“Sri Lanka has already banned all chemicals and announced a transition to 100% Organic. Let us all join hands with Sri Lanka, the #Swiss & every community taking steps towards a #PoisonFree #PoisonCartel Free world for our health & the health of the planet." (Vandana Shiva, June 11, 2021 ) "
A year after this victory cry of Indian ecologist Vandana Shiva on Twitter was published, Sri Lanka’s agriculture had crashed and most blamed her for advocating the ban on chemical fertilizer which Rajapakse heeded.
Many particularly in Indian media have been trashing China for largely causing the Sri Lankan economic crisis through its “debt-trap” but an Indian, Vandana Shiva is now having to bear a lot of the blame. Rajapaksas forced the nation to go organic by outlawing chemical fertilizers in April 2021. What followed was inevitable.
Paddy crop almost failed which pushed the retail price of rice by around 30%, said Buddhi Marambe, an agriculture professor at the University of Peradeniya. He said as yields were low so costs will keep going up in future too.
Sri Lanka is famous for its tea but it suffered the most. And Sri Lanka’s big export, its role in earning foreign exchange is critical. Tea production fell by over 40% because of the ban on chemical fertilizer use. It’s around 10% of its FE earning, the impact was not on one sector but all of them.
Neither China nor Vandana killed the economy
Vandana Shiva’s advice was impractical, dogmatic and not scientific evidence or economic realities based. But no one had to listen to her. The decision to implement her advice was up to the Rajapakse government not anyone else. The responsibility for the disaster lay with them. And it wasn’t one reason that devastated the economy but many factors.
Sri Lanka’s major problem was sovereign debt that is when its global payments are beyond its capacity to do so. The external debt service payments for Sri Lanka stood at US$7 billion for what remains of this year, against the foreign reserves of US$1.9 billion at the end of March 2022.Jun 21, 2022 .
Tea production is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka, and accounts for 2% of GDP, contributing over US$1.3 billion in 2021 to the economy of Sri Lanka. This is around 12% of foreign exchange earnings. Knowing this situation, why would Sri Lanka take a chance?
Reasons are not difficult to find. Rajapakse cluster had simply run out of ideas and Sri Lanka had run out of time. Every decision it took ran counter to its interest and ultimately the collapse became inevitable.
The cheering crowds that attacked the Presidential palace and played with pillows inside and swam in the polls after what amounted to a “people’s coup” was heartwarming. At the same time, it hid the fact that the state is also in the same situation, out of control. Crowds can overthrow politicians but delivering economic goods is beyond it. Three activist leaders came together and actually engineered the latest uprising that threw the President out but there is no indication that a trio of policy makers exist who can put the economy on the right track.
Everyone contributed to the current crisis but the reasons go deeper than the advice of an activist. Neither China nor Vandana did SL in, it was more of a suicide.