EU Trade Agreements are subjected to a three pronged review before the European Parliament (EP), Council and the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which ordinarily would widen the net for any agreement that falls foul of human-rights ethos to be rescinded. This is not mere comity but a treaty obligation under Article 1 of the Lisbon Treaty and the EU Policy. The EU has taken several initiatives that show its commitments. It has started the EU Cities Award for Fair and Ethical Trade to allow member-state consumers to undertake informed decisions, passed resolutions to halt EU imports of minerals that fund conflicts and forced labour, has advocated for torture-free trade related UN Convention and has recently been incorporating legally-binding labour and environment standards in all its agreements with a specific reference to Paris Agreement. However, since all three bodies at the EU pursue different goals, the conditionality clauses have not always been uniform.
Several of its agreements have been halted over contentious issues of human-rights, such as the EU FTAs with Malaysia, Thailand El Salvador. EU-Myanmar Negotiations on Bilateral Investment have halted after 5 rounds of negotiations because of the Rohingya refugee crisis. Negotiations for a renewed agreement with Russia have also been suspended by the European Council since March, 2014 (annexation of Crimea). EU has also started an official procedure which could lead to suspension of the EU Cambodia Preferential Trading Status because of violation of human rights and labour rights. It has attempted to modernise the first-generation FTAs (executed before 2005) to include more ‘rule and value based’ systems (Mexico, since April 2018) and consistently provided macro-financial assistance to countries like Jordan and Tunisia hosting Syrian refugees, to improve their balance of payments. However, there have been criticisms that in its attempts to forge economic deals with more industrialised states, it has been willing to compromise on the human-rights aspects. A few authors believe, that the EU’s diminishing importance as a commercial hub over emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil, might be reason.
The EU-India Free Trade Agreement (‘FTA’) negotiations that commenced around 2007, have been stalled since 2013 over several issues including India’s dismal record of its treatment of minorities and human-rights defenders, its position on Kashmir (and lately, the Citizenship Amendment Act) and environmental and labour standards such as its tolerance of bonded and child labour. Agreed, there have been a few agreements pursued (1994 Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development and the 2004 Strategic Partnership agreement), but they have been more in the nature of political statements than binding economic commitments.
There are also a few concerns emerging with an ‘EU-wide advocacy’ solution, for several reasons including: the marked increase in populist right-wing led governments (for instance, Hungary), rising grievances against the high standards propounded by courts such as the Abu Qatada judgement of the ECtHR which upheld that fair trial principles triumph even national interests, in the context of deportation of Abu Qatada to Jordan, recession trends and economic slowdowns (for example, in Greece) that have lowered the bloc’s bargaining power, EU’s inconsistency in its own internal affairs (for instance, no actions have been taken against Spain over its actions in Catalonia over similar issues of self-determination) and a perception amongst developing countries that human-rights is a Western concept (recently cited by India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah).
Adoption of an intersectional approach
Although the EU speaks collectively on these matters, it is not denied that larger member-states often prevail over the smaller ones at the EP, hence a supranational assessment may not be the best way forward. As of March 2019, 13 member states including Germany, Belgium and France, enjoyed a trade surplus with India, while 20 member states including Netherlands and Spain stood at a deficit. A greater asymmetry of positions could indicate which way the deal ultimately tilts. The latter group would seem to be more willing to hold India to higher standards.
An analysis of the goods traded would be the next step. The EU enjoys a higher export-import ratio over India in goods such as aircrafts and associated equipments for which finding alternate markets would be difficult. Whereas India’s trade in terms of food-products, including sea-food (running into 50,000 crores) have been facing losses over the US halting imports. After the US, the EU would have naturally been the next biggest market, but the inking of the EU-Vietnam FTA indicates that further losses could percolate from the EU.
