For a fresh start | Daily News

For a fresh start

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s candid admission that people were disillusioned with the Government for not meeting all their expectations during the last two years is indeed a rarity for a leader and also shows that he has accurately read the mood of the masses and is not averse to coming to terms with the bitter facts although the current problems are not of his making. They have been caused by a deadly pandemic that has shaken even the strongest economies.

Speaking as the Chief Guest on the Army’s 72nd anniversary at Saliyapura in Anuradhapura on Sunday, President Rajapaksa expressed regret for being unable to meet some of the promises made due to the pandemic but offered no excuses. He vowed to make up for the deficiencies in the days ahead with the banishment of the pandemic. He called for the assistance of all concerned to forge ahead with the country’s development in the post-COVID era.

The President urged all Sri Lankans to extend their support to take the country forward under the ‘One Country One Law’ concept. He pledged to amend the Constitution and introduce a new electoral system as promised. He said even though the economy had fallen due to the pandemic, a large number of projects had been carried out for public benefit.

Of course, things would have been quite different had the pandemic not come in the way to disrupt the economy and turn the Government’s development targets topsy-turvy. In fact, President Rajapaksa was hardly able to get a move on following his election victory in November 2019 before the pandemic hit in March 2020. Then it was downhill all the way with the economy plunging into the doldrums with all revenue sources drying up in the wake of lockdowns and general disruption of life. Even with the arrest of the pandemic to a great degree, things are not going to change overnight. The rebuilding would have to start from scratch.

Getting the economy on its feet no doubt would be the President’s first priority. The summoning of all District Secretaries by the President recently is an indication that the President is keen to start the rebuilding process as a matter of urgency. The upcoming Budget will give a clear indication about the priority areas that will be tackled to get the country back on its feet which incidentally will coincide with the President’s second anniversary in office and hopefully herald a fresh beginning.

President Rajapaksa’s election was welcomed with great expectations by the people. In him, the public saw a man of action who would brook no nonsense in getting things done to achieve targets. Glimpses of this determination were witnessed when he dispensed with all circulars and unwieldy red tape that proved to be a stumbling block in achieving progress. He also dispensed with overt trappings in governance and ordered that his image be removed from all Government offices whilst also pruning down on his staff and vehicles as a cost cutting measure, enjoining Government ministers too to follow suit. Had not the pandemic intervened, things would have taken a different turn and the country placed on a better footing economically and in many other spheres of development.

As it is, much needs to be done in a short span of time to change the face of the country and get the economy into shape. There is also the need re-establish the lost livelihoods of the people such as in the tourism sector, recommence schools and get other activities going. In this task, the President will need the support of all and needless to say, sacrifices will have to be made along the way. The foreign exchange crisis will need special attention and the export sector developed to offset the balance of payment problems.

Much kudos is due to President Rajapaksa for the leadership given in containing the pandemic. There was all round praise from world leaders including the WHO Chief for the overall success in the vaccination drive in this country. Neither effort nor resources were spared by the President in the speedy delivery of the vaccines, the results of which are evident today with well over 50 per cent of the population having received both doses.

President Rajapaksa has also spoken of getting down a booster shot making it doubly safe for the people to get about their tasks with the full resumption of normal life. Hopefully, the country before long would achieve herd immunity making it safe for visitors to travel here and give the tourism sector a much needed leg up. The President’s move in getting banks and finance companies to reschedule loan repayments of small businesses and extend deadlines for lease payments too no doubt eased the financial burdens of most. With the easing of the pandemic and resumption of normal life fresh demands are bound to be made. With most businesses still in the doldrums and prospects of restarting failed businesses still a problem, it would be welcome if a further relief period is given to these segments until they tide over the difficulties.

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