They sport beautiful gold Rolex watches on their wrists. They celebrate their off spring's marriages at five star hotels where the 'per person' cost is Rs. 20,000 and above. They travel to all parts of the world on holiday and experience the luxuries of the finest cruise ships of the world. Their children go to international schools and the best universities in the world.
They always travel first- or business-class. They have the top of the range cars and SUVs ranging from Mercs, BMWs, Jaguars and Range Rovers, in their multi-vehicle garages. Their houses have been refurbished with the finest gadgets, and their Louis Vuitton leather wallets are bulging with different foreign currencies and Platinum credit cards.
But, when some of them speak at public meetings, or sip champagne at cocktail parties, their conversation is completely contrary to their highly opulent living conditions.
They lament that the economy is stagnating; They bemoan that the government's economic policies are faulty and have affected their businesses badly. They grumble that their cash flows are struggling; They grieve saying that ordinary people cannot make ends meet. In short, they continuously groan that the government is messing up. The media often picks up these sentiments and add their own sensationalist twist to these criticisms.
As a result, the public is treated daily to a generous dose of government policy-bashing. These attacks serve to damage the confidence levels of the economy and that of the country, quite badly, and perhaps some who are indulging in this exercise, know that very well.
Hence, it is useful for someone to dispassionately enumerate certain realities about the Sri Lankan economy, so that these 'dooms-day' feelings could be dispelled, and for sanity to prevail. Let's therefore look at some of the key economic indicators that portray the health of an economy.
Sri Lanka had more than 8 percent growth for two years consecutively in 2010 and 2011 for the first time in its history, and this year's growth has been projected to be 7.2 percent. The unemployment rate of 4.2 percent in 2012, was the lowest in history. The poverty levels have declined at the sharpest rate ever, and is around 8 percent today.
The country's foreign reserves are at a very comfortable level, with more than four months of import cover, although prior to 2005, reserves were barely touched a level of two months. The recent rupee depreciation has been high, but is still one of the lowest in history, since in the past there have been instances of the rupee depreciation being even more than 50 percent.
Single-digit inflation has prevailed over the past 42 months, the longest ever period by far, at such benign levels, notwithstanding the challenges posed by the global increase in commodity price levels. The fiscal deficit was 6.9 percent last year, and is expected to be at 6.2 percent this year, which is significantly below the 10 percent levels that have prevailed in the past.
The country's Debt to GDP ratio has reduced below 80 percent after 30 years and is now gradually reaching more sustainable levels, even in the background of a massive public investment program. The number of small vehicles imported last year increased four-fold, which shows that people who did not own cars in the past, now do.
Rural electrification has expanded rapidly, where the islandwide electricity coverage has increased from 72 percent in 2005, to 92 percent today. People are now travelling on more than thousands of kilometres of new concreted village roads, constructed over the past few years, and on hundreds of kilometres of urban roads upgraded to a very high standard.
The first expressway came into operation last year and several new expressways including the Katunayake Airport Highway and the Colombo Outer Circular Road are nearing completion. The urban cities including Colombo, are cleaner and environment-friendly, and this has been acknowledged by thousands of locals and tourists.
The country's infrastructure, particularly in highways, ports, airports, power, telecommunications and banking are being developed at an unbelievable pace, and is today fast-reaching international standards. Major development works are being carried out in the Northern Province and that Province experienced over 25 percent growth in the past two years.
New big names in tourism such as Shangri-la, Sheraton, Sun City and others are investing in Sri Lanka. The recent 10-year international sovereign bond issue of US$ 1b was oversubscribed more than 10 times, and has been negotiated at an interest rate which was far more competitive than many investment grade sovereigns. The financial system has remained stable and resilient in the midst of serious worldwide turmoil, at a time where many other countries are experiencing bank, insurance and corporate collapses.
The Colombo Stock Market has attracted nearly US$ 200m from foreign investors so far this year. The IMF Stand-By Arrangement had been completed satisfactorily for the first time in the country's history, with the final disbursement of $ 420m being made last week, in the US$ 2.6b program.
In that backdrop when anyone, and in particular some of the knowledgeable and well-to-do elite of this country, ignore these facts, and attempt to shed crocodile tears about living and working in harsh and difficult times, such persons are obviously those who wish to be deliberately 'blind', and are therefore refusing to see reality. So, maybe it is time for others to gently nudge this group and wake them up, so that they can see reality!