For a while now, India has been continually adopting a protectionist stance. The government has been contemplating restrictions on imports of electronic goods since it believes that its signing of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement that led to higher imports by reduction of import duties, hurt its domestic consumers. In April 2019, the EU had taken India to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body on ICT Goods for imposing ‘unlawful duties’. It has also maintained this stance at the recently concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) over concerns about Chinese goods flooding the market. It seems less likely to compromise over the EU deal now. Apart from this, India has an alternative in the form of an FTA with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) led by its political ally Russia (other countries include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan). Since the bloc lies at a distance, it would be unlikely to invest heavily and India need not be too worried about losses to its domestic players. Moreover, there is greater scope for exchange in technology (India has previously expressed its willingness to provide SEZs to Russia) and the bloc is as large as MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay) with whom India has had trade pacts since 2009. While Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and Egypt are in the process of negotiating FTAs with EAEU. Vietnam has already entered into an FTA with the bloc and this could be setting a precedent. Finally, India could enter into deal without the added weight of incorporation of human-rights clauses and this makes it more likely to maintain its position on the EU FTA.
However, the EU still holds the bargaining chip because India’s current economic losses and decreasing levels of investment could deter concrete deals at this point.
Cedric Ryngaert, expert in international law, opined that EU’s obligations to ensure its trading partner’s compliance with human-rights standards in context of the Fronte Polisario judgement, were not merely extraterritorial but flowed from its territorial obligations to exercise due-diligence since the agreements were concluded within EU, although its effects were felt on a foreign territory. He argues that even though the EU Courts may not be able to prohibit the execution of agreements, they are still competent to examine whether there has been an ‘error of assessment’ on the part of the Council. There could be similar arguments regarding the application of the passive personality principle (although the principle itself has not gained much traction), since individuals from occupied territories are now residing or are nationals of EU member states, the bloc holds a duty towards them.
Purely academic concerns aside, to prevent backlash on the part of the EU Member States, strict standards of assessment could be confined to ‘serious’ violations as opposed to ‘ordinary violations’. The seriousness could be assessed for example, by identifying whether the category of human rights being violated is peremptory in nature or at least the minimum essential or core obligations. This finds support in the example that even the concept of exercise of universal jurisdiction is limited to certain serious violations and Article 42 of the Draft Articles on Responsibility of International Organizations (DARIO) that prohibits international organisations from recognizing as lawful a situation created by a serious breach of peremptory norms nor render aid or assistance in maintaining that situation. Apart from self-determination and the freedom of religion, the core labour standards (on forced/compulsory labour, association and collective bargaining and child labour) are also part of customary international law.To see how strongly these principles are upheld, notice that even as a part of EU’s Public Procurement policies (See, 2014 Directives) which is supposed to comprise a significant proportion of its GDP (almost 14% of their GDP) and where member states are usually allowed discretion, one exception stood out: where the corporation or its operators have been convicted by a final judgement of child labour or trafficking (Art 57(1)(f) Dir 2014/24/EU).
EU agreements with other industrialised nations have not been completely smooth either. EU opted for consultations (17 December 2018) and follow-ups with South-Korea over non-ratification of four fundamental ILO Conventions and has also referred the matter for arbitration(2 July 2019). It has provided support to Central American countries (Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica) in implementing ILO reforms through their regional offices, adoption of due diligence business plans and formation of tripartite councils (for collective bargaining) while condemning the situation in Nicaragua. In Columbia, Peru and Ecuador, where there were issues over child labour, collective bargaining and association rights, illegal mining and fishing issues, it has set up ‘technical missions’ to identify and provide suggestions (labour networks have been set up, hazardous occupations lists revised in Colombia, financing of labour inspection by EU in these countries, commitments to the endangered species convention). It has provided assistance packages to Georgia and Ukraine subject to them undertaking concrete measures (Georgia has enacted laws on occupational safety and health, while maintaining that Ukraine must address governance issues such as through adoption of anti-money laundering laws).
There are existing bottlenecks in several other countries too, yet, there still exists an agreement.
The EU is generally not hesitant in enforcing the provisions, but believes in initially resorting to dialogues and bilateral talks, seeks reports from civil society, looks to the implementation of the provisions through follow-ups. Suspension or unilateral cessation of operation of the FTAs are a bit unusual. The human rights clauses are unique to the FTAs executed by the EU. These provisions are not standalone, and the whole reason why they exist in trade agreements is to incentivise the partner states to uphold their commitments.
