Our little paradise island will certainly be the wonder of Asia not only for its inherent beauty but for the various privileges certain sectors of society receive. A news item recently reported that the Chairmen of Corporations would receive emoluments of Rs. 90,000 in addition to the other privileges that accrue to them for all the hard work they do (Ofcourse a proviso was added that the Chairmen entitled to this amount would be those of profit making corporations). It is doubtful that any Corporation will make a loss considering that they are so quick to increase prices with little or no consideration for the consumers’ escalating cost of living. After all why worry when they know that whatever protest the trade unions make or the distress of the marginalized and the poverty stricken, no one is really bothered and they remain a voiceless majority. Hence we should be concerned about them when one’s entrenched rights are safeguarded and the spiraling effect of increased payments to Corporation management is also passed down to the Directors who now get Rs, 10,000 per sitting. One sadly recalls a time when the payment of Rs 250 was made to the Directors and often not regularly since it was considered by the governments of that time that a Director was privileged by obtaining such a prestigious position!
While Corporation-heads , Ministers, deputies and a whole host of advisors, consultants and all manner of so called essential folk who run the country’s government system are paid such exorbitant amounts, those who cast their vote are being ignored, accused of non-patriotism or placated with the promise of a utopia that has yet to be realized!
The CEB raised the rates of a unit of electricity, and the water board followed suit and fuel prices were increased after all the Middle East confusion which was a good enough excuse and the poor man’s fuel for lighting now costs Rs. 61 a litre. The price of wheat flour has risen and so too did bread. The recent floods affected the harvest and the Minister of Internal Trade has come up with a novel method of requesting that almost 40% rice flour be used for the production of bread. One wonders whether he hopes that by such method he can reduce the price of bread or wheat products! After all most of our politicians thrive on the hopes they dangle before us their voters!
When one compares the prices of essential consumer goods last year and in this year (Graph 1) one can find realize how difficult it is for a fixed income earner to get his essential food items. In addition very soon there is bound to be a hike in transport prices and that will further affect the workers who have to travel to work and also use public transport to send their children to school.
Already there are rumblings of trade union action by way of the strikes in the offing. Already the increase in prices of wheat flour and kerosene oil has severely inconvenienced estate workers who receive only a daily pay of Rs.285 says the President of All Ceylon Estate Workers Union Ramalingam Chandrasekar and very soon they will demand a daily wage of Rs, 500 as per various news reports. In addition the University Don’s strike does not seem to be in sight of a settlement and the leadership in various other trade unions too are getting agitated since their members hearing of the various salary perks of Corporation heads, ministers and deputies question as to when the promised salary increase has not been yet given.
With the purchasing power of the rupee decreasing and inflation increasing it is no wonder that the workers are wondering when their rights to a sustainable wage will be recognised and granted.
It is certainly true that infrastructural development has taken pride of place in governmental priorities but it is necessary that more attention be paid to the essential economic needs of the people who voted in this government on the promise of providing them with a better future.