World Views

The Most/Recent Articles

Sri Lanka: Success Story of Power Without Mandate

Wickremesinghe is doing a better job of economic recovery unlike the Rajapaksas whose populist policies plunged the national economy to the south. 

by Col R Hariharan

Revisiting Sri Lanka Perspectives after a two-month break, we find the month of May occupies a special place in Sri Lanka’s history with a seamless continuity of events in yesteryears. The effects of wasteful politics failing to one-half decades of peace after the Tamil separatist war that ended in May 2009 with the death of Prabhakaran have continued. The fractured ethnic relations continue to be used as a political ploy by national parties, often using religious leaders to promote hatred. Under the patronage of Rajapaksas, political Buddhism is well entrenched to trigger public opinion.

It was also on a fateful day in May 1991, vengeful Prabhakaran masterminded the killing of Rajiv Gandhi. The slain former Indian prime minister was a friend of the Tamils. He acted proactively to settle Sri Lanka’s ethnic confrontation in their favour, signing the India-Sri Lanka Accord in 1987. The Accord protectes Tamil identity and provides for limited autonomy the Tamils enjoy now. Prabhakaran’s mindless killing of Rajiv dissipated the ocean of sympathy Sri Lanka Tamils enjoyed in India. It is ironical the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) that extended lukewarm support to the 1987 Accord, in its morphed avatar as Tamil National Alliance ( TNA) now wants India’s help to enforce it.

President Wickremesinghe recently visited the Pannam Kandi field, Kilinochchi and discussed the problems of the farmers there. [ Photo: President Media Division]

The Covid-19 pandemic added to the plight of the people already groaning under the economic mismanagement under Gotabaya. May 9, 2022 is also remembered for the infamous ‘Black Monday’ attack by goons of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) and supporters of Rajapaksas on Aragalaya protesters to disperse them. The Black Monday attacks proved a disaster for the political fortunes of the Rajapaksas. To escape public wrath, they had to quit the government and seek sanctuaries at home and abroad. The Rajapaksas however persuaded Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the United National Party (UNP) rejected by the people in the general elections, to become a proxy prime minister. Ultimately, Ranil was elected President by a majority of parliamentarians.

It can happen only in Sri Lanka that Ranil’s Faustian bargain with Rajapaksas to become President with no popular mandate is leading the fight for Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. It is to Wickremesinghe’s credit that he is doing a better job of economic recovery unlike the Rajapaksas whose populist policies plunged the national economy to the south. It is in this overall backdrop the happenings in the month of May 2023 have to be understood.

One year after Aragalaya

One of the key elements of Aragalaya protest was against the introduction of 20th Amendment by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The 20A had superseded 19A enabling the president to accumulate powers in his hands, particularly in exercising control over the so-called independent commissions and in making key appointments to high office. The 21A is a compromise between the motley collection of parties including Rajapaksa supporters that came together to ensure the Aragalaya protests do not push them into irrelevance. 21A makes the President more accountable to parliament and restore independent commissions.

Before the month ended, the continuing standoff between the Minister of power and energy Kanchana Wijesekara over the sacking of the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCL) Janaka Ratnayake, a Rajapaksa appointee, came to a boil when the parliament voted him out of office as chairman.

Ratnayake’s sacking had all the elements of a B grade TV political serial. Minister Wijesekara as minister has brought some semblance of order in the distribution of energy resources to the suffering of the public. Sacking of Ratnayake was part of his restructuring exercise. But the dismissed PUCL chairman refused to budge and used the publicity garnered by the stand-off, to hint at contesting the next presidential election as a candidate. This minor incident showed the lack of spirit among stakeholders for any reform, even though members may speak eloquently on improving governance.

Incidents of corruption at high levels continue to be reported. They justify the common man’s distrust of the political class. Newspapers reported that a Chinese man with a forged Guinea passport was apprehended by the immigration staff while trying to enter Colombo international airport. The reports said the state minister for urban development and Housing Arundika Fernanda, had instructed the immigration authorities to release him and permit him to enter the country as he was a ‘foreign investor.’

In another sordid incident, the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) Puttalam MP Ali Sabri Raheem was arrested by Customs officers at Bandaranaike air port while attempting to enter the country carrying undeclared haul of 3.397 kg of gold worth SL Rs 75 million. He was also carrying 91 smart phones worth SL Rs 4.2 million. He was released after paying a fine of SL Rs 7.4 million after a brief inquiry. Customs have confiscated the gold and smartphones.

