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Price rise affects Rajapaksa’s prospects

[Express Buzz, Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:35 No Comment]

Skyrocketing prices of essential commodities seem to be adversely affecting the chances of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and boosting the prospects of his principal rival, Gen.Sarath Fonseka, in the January 26 Sri Lankan Presidential election.

The viciously rising cost of living has been one of the major issues among the Sinhalese speaking people throughout the island nation after the LTTE was eliminated in May last year. Those who voice concern over the price rise support Fonseka. The Fonseka camp is also exploiting the issue.

PRICE RISE HITS FARMERS TOO

A tour of the largely rural north-central district of Polonnaruwa revealed that the rising cost of living is a major problem not just for the urban dwellers but  for rural folk also.

The tour disabused one of the impression that the farmer is cushioned against price rise because he grows his own rice and vegetables; that he gets a fair price for his  produce; and is given fertilizers at a highly subsidized rate.

Polonnaruwa showed that farmers are also consumers of  a wide array of marketed urban products and, therefore, they also feel the impact of spiraling prices.

Inoka, a farmer’s wife, complained of the high price of vegetables and powdered milk ( the latter being preferred to fresh liquid milk even by village folk).Others complained of the high price of petrol and diesel, electricity and piped water.Articles of common use in the urban and rural areas (like phones) are getting very expensive due to a multiplicity of taxes.

PRICES HIGHER THAN IN COLOMBO

A farmer’s family which was running a roadside shop pointed out that  prices of essentials like rice and vegetables were higher in agricultural Polonnaruwa than in the capital city of Colombo! This is because most of the local produce are bought up by  wholesalers for sale in Colombo and other big towns.

Since land holdings in Sri Lanka are small, many farmers are forced to take up various other types of work to make both ends meet and also to rise in the social and economic hierarchy. They double up as fishermen, grocers, restaurant owners, barbers and tailors. It is when they turn to what are essentially urban trades, that they feel the impact of rising prices. Their turnover and income come down.

The rural folk in Polonnaruwa did not seem to be very appreciative about the Rajapaksa’s regime’s road building activity. “We want the government to bring down the prices first,” commented Sunil Bandara, a small farmer cum small time businessman.  

VICTORY IN WAR CANT BE POLL PLANK

“Victory in war cannot be a campaign plank now. The war is over and the issues uppermost in the peoples’ mind now are the cost of living and lack of economic opportunities,” said Ranjth Sirisena, who was running a restaurant in Habarana.

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