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Getting ready for the Avurudhu

By Gamini Weerakoone

(April 05, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian)
The approach of the Avurudhu season leaves us in a confused state. The koha, the harbinger of the New Year is striking melodious notes, for no apparent reason, the vegetation in the neighbourhood and the Koha’s abode itself being devastated by a house builder. Squirrels are chirping loudly and merrily, also for no reason, because the trees on which they frolicked for years have been felled down. They are probably Sinhala kohas and squirrels — like the Sinhalayas preparing to celebrate the Avuruddha without a cent in the pocket.

We too were preparing to celebrate the festive season in a parallel financial state. Our home factotum had just returned from the pharmacy with a bill for drugs approaching a five figure mark. Blessed with a little bit of luck, we are fortified with two bottles of the Golden Waters of Scotland in a ‘Stimulus Avurudhu Package’ from a friend who came home for the festivities.

Yet, we were wondering about the challenges ahead when we saw in a front page of a newspaper the headline: ‘Happy tidings for New Year: Cost of living dips.’ It was the Consumer Affairs Minister Bandula Gunawardena speaking to the rag.

Avurudhu and arrack

Bandula was quoting the Colombo Consumer Price Index computed by the Department of Census and Statistics that had said that inflation was now 5.3 per cent — the lowest to be recorded since January 2004.

Sri Lankans are cynical about computers, the institutions deploying them and the results produced. You all know the hackneyed saying about: Lies, damn lies and statistics. We were thinking aloud on these lines about the C-o-L for the New Year as stated by Bandula Gunawardena with the price a bottle of all varieties of arrack being jacked up by Rs. 50 and a cigarette by Rs 2.

We were thinking aloud and asked: Can a Sinhalaya enjoy his Avuruddha without arrack, cigarettes and an enjoyable boorwa (asking-hitting) session? A spontaneous reply emanated from the nether regions of the house: They are talking about the cost of clean living not the cost of boozing, smoking and gambling. So it dawned on us that there are two indices on the Cost of Living — Clean Cost of Living Index (COL) and the Carousing Cost of Living (CCOL) Index

True the sheer economics of it — Mahinda Chinthanaya — struck us. Mathata Titha (Full stop to drinking). Why not enjoy this event of national joy chewing betel, chunam and tobacco instead of gulping that golden water of Scotland or Lanka? Never mind about oral cancers and all that some anti-national docs attribute to betel chewing. It is in keeping with our culture. We would suggest to the Department of Census and Statistics to carry out a survey on the proportions of Sinhala New Year revellers who could fall into the COL index and the CCOL Index.

Now the trouble about speaking on economic statistics is that very many of us do not understand what it is all about — not even the economists. The global meltdown wrecking the world financial systems is the best example. So with the Chintanaya boys and girls preparing to do Ruhunu Natum all because of the drop in the rate of inflation, we asked an ex-P’deniya economics pundit about it because the hole in our purse remains about the same size irrespective of inflation fluctuations.

The pundit points out that the drop in the rate of inflation does not necessarily mean that the prices have dropped but that the rate at which prices are increasing is much less than before, are static or in some rare instances gone down. But never mind, as in the ‘big’ matches, a winning slogan is called for to keep the spirits up — Apey Pakshey Raja Pakshey…Lanuwa udin ara, Lanuwa yatin…

Gravity and inflation

We were in our hansiputuwa thinking of ways and means to overcome the Avurudhu crisis when it struck us about the nexus between Newton’s Laws of Gravity and the laws on inflation in economics. Newton had said that what goes up must necessarily come down but according to the laws of inflation, as we have observed in our lifetime, what goes up does not come down. So is there a solution to our crisis?

It then struck us that our Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva had shown the way out. It would have saved us at least 10,000 bucks a month. Considering the fact that when the price of a barrel of oil in international markets was around $150 and petrol sold in Mother Lanka was Rs 150 per litre, he ordered the prices to be reduced proportionately. A.H.M. Fowzie was removed from the post of oil minister along with Petroleum Corporation Chief Asantha De Mel. But the laws of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse supersedes Newton’s Laws of Gravity, laws of inflation, orders of the Supreme Court and the price of oil. Fowzie and De Mel stay, come what may. That’s the law of the land.

Memory

You readers will remember how lustily we cheered the Supreme Court and called for the heads of Fowzie and De Mel after the ruling? But both remain firm in their positions and so is the price of petrol. And what of the hedging scandal that cost Sri Lanka millions, if not billions? Sri Lankan memories have shifted. Now it’s Puthukudirippu Ampalanvanpokkani Road, Iranapali and Pirapaharan’s son.

Even at this time when Velupillai Pirapaharan is on his last legs, we raise our glass for his trite observation: The memory of the Sinhalayas does not last beyond two weeks.

Who remembers the Supreme Court rulings on oil? Who remembers the hedging scandal? Atta boy Velu! He understood the Sinhala mind too well. That’s how he waged war for 25 years.

However all these philosophical ramblings will not help people in overcoming the Avurudhu crisis. Will Bandula Gunawardena’s contention that the inflation rate is the lowest ever, help? Our wish is for an Avurudhu Stimulus Package in the form of a reduction in oil prices as ordered by the Supreme Court. It is time to follow the new American leader.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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