THE main issue of the Sri Lanka economic crisis is not just that the people chased away their President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, from power. It is also that the economic future of the country is uncertain. The ouster of the president has not guaranteed any promise of an imminent end to its economic woes.
The Acting President, Ranil Wickremesinghe, must wave some sort of magic wand. Otherwise, he too will go down, probably with the rest of the country.
Sri Lanka’s problems are almost a mirror image of the crises Nigeria faces. The electorate in Sri Lanka made the mistake of electing an incompetent leader, coupled with the misfortune of the COVID-19 pandemic which crippled the country’s cash-cow, tourism. The situation was worsened by the Easter bombings of several cities by Islamic terrorists in April 2019.
With weak internal revenue, Sri Lanka borrowed externally beyond its capacity to pay back. It resorted to money printing to pay salaries which took the inflation rate above 50 per cent. Like Nigeria and many African and Third World countries, Sri Lanka was ruled by the powerful and corrupt Rajapaksa family, whose activities are chiefly blamed for the economic crisis.
Another area where the Sri Lanka chaos resembles Nigeria’s is the fuel energy situation. Unlike Nigeria, Sri Lanka does not produce oil. Rather, it is the world’s 73rd petroleum products consumer. It lacks enough fuel to operate its transport system, and schools have been closed. To conserve fuel, workers are asked to work from home.
It was this energy crisis which directly impacted personal income that triggered the uprising, whereby citizens invaded the presidential palace and forced Rajapaksa to flee into exile.
It was probably to avoid the Sri Lanka situation here in Nigeria that the Muhammadu Buhari government last week announced that it would spend a questionable sum of N6.7 trillion on fuel subsidy in 2023.
The Sri Lanka syndrome is already manifesting here. According to the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, between January and April this year, Nigeria spent N1.94 trillion to service her debts as opposed to N1.63 trillion income. The Buhari government has not shown any sign that it is capable of halting and reversing the trend.
Nigeria’s problems are compounded by security challenges which are threatening to overwhelm the nation. The Buhari regime appears fatigued and waiting for May 29, 2023 to go. Nigerians are at the end of their tether.
Nigerians must strengthen their resolve to ensure that a new crop of leaders that can fix our economic and security woes is enthroned through the 2023 elections. Nothing must be done to hamper the people’s right to choose their next leaders.
Nigeria is redeemable because unlike Sri Lanka, we are endowed. But, one more mistake could be the last.