The ‘crisis’ that looms in some people’s heads | Daily News

The ‘crisis’ that looms in some people’s heads

Many critics said the war was “unwinnable”
Many critics said the war was “unwinnable”

Prognosticators are having a field day these days because they are in that twilight zone where they are afflicted with what can loosely be called ‘credibility impunity’. Since there is still no closure from the pandemic-induced crisis, there are many people who feel that they have the right to peddle theories about how things will turn out, without the foggiest idea of what they are taking about.

So, there are TV pundits who are saying that the ‘revenue’ problem will bury the Government while their counterparts say that it is not the revenue problem but the debt issue that is the biggest obstacle.

They are all armchair pundits because the crisis that was brought on by the pandemic is not over yet, either locally or globally. Many of you will necessarily have the feeling that you have been here before. It is a whole new déjà vu, because this was exactly what happened before the war ended in 2009.

Armchair pundits

Armchair pundits felt, as if by right, that it is their role to say that everything is going pear shaped, and will never recover without a major calamity. First among this variety of pundits were those who said that an armed confrontation with the enemy can never be won. They said it is a pipe dream.

Others had a slightly different variation of this because they said a war can be won, but only when the Government makes the correct call and fights the war the way they recommend it.

They broached theories such as ceding part of the territory to the LTTE and fighting for the other half, while negotiating with the Diaspora. They said that is the correct method, adding that the Government will not prosecute the war in a thousand years by fighting the way they are doing it.

After May 18, 2009, these people became invisible and began pretending that they had never said anything about the war because they were not ‘military experts’ to begin with. But the pundits in the current twilight zone are experts in everything from economy to constitutionalism to international relations.  

They keep harping on what are called the Government’s missteps in Covid management and Covid-related economic management. They say that the revenue base of the Government is unrealistic. However, we have a Tax to GDP ratio of 11.9 percent which is not an arbitrary level because the people – and especially small businesses – are not in a position to pay huge taxes without going under and perishing. That explains at least partially, the ‘revenue base’. If the Government widens the tax base unreasonably, the taxpayer will be burdened to the extent that the economy will have no chance to grow because nobody will have any excess cash to spend after paying taxes.

Blatant rumours

This will be a policy of austerity and not one of stimulus. It will be a disaster but this is what the TV pundits are calling for.  It is the equivalent of the armchair pundits saying during the war that there will be nothing called a military victory, and that there will be no option other than negotiations even with substantial enemy territory being overrun.

If people would care to remember, this is exactly what the pundits were saying anyway. They were saying more things as well particularly during that end phase of the war during 2009 and from at least a year or two before the war ended in that year. One of these mantras is eerily familiar to what they are saying now, which is that there will be no money and that the economy will collapse – something the JVP in particular was wishing would happen, just as they are wishing today.

It was just the other day last week that they were floating blatant rumours that the State banks are facing collapse. That canard may have not come from the JVP, but they are all the same, these Cassandras whose main motivation is to keep on attacking the Government in the hope that one day all people will be fools and will swallow their lies hook, line and sinker.

The State banks are doing well, thank you, and are in no mood to collapse just because some Opposition politicians are losing their heads and running around like headless chickens because of their own personal frustrations.

There was one pundit on TV who was hilarious because he was referring to the Tax to GDP ratio of Japan which is just over 30 percent. Has this guy taken leave of his senses to forget that Japan is the world’s third strongest economy?

It is also a country that has a Debt to GDP ratio of some +200 percent. That is in contrast to our Debt to GDP ratio of less than 100 percent. But Japan can manage these unusual numbers and expand its tax base because it is an advanced economy, and that is so fundamental that ideally it bears no repetition. This does not of course stop the armchair pundits from predicting doom in Sri Lanka by contrasting us to, of all places, Japan.

We may be getting there, but we are not Japan yet. Well, alright, that is written here with a dose of sarcasm, but if the TV pundits do not have the basic common sense to bring up a cogent argument, they should not be allowed except on the comedy circuit. If we do not have any such channels on national television, they should start by inventing some.

Great spectacle

Meanwhile, so-called former Governors are creating a great spectacle, taking the people for ‘little grandkids’ that have to be given grandfatherly advice. It is amusing, and one does not know whether to laugh or to cry. These economists do not seem to know that there are several ways to skin a cat.

They may as well stick their economist label to their foreheads – the label is all they have got.

The country can earn its way out of a crisis, how about that? In any event, there is no crisis. It is manufactured in the eyes of all these pseudo-pundits. Yes of course there are some issues to be addressed, as in any country, and that is because the world is facing the fallout of the pandemic.

But those issues will pass. It is just a matter of crossing that hump, which in most people’s opinion is not a major issue at all, because this is not a permanent condition. The Government will find ways to stay afloat, and this writer can bet his bottom dollar on that. However, the Cassandras cannot wait to show off their knowledge. That is how they theorized during the end stage of the war as well, saying the sky has already fallen halfway, and there is nothing to stop it from coming down all the way.

Did it happen? These ‘experts’ do not seem to learn anything from experience, the lived reality. It is because they are not living in the real world. They are in their world of unreality, living inside their heads, where they think their book knowledge tells them everything. That and of course, they can only stay relevant if they criticize the Government. That is a pitiable condition, but at least it is understandable. We do have sympathy.