Unless the government is able to curb corruption and aberrations of governance, we can expect another Aragalaya protest to gather strength among the younger generation.

Economic recovery

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff mission made a 12-day visit to Colombo during the month to discuss the recent economic developments and implementation of the IMF supported programme. In a statement the IMF said “Following strong policy efforts, the macroeconomic situation in Sri Lanka is showing tentative signs of improvement, with inflation moderating, the exchange rate stabilising, and the Central Bank rebuilding reserves buffers. However, the overall macroeconomic and policy environment remains challenging.

The mission said it discussed additional fiscal efforts that will be critical to ensure successful revenue mobilisation. The mission also discussed progress on debt restructuring, noting the ongoing discussions with both foreign and domestic creditors. The IMF expected to formally assess the performance under the programme to be undertaken in September 2023. The mission stressed the need to achieve timely restructuring agreements with creditors in line with the programme targets by then. It said the need to keep up the reform momentum, timely implementation of programme commitments on ensuring the independence of the central bank, improved governance and protect the vulnerable people are key for Sri Lanka to emerge from the economic crisis.

The President will have to bite the bullet to sell the IMF package to the people, tighten government expenditure and introduce tax reforms. Unless there is some consensus on the reforms among mainstream political parties, the President will not be able take the country through this difficult process.

Despite political gerrymandering by political leaders, India with $4 billion largesse is in the forefront of nations helping Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. The month ended with the State Bank of India extending a $1 billion credit facility till March 2024. Japan and Western nations are also helping Sri Lanka particularly in restructuring its economy with the help of the IMF.

During the month China’s vice premier for foreign affairs Sun Weidong visited Sri Lanka. The Chinese minister met Sri Lanka’s prime minister Gunawardena and assured that China will increase investments in several areas such as agriculture, trade and commerce, ports and infrastructure development. He also said that China will continue to provide economic assistance as well as support the country’s debt restructuring programme. However, China, the biggest of Sri Lanka’s debtors, has so far not relented to Sri Lanka’s request to defer Chinese debts.

In a significant move, Sri Lanka has signed an agreement with Sinopec Fuel Production and Marketing Dept, a Chinese company, to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum through a dealer network. The company gets a 20 year licence to operate 150 fuel stations currently operated by CPC and invest in 50 more fuel stations. Sinopec will rely on its own funds for fuel procurement from overseas during the initial year of operation. China is well entrenched in Sri Lanka, probably next only to Pakistan, as its much trumpeted international finance city is coming up on the Colombo reclamation project. As China further firms up its presence in Sri Lanka, India and its Quad allies – Australia, Japan and the US – are likely to draw Sri Lanka strategically closer to further Indian Ocean security. Sri Lanka’s economic recovery is tangled in these strategic moves.

Tailpiece -‘Superstar’ Rajinikanth invited: Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner at Chennai

Dr D Venkateshwaran has invited ‘Superstar’ Rajinikanth to visit Sri Lanka “as his presence will enhance cinema induced tourism as well as spiritual and wellness tourism,” according to a media report. The diplomat is said to have personally invited him to explore the “Ramayana Trail” and other Buddhist sacred sites, promoted by Sri Lanka tourism to attract Indian tourists.

World Bicycle Day – A Multi Faceted Solution to Our Problems?

The bicycle personifies determination, perseverance, and the pursuit of freedom. It highlights the theme of overcoming obstacles and embracing independence. 

by Ruwantissa Abeyratne

Nothing compares to the simple pleasures of a bike ride.  John F. Kennedy

The 3rd of June has been designated by the United Nations as World Bicycle Day.  On 12 April 2018 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 72/272 which recalled that the UN Millennium Development Goals in its  2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognize that sport is  an important enabler of sustainable development, and that the potential of the bicycle to contribute to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, as well as The UN’s new urban agenda is significant. The Resolution further recognized that  the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries, coupled with its simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation was invaluable, not to mention its role in  fostering environmental stewardship and health.

Isla de Maipo, Chile [ Unsplash/Ignacio Amenábar]

The Resolution also refers to the synergy between the bicycle and the user which fosters creativity and social engagement and gives the user an immediate awareness of the local environment.  The bicycle can serve as a tool for development and as a means not just of transportation but also of access to education, health care and sport.  Above all, the bicycle is a symbol of sustainable transportation and conveys a positive message to foster sustainable consumption and production and has a positive impact on climate.

