Is the Orgy of the Oligarchs Over Yet?
Published in Uncategorized. Tags: Communist Party, Elephants, Fitch, Forgive Debt, IMF, Maharajah, Multinationals & Supply Chains, Recession, Save the Postal Service, Unilever, Verite, War Footing, Wijeya Group.
Please note the new address of our ee blog: eesrilanka.wordpress.com
“Before you study the economics, study the economists!”
“If you know your history, then you’ll know where I’m coming from,
Then you wouldn’t have to ask me, who the hell do you think I am?” – BM & W
Is the Orgy of the Oligarchs Over Yet?
e-Con e-News 05-11 April 2020
A1. Random Notes – Multinationals Monopolize SL Distribution • Veg Goes Waste • State pays large import bills to SMEs • Advocata’s Crocodile Tears for Fake Industry • Who Made Workers Precarious? • What’s a Recession? • Unilever as the Real Censor • Fitch & the Fudge • EU claims it Helps us with Hygiene! • The Real War on Terror is On • Wijeya Group Monopoly • Attacks on China & Chinese
A2. Reader Comments – IMF will demand more privatization • Dialog’s Monolog • Companies Use Covid to Cut Worker Pay • Oil goes down but $ goes up • Media & Muslims • Nationalism & Education Texts • Humans & Elephants & Chili
A3. Quotes of the Week – Sally Changes His Mind for Now • Liberal Media Double Standards • Cultivators Can’t Sell Veg • Neoliberals Change their Minds • China’s CP Controls Economy
B. ee Focus
B1. How the IMF ‘Forgives’ Debt – Dr Garvin Karunaratne
B2. Sunday Times Reviews the Economic Fallout
B3. Mel Watkins, SBD de Silva & Staple Base Dynamism
B4. How to Save the Postal Service – Mike Davis
C. News Index
A1. Random Notes (‘Seeing Number in Chaos’)_
MNCs Control the Supply Chains?
The rarefied drawing rooms of Colombo are all abuzz with self-anointed ladies and gentlemen, including those who just made it west of Borella, regurgitating the imperial versicle that a ‘Communist agenda’ is being imposed under the facemask of curbing Covid.
Here then is a warning to the President and the government delivered through last week’s Sunday Times, owned by Wijeya Group aka Lakehouse Printers & Publishers PLC (LHPP) – linked to former PM Ranil Wickremasinghe, who sits on its Board, despite a seeming conflict of interest (LLHP prints govt cheques!):
“What we are seeing is a sweeping and radical move to stem the tide with the beginning of import restrictions and hints about import substitutions the likes of which might lead to what has not been witnessed since the liberalisation of the economy in 1977 – and a return to the bad old days of not that long ago… Covid-19 has come as a deft distraction to sneak draconian import restrictions & other measures that will inevitably see a return to the pre-1977 era in Sri Lanka… Putting the country on a ‘war footing’ is not the same as a top heavy state control of the economy. That would only ignore long & complex supply chains for distributing commodities.” (see ee Economists, Times Editorial)
So they wish a “war footing” but not the “top heavy” kind. Yet who exactly are these “long & complex supply chains for distributing commodities” that the government is guilty of ignoring? NewsFirst, another private media outlet, divulges (inadvertently perhaps), “the State Team attempting to distribute essential food, vegetables and medicines via state institutions”, “was bound to be a failure” because it did not ‘leverage’ “the smallest retail stores closest to the households, effectively reached normally by distribution & supply chains of leading manufacturers like Unilever/Ceylon Tobacco/ Capital Maharajah/Reckit & Colman etc.”
Maharajah’s NewsFirst forgot to add Caltex (oil), Nestlés (dairy), Prima (Flour), Baur (fertilizer) & IOC (oil). They also forgot Unilever’s supposed FMCG competitor Proctor & Gamble (USA) that operates through Hayleys. So, aren’t these multinationals the most “top heavy” of them all, who sustain the local oligarchs who have indulged in an orgy of consumption? (see ee Agriculture)
Local Farm Products go to Waste
Yet despite these “long and complex chains”, an Island news item notes much local vegetables & fruit go to waste, for want of proper storage and transport. So why do these multinational distribution chains ignore local products? Are they only interested in importing manufactured goods and exporting local raw resources? Is this why their media is so concerned about restrictions on imports?
The State & The Import SMEs
The Sunday Times offers an answer when it notes the state has to pay large bills for pharmaceutical, fertilizer and construction materials to SME contractors & suppliers of textbooks, rations etc.
Now most of the raw materials for these so-called SME goods are imported. And, even if these SMEs source local goods, the machinery and the parts for those machines have to be constantly imported (see ee Industry).
Take one SME – a coconut husking business –extolled by US-bankrolled Advocata. Advocata’s economic profundity does not go beyond talking of the ‘struggle’ the employer faces, not ask where the machine the employer uses comes from. How many of those 5 (yes, five!) employees are actually learning new skills? Why is the raw fibre being exported, and why aren’t those the products made here for the home market, let alone for export?
Nor does Advocata ask, how many others can also replicate such a business, furthermore if the entire country was turned into one big coconut-husking zone, would we need schools or universities to train more huskers, and would it transform the economy from being a favored capitalist hub for low-wage exploitation?
Advocata’s Crocodile Tears
US Advocata is also concerned that restricting imports will hurt the “economically marginalized” (not saying who marginalized them!) who’ll have to pay higher prices for uncompetitive local products. They think ‘the poor’ must be idiots. Once local producers are run out of business by cheap imports, the importers will jack up prices far beyond the locals ever charged.
Who Made Workers Precarious?
So who is FT, ST, DM, Verite, Advocata etc really speaking for? Why do the multinational ventriloquists need such dummies?
The Wijeya Group’s Financial Times laments: “Countries that have allowed the emergence of an irregular & precarious labour market are finding it particularly hard to channel financial help to workers with such insecure employment.” What the FT refuses to confess is who demanded these precarious working conditions. The concerted calls by all this media and the corporations & foreign interests they speak for, with their violent anti-union policies and calls for outsourcing & ‘labour flexibility’, promoted the need to create a fragmented atomized hungry proletariat.
The IMF and all their dummies are claiming we are heading towards a recession. But it was clear from the last crisis, that the cures provided, of even greater financialization and consumption rather than production, keep leading anyway to even greater crises.
What is recession? but a regular moment in capitalism, a manufactured crisis, whereby the bigger sharks, having lured the smaller fish to feast at the banquet/casino of the stock market, get them hooked, then pull the plug on them, flush the toilet, to harvest bait and all.
Unilever as Sponsor & Censor
• Unilever and other multinationals act not just as sponsors but also as censors of the media. It is surely curious why the Free Media Movement ignores their role. Many is the time the US and the English envoys have demanded the removal of editors, and been so obliged. for perhaps it does not look good on them when critical coverage is noted in London or Washington.
Multinationals are usually given to remaining as quiet as hikmeeya – their will being done through an occasional squeak, even as they hog the limelights of tv and the rest of the media.
No media dare challenge their sponsors. An article, ee reproduced from Sunday Morning newspaper (“The President’s Ear in this Hour of the Corona”) has been erased from its website (see epaper.themorning.lk/Home/ShareArticle?OrgId=b768318b&imageview=0). The article (see eesrilanka.wordpress.com/2020/03/14) had the temerity to expose how, contrary to the usual claim Sri Lanka has no large home market, the Unilever chairman proudly states: “The consumer base in the Western Province is almost equal to the consumer base in Thailand which is affluent and modern”! Wow! Thailand has 70 million people!
So much for the media freedom that the English newspapers like to claim they uphold! The MNC ventriloquists also speak through other nominally UN organizations like the IMF & World Bank, not just through such force multipliers and amplifiers like the corporate media, which they control through advertising agencies & tax-free budgets – profits workers pay for!
Their media tells us, unquestioningly, the IMF/WB/WTO kindly wishes to ‘suspend’ debt. A debt we can only afford to keep paying the interest on interest and principle? As for the IMF’s 75-year old practices, the real aim of such limited ‘largesse’, which they will later shower on us in even larger doses, will be to demand more privatization of public goods, like water, electricity etc. (see ee Focus 1)
They Cannot Help Themselves But Wish to Help Us?
