Recovery and poll-position | Sunday Observer

Recovery and poll-position

19 February, 2023

At the time of writing all indications are that the local Government polls would be held. But hold your horses. There are grassroots election officials claiming that they do not have access to the fundamentals, and that they aren’t sure they could make everything work.

Watch this space. Life goes on though, and there is an exodus of personnel from this country, with top-bracket professionals leaving our shores in droves.

But it seems where there is a breach there are folk that are more than willing to step into it. When professionals are seen to be leaving, there are entrepreneurs who are doubling-down and consolidating their positions forgetting the void left by the professionals.

In any event it seems the mass exodus seems to have created opportunities for certain people. Those who are going are selling their cars and houses, and are looking to dispose of their lifetime’s possessions in quick time.

There are folk who are cashing in on the situation. Homes are selling for prices that were unimaginable a mere one year back, and this is because those that are in a hurry to migrate are saying goodbye to their assets with rather quick dispatch.

It seems for every situation there are those who gain and those who lose. Could it reasonably be said that those who are losing are the vast number of specialist physicians and so on that are leaving our shores? Are they making a mistake? Why are they leaving in a hurry when there is a chance that an economic recovery may still happen, and when it does, things may be better than what obtained before?


That may be undue optimism, but it’s too soon to predict the exact future for Sri Lanka. But characteristically the professional classes have thrown in the towel. They say that the country is now beyond redemption, and are lining up to leave.

But contrast this to the fact that foreign remittances in the corporate sector have rebounded to a great degree, and businesses have made healthy remittances in the past few months, after the scary situation that obtained around one year back.

Does it mean that the entrepreneurs are stepping into the breach created by professionals? Not that this would be possible. But it’s just that entrepreneurs are not taking a ‘no’ for an answer, and they have made adversity their best friend.

Those who are leaving in droves are professionals who have lost faith and these are necessarily people who feel that they can’t change their own destinies, unless they take flight and look towards prospects overseas.

But entrepreneurs feel they are the masters of their own destiny. Taxes are going through the roof, and that is certainly not a good recipe for entrepreneurship.

But there is ferment. The fact that people are leaving has meant that there is movement in the labour market and entrepreneurs have cheap labour at their disposal, even though this is not necessarily a good thing if the conditions of workers are considered. Even as people leave, one factor that can’t be discounted is that there is a relative increase in consumer spending.

This increase is phenomenal considering the conditions of atrophy that were the reality last year. But though there are fears that when the taxes kick in, this level of consumer spending is bound to come down, there is a sense that businesses once off the blocks and in the race are not going to see a return to bad times when they had to entertain thoughts of closing down, as they did last year.

There is no immediate global recession on the cards. But essentially the news is not good for emerging markets they say.

Though this is theoretically the outlook, everything that meets the eye does not represent reality and those who have taken up the entrepreneurship challenge know it.

The least of their worries are the economic fundamentals or the prospects for markets and other financial figures for the coming year. What keeps them awake at night is the possibility that there would be deteriorating political stability, concerning which they see the incoming local Government elections as a litmus test of sorts.

If the local Government polls, no matter the result, can be concluded without political polarisations that would lead to unrest, they would be satisfied.

Nobody wants political instability in the country, least of all our creditors and others who may be prepared with a bailout.

They do not want to see the country deteriorate to a point at which it’s the politics and not the economics that are impeding progress. The business classes are watching as their reading is we could take care of the economic aspects but it’s the politics that we can’t do anything about, and of course it’s the politicians that always can be counted on to mess things up when there appears to be some hope on the horizon.

But will the politicians be able to galvanise public opinion even if some of them want to lead the country astray because they have a vested interest in creating divisions and polarisations that would be a strain on the recovery efforts?

The local Government polls are a litmus test in this regard, and so far it does not appear as if the situation would implode. Others say that it’s not before but after the LG polls that the real situation needs to be assessed.

Will there be a sense of entitlement with a claim that the winners of the LG polls should rule as a victory trumps all else? If history is anything to go by, these mini-elections did not create a dent in the political discourse even if the results were lopsided sometimes.


If there was a LG poll result that bucked the trend in the past it was soon be forgotten, and put down as a quirk, and the Central Government went about their business. However, some political pundits predict that things would be different this time around.

They argue that these are not normal times and that the result would have a profound impact on the course of the economic recovery that the current dispensation had chosen. In other words they say that the people are not willing to be complaisant any more after the dire economic circumstances of last year, which taught them the lesson that they cannot wait and watch and run the risk of stepping in at the last moment, when the situation is beyond redemption.


They feel the polls are a make or break proposition due to these peculiar circumstances. It may be why no-election is not the best outcome for some people, who worry about whether the polls would be held at all. Some are worried that they won’t be held, while others are equally concerned that they will be held, and could damage future prospects if they get underway irrespective of what the result entails.

In that sense never before have there been so many eyes focused on LG polls as a predictor of what may happen in the near future.

Though elections for regional and local domestic administrative bodies have always been seen as some sort of indicator of the way the political winds are blowing, this time a lot may turn on these polls than in the past.

People are essentially unable to influence the outcome or whether the polls would be held at all, and as usual it’s the political leadership that’s holding all the cards. This is quite a turnaround from the familiar situation of last year when the politicians essentially retreated and depended on the people to step into the breach and make change.

That’s what’s ironic about these local polls. The politicians got the people to do the job for them but now that they are ruling the roost again, they have come back to the old ways of making the people secondary to their calculations.