It was also recognized that the bicycle  promotes social development through sport and physical education, including cycling, and mentioned its extremely important role of productive public-private partnerships in financing programmes for organizing bicycle rallies to promote peace and development, preservation of the environment, institutional development and physical and social infrastructure.  Therefore, the conclusion reached was that major international and local cycling competitions should be organized in the spirit of peace, mutual understanding, friendship, tolerance and inadmissibility of discrimination of any kind, and that the unifying and conciliative nature of such events should be respected,

The United Nations therefore invited all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other relevant international organizations, international, regional and national sports organizations, civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and all other relevant stakeholders to cooperate in observing World Bicycle Day, to celebrate the Day and to promote awareness of it.  Resolution 72/272 encourages Member States to devote particular attention to the bicycle in cross-cutting development strategies and to include the bicycle in international, regional, national and subnational development policies and programmes, as appropriate and to improve road safety and integrate it into sustainable mobility and transport infrastructure planning and design. In particular , mention is made to the adoption and implementation of  policies and measures to actively protect and promote pedestrian safety and cycling mobility, with a view to achieving broader health outcomes, particularly the prevention of injuries and non-communicable diseases.

All stakeholders are encouraged by the Resolution to  emphasize and advance the use of the bicycle as a means of fostering sustainable development, strengthening education, including physical education, for children and young people, promoting health, preventing disease, promoting tolerance, mutual understanding and respect and facilitating social inclusion and a culture of peace.  In this context Member States are encouraged to adopt best practices and means to promote the bicycle among all members of society, and in this regard welcomes initiatives to organize bicycle rides at the national and local levels as a means of strengthening physical and mental health and well-being and developing a culture of cycling in Society. The Secretary General is requested to bring the Resolution to the attention of Member States and the Organizations of the United Nations system.

My Take

According to this Resolution, the humble bicycle can be a tool for promoting clean air, physical fitness, peace and friendship, social harmony, education, health care, creativity, and sustainable development within a community. In this context it is difficult to envision any other mode of transport, from SpaceX to rail to road transport, or shipping for that matter, or even air transport contributing to all these outcomes. One wonders what the extended use of the bicycle would do in the most polluted cities in the world: Lahore; Hotan; New Delhi; Bhiwadi and Peshawar. Also, what would the effect of cycling to work instead of travelling by taxi do to an executive in terms of obviating diabetes or cardiovascular disease? 

 Apart from disease avoidance cycling plays an important role in promoting physical fitness as an excellent form of exercise that activates  various muscle groups, including the legs, buttocks, and core. It is also medically recognized that regular cycling can improve cardiovascular fitness, build strength, enhance stamina, and help with weight management. Cycling has a distinct advantage over jogging or running as it is a low-impact activity that puts less stress on joints while serving  as an excellent option for those with joint issues or those recovering from injuries. The physical activity generated by cycling boosts mental health and well being, through the release of  endorphins, which can enhance mood and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Cycling can also improve sleep quality and increase overall energy levels.

Another advantage in cycling lies in weight management, as regular  cycling can help burn calories and contribute to weight loss or maintenance. It increases one’s metabolic rate, helping to shed excess body fat and build lean muscle mass. The balance required by cycling increases flexibility and coordination and the agility associated with cycling helps  improve one’s overall motor skills and enhances flexibility, particularly in the hips and lower body.

Cycling is eco-friendly and cost effective.  It reduces carbon emissions and helps preserve the environment. Bicycles have a minimal ecological footprint and contribute to sustainable transportation. There is also the benefit of commuting convenience where a cycle can navigate through traffic congestion, especially in urban areas, bypassing heavy  traffic by using  bike lanes or paths, and easily find parking.

The bicycle personifies determination, perseverance, and the pursuit of freedom. It highlights the theme of overcoming obstacles and embracing independence. Unlike other modes of transport (which are all driven by motor) cycling encourages cyclists to believe in themselves, The marvels of cycling are brought to bear by those who value it. Mark Cavendish, British pro racer  once said: “[T]o me it doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or the sun is shining or whatever: as long as I’m riding a bike, I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”  For the women, Susan B. Anthony, US women’s rights activist said: “The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.”

Ranil in 2048: The Saint of Empty Promises

In 2048 every corner of the island, from the bustling airport to the humble public toilet, one image remains ubiquitous, haunting our every step. It is the portrait of none other than Ranil Wickremesinghe, captured when he was well into his late 80s. 

by Our Political Affairs Editor

Ah, Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean. Once a land of vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, and humble simplicity. Fast forward to 2048, and behold, a transformed Sri Lanka, a “developed” country that has lost touch with its own essence. Strap in, dear readers, as we take you on a satirical tour of the so-called progress that has swept across our island nation.