Fitch is as usual worried for us. These US-based ratings agencies (incl, Moody’s & S&P), whose indices are widely trumpeted in the media, whether we like it or not, are only concerned that we are able to keep paying off the interest on ‘our’ debts to the international capital markets based in New York and London (who own these rating agencies).
The EU even this week claimed to be kindly helping us with ‘water, sanitation, hygiene’, etc? The US also kindly gave us a loan to fight Covid, even as they appear unable to help their own citizens, and are blatantly hijacking medical supplies meant for other countries.
The banks and MNCs based in their countries, keep echoing the IMF etc’s demands.
Is it their mouthpieces, the corporate media, who amplify constant wails of allied economists and thinktanks, who warn against local industrial production to first serve the home market? Instead, they extoll the pleasures of the colonial import-export economy that has kept us in underdeveloped thrall.
The Stare & Manufacturing Manufacturers
What an absolute and sheer waste of time, the media as a pervasive ‘educational’ institution, represents. The hours & hours and days & days of vacuous programming! It’s time the media too be nationalized, and we promote a producer culture rather than the imported consumer culture it revels in. Why not a Machine-Maker Superstar? Tho what we need is not cosmic stellar forces but down-to-earth production, starting with the simple pin! What we need is not entrepreneurs but a state that invests in modern production, that manufactures manufacturers!
There is no more time to waste. The state must begin rationing. The state must nationalize production & distribution, and this includes all the essential infrastructure of the digital age (see ee Focus, Save the Postal Service). The private & semi-private, the phone companies, supermarkets & all private delivery services must be nationalized, operated as a series of democratically administered public utilities. Rationing must be implemented now if many are not going to starve while a few hoard.
MNCs and the Mafia
The long and complex chains of Unilever, CTC, Caltex, etc, include not just goods but also the corruption of official regulatory bodies, let alone links to local warlords (unofficial enforcers). There is ample evidence, for example, that CTC itself is involved in the smuggling of cigarettes to avoid taxation.
MNCs & Terror
It is clear from the news above, from their threats and disquiet, that multinationals and their agents are ready to use Covid to escalate their wars to uphold the orgy of the oligarchs. Those who complain about militarization, must also ask how long this orgy of consumption could be maintained at the expense of an entire nation?
It shows us there’s a war on terror yet to be won. Terrorists who’ve indirectly held the entire country, south, north, central, west & east, economically hostage for over 7 decades now. That they are the real minority, there’s now no doubt, taking over from direct English rule, which left us the most impoverished peasantry in Asia.
These terrorists have been responsible for much of the misery, death & destruction visited upon this land, particularly on the cultivator & worker, who constitute the real majority. The financial terrorists are now claiming Corvid is causing a recession. Yet recession is always a ready resort of financial capitalism that invested not in production but in consumption
These terrorists are using Covid to debilitate the country even more. These terrorists shall have to be defeated, the sooner the better. So are these terrorists, these “equal opportunity” “inclusive” “diverse” “sustainable” and “green” white multinationals, who happily play Asians against Asians, Indian & Tamil & Muslim against Sinhala & Chinese?
• Wijeya Group and China Bashing
It is apparent, from the multinationals the Times is silent about, but listed in NewsFirst, that these are who the Wijeya Group truly represent, not the people of the country. 15 Wijeya Group Newspapers monopolize 47% readership, and their claim to be liberal at at the same time promote backwardness is enlightening, if not revolting (see ee Media, Wijeya & Anti-China bashing). It is no surprise that these MNCs, based in London & NY primarily, would be happy to create chaos with echoes of all the Julys in the 1980s, albeit targeting not just China’s rise in the world, let alone Chinese people resident here (see ee Media), but a more diverse population who oppose US hegemony in the country, retaining us in underdeveloped thrall.
In the End
The need of this Corvid hour is to not just displace the overwhelming power of financial capitalism but to socialize multinational networks that have hijacked the role of governments. In the end, all this anti-communism, anti-China and anti-restrictions chatter is to prevent the rise of a self-sufficient modern industrial economy in Sri Lanka.
A2. Reader Comments
• “Last ee had variety of subjects during a week where nothing but corona figures in the news. On the debt retirement ee speaks of, are there examples where WB/IMF have written off loans to countries due to the extreme hardships they face?” (ee: Yes. The IMF usually demands more privatization of water, power, etc; see ee Focus, Karunaratne)
• “Long. Saw some good ideas. How can it be shorter and pithy yet retain but a link for further reading below” – Member of the Public
“Advocata says we are heading for a recession. But weren’t we in a recession for the last few years already? Advocata says nothing can be done than borrowing. But why can’t we start our own modern industries? Advocata is dead against it.” – youtube.com/watch?v=KQEcRM4kAVs
• “People are forming groups against Dialog, though how effective they are is still unclear, despite the modernist claims of high-tech, their actual practices are akin to the worst of the sweatshops and their treatment of customers is awful.”
• “My husband’s software company just told they gonna deduct 10% from his salary, because of Covid. Yet he has to work the same number of hours. Apparently they have to cut down costs only from the Sri Lankan team, saying business is bad these days. Their new top management including the CEO is English. Meanwhile businesses are getting trillions of public money. They were just waiting for a reason to cut costs.”
• “News is so partisan and analysis superficial, those calling for reduction in oil prices should remember that the US$’s rise erases any gains in lower oil prices, making it difficult to reduce domestic oil prices. It also increases external debt repayments by SL. China meanwhile is promoting trade in local currencies to protect demand for its exports from the rising US$.”
• ‘Sri Lankan officials are attacked in Groundviews and other articles for mentioning the word ‘Muslim’ with reference to Covid. Yet here is BBC News with Krutika Pathi: “The health ministry says 30% of all active cases (3,219) are linked to a weeks-long event organised by a Muslim congregation that sparked a new wave of Covid-19 cases…4 men from SL have tested positive in India after they attended a weeks-long event organised by a Muslim congregation that’s been in the news for setting off Covid-19 clusters across India.” (bbc.com/news/live/world-52178501)
• “Re: the Presidential Task Force set up to look into education sector (see ee Sovereignty) – This is an area that patriots must: give examples of distortions of history in textbooks from Grade 1-12. Insist on the need for TRUE history of Sri Lanka to be included in history books (not the version of Vijaya). Insist that private/international schools teach history as mandatory. Right livelihood and care for animals included. Life skills and handiwork programs using materials from own districts included into curriculum. Revision of current textbooks on all subjects in all languages – some Tamil texts have a version of their own history.” (see adaderana.lk/news.php?nid=62114)
• “Congrats on the hard-hitting last e-con. ee would agree that the human/elephant conflict is a problem that concerns all elephant lovers and persons who sympathize with the poor farmers. In the ‘80/90s when I was working in Africa I heard about the use of chili against marauding herds of elephants in some East African countries. I also found it is also practiced in Assam. Having heard the stories about the success of the method I did some web searching and found a few authoritative articles on the subject. In 1992 I sent the material to the Wildlife Dept (which did not even acknowledge the letter) and to several senior public servants, suggesting they try it out. There was also a centre-page article in the Island on the subject. A few months back I emailed the documents to the then Minister of Wildlife, which did not result in any response.
I now see several new articles on the subject. The simple method is to burn dry red chilis, the smoke of which is supposed to be unbearable to the very delicate nose (trunk) of elephants, which apparently have a sense of smell up to 4 times that of a bloodhound. It’s been reported an elephant can smell water from several miles away! There seem to be many ways of using chili. I believe it should be effective enough if chili smoke is used when elephants invade the compounds and even attack houses. I wonder whether a little publicity in ee would induce somebody to try out the method. – theconversation.com/burning-chillies-and-dung-could-help-stop-elephants-damaging-farmers-crops-88497
A3. Quotes of the Week__
• “At least in the short-term, the libertarian toolkit has to be put to one side as there is clear rationale for short-term intervention given the massive unanticipated shock,” said Razeen Sally’
“When some Sinhala media spread misleading news about an event in UAE, the embassy in Sri Lanka issued a strongly worded statement saying: “The Embassy strongly condemns this deliberate attempt and urges the relevant authorities in Sri Lanka to take necessary steps to remove the said news items from all websites immediately”
The UAE requested direct government intervention to censor the media. No liberal said a word about free speech then because it suited their agenda against Sinhala nationalist media.
