Editorial: Power of the people in Sri Lanka, a lesson for Nigeria

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Sri Lanka, a country of about 22milion population is facing one of its decisive time in 2022. In 2019, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, from a powerful political family was elected as president of the country and he, through nepotistic appointments ran the country into economic crisis.

Upon his election in 2019, Rajapaksa, in his bid to fulfill his election promises and spur economic growth, cut taxes. His government slashed value added tax to 8 percent from 15 percent and also struck out seven other taxes like Economic Service Charge, Debit Tax on Banking and Financial Institutions, VAT on Sovereign Property, Capital Gains Tax on the Share Market, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Tax, Credit Service Tax and the Withholding Tax on Interest Income. Also the Nation Building Tax (NBT) of 2 percent was abolished and combined with the Ports and Airport Development Levy, the tax on Telecommunication Tariffs was reduced by 2.5 percent.

Unfortunately, the tax cuts happened few months before the global COVID-19 pandemic sets in. The pandemic devastated the economy, with international flights grounded and successive lockdowns ordered. The southeast Asian country was badly hit by the pandemics because it is a monoeconomic country with its major revenue coming from tourism.

As if the tax cut was a base for build up to a failed economy, Rajapaksa in 2021 ban the use of chemical fertilizers in order to promote organic farming. This policy led to farmers’ protests and decline in production of tea and rice crops.

To worsen an already bad economic situation, the raise in global prices for oil and other commodities that was occasioned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed the country’s $81 billion economy close to bankruptcy.

In June, Consumer prices rose 54.6% in June from a year earlier, with transport surging 128% from the previous month and food 80% amid acute shortages.

By late June, the economic crisis had gotten to the height of it. With a meager $2 billion in foreign exchange reserves, the country could not afford to import enough fuel for essential services like buses, trains and medical vehicles, the government abruptly restricting fuel supplies in late June and encouraged people to stay home. At a time the government banned the sale of petrol and diesel for non-essential vehicles.

Sri Lankans by April had had enough of the mismanagement as it was obvious the country had been left on autopilot while citizens groan under ash economic and financial conditions. A mainly youth-led mass protest movement forced president and prime minister, both brothers to resign. Before his official resignation, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to flee the country to escape the uprising.

The Sri Lanka situation solidifies the position by a school of thought that the power and the will of the people is stronger than any wean of the government. Sri Lankans have taken their destiny in their hands and have pushed a failed government out of power. Although there are still other huddles to cross, the message resonates across the globe

Here In Nigeria, citizens have been reticent to a fault and the government at both state and federal continue to ride roughshod on the citizenry.

According to a recent report on the country by the World Bank, inflation in Nigeria that stands at about 20 percent is one of the highest in the world even before the war in Ukraine.

The World Bank estimated that the current economic situation in the country is likely to push an additional one million Nigerians into poverty by the end of 2022, on top of the 6 million Nigerians that were already predicted to fall into poverty this year because of the rise in prices, particularly food prices. In spite this, Nigerians remain optimistic. Some believe that the 2023 general elections would be a better platform to pass verdict on the political class.

The 2020 #endsars protest was a pointer that when the people are united in a cause, the machinery of the government and otherwise cannot be an obstacle.

While we are not instigating or calling for violent actions against the government we urge Nigerians, just like the Sri Lankans to take their destiny in their hands and pass vote of no confidence on political office holders come 2023 general elections.

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