The United States had in 2010 felt that Sarath Fonseka had poor economic knowledge during the run-up to the 2010 Presidential elections.
A leaked US cable, made public by Wikileaks, quoted the then US Deputy Chief of Mission in Sri Lanka Rebecca Cohn as saying that Fonseka is a military man who has publicly admitted that he has little knowledge of economic issues, and other than clamping down on corruption, he has no apparent economic program.
The cable also quoted campaign strategist and economist Harsha de Silva as saying that Fonseka promised benefits to each economic segment of the population in order to gain votes.
He has promised to increase the monthly salary of public servants by 10,000 rupees or approximately $ 90 USD per month (there are 1.2 million government employees).
Fonseka also supports providing 2,000 rupee monthly pensions to senior citizens (about $18 USD).
Fonseka himself, however, prefers not to discuss future economic plans, the US cable added.
The cable also said that during a lunch meeting Cohn had with UNP leader Ranil Wickramesinghe, his wife had said that Wickramesinghe and Fonseka should say something about the economy.
However Wickramesinghe had demurred because the political parties backing Fonseka’s candidacy (primarily the liberal UNP and the leftist JVP) had completely different economic policies.
Fonseka was a common candidate supported by the free market UNP and the far left JVP. The UNP has supported privatization of state industries, an open economy and an increased role for the private sector.
The JVP is at the opposite end of the economic spectrum, has opposed privatization and UNP reforms in the past, supports a large role of the state, opposes foreign investment, and advocates for government welfare to protect society.
Harsha De Silva, who is a prominent opposition economist, said that he was in charge of writing Fonseka’s economic manifesto for his possible administration, but it was an impossible task because the UNP and JVP are diametrically opposed.
Instead of a positive economic agenda, De Silva recommended attacking President Rajapaksa for corruption and government waste, the cable said. (Colombo Gazette)