China meanwhile has made a strong but civil statement defending it’s position with facts. Liberals are calling this bullying and censorship! As Chinese diplomats would say: “hypocrisy and double standards!”
• “Meanwhile, in some areas, farmers cannot dispose of their produce, even when there is no curfew, as is public knowledge. It was reported, the other day, bananas were being distributed, free of charge, in Ambalantota, as there was no demand for them in the area, and they could not be transported elsewhere under the current circumstances. One of the main reasons for shortages of locally produced food items, in some parts of the country, is lack of transport and storage facilities. There are occasions when farmers, especially those in North Central Province, dump their produce on the wayside, in protest, even when vegetable prices are high, in other areas like Colombo. Successive governments have pledged to provide the vegetable-producing areas with storage facilities and establish a distribution network. But the problem persists as that promise has been reneged on. The incumbent govt may be able to tackle it with the help of Sathosa, whose vehicle fleet needs to be augmented substantially; most of all, this vital state venture must be rid of corruption and efficiently run.”
“A string of neoliberal states have been forced to suspend vast areas of capitalist production and services, nationalise key industries and expand the social wage. Spain has taken private healthcare companies under local government control. Norway, where unemployment rose 128% in a single week, has introduced full pay for those laid off. New Zealand has introduced wage subsidies and benefit hikes. Sweden has guaranteed 90% pay for laid off workers, while Denmark will cover 75% pay. France has annulled rent & utility bills, and declared the state will subsidise the whole economy. Even the Trump administration is promising to send cheques to workers to enable them to survive the economic shutdown, predictably outflanking the Democrats to the ‘left’ by proposing a policy that Nancy Pelosi shot down only a week before. Even the NYT is now calling for every American to be sent a cheque for $2000 immediately, to prevent the collapse of capitalism. The Johnson administration, reluctant as it has been, primed as it is to pay first heed to the financial sector, and second heed to businesses and property owners, is getting there – albeit their foot-dragging has already cost lives and livelihoods.”
• “China’s Communist Party retains control over key industries and, unlike capitalist societies like the USA, remains independent from the interests of privatized capital. The Party’s response to coronavirus makes this clear – the Ministry of Commerce is overseeing regional market coordination to ensure the flow of key products such as grain, meat & eggs into Hubei province while coordinating production and distribution of masks and other medical products; Chinese e-commerce platforms have forbidden price increases on n95 masks and other necessities; the government has promised subsidies to cover medical expenses for all coronavirus patients; massive state purchases by the Hubei govt to ensure adequate supply of masks, state-owned China State Construction Engineering undertook the rapid construction of two emergency quarantine hospitals in Wuhan, state-owned electrical company China State Grid contributed over 110mn yuan in cash and physical assets to support the construction of power facilities to support hospitals in Wuhan, while announcing that electricity would be ensured to Hubei residents during the quarantine regardless of their ability to pay…” – qiaocollective.com/home/how-chinese-socialism-is-defeating-the-coronavirus-outbreak
B. Special Focus_
B1. How the IMF ‘Forgives’ Debt – Dr Garvin Karunaratne
In response to an ee reader’s question about examples where the WB/IMF have written off loans to countries due to the extreme hardships they face, we present excerpts from G Karunaratne’s book How the IMF Sabotaged Third World Development (Godage Publishers):
‘…Various leaders of governments have also repeatedly brought the ill effects of the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Program to the notice of the IMF and have demanded that these Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) policies be changed. …Argentina’s President Kirchner in 2004 begged the IMF to change direction to become developmental, but his appeal fell on deaf ears…
The IMF, instead of changing course, continued to insist and impose the SAP policies further and further, with greater severity, compelling countries to open their economies to more exploitation by investors from developed countries. This is very clearly illustrated in what has happened to Ghana… When Ghana’s economy was made indebted by following the SAP, what the IMF did was to cancel the debt, insisting on further opening of the economy for exploitation, which resulted in Ghana becoming even more indebted within a few years. In actual fact, the IMF has bled Third World countries to death. The IMF has virtually destroyed the economies of countries that did not have a foreign debt, and did have self-reliant economies, to become even more indebted, so that the countries fell within the dictates of the superpowers and their financial institution, the IMF…
When impoverished countries became really helpless with a debt that they could not even service, the IMF came up with the HIPC (Highly Impoverished Poor Countries Initiative). In 2005, the HIPC was supplemented with the MDRI (Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative) and provided 100% debt relief, provided the country implemented further reform. For instance, Ghana was given a new lease of life by the cancellation of all debts in 2005, provided Ghana followed further conditions. This enabled Ghana to borrow again, and Ghana was again overly indebted to the extent of $28.4bn, by 2011, and then the debt servicing cost was well over the total revenue of the country. The HIPC has been criticized as “a program designed by creditors to protect creditor’s interests, leaving countries with unsustainable debt burdens.” (Carrasco, et al, Foreign Debt Forgiveness & Repudiation, University of Iowa, Center for International Finance & Debt: 2007)…
When the IMF forgave the foreign debt of Ghana, the new conditionality included forced privatization of water services and opening up of agriculture to foreign companies. Though Ghana was given a reprieve of $4bn in 2006, the liberal economy without exchange controls & free imports meant that by 2011 the foreign debt had ballooned to $13.4bn. Opening up water services for investors mean that foreign companies come in establish water storage and purification systems and sell water to the people. They collect profits forever! This is the process set up by the IMF for capital (foreign exchange) to flow back from the Third World to Developed Countries.
B2. Sunday Times Reviews the Economic Fallout
ee reproduces excerpts from a Sunday Times listing of thoughts by academics and businessmen (they’re all male) on what must be done now. Some indulge in the usual big talk of digitalization, etc, the double talk of bailing out corporates and workers, others wish to further the capitalist agenda of changing labor laws to screw workers, while several refrain the financial chorus of global markets, staying under IMF-WB dicta. Advocata, as per their US masters, wish us to abolish price and import controls, while claiming to help the ‘marginalized’ ignoring that under monopoly, once price controls are gone and competition undone, prices will zoom. Here are 2 of the more temperate responses:
• Back to the basics for Sri Lanka by Dr TL Gunaruwan, senior academic, University of Colombo
The coronavirus has offered an opportunity to mankind, and particularly to Sri Lankans, to sit back and think whether the so called “development path” hitherto followed is correct and sustainable.
While understanding the gravity of the situation, and wishing those affected speedy relief, it may also be worth reflecting that the least affected are those who have a greater degree of self-sufficiency in their lifestyles & livelihoods. The bloated-up balloon called “market” has been burst, & that “invisible hand” – conventional neoliberal economists venerate as a “divine force” – has truly gone “invisible”.
Those who were living beyond their means are being forced to come down to earth. There is no assurance that these sorts of collapses in the international trade flows would not happen in the future, not only for reasons of epidemics, but also for other disturbances such as conflicts or wars. Therefore, Sri Lankans should resolve to revert back to basics – economic philosophical heritage of our own, particularly, (a) simple lifestyle, (b) consumption for existence instead of existence for consumption, (c) economic self-reliance and producing those essential goods/services locally (particularly food, water, clothing, medicine, energy, shelter) to the maximum extent we can, (d) recognise the value of farming, and the strategic necessity that farmers should become rich – this cannot be achieved when we import wheat-flour at such low prices, (e) investment priority over consumption, (f) investment through national savings to the best possible extent, (f) living within our means and not getting into further foreign debt, (g) determining national assets to the benefit of our own, and not for foreigners, (h) re-orienting the public service and state enterprises to make those efficient and to give them a productivity orientation: (i) prioritising socio-economic equality as an essential ingredient of development, and (j) promoting local research, inventions/innovations and technological advancements, particularly in applied industrial/agricultural/service domains.
