Sri Lanka opposition presidential candidate defends economic prowess

Dec 26, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s opposition presidential candidate, a former military general, defended his ability to manage the economy in a future administration saying he had the backing of the main opposition United National Party. The suffering of the people under a 1970s administration, where money printing led to price controls and shortages, largely shapes public perceptions about the economic management skills of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party of president Rajapaksa.

The party had also nationalized private industry, and plantations owned and operated by foreign investors. Expelled foreign investors went to Africa including Kenya, which has now displaced Sri Lanka as the world’s largest tea exporter.

In 1971 an armed uprising by the JVP was brutally crushed. The initial moves for militant Tamil separatism also started during the period.

Presidency

Following socialist central planning, trade and exchange controls, which eventually drove unemployment to 20 percent as economic activity was stifled, the UNP’s Junius Jayewardene became prime minister in 1977 with a five-sixths parliamentary majority.

In 1978 Jayewardene declared himself president under a new constitution with semi-dictatorial powers of a