EU has a large presence at the WTO. One of its agendas has been entering into agreements with WTO members and keeping them plurilateral, open for other WTO members to enter at a later stage. This would eventually lead to anchoring those agreements at the WTO Level itself, even if negotiated outside the organisation. India would stand at a loss if it were to leave the deal. India could also be a prominent partner when it comes to trade in services(as of 2014, the Trade in Services for EU stood at 728 Billion Euros and 60% of the EU investment abroad is related to services). It has also been negotiating the ambitious plurilateral agreement on services wherein it will engage in EU-financed exchanges, training and other capacity-building initiatives, negotiation of mobility related issues for professionals and conditions of entry and residence for nationals of non-member states. Instead of out rightly lobbying for stopping all negotiations over the FTA, showing that the EU has an upper-hand, and overselling the importance of the EU trade deal to India is what I believe will be the best way to ensure that India fulfills its human rights mandate. The Indian civil society to engage with trade confederations so as to push their business interests to facilitate trade deals considering their losses. Finally, EU at its end could be led by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights(the revised Draft for a binding treaty along these lines was formulated in July 2019) to control corporations entering into trade agreements or investing in countries with low human rights track records.
 The proposal to initiate a trade agreement with a non-member state arises from the European Commission (EC).DG Trade is one of the bodies that leads discussions before the EC. There is also the Trade Policy Committee (TPC) (a working group made up of the EU Member States that works alongside the EC). Both are known to adopt a liberal economic approach. However, EP can take the ultimate decision by choosing to not ratify agreements that have already been executed, although it cannot alter them. The EP is believed to espouse political values over commercial interests. To avert such a situation, the TPC has started deliberating with the EP’s Committee on International Trade. Finally, the European External Action Service (EEAS) is motivated to maintain a coherence in External Policies and is known to prefer values over interests. Legal commitments towards human-rights principles is enshrined also as a part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Development Cooperation, Common Commercial Policy, Area Freedom and Justice, the 2012 Strategic Framework and corresponding Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy and the Common Agreement on the use of Political Clauses, 2009. These policy documents, provide that human rights clauses should be included either as a part of the FTA itself, or a political document that precedes the execution of the FTA. The Commission in certain cases also draws up Impact Assessments (before negotiations) and Sustainability Assessments (during the negotiations) to understand the potential impact of trade liberalisation on the HRs situation in the territory and the State’s ability to fulfill their obligations. This has been understood recently, to be a part of the EU’s obligations under Article 21.
From Bullets to Development: Rethinking Military Expenditure in Favour of Official Development Assistance
International assistance has achieved remarkable accomplishments in reducing global poverty, supporting girls’ education, addressing hunger, ensuring safe childbirth, nearly eradicating polio, combating female genital mutilation (FGM), providing food rations for Syrian refugees, constructing schools and sanitation facilities in Kenya, and delivering crucial relief supplies to Afghan villagers affected by an earthquake.
However, despite the current combination of global crises, some of the wealthiest nations in the world are planning to significantly reduce their life-saving aid budgets in 2022-23. These decisions are made by political elites who are sheltered within the safety of their privileged positions, yet the consequences of these choices are acutely felt by the most vulnerable individuals across the globe.
Official Development Assistance (ODA) plays a vital role in supporting the development and welfare efforts of low- and middle-income nations. The United Nations has set a target for countries to allocate 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) towards ODA. However, recent estimates indicate that a significant portion of foreign aid is being directed towards Ukraine, accounting for 7.8% of all ODA in 2022. Meanwhile, aid provided to least-developed countries and countries in sub-Saharan Africa has actually decreased. Donors continue to fall short of their targets to contribute at least 0.7% of their GNI to ODA. When considering a long-term perspective, it is evident that aid may still be experiencing a downward trend in comparison to what countries can reasonably afford.
.Despite its importance, the global levels of Official Development Assistance (ODA) have experienced minimal growth in the last ten years. This lack of progress in fulfilling the commitment to increase ODA to 0.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) places a burden on low- and middle-income countries. As a result, these nations are compelled to devise alternative development strategies that are less reliant on external aid. This situation presents them with difficult choices regarding the allocation of their scarce domestic resources undermining development in social sectors.