• Women Worst Hit – by Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, Senior Lecturer, University of Jaffna
In Sri Lanka as well as globally, women are the worst hit by the economic fallout from the ongoing pandemic, Covid-19. This is because women account for the largest proportion of the informal labour force in all the countries (both developed & developing), including Sri Lanka. The informal jobs, including daily wage jobs and self-employment, are the first economic casualty of any natural or human-made disaster such as the current one. The jobs of around one million Sri Lankan women in West Asia and elsewhere are at risk. Moreover, women are at the forefront of the health care of the infected throughout the world, and indeed the carers of children and elderly in their respective homes as well. Besides, there is growing evidence of domestic violence and intimate partner violence against women in their self-quarantined homes and shelters throughout the world, including SL.
In order to compensate for bearing the disproportionate burden of the economic and the social cost of the pandemic, I propose that the government should make a one-off cash payment of Rs10,000 to one female from each family who is not in a monthly paid job either in the public, private, or non-govt sector and/or who is not in a registered self-employment or business.
B3. Mel Watkins, SBD de Silva & Staple Base Dynamism
This week saw the passing of Canadian economist Mel Watkins. ee recalls Watkins cos some of Sri Lankan economist SBD de Silva’s ideas in his book The Political Economy of Underdevelopment,
were based on Watkins’ & Harold Innis’ Staples Theory, what SB would refer to as Staples Base Dynamism (SBD, like his initials!). SBD theory related to the practices in settler colonial states like Canada, where staples such as wheat and milk, rather than being only exported to England, led to the development of highly mechanized local industries such as bread, cakes, alcohol & other wheat-based products, as well as cheese, yoghurts & other dairy products. Unlike in non-settler colonial states such as Sri Lanka, where we were forced then and still export raw resources and buy manufactured products. Watkins, a Canadian nationalist who opposed that country’s domination first by England and now the USA, derived his staple theories from his teacher, historian economist Harold Innes, whose famous work The Fur Trade argued how much the Canadian economy owned to the industrial products of the original people, such as fur clothing, snowshoes, sleds, toboggans, etc.
Here are some obits:
• Mel Watkins: a Life Well Lived
‘Mel is best remembered for his seminal article “A Staples Theory of Economic Growth” in the Canadian Journal of Economics in 1963… Briefly put, Watkins set out a theoretical framework to explain Canadian economic development and underdevelopment as profoundly shaped by the demand of the dominant metropolitan power for raw resources or staples, around which the dominant parts of the domestic economy, such as the banks and transportation networks were organized. In counterpoint, the state often worked to counter the dependency upon staples by deepening the linkages from the staple sector to national economic development, eg by promoting the processing of raw resources, and substituting domestic manufactured goods for imports… to Mel’s enormous credit, he played a major role in overcoming a significant gap in left political economy. Based on his work for the Berger Inquiry into the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline and its potential impacts on the Dene nation, Mel identified and explored the issue of internal colonialism & the subjection of Indigenous peoples by the settler state.’
• Mel Watkins: Engagement for the common good
‘Innis, the only Canadian economist residing in Canada to be elected president of the American Economics Association, inspired Mel to research how exports of staple products like wheat, pulp and minerals linked back into communities, defining their character, and how government planning could promote industrial upgrading of raw materials, and improve production techniques… Innis had come up with concepts like margin and periphery, and staples exports. These were essential in understanding how the Canadian economy grew with rising commodity prices for staples exports, and faltered when they fell – as oil prices are doing now – and as wheat prices did in the 1930s, contributing to the depths of the depression on the Prairies… The Watkins Commission report, the 1968 royal commission study Walter Gordon as president of the Privy Council in the Pearson govt commissioned Mel (& a group of economists he assembled) to produce on foreign ownership, revealed appalling weaknesses. Foreign ownership typically took the form of US corporations establishing wholly owned Canadian branch plant operations. Canadians could not invest in these companies, which were occupying a growing share of manufacturing & resource extraction, except by buying shares in the parent US company. The payments going back to the US, of interest, dividends and profits on US ownership capital in Canada, had Canada borrowing in the US to fund the outflow of money. Though nominally Canadian companies, Canadian governments were unable to require US branch plants to report on their business activities… The ‘good governments balance budgets’ storyline that Mel opposed… was most recently debunked by the coronavirus pandemic, as the truth began to leak out: the federal government could create money, not just the chartered banks.’
• Remembering political economist Mel Watkins
‘The Watkins report led to the creation of the federal Foreign Investment Review Agency – which lasted for about a decade and a half before the Brian Mulroney Conservatives abolished it – and other measures to encourage home-grown Canadian industry… the staples theory, which Mel expanded, based on the work of his mentor Harold Innis, “provided an account of Canada’s economic development according to which the production and export of commodities from cod, to beaver pelts, to wheat, to lumber, minerals and oil fundamentally shaped Canada’s political economy.”’
• Mel Watkins’ warning: Public safety requires public ownership
The Waffle movement founder passed away April 2 after raising the alarm for decades against privatization and outsourcing of critical industries.
B4 How to Save the Postal Service, by Mike Davis
For starters, nationalize Amazon and the rest of the essential infrastructure of the digital age.
On March 23, Democratic House Committee Chairs Carolyn Maloney and Gerry Connolly called attention to an increasingly dire emergency. “Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical falloff in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House,” they said in a statement. The Democrats are pushing debt forgiveness and financial aid for this most vital part of our public infrastructure. But there’s an additional step that can be taken that doesn’t add to the deficit or compete with other priorities: an excess profits tax.
Since we are now in “wartime,” according to the White House, it’s important to recall some fiscal lessons from previous wars. One month before entering WWI, with the nation already mobilizing for the conflict, President Woodrow Wilson signed an excess profits tax designed to curb war profiteering & raise revenue from the rich. By 1918, corporations were being taxed from 30-80% of their estimated excess profits. Simultaneously, the maximum income tax rate was hiked to 77%, a 1,100% increase over the 1916 rate. The government took over the railroads for the duration of the war. At the end of the conflict, the railroad unions fought a heroic battle for their permanent nationalization. Meanwhile, the excess profits tax remained in effect until the inauguration of Warren Harding in 1921.
The tax, however, had been unevenly and loosely implemented, allowing banks and corporations, especially munitions makers, to disguise profits. In 1934 a special Senate committee headed by North Dakota’s Gerald Nye labeled them “merchants of death” and investigated their role in pushing the country into war. (The young Alger Hiss was one of the committee’s lawyers.)
That same year, the Vinson-Trammell Act mandated that shipbuilders and aircraft manufacturers selling to the Navy had to agree to limit their profits to 10% of the contract price. They were required to return any excess to the Treasury. This law was later extended to other categories of public contracting, and in the summer of 1940 a new excess profits tax granted broad powers to the Army and Navy, limiting profits by fixing fees to 7& of estimated costs.
The US declared economic war on the Axis powers with the passage of the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941. 9 months later, after Pearl Harbor, the series of War Powers Acts passed by Congress preserved the 1940 excess profits tax and its 7% limit. In addition, President Franklin Roosevelt struck back against the people he called “economic royalists,” signing an executive order in Oct 1942 that authorized a 100% “super-tax” on incomes over $25,000 (~$390,000 today). Although Congress repealed it 5 months later, it was popular with some sectors of the public.
As the wartime Office of Price Administration gained expertise in estimating production costs and profits, it assumed statutory authority to revisit and renegotiate procurement contracts. Its power to force refunds of excess profits – vigorously opposed by business – enhanced the effectiveness of the 1940 excess profits tax and was consolidated by the Renegotiation Act of 1942.
As the Cold War threatened to turn hot in 1948, a more limited version of the 1943 act was revived and expanded with the outbreak of the Korean War. During the oil crisis at the end of the 1970s, the Democratic majority in Congress renewed the idea of an excess profits tax, but the resulting Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax Act in 1980 was only a pale imitation of the previous laws.
