What did Sri Lanka get
out of CHOGM?
It appears that our Emperor’s
attempts to show-off his new clothes viz spanking
new infrastructure, spotless city etc., to the world through CHOGM went
At the expense of the Lankan
tax-payer we managed however to provide a free and very expensive platform for
the LTTE diaspora to be heard through the Eton- educated gab of none other than the British Prime Minister David
Cameron himself. He made no bones about why he was coming to Sri Lanka and what
he was going to do here and he did it!
The Indian PM let his British
counterpart do all his dirty-work and stayed at home blaming it on ‘domestic’
The LTTE rump managed to get Sri
Lanka to foot the bill for a hugely successful international media blitz held
on our own soil to espouse their cause.
Prince Charles had a nice
Other CHOGM invitees had an
all-expense-paid holiday in sunny Sri Lanka and went home.
All’s well that ends well, but
what did Sri Lanka get out of hosting this carnival?
Besides egg on our faces, we got
as ‘gifts’ two old boats from Australia which might otherwise have ended up in
a scrap yard, with two caveats attached
- they are to be used for preventing
any prospective Sri Lankan asylum seekers making a nuisance of themselves in
Australia and the Sri Lankan tax-payer must foot the bill for the “rebuilding”
of these ‘gifted’ old boats!
And of course we and our future
generations were landed with a LOT of bills amounting to over a staggering Rs.
6 billion which we the tax-payers must pay over many years to come!
That’s about it, as far as what
Sri Lanka got from hosting this mega carnival!
What Sri Lanka didn’t get from
this event is a long list of negatives that may go on forever.
To start with, according to local media reports city hotel occupancy levels were
far below expectations. The originally expected occupancy of 4,000 city hotel
rooms was never realised with only 50% of that at approximately 2100 rooms
being actually occupied during the event.
Reports further state that if not
for CHOGM, the average occupancy rates of city hotels at this time of the year
would have been around 75% to 80% percent. One leading hotelier reportedly
claims that his hotel lost “a good Rs.80 million of business due to CHOGM”. And
that is only the reported loss of one hotel. What about the others that carried
out massive refurbishment of their properties in time for CHOGM?
Almost all of Colombo’s schools
were closed for two weeks and Universities Island- wide also closed for one week disrupting education.
The massive economic losses
incurred by business enterprises, due to disruption caused by road closures and
restriction on vehicular traffic is mind boggling.
I hope an
honest cost benefit evaluation will be carried out to assess if the benefits of
hosting this ‘show’ outweigh the cost or vice
The only positive indicator so
far is that Sri Lanka’s business community was pleased with the exposure the
country received as a prospective destination for trade, investment and
tourism. However it is still too early to predict how successful the much
touted Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) was, as impressive numbers of foreign
participants is not an indicator of its success.
In a new world-order where trade
is more important than politics, let us hope nevertheless, that some measure of
success was derived through visiting business leaders and entrepreneurs linking
up with one another and that it would ultimately transform into investment
agreements benefiting the country.
At least then we would stand to
benefit from this otherwise useless exercise called CHOGM!
What did Sri Lanka get out of CHOGM?