On the contrary, Military expenditure reached record level in the second year of the pandemic and world military spending continued to grow in 2021, reaching an all-time high of $2.1 trillion. This was the seventh consecutive year that spending increased, research published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
In light of the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development adopted in March 2002 and the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), which outlines spending priorities, states are encouraged to set appropriate targets for essential public services like healthcare, education, electricity provision, and sanitation. However that might not be the case. The latest figures from the OECD will provide further support to the argument. Although there was substantial funding for Ukraine in 2022, Official Development Assistance (ODA) to some of the world’s poorest countries experienced a decline.
The data reveals a decrease of approximately 0.7% in bilateral flows to the group of nations categorized as the least developed countries, comprising 46 countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zambia. The total amount of aid provided to these countries amounted to $32 billion. In simpler terms, the data demonstrates that development aid to numerous developing countries actually contracted.
This leads to an abrupt reordering of budget priorities, where military expenditures, and humanitarian aid take precedence, while other critical needs like education and social services are likely to be deprioritized. Meanwhile, the convergence of droughts and conflicts causes immense human suffering and widespread hunger in several nations, and despite the urgent nature of these crises, UN humanitarian appeals for assistance consistently suffer from inadequate funding.
Assistance allocated to Ukraine, as well as any future major crises that require global attention, should be supplementary to the existing humanitarian and development budgets rather than compromising one for the sake of the other.
As we already knew, in 2021 the ODA budget was reduced to 0.5%, a drop of £3bn compared to 2020 to £11.4bn. The starkest impact of these cuts is on “least developed countries” (LDCs). The amount of bilateral ODA going to LDCs dropped by £961m in 2021, a cut of 40% taking it to a total of £1.4bn.
Yoke Ling, the Executive Director of Third World Network, commented that the increasing military expenditure will undoubtedly have a direct influence on various types of spending that developed countries have committed to providing for developing nations. This includes Official Development Assistance (ODA) and climate finance, which are legal obligations under climate treaties.
Furthermore, Yoke Ling highlighted that even prior to the Russian-Ukraine conflict, developed nations had already been reducing their financial support for development. Therefore, it is anticipated that this decline in development financing will further deteriorate in the future.
Given the climate-change-triggered floods in Nigeria and Pakistan, the severe food insecurity affecting millions in Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia, the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan resulting in widespread starvation and desperate measures such as selling body parts to provide for families, the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria where millions remain in displacement camps even a decade after the conflict started, and the devastating famine gripping Tigray, advocates concur that there is an urgent need to uphold and potentially enhance international aid more than ever before.
According to a UN report titled “2022 Financing for Sustainable Development Report: Bridging the Finance Divide,” the Official Development Assistance (ODA) experienced a remarkable growth, reaching its highest-ever level of $161.2 billion in 2020. However, despite this record growth, the report highlights that 13 countries reduced their ODA contributions, and the overall amount remains insufficient to meet the significant needs of developing countries.
The UN expresses concern that the crisis in Ukraine, coupled with increased spending on refugees in Europe, may result in reductions in aid provided to the poorest nations. The majority of developing countries require urgent and proactive support to get back on track towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to the report’s estimates, a 20 percent increase in spending will be necessary in key sectors within the poorest countries.
If certain developed nations allocate generous resources to military expenditures while simultaneously reducing funding for other aid programs, are they implying that security interests take precedence over long-term public needs? Without question, the rights and necessities of people in Ukraine, Asia, and the rest of the Global South should be prioritized over military spending. Moreover, apart from the conflict in Ukraine, developed countries have already failed to fulfil their commitment of providing $100 billion of climate finance by the year 2020.
By compromising development aid budgets and climate finance, the consequences of poverty, inequalities, adverse climate impacts, and exclusion in the global South will be exacerbated. Such a lack of ambition risks reinforcing the economic and political grievances that lie at the core of armed conflicts in various regions, including Asia.
In order to uphold solidarity and justice, there is a pressing need for synergized political will and ambition.
We should challenge developed countries to honour their existing aid commitments, which include allocating a minimum of 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) as Official Development Assistance (ODA). Additionally, we also call upon them to provide new funding to address the needs of the people in Ukraine. It is imperative to identify new avenues for grants-based climate finance to compensate those most affected by climate change, including communities experiencing losses and damages.