The coronavirus pandemic has produced a profiteer whose power to exploit the emergency far exceeds that of the steel industry or munitions makers during the past century’s world wars. His name is Jeff Bezos. Amazon’s business volume & earnings, of course, are growing at an almost incalculable speed, but there’s a bigger story: The current crisis is almost certainly an extinction event for 10,000s, perhaps 100,000s, of small businesses and franchises. This will hugely expand Amazon’s domination over retail distribution, especially as home delivery permanently increases its scope. Amazon is becoming the largest monopoly in world history.
Today’s progressive Democrats should be at least as bold as Wilson, Roosevelt & Truman and draft a new excess profits tax bill in the House, with Amazon particularly in mind. Here’s a revenue stream that could not only save the Postal Service but rebuild it after years of budget cuts & unfair competition with FedEx & UPS.
Socialists, of course, need to go much further and recognize that Amazon has become an essential infrastructure, along with privately owned power and communications systems. Some progressives like Elizabeth Warren urge trust-busting and forceful regulation. But the Debsian solution is this: Nationalize the infrastructure of the digital age – including Amazon and private delivery services – and operate it as a series of democratically administered public utilities.
C. News Index____
• ee’s News Index provides headlines and links. It’s strongly recommended readers scan carefully the ee News Index to gain a sense of the weekly focus of published English ‘business news’.
(ee is pro-politics, pro-politician, pro-nation-state, anti-corporatist, anti-expert, anti-NGO)
ee Sovereignty news emphasizes sovereignty as economic sovereignty – a strong nation is built on modern industrialization fueled by a producer culture.
• The WHO, Civil Society, & the Parameters
‘SL hasn’t got to where Iran is right now. One could argue, drastic measures should be considered only if the situation gets really out of hand. On the other hand, we are back to the basic and incontrovertible truth: NO ONE KNOWS. And thus to the time-tested adage, ‘BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY.’
• Empower the President to manage Covid-19
‘The country’s first non-political President, known as an efficient administrator, has conducted himself more like a politician. He vacillated when decisive action would have been preferable. That said, he could not have won the Presidential election without the support of his brother and his cohorts of the lotus bud party. Thus, the need to appease them with populist decisions… Now is not the time to do things the democratic way after debate and consensus. Tasking the military rather than a civilian outfit to manage logistics and the Police to enforce the quarantine from day one is a reflection of this reality.’
• Virus & victuals
‘Only the tobacco Mafia has not made any contribution to the global campaign against Covid-19. Instead, it is weakening people’s lungs and making them susceptible to pneumonia.’
• SL uses pandemic to curtail free expression: US Human Rights Watch
• Bigotry’s virus found amidst dead man’s ashes
‘Muslim leaders try to play politics in pandemic and demand burials, not cremations, for Muslim dead’
• Tablighi Jamaat Linked to 1/3 of Indian & a number of SL Covid Cases
• JVP calls for condemning imperialists moves
‘We, of the JVP, vehemently condemn the move by imperialists, especially the USA led by Pres Trump, to intensify economic sanctions imposed on Cuba, Venezuela, Iran & Syria at a time these countries, together with many other countries…, are fighting to save their citizens from the deadly pandemic’
• Raja Goonaratne appointed DG, National Secretariat for NGOs
• EU provides EUR22mn grant to SL
‘This funding will take into account the impact of Covid-19 by mobilising more private capital in rural areas and by assisting small businesses and workers in the Uva and Central Provinces.’
• EU supports rural communities through water, sanitation & hygiene facilities
• Quarantined Maldives needs China to survive
‘Asian Development Bank has estimated the Maldives will be the worst coronavirus-hit Asian country in terms of lost tourism, which accounts for 60% of foreign exchange earnings… China’s oil supplies from the Middle East pass through or run close to Maldivian waters, as do its imports of minerals from Africa and exports of manufactured and other goods to Africa, the Middle East and Europe… Among the more controversial agreements under the scheme was a plan to build a so-called China-Maldives Joint Ocean-Meteorological Observation Station on Makunudhoo, an atoll in northern Maldives. The Indians suspected the facility would be used to monitor its naval and merchant vessels in the region… During the 2109 visit, Modi and Solih inaugurated another project: an Indian-built Coastal Surveillance Radar System and a composite training facility for the Maldivian National Defense Force… China now has a military base in Djibouti, its first such overseas facility, a 99-year lease at SL’s Hambantota port and financial holds over Pakistan’s Gwadar and Myanmar’s Kyuakphyu ports.’
• How Chinese Socialism is Defeating the Coronavirus Outbreak
‘China is marshaling state-owned industries and market controls to build hospitals, ensure stable commodity prices, and provide universal treatment to stop the coronavirus outbreak – providing a global demonstration of the strengths of socialism with Chinese characteristics.’
• “Bruce Franklin, US Cultural Historian on…
‘The only one major nation that steered clear of the 2007-8 recession was China. While demand was collapsing around the world, it was China, acting like some super engine, that pulled the global economy out of the quagmire. Continuing to wage economic war against China today is thus suicidally insane.’
• Origin of Covid-19: Ecological, Historical & Geopolitical Perspective
‘It is logical to consider that a secret bioweapons program is a major proximal causative driving factor that created this coronavirus pandemic’
• Sinophobia Threatening to Endanger Strengthening Bioweapons Convention
‘This reminded me of the propaganda that the Anglo-American media broadcast around the world about alleged ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that Saddam Hussein had, that led to the attack and invasion of Iraq in 2003.’
• Dispatches from Palestine on Covid-19
• US Treasury running ‘mafia racket’ vs Venezuela: Ex UN anti-narcotics chief & mob expert
• Call of Indigenous Peoples, Afro-Descendants & Peoples’ Organizations of Latin America
• Facing a crisis that rivals Pearl Harbor, world’s superpower pleads for coronavirus aid
(the state beyond ‘a pair of handcuffs’, monopolies of violence)
ee Security section focuses on the state (a pair of handcuffs, which sposedly has the monopoly of legitimate violence), and how the ‘national security’ doctrine is undermined by private interests, with no interest in divulging or fighting the real enemy, whose chief aim is to prevent an industrial renaissance as the basis of a truly independent nation.
• “Tobacco’s Stockholm Syndrome – The link is to something cruelly suppressed. They will not allow even a hint of a lifesaving warning to reach smokers. They should warn all smokers to desist now, for the mortality risk reduction it can provide. How this trade has managed to seduce its victims to be free propagandists for and defenders of its vicious actions is highly educational.”
• Gotabaya Proposes, Coronavirus Disposes – Hariharan
‘Sri Lanka has no parliament at present and the President is ruling with an interim cabinet. Many have questioned the powers of the President to sanction money under various heads without parliamentary oversight. This issue is likely to figure in the Supreme Court in the coming months.’
(Study the Economists before you study the Economics)
ee Economists shows how paid capitalist/academic ‘professionals’ confuse (misdefinitions, etc) and divert (with false indices, etc) from the steps needed to achieve an industrial country.
• CB Governor sees stronger pushback against neoliberal order post-Covid
‘Prof Lakshman said, while he did not expect a complete retreat of the liberal and the globalised world order, most likely there would be some re-setting in the period to come. “By this I wouldn’t say self-sufficiency but a system more inclined towards self-reliance… At least in the short-term, the libertarian toolkit has to be put to one side as there is clear rationale for short-term intervention given the massive unanticipated shock,” said Razeen Sally’
• The economy & Covid-19 – Sunday Times Editorial
‘What we are seeing is a sweeping and radical move to stem the tide with the beginning of import restrictions and hints about import substitutions the likes of which might lead to what has not been witnessed since the liberalisation of the economy in 1977 – and a return to the bad old days of not that long ago… Covid-19 has come as a deft distraction to sneak the draconian import restrictions and other measures that will inevitably see a return to the pre-1977 era in SL… Putting the country on a ‘war footing’ is not the same as a top heavy state control of the economy. That would only ignore long and complex supply chains for distributing commodities. It will not work. Even in the ongoing food distribution, the State sector marketing from the farm to consumer caters only to a segment of the population’
• Covid-19: US role in Global Exchange stability
‘Monetary theory might point out that such creation of dollars would make it weaker and eventually would crash. Nothing of that sort will happen.’
