Beware: Chemical warfare by TNCs – EDITORIAL

The economics of politics and the politics of economics being connected nationally and internationally, what we see to a large extent in developing countries such as Sri Lanka today is a subtle form of economic neocolonialism with the air power being given by transnational corporations (TNCs).

According to most international analysts, the three biggest profit-making TNCs are the sophisticated mafias involved in the multi-billion-dollar arms trade, the agrochemical business and the pharmaceutical trade or Bigpharma.

In Sri Lanka the Bigpharma TNCs have not given up their battle, though the new National Unity Government, after a long delay, this year passed the law to appoint the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) to work out Prof. Senake Bibile’s essential medicines concept. President Maithripala Sirisena, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne and the NMRA have assured that by next year the practical benefits of the new law will flow down to the patients, whose well-being will be given top priority.

The Agrochemical TNCs are also fighting hard, though the herbicide glyphosate was banned recently in the aftermath of the worst-ever kidney disease epidemic, mainly in the North-Central Province. Last month a society of medical officers specialising in this area held a seminar in Colombo largely to diagnose a case for this banned herbicide.

The seminar was sponsored by a TNC. Knowingly or unknowingly, the chief guest speaker was the head of a presidential task force linked to this issue. Today another such seminar is scheduled to be held at a Colombo hotel with the President and the Health Minister also being invited. The seminar is being described as a National Workshop to work out a solution for the Prevention of the Chronic Kidney Disease.

The flyer says a reverse osmosis plant will also be presented to the President. But eco-friendly activists are planning to hold a demonstration outside the hotel today alleging that the main organisers of this workshop are linked to agrochemical TNCs.  The Government, in its 2016 budget, has said it was withdrawing the provision of imported agrochemicals at subsidised rates to farmers. Instead it will give Rs. 25,000 for each season for farmers to buy their own fertiliser or hopefully buy or make organic fertiliser from cattle dung, leaves and organic waste.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his mid-term economic strategy outlined on November 5, also indicated that there would be a change in the fertiliser  subsidy scheme.  But as in the budget, the Premier also did not spell out the switch to organic fertiliser, which could be one of Sri Lanka’s main contributions to the historic agreement reached last Saturday at the Paris Conference of 196 nations.  Most analysts have described the agreement as a 180˚ turning point from the path of eco-cide.

In terms of the agreement, every country has been called upon to give a progress report by 2020, and Sri Lanka’s main plus-point could be the gradual change to organic farming, besides finding renewable sources of energy. Billionaire Bill Gates, who played a major role at the climate change summit in Paris, said he hoped to launch a virtual energy revolution by investing billions in a hi-tech project to make liquid fuel from solar energy.  Sri Lanka has solar power for 12 hours a day and 365 days a year. Therefore the Government also needs to encourage our hi-tech specialists to use their creative and imaginative skills to harness solar power or other eco friendly energy sources.

The Government, in its socialist market economic strategy, last week presented a concept paper to restructure Sri Lanka’s economy through the creation of some 2,500 village development councils through cluster villages to work out their own rural development schemes and also implement the policies of the Central Government.

Committees including religious leaders will guide and monitor these projects through which the Government hopes to create about one million productive job opportunities. With eco-friendly measures and policies to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources, we hope the new Sri Lanka will not allow our country to be a dumping ground for TNCs.

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