Sri Lanka decade after decade.

Sri Lankan agriculture is in tatters, with its rice and tea productions crashing by as much as 30 to 40 per cent over the last year after Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his zeal for organic farming banned the import of chemical fertilizers in the country.

The nitrate-based fertilizers were for long being blamed in the island nation for the rise in cases of colon, kidney and stomach cancer in Sri Lanka.

While the agricultural scientists in India very rarely speak on health issues on account of the excessive chemical usages in farming, there has been alarming rise in cases of all kinds of cancer in some of the districts of Punjab and Haryana, leading to demand for specialized hospitals in such areas.

In this backdrop, Gotabaya Rajapaksa had made an audacious move to completely ban the imports of chemical fertilizers in the country last year ahead of the onset of the sowing season of the summer crops.

Impact was sudden, as the prices of rice shot up by 30 per cent within a few months, while those of tomato and carrot went up by five times, taking along other food stuff on high price path.

Now, there will be no takers for the ban on the imported fertilizers, which had been partially lifted in November last year only, in Sri Lanka.

The food crisis in Sri Lanka deepened at a time when the granaries in Ukraine are overflowing with wheat and other grains, while another crop is ready for basket.

People in the know stated that Ukraine has at least 35 million tons of wheat lying in its granaries. They cannot be shipped because Russia continues to block the black sea routes, denying Ukraine an access to the outside world.

The Sri Lankan crisis is a timely reminder that even in a globalized world the crisis in a country can remain localized, and there may not be solutions from outside. That is evident since barring India no other country has offered substantial support to Sri Lanka in its times of worst crisis.

Colombo is in an immediate need of about USD 4 billion. The multilateral financial institutions can only give a financial comfort to Sri Lanka and get the country on the path of the economic recovery.

Countries such as China and Oman would only seek slice of flesh of Sri Lanka for pennies.

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