Jayantha Sri Nissanka
The rising cost of living has irked the people in the rural areas and they are up in arms against the indiscriminate price hikes on all commodities, they urge the government not to give the war as an excuse for the spiralling cost of essential commodities. Speaking to a cross section of the people living in the urban areas, they were of the view that the cost of living was always a problem for the poor man.
There is a contention among the city folk, that those in the village will stomach the rising prices of essential commodities and not raise a hue and cry because of the recent military victories. Meanwhile, LAKBIMAnEWS interviewed a section of villagers in the interior of the Sabaragamuwa Province and found at first hand that this was not the situation.
A majority of them said that the war situation has been in existence for the past 20 years, but the cost of living did not rise as much. They opined that the war situation is not the only reason for the high cost of living, but blamed the government for maintaining such a large contingent of Ministers, unabated corruption, wasteful expenditure and illegal commissions being `earned` from the war.
Most of them said that they were fed up with the political set up and that they did not trust any politician, as from time immemorial they have been cheated by the very governments that they have elected to power .
An unemployed young mother, Chamila Surangani of Helauda in Nivithigala:?
My husband and I Iost our jobs in a garment factory because it was closed down We are now being fed and clothed by my husband`s parents. We have a six month- old child. Luckily he is still being breast fed. Otherwise we can`t afford to purchase a packet of milk powder because we have no income. The Government is wasting billions on useless events. The corruption, waste of public resources and the war are the reasons for the high cost of living. In addition, a few in the Government must be making commissions, thanks to the war. People have to pay for all these misdeeds. Did we defeat the LTTE
waging a war during the last 20 years? Other areas in the country have become insecure though Thoppigala was captured.
Jayathilaka Mahawatta at Horamula in Madampe, an owner of a boutique said: I find it difficult to increase the prices of a hopper or wadei to more than Rs.5, because people in this area find it very difficult to buy. My total sales have reduced drastically as a result of the increase in kerosene oil and other items. However, we have to tolerate the high cost of living because the Government is waging a war. At least our future generations will benefit, once the war is over.
U.A.Saman Kumara at Denuwana in Rakwana: There was a war situation for the past 25 years, but the cost of living did not sky rocket in the same way. However much the prices increase, salaries have not increased. War is the best excuse for the Government to increase prices in order to find an income to maintain the Ministers and top Government officials.
Lechiman Palaniyandi (65) at Denuwana, a labourer: My daughter is looking after me and my wife. She is working in a tea factory and earning a small salary. There are times when I find some other work, because I don`t have a regular income. We don`t eat three meals a day, as we cannot afford it. We can`t trust any politician today because they promised to end the war and reduce the cost of living. But what has happened so far? We have to pay for the construction of an Airport and other development projects in Hambantota since the Government does not have funds for such projects.
H.A. Ananda at Weralugahamulla in Rakwana, a three wheeler driver: Since fuel prices have gone up, hires have reduced drastically. The Government promised us fuel at concessionary rates but what has happened to that proposal? I guess it is another empty promise. We had the war for the past so- many decades, but the cost of living has not risen this much. The present Minster of Consumer Affairs, Bandula Gunewardena cried himself hoarse over the rising cost of living, when he was in the Opposition and questioned as to why the UPFA Government could not reduce prices. After he joined the Government, he now says that the Government is not a ?Dansela? to give everything at lower prices. Don`t put the burden on the people, giving the war as an excuse. Because, the war situation prevails only in two provinces. Why should we be burdened with rising prices?
K.A.Ajith Premakumara, a welder: I did not want to be a farmer due to the uncertain income in farming. Somehow I earn about Rs.7000 a month as a welder. My family has a small plot of paddy and I manage with that. The Government cheated farmers promising a fertilizer subsidy. We waste so much of time at the AGA office filling forms. Even though we get a bag of fertilizer, it has only about 38 or 40 kgs though it should in fact contain 50 kgs. Eighty per cent of the people in my area are fed up with the Government. The next time around the people will not vote for anybody, because every time Opposition members join the Government and enjoy the perks. In this situation, there is no point of an Opposition because in the end they don`t point out the wrong policies of the Government. They benefit thanks to our foolish voters.
K.G.Renuka at Madawatte on Rakwana- Deniyaya road: My husband is working at the Road Development Authority and I am also running a small tea shop. I give milk only in the mornings to my three children. Our income is not enough to run the family. Now a bottle of kerosene oil is Rs.52. We now light only one oil lamp for the entire house. We get the children to go to bed early. The Government promised to reduce the cost of living, but we did not receive any concession.
Manel Alahakoon at Kadamuduna in Suriyakanda, a housewife: My husband runs a small boutique. I also support him. We find it difficult to run this boutique due to the high cost of transporting items and the number of delivery coming to this area have reduced. There is a scarcity of certain food items too in this area. If the Government can control oil prices, then the cost of living can be reduced.
K.Selladorai in Suriyakanda: Now a kilo of rice is Rs.40 and kerosene oil is Rs.50, We can`t think of even buying 250 grams of fish for the children. We buy on credit for the month and manage somehow. Many in our area do the same.
Our economy should not be hampered by the war. That is not the solution. The Government should understand that by now. Destroying the income of others is not the solution to the war. We want peace.
A cross section of those living in the towns said that war and the exchange rate depreciation are the main reasons for the high cost of living.
Businessman G.Chandra-sekara of Wattala said that billions are being wasted as a result of the war and if we can save this money, Sri Lanka`s economy will be in a better position.
Vindya Siriwardane of Kiribathgoda, a lawyer by profession said that the problem of the cost of living was in existence in Sri Lanka right throughout history and it is not a new phenomenon. She says that the cost of living was always a problem to the poor man. Whoever comes to power is unable to control the cost of living. This has been proved in the past, she said.
A semi Government official, Sitha Ratnayake of Piliyandala said that it is difficult for her to run her family as she had a fixed monthly income. She says that as a result of the high oil prices, the cost of living has risen and the working class was suffering as a result.
Noor Muzammila of Kiribathgoda, who is an accountant, said that the rupee devaluation is the main reason for the high cost of living because most of what we consume are imported items. She said whoever comes to power, despite them being `green` or `blue` should understand that this war is not winnable and Sri Lankans need peace. She also blamed the rise in cost of living because of corruption and waste of public funds.
M.A.Wimalasena of Gampaha, a small time businessman said that he has dropped the production of plastic items by fifty per cent as the demand for these items has drastically dropped as he had to increase prices due to the high cost of raw materials.
Dr. Deepa Gamage said that salaries have not proportionately increased with the increasing cost of living and she finds it extremely difficult to manage with a fixed income. She says that the Government does not maintain prices of essential commodities and war can`t be the only reason for the high cost of living.