ECONOMYNEXT – A Sri Lanka legislator Diana Gamage has suggested fixing the country’s debt crisis with Cannabis and giving Dutch courage to a shaky domestic economy extending hours of bars and off-license wine shops to grow a night economy.
Licenses should be issued to grow and export cannabis, similar to the way tobacco is a legal crop, she said.
She said that cannabis should not be used as a drug but should be used to earn foreign exchange though export.
“Many countries are growing it today,” Legislator Gamage told parliament. “We can grow them very easily in our country. Through that, this country can earn a huge foreign exchange to settle the debts of the country.”
Gamage who was appointed to the parliament by the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya and cross over to support a 20th amendment said it was her proposal.
“I have studied this deeply. This is product that could bring us revenues of 73 billion dollars by 2027.”
Cannabis was widely used in South Asia for cooking, as medicine and recreation. British Colonial authorities did not initially ban it and tolerated it as a traditional cultural practice.
However when Indian workers went to the Caribbean for example, Colonial civil servants in the areas who were unused to the ganja culture were shocked and later banned it, analysts say. The laws then filtered to other areas of the British Empire.
“Cannabis was banned by the white man,” Gamage told parliament. “It was not done by us. We should have the power to change these 19th century ordinances.”
In many areas of the West cannabis has since been legalised.
Meanwhile Gamage said there was no night economy in the country.Sri Lanka can also boost the domestic economy by extending the hours of bars and wine stores (off-license shops) she said.
Gamage said that the people do not have a place to spend their money earned through their businesses and jobs, “so the country needs a night economy,”
“When we look at all the countries which have a night economy all of them are developed countries,” Gamage explained.
The sale of alcohol in restaurants and bars hotels are only permitted till 11 pm and wine stores are open from 9 am to 9 pm at the moment.
“But no one comes to the wine stores at 9 in the morning to purchase liquor,” she said. “So I propose the license should be issued to open from 10 am to 10 pm. We have to change the Excise Act with these amendments.”
She also proposed to open the bars in hotels and restaurants at least till 1 am, as people like foreigners and businessmen who are staying in hotels have less time to spend their money after returning to their rooms at about 9 or 10 in the night.
“They only have one hour to spend money,” she said.
Sri Lankans were also travelling abroad to place with a night economy such in East Asia, she said.
“Since people don’t have a place to spend their money at night as all the places are closed by 9 or 10, our people have got used to going other countries like Singapore, Bangkok and Malaysia to spent their money, to convert our rupees to dollars and spent there,” Gamage said.
“In order to take this country to development, we should get used thinking in a different way and these are methods to save the country if we thought in that way,” she said.
Sri Lanka has been trying to boost exports and ‘non-debt’ inflows after unprecedented money printing de-stabilized the external sector and sent the rupee reeling below 200 to the US dollar. (Colombo/April21/2021)