Citizens for Accountable Governance Lanka (CAGL) noted that there had been a significant disconnect between what the people desired and what was both carried out and portrayed by the media.
They noted that accountability and transparency should be brought to the forefront of policy discourse. Members mentioned that real public opinion was not openly discussed with the highly politicized allocation of dollar liquidity. These views were made public at the launch of the website on 4 May at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.
Executive Committee Member Mangala Niyarepola said, “What the people want is different to what the government does.”
Niyarepola noted that the institutional structure had been designed to evade the accountability of public officials and politicians. Echoing the sentiments of Thomas Paine he said, “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
Members criticized the current government and opposition for glossing over real pressing issues within parliament. They noted that despite severe shortages of both essentials and intermediate trade goods in the economy there were huge dollar funds allocated for the importation of construction material which had risen 36.3% year on year as per the latest January external sector figures. They further added that the forbearance given to the construction industry, particularly to the property development sector by the banks was insulting both to the depositors and other industries currently hit by rising interest rates. The members further pointed out that allowance given to certain trade sectors to continue operations on trade credit were not for essential goods and further fuelled a culture of arbitrage seeking. They noted that consumer electronics traded by strong vested interests were in abundant supply during the recent period while essentials like milk powder and writing paper were sidelined.
Members further noted that elite sections of the population maintained access to imported products and those goods were actively available at premium prices through various Facebook groups.
Members pointed out that corporate indebtedness was a serious concern. In the recent period with the ultra-low interest regime, there had been a large transfer of wealth from the pension and deposit holdings of the general public to the corporate sector.
They noted that all holders of LKR denominated assets had effectively taken a 48% depreciative hit in the value of their savings.
They noted that retirement for those even with permanent employment would be difficult given the fact that even today the Average Weighted New Fixed Deposit Rate remained well below the rate of inflation. With a rise in the rate of Value Added Tax, there is expected to be further pain felt by the general public.
Concerns were also raised that the Employees Provident Fund was not appropriately acting in the best long term interests of its members with regards to the investments made in the stock exchange currently facing historic lows in terms of Price to Earnings ratios.