• Are we on the cusp of a Deflationary Depression? – David
‘Covid catalyst not cause of recession: Top engineer not economists got it right… Here is my question that HRS and the Austrian School never did answer: “Look, if competitive capitalism, real Smithian capitalism, bears its ruthless fangs and cleanses the debris, many businesses will close, no-good companies will bankrupt (Boeing, GM, Chrysler, steel, coal and manufacturing), unemployment will rise, living conditions will decline and people will revolt. Face it HRS! Either you salvage broken capitalism or it will be the revolution!” I think he acquiesced, silently.’
• Covid19 & Bio-Politics: The Emergence of Tyranny
‘In the South Asian region where the so-called democratic governments are beginning to battle against the corona outbreak, societies are becoming more militarized and anthropocentric.’
• Funding a fiscal stimulus: How to borrow a bazooka
‘The recent depreciation of the rupee is exacerbating this situation. As the rupee falls, SL’s debt-to-GDP ratio rises. This is because about half of SL’s public debt is denominated in foreign currencies. Rising debt-to-GDP ratios further erode investor confidence and could lead to further pressure on the rupee (capital controls help for a time of course)… In the last month alone, the Central Bank printed money to purchase Rs170bn worth of Treasury bills. This too places pressure on the exchange rate.’
• Covid-19: Is it a White Swan or a Black Swan? – Wijewardena
‘[Easter] caused religious discord of a permanent nature, completely crippled the once-booming tourism and hospitality sector, changed the government that was in power and inflicted an irreparable dent on the slow-progressing economy. This was evident when the full year economic results were announced by the country’s statistical bureau last week. Accordingly, real economic growth slowed down to 2.3% in 2019 as against a projection of above 3% by the country’s Central Bank. However, in US$ terms, the economy has shrunk by 5% from $88bn in 2018 to $84bn in 2019. This made the average Sri Lankan poorer than before. Accordingly, the average income of a Sri Lankan in US$, known as the per capita income, fell from $4079 in 2018 to $3852 in 2019.’
• Covid-19 Recession & Debt Shock in Asia & SL: scenario analysis – Wignaraja
‘Interestingly, there is little evidence of a Chinese ‘debt trap’ due to commercial borrowing for infrastructure projects at least in the case of Sri Lanka. Graduation from concessional aid has left SL more dependent on commercial borrowing from international capital markets.’
• Capitalism is the Disease – Mike Davis
• The Cost of This Pandemic Must Not Bankrupt the People
‘If we look at the example of previous crises – such as the Financial Crisis of 2008-9 – then we know that the costs of these crises are rarely borne by the very rich; it is those who have little power in the system, the majority of the people, who end up with the bill for a crisis that they did not provoke’
(Usually reported in monetary terms)
ee Economy section shows how the economy is usually measured by false indices like GDP, etc, and in monetary terms, confusing money and capital, while calling for privatization and deregulation, etc.
• Govt urged to negotiate fresh loan facility with IMF
‘JB Securities Managing Director Murtaza Jafferjee, who is an economist, stressed that the government must act now to negotiate a fresh IMF programme to stabilise the economy’
• RW presents proposals in attempts to protect current economy
“The other major industry that needs our attention is the banking industry. It is very important to protect this sector. We must take forward this sector, protecting it from collapsing…he first is to amend the Vote on Account to suit the current situation as the previously passed Vote on Account will not be sufficient. The second is that we must take the maximum from the packages offered by the IMF. The IMF is set to announce their relief packages in mid-April.”
• Economic fallout of Covid: Economists
‘According to Murtaza Jafferjee, CEO of JB Securities & director at Colombo Stock Exchange, SL has needed major structural reform for years. “SL’s economic policy has been protectionist and nationalist since the beginning of the war. These policies were never altered… led to a domestic industry that has not been focused on increasing productivity… The economy has relied on high tariffs on imports.’
• First Capital optimistic of economic rebound from 3Q despite risks
‘The current global situation poses a significant risk to our economy with the inability to raise funds in the international markets amidst the current volatility and the lack of interest in emerging and frontier bond markets.’
• Covid response: Mangala wants House re-summoned to increase borrowing limit
‘due to legal complications, there might also be delays in drawing down the $128mn (Rs24.4bn) soft-loan granted by the World Bank Group to fight Covid-19.’
• CB Governor still hopeful of 3% growth
‘Treasury Secretary, Sajith Attygalle said, “The shop is entirely not closed…”’
• Govt to re-introduce PAYE tax for employee convenience
• Tax cuts withdrawn; high rates for big income earners
• Forex controls suspended as Rupee fall continues
• SL fails to achieve fiscal targets despite tight budgeting
‘With the new Vote on Account authorised by the President, funds amounting to Rs21bn have been released to settle pharmaceutical bills, fertiliser bills & construction contractors payments with priority being given to SME contractors and suppliers of items such as textbooks, rations etc.’
• Interest rates cut, luxury imports banned to battle Covid
• ADB Pres, Indian Finance Min discuss $2.2bn support package
• IMF Mulls Fed-like Program to Get $s to More Economies
‘The coronavirus prompted a worldwide rush into dollars by wreaking havoc on a global economy that is heavily dependent on the greenback as its linchpin and relies on it as a haven at times of stress. Georgieva warned on April 3 the world recession is “way worse than the global financial crisis.”’
• IMF seeks $1.4bn in donations from members to provide debt relief to low-income countries
• Covid: Worst economic crisis since 1930s depression, IMF says
• IMF to delay the final bailout tranche
(Inadequate Stats, Wasteful Transport, Unmodern Plantations, Services)
ee Workers attempts to correct the massive gaps and disinformation about workers, urban and rural and their representatives (trade unions, etc), and to highlight the need for organized worker power
• Covid-19: Are our healthcare workers safe?
‘Lack of legal power for PHIs, a shortage of safety equipment, gruelling work hours and dealing with stress and anxiety; how are our first responders are putting their lives on hold for Sri Lanka’
• FTZ workers now at home but most suffer without wages
‘Most of the over 100,000 apparel sector workers now in their homes in villages following the closure of the garment factories in Free Trade Zones will be receiving their wages soon, official sources confirmed… 137,478 employees are serving in 278 factories in FTZs and of them 5144 workers are at Katunayake FTZ, 3264 in Biyagama, 450 in Meerigama, Wathupitiwala & Malwatte, 962 in Horana, 280 in Seethawake. They have been sent to their homes in villages by buses during the last few days.’
• Govt & factory owners should provide wages & relief rations to all FTZ & Manpower workers
• Jobs & lay-offs
‘Sri Lanka is still dependent on food imports like dhal, sugar, milk powder and other essentials.’
• Govt’s special relief schemes more benefitting the non-poor
‘Official Poverty Line is defined as the real food and non-food consumption expenditure per person per month. The figure as at Jan 2020 is Rs5021.’
• Uphold migrants’ rights during pandemic
‘We have seen multiple examples where migrants are required to pay for testing and treatment. Undocumented migrant workers are denied health care and are rounded up for detention & deportation. In a pandemic, excluding a community from access to healthcare threatens the health security of all.’
• Virus lays bare the frailty of the social contract – Times Editorial
Radical reforms are required to forge a society that will work for all… Countries that have allowed the emergence of an irregular and precarious labour market are finding it particularly hard to channel financial help to workers with such insecure employment. Meanwhile, vast monetary loosening by central banks will help the asset-rich… Radical reforms – reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades – will need to be put on the table. Govts will have to accept a more active role in the economy… must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.”
• GNOA urges mandatory testing of quarantined persons
‘Govt Nursing Officers’ Association head and former UNP National List MP Saman Ratnapriya Silva, yesterday, (07) alleged the Health Ministry lacked a proper mechanism to implement directives.’