Firstly, let us marvel at the architectural wonders that now dot the skyline of Colombo. Gone are the quaint colonial buildings that exuded charm and history. They have been replaced by gargantuan glass towers that scrape the heavens, built by faceless corporations in their quest for dominance. Who needs character when you can have uniformity and gleaming windows that reflect a distorted version of our lost heritage?

As the President Mr Wickremesinghe addressing the nation in 2023, 25 years ahead of dream-year 2048 [President's Media Division]

But fear not, dear readers, for the chaos of traffic has been eliminated. How, you ask? By paving over the very essence of Sri Lanka, its lush greenery. Our once-famous tea estates and paddy fields have been replaced by a vast network of soulless highways and concrete jungles. Surely, the eradication of nature is a small price to pay for the convenience of reaching your destination a few minutes earlier.

In this utopia of development, our wildlife has also found a new home. Yes, you guessed it—zoos. Why roam free in the jungles when you can be confined to small, artificial enclosures for the entertainment of the masses? The concept of preserving our biodiversity in its natural habitat is so last century. After all, who needs leopards prowling in the wilderness when you can admire them from the comfort of your air-conditioned enclosure?

Education, too, has experienced a paradigm shift. Forget about instilling critical thinking, creativity, and a love for learning. The future belongs to rote memorization and standardized testing. Our education system now churns out mindless robots who excel at regurgitating information but lack the ability to think for themselves. Who needs innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs when you can have a society filled with obedient cogs in the machinery of progress?

Oh, and let’s not forget the culinary revolution that has taken place. Our traditional rice and curry, bursting with flavours and history, have been overshadowed by fast-food chains and international franchises. Why savour the rich tapestry of our culinary heritage when you can wolf down a bland burger that tastes the same whether you’re in Colombo or New York? Sri Lanka, the land of spices, reduced to just another link in the global fast-food chain.

In the race towards progress, we have also left behind the art of simplicity and genuine human connections. Face-to-face interactions have been replaced by virtual reality headsets and social media platforms. Our conversations are now reduced to emojis, memes, and sound bites. Who needs heartfelt conversations and genuine connections when you can have an online persona with thousands of followers and zero real friends?

Yes, dear readers, Sri Lanka in 2048 is a land that has forgotten its roots, its soul, and its very essence. Progress has come at a great cost, and we must ask ourselves: Is this the future we truly desired? Perhaps it’s time to pause, reflect, and remember that true development lies not in the destruction of our heritage, but in preserving what makes us unique, authentic, and truly Sri Lankan.

But in every corner of the island, from the bustling airport to the humble public toilet, one image remains ubiquitous, haunting our every step. It is the portrait of none other than Ranil Wickremesinghe, captured when he was well into his late 80s. His wise, weathered face gazes upon us, accompanied by a caption that reads, “The one and only man who tirelessly spoke of 2048 for over two decades, teaching us the art of orchestrating successful schemes for power.”

Yes, dear readers, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the maestro of political manoeuvring, has become the revered icon of Sri Lanka’s transformed nation. His visionary foresight, unyielding ambition, and unparalleled knack for survival have placed him on a pedestal above all others. Forget about the great thinkers, innovators, and leaders who shaped the world in meaningful ways. In Sri Lanka 2048, it is all about the art of talking, scheming, and self-promotion.

As you traverse the streets, don’t be surprised to find an endless array of billboards featuring Ranil’s portrait, reminding us of his indomitable spirit and his masterful ability to spin tales of prosperity. The country may be grappling with real issues like inequality, poverty, and environmental degradation, but fear not, for Ranil’s captivating smile is there to distract us from the harsh realities.

The legacy of Ranil Wickeremsinghe, the man who could talk a marathon but rarely delivered on his promises, has become the cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s “success” narrative. His teachings on the art of staging grand schemes for power have been embraced by politicians across the spectrum. From the elaborate infrastructure projects that rarely see completion to the empty rhetoric that fills the airwaves, it’s all part of the grand performance taught by the maestro himself.

It’s a peculiar sight, indeed, to witness the transformation of a country where talking about progress has taken precedence over actual progress. As we stand in front of public toilets, the walls adorned with Ranil’s portrait, we can’t help but ponder the irony. Here we are, in a land where even the most basic amenities are in disarray, yet we are reminded of a man who mastered the art of deception and illusion, where words and image trumped substance and action.

