Will Prez make CB independent? – The Island

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is said to have pledged to guarantee the independence of the Central Bank (CB). He gave an assurance to that effect during a meeting with BC Governor Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe over the weekend, we are told. If the president keeps his promise, it will go a long way towards making the country’s economic recovery a reality soon. The task of putting the economy back on a level playing field should be left to economic experts, and politicians can only play a supporting role. The country finds itself in the current predicament because politicians have encroached on the domain of professional economists and messed up the economy. If the president supports BC, that will be half the battle to revive the economy.

It is a supreme irony that the UNP has benefited from the struggle of the Galle Face demonstrators, who campaign against corruption, among other things, and demand that all those who have used public funds be brought to justice, and their bad treatments. got the confiscated wealth immediately. The opposite of their wish has come true, so to speak! The UNP was responsible for the treasury bill scams; he had Arjuna Mahendran appointed governor of BC and defended him to the bitter end even after his involvement in the bond rackets was exposed. UNP members of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), who investigated the bond scams, shamelessly took the cudgel for Mahendran, even insulted and intimidated BC officials who testified against him, and sought to dilute the COPE report by having a few footnotes incorporated into it. Bond scams were the main reason the UNP lost the election; it suffered its first electoral setback in local government elections in 2018 and was left without a single elected MP in the last general election. Now, after making a meteoric comeback thanks to a wave of anti-government protests and a crippling economic crisis, the fund-hungry UNP is back in control of the public purse; all the crooks who got rich during the yahapalana government come out of the woodwork. The current UNP team, which has set itself the task of restoring the economy, would have been complete if Mahendran had returned from Singapore! He must be prevented from catapulting his lackeys into key positions in the Ministry of Finance and the BC if we want to avoid rackets on the scale of bond scams.

The primary goal of the proposed 21st Amendment to the Constitution is to straitjacket the executive president and depoliticize vital state institutions. It is not only from the clutches of the President that these outfits must be freed; they must also be made independent of the Prime Minister and other Cabinet members. Foremost among these institutions is the BC, which politicians have polluted with political appointments and various rackets over the years. Hence the urgent need to prevent politicians from interfering with the BC, which is the engine of the country’s economic recovery process. It has now been revealed that the current economic crisis could have been avoided if SLPP politicians had heeded repeated warnings from CB experts of a forex crisis and calls for debt restructuring some two years ago.

Some fearless CB officials, who dared to testify against Mahendran before the CPS and the Presidential Board of Inquiry that investigated the Treasury bill scams, would be worried. vis à vis the hostility of some UNP politicians, who carry out propaganda attacks against them and try to bring cronies in as civil servants in order to make the most of the current political windfall before the next legislative elections. President Rajapaksa should heed the concerns of BC officials who alone are up to the task of reviving the economy and ensure that they can perform their duties and functions unimpeded.

President Rajapaksa is right to have assured the CB that it will be able to operate independently under his watch. But the problem with his assurances is that he often backtracks; it has already done several flip-flops, the main ones being on its agrochemical ban and the 20th amendment. He also has little say in the affairs of the government, which is controlled by his brother, Basil Rajapaksa, for all intents and purposes. It is high time that he lower his foot and do everything possible to save the economy and relieve the population. This is the only way for him to prevent public anger from erupting and provoking a new wave of protests.

Lynn A. Saleh