• Of cowboys & top guns
‘Air Ceylon had been named as the ‘Safest Airline in the World’ by BBC. By the end of 1979 Air Ceylon was wound down by the Govt of SL.’
• The 2 Viruses: Covid-19 & Capitalism
‘Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dockworkers would soon be in trouble… It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEO’s, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish.’
• Covid-19 has exposed fragility of our economies – Guy Ryder
‘In a world where only 1 in 5 people are eligible for unemployment benefits, layoffs spell catastrophe for millions of families. Because paid sick leave is not available to many carers and delivery workers – those we all now rely on – they are often under pressure to continue working even if they are ill.’
• President, SJB request employers to pay attention to workers stranded in urban areas
• COovid: An alternate perspective in uncharted waters
‘Given the COVID-19, reported deaths being five in Sri Lanka and less than 500 in the whole of South and SE Asia, it may be time for the Government think tank to consider not to re-impose/extend the curfew once it lapses in a few days’
• The President in the Pandemic
‘One of the deadliest outcomes of the pandemic in Sri Lanka would be the creation of a class of new poor as the loss of livelihood and income forces a segment of the lower middle class to slip into poverty. Despair and anger are likely to be the dominant features in the mindset of this class. The recent actions of the government cannot but give rise to the fear that the rulers intend to use minorities as scapegoats, to divert and pacify the Sinhala members of this new poor.’
• Covid19 Is a Turning Point for Global Power
‘Whereas before China was investing in physical infrastructure such as ports, railroads, and highways, it is now also investing through medical aid and public health leadership.’
• How a notorious Libyan trafficker invited to an official Italian migrant meeting in Sicily
• What Wall St Doesn’t Want You to Know about Hospital Emergency Rooms
‘About a third of hospital emergency rooms are staffed by doctors on the payrolls of two physician staffing companies – TeamHealth & Envision Health – owned by Wall St investment firms. Envision Healthcare employs 69,000 healthcare workers nationwide while TeamHealth employs 20,000. Private equity firm Blackstone Group owns TeamHealth, Kravis Kohlberg Roberts (KKR) owns Envision.’
• Amazon on strike: what workers need to know about their rights
• The Coronavirus & the Crisis This Time
‘Politicians of all stripes raised the idea of limiting factory production to socially necessary products like ventilators, hospital beds, protective masks and gloves. Telling corporations what they should produce became commonplace… Notably, the health crisis has highlighted the necessity and potentials of workplace control by those who do the work.’
• Covid & the Failures of Capitalism
‘A worker-coop based economy – wherein workers democratically run enterprises, deciding what, how and where to produce, and what to do with any profits—could, and likely would, put social needs and goals (like proper preparation for pandemics) ahead of profits. Workers are the majority in all capitalist societies; their interests are those of the majority’
(Robbery of rural home market; Machines, if used, mainly imported)
ee Agriculture emphasizes the failure to industrialize on an agriculture that keeps the cultivator impoverished under moneylender and merchant, and the need to protect the rural home market. Also, importation of agricultural machinery, lack of rural monetization and commercialization, etc.
• Tame Millers’ Mafia
‘All politicians, including those at the helm of the incumbent dispensation, should take the blame for the emergence of the Millers’ Mafia, which manipulates the paddy market and exploits the farmer and the consumer alike.’
• Govt declares rice milling essential service amidst warning of severe shortage
• Rice mills declared an essential service
• Traders want turmeric import restrictions relaxed
‘Essential Food Commodities Importers and Traders Association yesterday requested the government to relax restrictions on the import of turmeric which is a vital cooking ingredient. Association President G Rajendran told the Daily Mirror that 400,000kg of turmeric are needed every month.’
• Balangoda Mayor allegedly pours kerosene on vegetables
• Tea industry urges relevant govt depts. to increase number of working days to facilitate exports
• 100s flocked into markets as curfew lifted in Upcountry Apr6
• Softlogic group cuts employee salaries to manage costs during pandemic
• It is not just from Corona
‘The economy is vulnerable to the vagaries of the US$. A large portion of exports are garments, again with the USA as one market and the EU as the other. Adding insult to injury, the last govt promoted imports, even asking farmers not to cultivate because imported food was cheaper. We are now paying the price. Diversifying exports and markets while encouraging local industries is the need of the hour.’
• Medicine, fuel imports to continue, nonessentials restricted
‘Agriculture Minister Ramesh Pathirana addressing the weekly Cabinet Press Briefing at the Information Department on Thursday said that limiting or even suspending certain non-essentials, was aimed at strengthening local industries including the agricultural sector’
• Rubber sector receives govt nod to ‘re-start’ operations
‘“The rubber manufacturers and the export industry were given the full green light to start production. The sector (rubber) and the total supply chains linked to it will be allowed to start work immediately with necessary facilitation of curfew passes,” SL Association of Manufacturers and Exporters of Rubber Products Director General Rohan Masakorala said.’
• Commendable Leadership in Covid Crisis Management: Economic Thought Leadership Warped?
‘The State Team attempting to distribute essential food, vegetables and medicines via state institutions, without leveraging the smallest retail stores closest to the households, (effectively reached normally by distribution and supply chains of leading manufacturers like Unilever/Ceylon Tobacco/Capital Maharajah/Reckit & Colman etc) was bound to be a failure.’
• As food suppliers make profit, monk courts mass arrest to feed hungry people
• Growing food security concerns with extension of Islandwide curfew
‘Daily wage earners, self-employed workers and those in informal enterprises, the large number of agricultural workers and workers in export manufacturing have lost their income. These are the most vulnerable. They would have difficulties in accessing adequate food owing to their inadequate purchasing power.’
• Economic centres to close down due to ongoing situation
• Aloe Vera nursery in Wilpattu buffer zone only tip of the iceberg – environmentalists
• India partially lifts ban on export of hydroxychloroquine, enough capacity to meet domestic & global demand
• A Memorable Experience – Israel – Upatissa Pethiyagoda
‘Towards the end of 1986, I was privileged to participate in a training programme conducted by The International Agency for Agricultural Development Cooperation in Israel… The heavy level of automation is beyond the scope of most nations and is possible solely through the munificence of Uncle Sam and his deep pockets. The statement that Israeli Agriculture is operating at a loss, is plausible, but is in conflict with the abundance visible to the mesmerized visitor…. I was unashamedly thrilled with what we saw. Maybe the hospitality was lavished on us, for political advantage. My reaction is why not? – after all, there is no such thing as a Free Lunch!.
(False definitions, anti-industrial sermons, rentier/entrepreneur, etc)
ee Industry section notes the ignorance about industrialization, the buying of foreign machinery, the need to make machines that make machines, build a producer culture. False definitions of industry, entrepreneur, etc, abound.
• Our crooked Singapore dream
‘Our present set of politicians sold the local industries started by their predecessors, to their stooges and of some, real owners, may be the politicians themselves or their close families. It is a well-known fact that we are selling our raw materials to other countries for a pittance, without going for any value-added products.’
• Navy develops remote-controlled smart appliance to treat Covid patients
• ITI geared up to tackle Covid with herbal products
‘The Industrial Technology Institute has manufactured several herbal products that can be used in the fight against coronavirus…“Currently, ITI has no authority to market what it manufactures. It gets the private sector to do it…”’
• Developed nations seek anti-Covid clothing from SL; but priority for Lanka’s requirements
• Efforts of a small entrepreneur who struggled through war & personal tragedies – Advocata
‘Finding a new way to stay in some business, in 2019 he was able to obtain a loan of Rs1mn to float his new venture of crushing the coconut husk into dusty pieces using one machine & 2 workers operating from either side of the machine. It is a micro enterprise employing around 5 in his tiny factory. He is now exporting the packed final product to 38 countries through an intermediary shipping more than 10,000 kilos at the rate of Rs6 per kilo.