But fear not, dear readers, for Sri Lanka in 2048 is a true testament to the power of perception and the endurance of empty promises. As we gaze upon Ranil’s portrait, we are reminded that talking about progress can be just as powerful as achieving it. So let us bask in the glory of his legacy, for in this surreal landscape of staged success, perception is reality, and words are worth far more than their weight in gold.

Unshackling South Asia: Liberating Democracy from Family Politics

The prevalence of family politics also nurtures a toxic ecosystem of sycophants and opportunists, eager to exploit their proximity to power for personal gain. These individuals infiltrate the very fabric of the state, adeptly maneuvering through situations using cunning tactics and adaptability. 


In the pursuit of progress and development, numerous Asian countries have long grappled with a persistent and destructive phenomenon: the grip of family politics. This deeply ingrained, yet nihilistic practice has undermined the very essence of democracy and entrenched nepotism as the prevailing norm within governing systems. From the Gandhi dynasty in India to the Bhutto family in Pakistan, and from the Hasina clan in Bangladesh to the Senanayake, Jayewardena, Gunawardhana, Bandaranaike, and Rajapaksa dynasties in Sri Lanka, it becomes evident that the political landscapes of these nations have been hijacked by a sense of entitlement and an insidious belief in the divine right to rule. Many of these countries continue to suffer the dire consequences of family politics, emphasizing the urgent need to eradicate this issue in order to unlock the true potential of the Asian century. While India has taken steps towards countering this trend with the election of leader Modi, the roots of nepotism still persist.

Sri Lanka: a line-broken kite [Photo Credit: Allec Gomes/ Unsplash]

One of the most alarming aspects of family politics is the perpetuation of a sense of entitlement among these ruling dynasties. They often view themselves as inherently destined to govern, treating the land and its people as their personal fiefdom. This misguided belief undermines the principles of meritocracy and inclusivity that are vital for a thriving democracy. By monopolizing power and stifling opportunities for fresh talent and diverse perspectives, these family-centric regimes create an environment where political ambition is limited to a privileged few, leaving the majority of citizens marginalized and disenfranchised.

The prevalence of family politics also nurtures a toxic ecosystem of sycophants and opportunists, eager to exploit their proximity to power for personal gain. These individuals infiltrate the very fabric of the state, adeptly maneuvering through situations using cunning tactics and adaptability. For instance, when foreign investors visit these countries in search of opportunities, they often encounter a disheartening experience. They encounter politicians who exhibit rudeness and indifference, creating an inhospitable environment for investment. The investor is then introduced to intermediaries—solicitors or consultants—who claim to facilitate the deal without seeking payment. However, the truth reveals that these intermediaries are merely conduits for bribery, serving as middlemen who negotiate kickbacks for politicians in exchange for project approvals. This systemic corruption discourages genuine investors, eroding trust and impeding economic progress.

In this environment of nepotism and corruption, entertaining visions of the Asian century becomes futile. Such aspirations are nothing more than delusions that distract us from the pressing need to dismantle this network of germs and parasites. In order for the Asian century to become a reality, it is imperative to break free from the shackles of family politics and establish robust institutions capable of delivering justice and accountability. Meritocracy, transparency, and equal opportunities must replace the culture of entitlement and cronyism.

The eradication of family politics demands a concerted effort from both domestic and international stakeholders. South Asian societies must foster a culture of political engagement and civic education that encourages merit-based competition and a commitment to public service. Strengthening legal frameworks, promoting independent judiciary systems, and ensuring the autonomy of key institutions will help shield against the influence of vested interests. Furthermore, international support and cooperation are crucial in the fight against family politics. Diplomatic pressure, collaboration on anti-corruption initiatives, and the promotion of good governance practices can reinforce efforts to break free from the clutches of nepotism and pave the way for genuine democratic progress.

The dream of the Asian century cannot be realized as long as family politics continue to thrive. The entrenchment of ruling dynasties and the accompanying ecosystem of opportunistic parasites hinder progress, undermine democracy, and perpetuate inequality. It is incumbent upon Asian nations to confront this challenge head-on, dismantling the foundations of family politics and cultivating a political landscape that values meritocracy, inclusivity, and accountability. Only then can the region truly embark on a path toward realizing its immense potential and becoming a beacon of progress in the 21st century.

Afghan orphans grieve families killed in U.S.-led war

"When I see other boys with fathers, I wish I had my father here as well," said Sibghatullah, whose father was among numerous Afghan civilians killed in the 20-year U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. 

