Every regime’s story | Sunday Observer

Every regime’s story

26 March, 2023

When people begin to feel that the system is ‘gamed’ against their interests it is not the best outcome for democracy. People have long felt the system is ‘gamed’ against them due to corruption and the way State contracts are awarded. But now people in most countries see it in still more different ways.

They felt the system was gamed against them by the rich getting the cheapest labour from wherever they could, for instance. But the recent run on some banks in the United States and Europe are an entirely different matter.

Ordinary folk feel there is too much speculation in the Stock Exchanges about how these banks will fare and that in the end they see banks fold up as if in a self-fulfilling prophesy. The interest rate hikes for instance, are also seen as a way that the system has been gamed against people.

The other aspect that bothers people is that they are unable to ‘game’ the system in their own favour as a counter move, in any way, because they can’t think ahead and anticipate whether interest rates would stay the same or whether they would come down, for instance. So it is as if it is a game of strategy — say a game of chess — in which people are unable to see ahead and predict how the opponent would play or what moves would be likely.

It’s not uplifting at all, but why does it happen? It’s because of the ‘polycrisis’ nature of the current conjuncture say the economists. In the US whose economy is a general predictor of how the world economy fares, there has been a total state of confusion because people are too befuddled by the rapidly moving situation to predict what may happen next, such as whether the interest rates would come down or stay the same.


But if the vogue word is ‘polycrisis’, our own crisis is much more ‘poly’ than perhaps anywhere else in the world. We were recovering from the Easter Sunday attack when Covid hit and then came the economic meltdown which was according to some, ‘artificially created.’

However, after this triple-whammy we are also facing the fallout from the Ukraine war and the global economic slump with all types of indicators that the world economy is going into recession. So polycrisis doesn’t even begin to describe the nature of the crises we are facing on multiple fronts.

Even so some folk do not have faith in the fact that what’s happening is altogether bonafide and that we are facing situations that are entirely unavoidable. Striking trade unionists and university lecturers among them feel that the current Sri Lankan crisis has been created and it’s their opinion that the pattern of outcomes makes it easy to see that the system was ‘gamed’ to secure a certain outcome. Some University dons have said that prices of essentials were artificially increased after a shortage of goods was created during the meltdown of last year, which they say was also not a naturally occurring situation to boot.

If the crisis was engineered and ‘gamed’ it means that several other factors have to be taken into account before a real calculation is made on the strength of the economy. In an entirely different context a London School of Economics don Anna Killick wrote a book titled ‘Rigged: Understanding the Economy,’ in which she explained that people’s perceptions and the political fallout is never taken into account when issues of ‘society and economy’ are considered in any analysis of current affairs.

This seems to be a fact. The prevailing wisdom is that economy is a ‘hard science’ where if you crunch the numbers with regard to growth, productivity and so on you’d come up with a certain result because the indicators are all objective to begin with.

But Killick explains that this is not so and that perceptions on say immigration have a major bearing on housing costs, and other vital economic indicators.

In other words it could be said that the people don’t necessarily trust the prognostications of economists. They make their own minds and when they feel that immigrants are driving the housing crisis and causing rents to rise and so on that perception has a bearing on the final outcomes.

It could be said perhaps that the ordinary folk feel the economists play a part in the ‘gaming’ of the system. It’s why they don’t trust their numbers which doesn’t take into account the lived reality of ordinary people. Killick goes onto write that the lived reality of ordinary people is such that they feel there is an increase in housing rents due to immigration.

Housing becomes less affordable accordingly and it’s their lived reality. As if this was not enough in countries such as the UK politicians tend to take advantage of this situation by being the drivers of xenophobic narratives against immigrants and those who try to get to the UK on boats.

These narratives are highly unnecessary because even if housing prices may go up due to immigration by a bit, immigrants fulfill a need and the economy starts faring better because there is enough labour to go around and so on.

But at the end of the day the political narratives cause destabilisation and there is economic mayhem as a result, feeding high inflation and all other types of repercussions. The lament of some of our striking dons is similar.

They feel that the objective situation on the ground never warranted some of what has happened but are of the opinion that the politicians of various hues created the conditions for prices to rise and for taxes to be levied in such a way as to negate all the gains they made in the last few years agitating for better pay and working conditions.

Any dispensation that seeks to promote their policy needs to win the trust of the people and convince them that the system has not been ‘gamed’ against them. People are informed by their lived reality here as they are informed by theirs in the UK. Winning people’s trust is a tall order. Just consider that these are university dons and other people who the ordinary folk think would impart a credible narrative, who are these days advancing the theories about a ‘rigged system.’

In the meantime there are captains of industry and commerce making speeches claiming that no other country made a recovery as fast as Sri Lanka did after an economic meltdown of the nature we witnessed last year. Assuming it’s the case — which is not an easy assumption to make as far as many people are concerned at least — there would be legitimate questions about the human costs of such a recovery and about what the people have lost in terms of decrease in real income after heavy taxation and skyrocketing inflation and so on are factored in.

They could even ask ‘the economy has recovered but for whom and to what end?”. If recovery means that petrol is available even on a ration without kilometre long queues, the people would not necessarily feel that’s a recovery they should all applaud.


It’s a crisis of confidence regimes all over the worled have to deal with. They have to sound credible when they say that high taxes and so on are all good medicine that’s being administered for the collective good of everybody. People all over the world have become extremely cynical about such assertions and all the good PR in the world is not buying governments any goodwill on that score.

Governments have to fight unrest because of disbelieving people and some folk even feel that the unrest has been pre-planned because the more unrest there is, it makes it easier to rig an economy, if the word rig can be borrowed from the aforementioned book by the London School of Economics academic.

There can be medicine administered for an ailing economy but not much can be done about people’s distrust of the system and their belief that the society and economy has been ‘gamed’ to their detriment.

However, regimes cannot wish this sentiment away. They have to deal with it and hope that their explanations are convincing. Some are converts to the regime’s narrative and do believe they are making a necessary sacrifice for the long term sustenance of the system. But governments have to deal with what seems to be the majority that doesn’t buy this version of events at all.