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Open economy, closed politics Sri Lankans have not viewed political continuity as a positive virtue. A political leadership taking the population for granted will be surprised at how quickly the mood changes. It results in a bewildered regime transferring power peacefully or, on occasion, an ousted one considering a coup and quickly realising its absurdity and relenting. So, it’s a contrast that somehow a political leadership understanding the implications of poor performance on the rule of law, the economy and the prosperity of its people has a patchy record in delivering these. An uninterrupted tenure should be motivation enough to figure how Singapore became a global hub, how South Korea is the preferred location for businesses in high technology and how Malaysia is a regional center for education. If Sri Lanka could also emulate recent successes in Dubai, South Korea and Malaysia, perhaps the population will indulge their political leadership a bit more. Sri Lanka’s political leadership will have to champion liberal globalisation for this. It made a decisive and a giant leap in that direction when, in 1977, a government led by J R Jayewardene swept aside the lunatic economic strategy that delivered mass starvation, isolation and widespread hopelessness. However, the rigor of that movement faded with other less-than-welcome developments like an ethnic conflict that led to an armed struggle. Globalisation is in everyone’s best interest, the poor as well as the rich. It will disrupt and kill off old industries. However, a political elite that understands enough about the workings of the economy and is able to limit the turbulence caused by the free flow of goods and money across the border can lead Sri Lanka to a new future.

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