(Xinhua) -- Asked "what do you want to do in the future?" most kids from an orphanage in Afghanistan's capital city Kabul would answer "I want to be a doctor" without hesitation, as their loved ones were killed in wars and many relatives were injured with lifelong handicaps.

"I lost my father 11 years ago. My earnest desire is for my father to be alive today. My father was a kind and nice man," 12-year-old Sibghatullah whispered.

This photo taken on May 23, 2023 shows Afghan children at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. (Photo by Saifurahman Safi/Xinhua)

Originally from the northern Takhar province and currently living in Kabul, the teenage boy spoke with sorrow that the death of his father had taken everything from his family.

The U.S.-led forces, during their 20-year presence in Afghanistan which ended in August 2021, reportedly killed numerous Afghan civilians and Sibghatullah's father was one of the victims.

"When I see other boys with fathers, I wish I had my father here as well," he said regrettably.

Sibghatullah is just feeling deep grief over his late father, while International Children's Day is celebrated throughout the world to promote children's rights.

Nevertheless, countless children, mostly orphaned ones in war-torn and poverty-stricken Afghanistan, have been deprived of their rights to education and are working on the streets to earn a livelihood for their impoverished families.

"I go to sell shopping bags every day on the streets, if earn some money, I bring naan, Afghan traditional flat bread, home," an orphaned Afghan boy Nawid, who also lost his father during the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan, told Xinhua.

Expressing similar grief, another Afghan teenager Shahab, 14, from the eastern Laghman province, muttered that his life was destroyed after his father was killed a few years ago.

"One day my father and I were walking outside home but suddenly we heard Kalashnikov gunshots and we were both hit. He died and I lost myself and didn't remember much more about the incident," Shahab recalled with grief.

Children are the most vulnerable victims of wars. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), between 2009 and 2018, armed conflicts killed nearly 6,500 children and injured close to 15,000 others.

Shahab, living and attending school in Kabul, dreams of becoming a medical doctor in the future. "My father's dream for me was to become a doctor in the future. I am trying to realize his dream, which is also mine now," he told Xinhua.

Children like the kids at this orphanage might be the luckier ones compared to those curling up on the streets, unattended by any family member.

More than 900,000 Afghans have been newly displaced inside the country since 2021, the vast majority of whom are women and children, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

"My father took care of me, but unfortunately because of the war, I failed to take care of him and now he is dead. My father was a hero," Shahab said.

Cubans striving to boost economic recovery amid U.S. embargo

The Cuban government has initiated various measures to recover the economy, amid the intensification of the six-decade-long U.S. embargo, which has cost the Caribbean nation more than 150 billion U.S. dollars. 

(Xinhua) -- Damarys Ruiz, a state employee from Cuba's capital Havana, expects that the government's strategy to boost the economy can bring prosperity to her country.

The 50-year-old, who works in the field of commerce, told Xinhua that state companies can very much contribute to improving Cuba's economic situation after the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus.

"We are opening the country to foreign investment and a monetary overhaul is underway," she said. "I feel we are moving on the right track."

Doves forage at the historic center of the city of Havana, Cuba, May 4, 2023. (Xinhua/Lin Chaohui)

According to official statistics, the state sector in Cuba provides more than 80 percent of the country's GDP.

In addition, roughly 8,000 small and medium-sized enterprises have been approved on the island since September 2021, the Cuban Ministry of Economy and Planning said in its latest update.

Adriel Perez, who works for a private mobile repair shop in the district of Playa in Havana, said local entrepreneurs can make the Cuban economy more dynamic.

"The private sector is now permitted to import, which is highly beneficial for the quality of service we offer the population," he said.

The Cuban government has initiated various measures to recover the economy, amid the intensification of the six-decade-long U.S. embargo, which has cost the Caribbean nation more than 150 billion U.S. dollars, according to the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Minister of Economy Alejandro Gil said that at present 285 companies are reporting losses. As inflation becomes increasingly severe and complex, he called for increasing production in the food sector, where inflation has the greatest impact.

A significant part of hard currencies has been invested in reactivating agricultural and electronic industries as well as in the imports of rice, pork meat and care products, he told the parliament recently, adding the government continues to implement a package of 63 measures approved in April 2021 to spur national food production.

Meanwhile, Cuba has welcomed over 1.2 million tourists so far in 2023, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Taxi driver Raul Diaz said he believes his country can overcome the obstacles posed by the U.S. embargo.

"We need to continue to work hard, but a better economy is possible," he said. "We are making a huge effort to improve our quality of life. The solution depends on us."

The Cuban government has projected a 3-percent GDP growth in 2023.