The UN report on Financing for Sustainable Development also highlights the stark contrast between rich countries, which were able to support their pandemic recovery through substantial borrowing at very low interest rates, and the poorest nations that had to allocate billions of dollars to service their debts, hindering their ability to invest in sustainable development.
As we approach the midpoint of funding the Global Sustainable Development Goals, the discoveries are deeply concerning. We cannot afford to be inactive during this critical moment of shared responsibility, where our aim is to uplift hundreds of millions of individuals out of hunger and poverty. It is indispensable that we prioritize investments in equitable access to decent and environmentally friendly employment, social protection, healthcare, and education, leaving no one behind.
Meeting of BRICS Foreign Ministers in Cape Town: gauging the trends ahead of the summit
The meetings of BRICS foreign ministers in Cape Town on June 1-2 were awaited with notable impatience by the global community as several themes in BRICS development were very much in the spotlight throughout this year. One theme was the process of de-dollarization of BRICS economies and the possible creation of a BRICS common currency. Another theme was the discussion on the possible expansion in the BRICS core membership as nearly 20 developing economies have indicated their intention to join the block. Perhaps for the first time in more than a decade these issues made it into the Western mainstream media as the potential implications of BRICS decisions on the common currency and membership could have a major effect on the evolution of the global economic system.
As regards the issue of the creation of a new currency, the BRICS Foreign Ministers placed the emphasis on the use of national currencies in mutual settlements. The cautious approach of BRICS to the issue of the common currency thus far may be due to the need to consider all possible modalities of such a currency, including whether it is to be used as a means of mutual settlements, an accounting unit or as a reserve currency. At the same time, it does appear that the New Development Bank (NDB) was charged with producing a blueprint of how the common BRICS currency could be created and used in mutual transactions. Fundamentally, it appears that all BRICS economies see de-dollarization and the creation of alternative settlement instruments as expedient – the question is what are the common BRICS initiatives in this area that would be seen as optimal by all core members. There may be more substantive discussions on the BRICS common currency at the August summit, with further progress made in 2024 during Russia’s BRICS chairmanship.
With respect to the issue of the block’s expansion the BRICS Foreign Ministers have indicated that work is still ongoing on defining the criteria for new members. No concrete “priority candidates” were singled out. The gradualism in the expansion process is warranted as there may be risks associated with the expansion in the ranks of the BRICS core – the decision-making process is likely to get more complicated at a time when BRICS are set to make crucial decisions with sizeable long-term implications not only with respect to BRICS own future but also for the global economy. In the end BRICS members may come to the conclusion that expanding the BRICS core is problematic and that other formats such as the BRICS+/BRICS++ or a permanent “circle of friends” that participate in the BRICS summits may be preferable. In this respect, it is important to look at the modalities of BRICS meetings with the so-called “Friends of BRICS” that were held during the second day of meetings on June 2.
The meetings of the “Friends of BRICS” featured such economies as Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Gabon, Kazakhstan as well as Egypt, Argentina, Bangladesh, Guinea-Bissau and Indonesia. Some of these countries were invited from within the group of those that had earlier applied to join the BRICS block, while others featured as representatives of the respective regions and regional associations of the Global South. To some degree the composition of the countries invited into the “Friends of BRICS” circle may offer insights into the format of the BRICS+ meetings at the summit in August later this year.
Overall, South Africa is sustaining the impulse towards greater BRICS openness after the BRICS+ meetings last year during China’s chairmanship. And while a full-fledged admission of new members into the BRICS core appears unlikely in the very near term, there may be further advancements made by BRICS in developing the BRICS+ format and setting the stage for a greater cooperation of BRICS with other developing economies and regional integration blocks. As regards de-dollarization and the creation of a new BRICS currency, the most important development is that these issues are now squarely part of the BRICS agenda, which raises the prospects of material changes on this front in the coming years.
Author’s note: first published in BRICS+ Analytics
Has Sri Lanka Recovered from the Economic Crisis?
