Sri Lanka President pushes agrarianism

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena called to build an economy based on agriculture as the island commemorated gaining independence from the former British Empire.

"We are a people who established our own national identity from the beginning," President Sirisena said in a statement, marking independence on February 04.

"Therefore on this auspicious occasion, I would like to emphasize that the time has come to build the economy of our country on the foundation of agriculture."

Sri Lanka’s export economy was based on agricultural exports, such as tea, rubber and coconut, during British rule, which overtook the spice trade.

During Dutch rule, cinnamon and arecanut were key exports.

During the time of ancient kings, Sri Lanka had a wide range of exports ranging from spices and gems to ivory and also elephants, according to some records. The island has been a regional trading hub for long distance as well as regional trade.

Before the invention of the steam engine, it was less profitable to trade in heavier low value cargo and long distance trade was in high value products that did not take too much space.

In the last century, many countries transitioned to manufacturing, most notably in East Asia.

Countries are now trading in services. Sri Lanka is also developing software and engaging in IT-enabled services.

Sri Lanka, or sections of the island, have been part of several global empires.





After being colonised by people originating from what is now India, the island features a strongly Indianized culture and religions like much of South and East Asia.

Sri Lanka has been part of large Indian empires, such as the Chola Empire, and has had close links with many others.

The Portuguese, Dutch, and British waves of colonisation radically changed the feudal ruling system and left Sri Lanka with a western legal system and a parliamentary system of governance that was changed to presidential rule.

Some critics have also said that European ideals such as nationalism, socialism and liberalism also came to Sri Lanka, but nationalism had gained ground, leading to internal conflicts and constrained economic and social freedoms of the people.

Nationalism expanded in new nation-states that gained independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and eventually ended up in Nazism. Under US President Donald Trump, nationalism is seeing a resurgence in the US. In Europe, neo-Nazism is again coming to the fore with alt-right groups.

"Having gained independence from imperialist rules, as a nation we expected a political, socio-economic forward march with a unique national identify, free of colonial shackles," President Sirisena said.

"To entrust the future of the nation to minds enslaved by imperialism for more than a century is more dangerous than being under colonial rule itself."

Queen Elizabeth, the island’s last head of state under British colonisation before it acquired independence, also sent a message to President Sirisena.

"It gives me great pleasure to send Your Excellency Maithripala Sirisena my congratulations on the celebration of your National Day, together with my best wishes for the good fortune and happiness of the people of Sri Lanka in the coming year." (Colombo/Feb04/2019 – SB)

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