Opinion

Why are Sathosa shops empty?

When the views of the public on the Budget was televised recently many said that more than the salary increase, which in any case is an inadequate Rs. 1,750, what they are deeply worried is nothing is done by the government to cause a reduction in prices of essential foodstuffs such as rice, lentils, sugar, chillies, spices, dried fish, milk powder and so on. This is very true. The prices of these items have steadily increased in the last few months. Big onions is sold at Rs. 60 per kilo from about Rs. 26. Sugar went up to Rs. 38 from Rs. 26 Halmessa (Dried Sprats) is at Rs. 150 from Rs. 100. The black- marketeer and the private importers, in the circumstances, are taking the poor housewife for a ride.

What are the Sathosa food outlets, which were expected to come to the aid of the housewife in times of shortages doing? They certainly did a satisfactory job for many years and until a few months ago in the distribution of these essentials countrywide. Probably the President and the Prime Minister are not aware that the CWEs import and distribution activities remain paralysed for the last 4 months. Shelves in the Sathosa shops in most parts of the country are empty. Enquiries made by the media from CWE officials report the situation is out of control. Not only is the CEWs pathetic liquidity situation unable to pay for the imports of these essential items but a long queue of local suppliers demanding their dues of many millions of rupees for supplies made months ago are seen crowding the CWE head-office daily. It is also said the management is unable to generate sufficient business to pay salaries of the staff in the past few months. The present management owes an explanation to the public as to what is happening to this organisation that was generally in a healthy state for over 50 years. It is also understood those who agreed to put in money to buy shares in the CWEs restructuring programme have pulled out. There is also talk if PERC were allowed to do the restructuring programme in the prescribed manner CWE would have found financiers long ago. There is bound to be chaos during the Christmas and New year season when customers discover the shelves of Sathosa are empty. The Prime Minister and President must immediately step in and breathe life into the temporarily dead CWE and not only pump In the necessary money but also make way for a more vibrant and profit-oriented management team.
pro bono publico
Colombo 3


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