Sri Lanka is navigating an unparalleled economic crisis, and according to the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) annual report, the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) April 2023, the country’s GDP would continue to decline in 2023 before starting to slowly recover in 2024. In 2022, the economy shrank by 7.8%, and in 2023, it is expected to shrink by 3% as it continues to struggle with debt restructuring and balance of payments issues. The country’s efforts to stabilize its economy will be aided by reform measures including the rollback of the 2019 tax cuts and the recent acceptance of the Extended Fund Facility agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The speedy resolution of the debt issue and the unwavering execution of reforms are essential to Sri Lanka’s recovery from the crisis.
However, due to policy mistakes, global economic shocks, rivalries among the big powers, and pre-pandemic macroeconomic vulnerabilities, Sri Lanka was already in a precarious position when the crisis began. In 2022, a lack of foreign currency caused a shortage of goods that were necessary for survival, as well as an acute energy crisis that resulted in protracted power outages and traffic jams since Sri Lanka was running low on fuel. Many fell into poverty as a result of rising inflation and declining living conditions. The poor and vulnerable have suffered disproportionately from the economic crisis.
While different economic packages have been sanctioned for the island state and relatively sound political stability is on the eve, it can be perceived that an upward movement may be seen in the next year. This year is the year of policy reformations, then the reaping time will be 2024. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan currency last appreciated versus the dollar by 4.5 percent on March 14. The writeup will therefore shed light on the prospects of economic upwardness.
Finally receiving approval from the IMF for a $3 billion rescue package for Sri Lanka, the island nation may now restructure its debt and expect economic growth in 2024. The IMF’s decision will enable for the prompt disbursement of a $333 million loan over four years to the South Asian nation, which is currently experiencing its worst financial crisis in decades. According to IMF director for Asia and the Pacific Krishna Srinivasan, Sri Lanka has been “hit hard by catastrophic economic and humanitarian crisis.” In an interview with CNBC’s Sri Jegarajah in Asia, he said, “This you can trace back to three factors: One is pre-existing vulnerabilities, policy mistakes, and shocks.”
However, Ranil Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, was elected president by the nation’s lawmakers in July. Wickremesinghe congratulated the IMF in a tweet in response to the most recent IMF bailout and stated that his nation is dedicated to its “reform agenda,” adding that the IMF program is “critical to achieving this vision.”
Previously, as mentioned, the biggest economic crisis the island nation has seen since gaining independence began in early 2022, according to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, and is projected to gradually cease in the second half of this year. According to Xinhua news agency, the central bank stated its monetary policies for 2023 on January 4 and noted that the sharp acceleration of inflation that started in early 2022 reversed in October. “The Sri Lankan economy, which is projected to register a real contraction of around 8.0 percent in 2022, is expected to record a gradual recovery in the second half of 2023 and sustain the growth momentum beyond,” the bank stated.
According to a recent study by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the GDP of the nation increased by 3.6% in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same time in 2012. Compared to the previous quarter, when the GDP expanded by just 1.5%, this is a huge increase. This development has been attributed to a variety of factors, including increasing industrial production and greater demand for Sri Lankan exports. Particularly, the manufacturing industry has experienced rapid development, with production rising 6.9% in the first quarter of 2023. The agricultural industry has also done well, with considerable increases in tea and rubber exports. Additionally, there have been indications of a rebound in the tourism sector, as seen by a 29% rise in visitor arrivals in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in 222. Given that the tourist sector has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions, this is particularly noteworthy.
However, since Sri Lanka’s governmental collapse and near-bankruptcy last summer, there appears to be a return to calm in the South Asian country. Fuel lines that once snaked for blocks have been removed, and a beachside area that had been the location of a protest camp for months was decorated for the holidays with Christmas lights and carnival rides. Moreover, the island’s economy still runs on a ventilator since the government has not found a solution to escape its crippling debt. Sri Lankans have come to terms with a depressing reality that includes fewer meals, smaller paychecks, and lower aspirations.
Meanwhile, instead of fixing the economy, a series of punitive tax hikes and subsidy reductions that further limited demand have brought about a semblance of stability. Although necessary, the actions are unpopular and provide fodder for the political opposition, increasing the likelihood that this administration or the one after it will back off from them. Therefore, the economy is still running on a thin line.
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