18 May 2020

Have you heard of e-con e-news?

‘When orthodoxy fails, heresy must come into its own’ — G.V.S. de Silva.

Last week I wrote about the etymology of the word ‘economics,’ and argued how that discipline and those it disciplined had not just fled definition (‘household management’) but made an art of undermining the vast majority of households for the sustainable development of a handful of mansions.  Economics, or rather what goes as ‘mainstream economics’ which, by the way, is pretty narrow and works for a few, has wrecked households, communities, nations and in fact the entire world.

Covid-19 has brought ‘household’ back to the fore, but let us not be fooled. Households can be wrecked by policies at all levels. National ‘prerogatives’ designed by anti-household economists if you will can continue to impoverish households and disempower householders. Therefore, even as we should fight to retain control and lead sustainable lives, even as we think of a global response, we have to think ‘nation.’ It wouldn’t harm us to think of nation as a household. In other words, we need to think of national policy which looks towards true independence.

My brother, Arjuna, 'nutshelled' the strategy as follows:

‘Our approach should not be for a self-sufficient economy. Bad choice of priorities. What we must aim for is a sustainable society and self-sufficiency is an automatic component of such an approach. For that, we must ensure sustainable production and consumption, living within are means, removing the desire for wealth display which gets us into financial debt, reduce engagement miles (that is produce locally, consume locally) and to do that, first look at sustaining and rewarding the small scale agriculture sector and increase the use of sustainable energy generated at the level of households. Additionally, look to utilizing technology optimally for increasing efficiency and finally, prevent wheeler dealers and corrupt local politicians trying to stifle local production for them to get commissions.’ [see Amali Mallawaarachchi’s feature in the Daily News titled ‘Home Gardening: for body, soul and country.’]

Can we do it? Has it been done? What are the challenges? For the answers we need to dig into the past. Indeed we have to dig through tons of lies and vilification. There’s been a lot of mis-education, folks.

Here’s a hint: Economics? Economy? Hmm...what the flower is that? It's POLITICAL economy, isn't it? If you want to know what's happened and is happening, you got to peel away theory-frill. Warning: the underside is not pretty.

What we have is not political economy. Even ‘economics’ (or ‘econ’) is a misnomer. This is why we need to read it as e-con. That’s ‘e’ for economics and ‘con’ for, well, conning. It’s not that we have nothing to read. There is a thing called alternative media which does not take directive from or has internalized the rubbish dished out by the capital interests that run the USA and of course multilateral institutions that are pawns of that country.  I strongly urge people to visit the website ‘e-con e-news’ (https://eesrilanka.wordpress.com). Therein you will find a lot that’s been deliberately hidden or misconstrued.

The website invites us to say ‘Hell-O’ to the import mafia who ‘are the real rulers of the country,’ ready to undermine any elected government that does not toe the line.

Here are the numbers. Well, some of the import numbers straight from the Central Bank.  We import consumer goods worth US$5 billion. Check out the list (amounts given in brackets):  Food and Beverages ($1.6 billion), Rice $(107 million), Sugar and Confectionery ($250 million) dollars
Dairy Products ($332 million), Lentils ($79 million), ‘Other’ ($839 million), Non-Food Consumer Goods ($3.4 billion), Vehicles ($1.6 billion), Medical and Pharmaceuticals ($532 million), Home Appliances ($232 million), Clothing and Accessories ($310 million), ‘Other’ ($725 million), Intermediate Goods ($12.5 billion), Fuel ($4.2 billion), Textiles and Textile Articles ($2.9 billion), 
Diamonds, Precious Stones and Metals ($573 million), Chemical Products ($904 million), Wheat and Maize ($374 million), Fertilizer ($262 million), Other Intermediate Goods ($3.4 billion), Investment Goods ($4.7 billion), Building Materials ($1.5 billion), Transport Equipment ($668 million), Machinery and Equipment ($2.5 billion), Other Investment Goods ($6.1 billion), Unclassified Imports ($75 million). So, the total import bill is US$ 21 billion dollars!

Has any ‘economist’ calculated how much of all this could be manufactured locally? Well, I doubt it. Received knowledge says ‘don’t manufacture locally,’ and ‘even if you do manufacture locally, let multinationals run it.’  We are also told that t’s the private sector that can do it. It’s private-public partnerships that can work. No one talks about how the public sector was made to fail. And it is not about banning imports altogether. It’s not about replacing trade with barter. The world has known markets that worked, long before the markets that didn’t and don’t work were set up (yes, that’s ‘capitalist markets’).

We are also told that we just don’t have the natural resources. Here’s what I learned from ‘e-con e-news’.

‘We have more natural resources than Japan. We have over 20mn tons of iron ore, which Oruwala Stage 3 was expected to smelt. We have the world's finest graphite, yet not a single factory adding value. We have one of the world's best sources of Titanium, Beryllium, Boron and Thorium in the mineral sands of the North East and South West. We have salterns, but import all our caustic soda, chlorine, hydrochloric acid. We have garment factories but import all the machinery. We have tea plantations, but import all the machinery. We have extensive paddy, but import all the machinery. We have 5 million vehicles on our roads, but import the spare parts and even tyres & batteries.’

Today, as the present government attempts correction (perhaps forced on account of circumstances or driven by conviction) we see the e-con-omists painting dire pictures of a return to an era of rationing, shortages and queues.  They won’t tell you that even the colonial masters used such mechanisms, not just in the ‘colonies’ but in the ‘mother country’ as well! Well, read ‘e-con e-news’: ‘They all like to forget it is the English who introduced rationing in 1942, curtailing wasteful imports and extravagance, even promoting local production! Our beloved Anglomaniacs had no complaints then whatsoever!’

And they won’t tell you the context of those ‘dark days. The ‘dark days’ of the United Front Government of 1970-75 are now remembered with nostalgia by some (no, to by the aforementioned con-artists) simply because it was an angille-tharamata-idimuna time. We tried to live within our means. Yes, we were household-conscious. We tried household-management. We didn’t peddle consumerist nonsense and we didn’t have con-artists disguised as economists.

Anyway, here’s the context  : “70-75” came ‘in the aftermath of assassination, coup attempts, terrorism, bankruptcy and the escalation of multinational and supranational (IMF, etc) interference, during a massive world food and oil crisis, with sharp rises in imported food stuffs prices, when imports of rice, sugar and flour were 40% of the import bill, and the world rice price rose from £36 per ton to £180, 1972-1974.’

And here’s the aftermath of that period as ‘eesrilanka’ puts it: ‘US NGO Advocata and others are now using former Finance Minister Ronnie de Mel to justify what came after. Under de Mel’s tenure, 1977-1988, the open economy was imposed, smashing local industries, undermining public health and education, with the national debt let alone grand theft attaining unprecedented heights, leading to terrorism and war, north and south.’

I wanted to title this article ‘The nation as household,’ but a quick perusal of the blog mentioned above informed me that it neat though it is, such a title would be a caricature. We need to study ‘economy’ more. Indeed, as the blogger urges, ‘if you want to know about economy, you have to study the economists.’ The e-conners, that is. The blog www.eesrilanka.wordpress.com is a good place to learn stuff.