Monday, February 26, 2024

Unbearable taxes: Aragalists asked for it, didn’t they?

In the heady days of the ‘Aragalaya’ The BASL (Bar Association of Sri Lanka), the right-wing stink tank Advocate (a docile servant of the Atlas Network, an extension of the US foreign policy apparatus), would-be prophets of an economic renaissance including university dons, ex Central Bank high-ups excellently schooled in the relevant dogma and many would-be spokespersons for the ‘Aragalaya’ representing all kinds of activists openly demanded that the government seek IMF support.

The proposals put forward by FUTA (Federation of University Teachers’ Associations) were hilarious: ‘Negotiations with the IMF, including any conditions agreed to must be transparent. Such conditions should not further burden the poor, and should not undermine people’s sovereignty and their access to resources. The process should not create a greater debt trap for the future.’

Were there no economists, historians, sociologists or political scientists involved in drafting these proposals, I wonder. When were negotiations with the IMF ever transparent? Ok, let’s say it’s a decent demand even though it smacks of naïveté and is utterly wishful. How about the second part, i.e. about conditions not further burdening the poor and not undermining people’s sovereignty and access to resources? Don’t they have the intellect to make a symptomatic reading of how the IMF mantra changed from structural adjustment to structural adjustment with a human face and eventually structural adjustment with poverty alleviation? How about the last part, i.e. the process not creating a greater debt trap for the future? What happy-pills have the FUTA membership being popping into their sad mouths?

Then we had Nishan De Mel of Verite Research, another dodgy stink tank, indulging in hilarious punditry:

‘We do not wait of the IMF to give us a plan. The mistake that poor countries make of not using their best economists is that they let the IMF draft the plan. Then that turns out to be impractical because they haven’t thought about the realities of the country.

‘Sri Lanka needs a credible plan to get out. Then tell the IMF show us why this plan is no good. We must negotiate with the IMF as professional, equals, not as third class, citizens or a third class country.’
De Mel may fancy himself as a professional, a first class citizen and one of the best economists in Sri Lanka. He may think he’s better than every single economist who has hitherto negotiated with the IMF. But he is downright silly to think that the IMF is some kind of ethereal, apolitical entity that is willing to correct course if cogent arguments are put forward. No, the IMF is a creature of North America and Western Europe and has never stepped out of line and is unlikely to say ‘your plan is good, it’s better than ours and we will go ahead with it’ if the proposals go against the interests of the true owners of the organization.

De Mel as well as the other IMF-advocates must know, surely, that the USA and its stooges make the biggest voting bloc in the IMF? When ever did the USA do anything considered detrimental to national interests of that country? US thinking on profit and military strategy has never been framed by lovely thoughts such as morality and intellectual honesty. To think that ‘better economists’ can sway Washington is stupid to put it bluntly.

The IUSF (Inter University Student Federation, dominated by the Frontline Socialist Party) made some noises during the aragalaya in opposition to calls for IMF intervention. Tokenism, at best. The JVP/NPP was cagey. Some Marxists, very few, expressed opposition, but it was all low-key stuff. The vast majority of protesters offered what can only be called silent consent. NONE OF THEM were engaged in heated debates with those screaming the IMF Mantra.

What country have these people being living in, one must ask. What planet have they inhabited? Sri Lanka has gone to the IMF no less than 16 times. What was achieved? Do they think that the answer to problems caused by bad medicine is to increase the dosage? And hasn’t FUTA and other outfits learned ANYTHING from how things happened on each of those 16 occasions?

Today, as the present government hurries to put in place preconditions for IMF intervention which include an extremely severe tax regime, some of these very people are getting mighty anxious. They attack the government but say naught about the IMF.

Well, this is what they, in their over-enthusiasm, arrogance and pathetic ignorance wanted, was it not? They agitated, it can be argued, for the right to beg. Now, they, along with those who openly argued against the ‘IMF Mantra,’ have been turned into the most pitiful of beggars.

Can anyone who is agitated by the new tax regime claim that he/she was not part of the Aragalaya. Can anyone so agitated claim that he/she didn’t know that the BASL, FUTA, Verite Research, the Institute of Policy Studies (that supposedly ‘independent’ but slavish adherent to anti-intellectual economic dogma), Advocata, economists who fervently believe that economy and politics are two different planets, IMF minions in the Central Bank and such were agitating, in effect, for just that?

Now someone might say, ‘if not the IMF, then what?’ Indi Samarajiva outlined in April 2022 ‘7 ways the IMF sucks and 7 common sense alternatives for Sri Lanka.’ That’s just ONE of an entire library of articles, papers and books on the topic which of course the neoliberals don’t read or, worse, don’t know the existence of.

The ‘IMF-come, aney’ agitators and their silent approvers are by now well versed in organizing protests. There are some addresses they can march towards and peacefully protest:

The IMF: 30, Central Bank, Janadhipathi Mawatha, Colombo. The US Embassy: 210, Galle Road, Colombo 3. European Union: 389 Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7. Actually, these addresses might very well be familiar to a lot of aragalists considering who funded some of them, egging them on to thuggery, arson, theft and general banditry. After all Colombots, stink tanks, con-artists, bornagainazis, rent-a-protest agitators, candle-light ladies, funded voices and other Kolombians as well as NEDdas (the newly anointed foot soldiers funded by the US National Endowment for Democracy, successor to CIA operations aimed at subverting foreign governments) were partying with the likes of Julie Chung during the Aragalaya.

They could go further. They probably know their own addresses, their own names. They can stay at home and indulge in self-flagellation. They could also visit the offices of stink tanks, lawyers who lowered the bar and ill-informed, intellectually challenged or downright pernicious ‘academics’ and other IMF-loving economists and propose a whip-each-other party.

What they cannot do, if they have a conscious (questionable, yes), is rant and rave against taxes. In fact, the likes of Julie Chung may very well say, ‘You asked for it. You Got it. Now shut up!’ And for once the agitators would realise that she never smiles, but smirks. Indeed, whereas she may have thought to herself, ‘suckers,’ now she might spit it out in their faces.

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