• EDB cuts 2020 export target by $7.75bn on Covid-19 worries
‘Tea, rubber (surgical gloves, tyres), coconut, spices, food and beverage, seafood and fruits would do well during this year given the pandemic globally, while major export sectors such as apparel, rubber-based products (except industrial, surgical gloves and Agri tyres), diamonds, gems and jewellery, electronic and electrical components, ornamental fish, and boat building sectors would perform marginally or poorly… Even before the coronavirus began to spread and impacted the global economy, Sri Lanka’s merchandised exports in Jan were down’
• EDB requests all exporters to resume operations following New Year holidays
• A Clarion Call to Exporters; Commence All Exports!
• Covid fallout: Joint Apparel Association Forum foresees $1.5bn reduction in JuneQ exports
• Getting private sector involved essential to rapidly expand SL’s Cv testing capacity: Advocata
• Rajabdeen welcomes banning of non-essential imports
‘“SMEs in agri-business, aquaculture, poultry and livestock are some of the priority sectors that can make use of the government’s support if given”… The agri-business sectors that the local SMEs are involved in are spices, teas including specialty teas, herbal medicinal and beverage supplements, coconut and oils, short eats, and fruits & vegetables. Aquaculture sectors where local SMEs in are ornamental fish & ocean fisheries including fishery cooperatives and processing.’
• First bunkering ship discharges low sulphur fuel at Hambantota Port
• State Trading Organization establishes Maldives State Shipping co
‘STO – Maldives’ largest importer of staples, fuel and other goods says the new shipping line would provide a more feasible pathway for imports.’
• China’s Economy: Powerful But Vulnerable
China is meanwhile burdened with an overcapacity problem, especially in heavy industry and many medium industries. There has been significant overcapacity in the steel, iron, aluminium, and automobile industries, leading to practically flat prices and causing some analysts to say that China is now suffering from “industrial deflation.”
• John Lennon in Quarantine: a Letter From Havana
‘Hypochlorite, is this country’s low cost solution to personal and household disinfectant, at the door.’
• Mexican factories boost production of medical supplies for US hospitals while country struggles with its own coronavirus outbreak… The products, manufactured largely in factories run by US corporations, will land in almost every hospital in the US. Very few will remain in Mexico.’
• Fight for publicly-owned medical manufacturing in Ontario
• How to Save the Postal Service
‘For starters, nationalize Amazon and the rest of the essential infrastructure of the digital age.’
• Donald Trump Has Stake in Hydroxychloroquine Drugmaker: Report
(Making money from money, banks, lack of investment in modernity)
ee Finance tracks the effects of financialization, pointing to the curious role of ratings agencies, again false indices, etc.
• Cutting imports to ease pressure on falling Rupee – CB governor
• Payments via Outward Investment Accounts for overseas investments suspended
• Coronavirus intensifies pressure on SL finance companies
• Throwing Sand into the Money Machine
‘Throwing sand into the machinery of financial markets was the goal Attac Germany set itself when it was founded 20 years ago. A financial transaction tax was one of its core demands.’
• Global Financial Asset Deflation: Prelude to Next ‘Great Recession’?
‘Watch closely as the crisis on the financial side moves on from equity (stocks), commodities, and foreign exchange financial markets into derivatives markets and credit markets, especially junk bond and other corporate bond markets. Watch as the Fed tries desperately to provide liquidity to business and markets via its repo channel and QE since its traditional rate channels are now ineffective. And watch as US and global capitalist advanced economies try to coordinate new fiscal policy responses to the general dual crisis in financial and real economic sectors of global capital.’
(Rentierism: money via imports, real-estate, tourism, insurance, fear, privatization)
ee Business aka ee Rentier focuses on diversions of the oligarchy, making money from unproductive land selling, tourism, insurance, advertising, etc. – the charade of press releases disguised as ‘news’
• Financial assistance for affected businesses taking too long: Trade body
‘Roshana Waduge, President of the 2,500-member SL Trade Development Council, said banks have asked businesses to send in their requests for the working capital loan by April 30’
• Trump requests Modi to release drug India banned for export
(Anti-parliament discourse, unelected constitution)
ee Politics points to the constant media diversions and the mercantile and financial forces behind the political actors, of policy taken over by private interests minus public oversight.
• We must abandon the idea of elections anytime soon – Sumanthiran
‘The curfew that is being declared presently is not legally valid…The situation in the North and the East is precarious at the moment. Some people are nearing starvation. Local authorities are the best equipped bodies to deal with this situation are not being allowed to uplift the funds they have saved and kept precisely for situations like this!’
• Govt battles pandemic & 2 other major crises
‘Reports of restriction on imports as the economy takes a severe beating, rupee value continues to plunge… Polls Chief sends 2 letters to Presidential Secretariat raising doubts about polls… constitutional crisis looms over when new parliament could meet; President urged to seek SC ruling’
(Mis/Coverage of economics, technology, science and art)
ee Media shows how corporate media monopoly determines what is news, art, culture, etc. The media is part of the public relations (corporate propaganda) industry. The failure to highlight our priorities, the need to read between the lines. To set new perspectives and priorities.
• China protests against hate campaign in a leading SL media outlet
• China accused of negligence – Consumer rights group obtains legal advice
• Vulnerability, fear & the legitimizing of prejudice
‘We haven’t been really tested yet. Hopefully we won’t be tested but this is not the hour of the crystal-gazer. Best to be prepared. Best to expect the worst. Best to do what we can. For ourselves and each other. And, when fear and vulnerability raise their heads, it’s also best that we retire prejudices. In short, we need not make things worse than they are.’
• FMM sees threat to collective resolve
• UK Covers up
‘Right from the onset of this crisis, UK was trying to play it down, and also tried to hide the real number of infected persons by applying very strict criteria for testing. For example, until about a week or so ago, only a Consultant on Respiratory Medicine could order a test even at a hospital.
• Panic buying – more behind the act’
‘Ven Vajiraramaye Nanasiha Thera spoke on ‘Taming the Animal Within’ at the Servants of the Buddha meeting at Mettarama Viharaya, Lauries Rd, on March 14. Answering a question he said panic buying was rooted in self-centredness and lack of empathy arising from desire and greed that have to be assiduously avoided if one is on the Path. One could also include ignorance here, as catalyzing greed, judging by how people behave. The venerable monk added that members of the Sangha never worried about the next meal. “If it is brought to the temple, well and good, we partake of it. If no food is brought, we just get by.” And thus, I need to add, the serenity and happiness seen in dedicated monks.’
• Mahavamsa & Greek Myths
• Be My Baby!
‘Here is a Korean rendition of a US pop song. Viewed within a backdrop of the massive prostitution industry in occupied S Korea to ‘serve’ US Troops. Combined with the ‘white face’ pasted on the singers’ faces, which is of a different cultural tho evocative order of ‘black face’, it also recalls the legacy of slavish American ‘carnivals’ from Rio to Orleans via Haiti and Trinidad, where the enslaved would put on the accoutrement of the slave owners’ own mimicry of bourbon fashions albeit with an element of satire, which seems absent here, unless one is sensitive to the history of mass murder to divide a country, and the ever present reality of nuclear or regular materiel armageddon. What one can then only perceive in this is the mawkish pain on those ‘young’ women’s faces, to sense an ominous and ghoulish veneer, recalling the movie Cabaret (esp in light of Parasite). Yes, it is the duty of the house slave to make the settler master ‘feel at home’. ‘Be my Baby’ indeed, from Motown to Ho town.’
• Secrets are like Sex
‘All official information is secret [in England] but officialdom may choose to bestow access to parts of it on people who are not otherwise entitled to know it. For the last few centuries this has principally meant the press and the media, and the state has always been aware that such access can be sold in return for political support. The idea that all public information should be free and open unless otherwise specified remains a foreign notion, in spite of the Freedom of Information Act.’
• What Endures of the Romance of US Communism
‘All in all, nearly a million Americans were Communists at one time or another. While it is true that the majority joined the CP in those years because they were members of the hard-pressed working class (garment district Jews, West Virginia miners, California fruit-pickers), it was even truer that many more in the educated middle class (teachers, scientists, writers) joined because for them, too, the party was possessed of a moral authority that lent concrete shape to a sense of social injustice made urgent by the Great Depression and WWII.’
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