One in four Sri Lankans wants to emigrate
by Melani Manel Perera

A recent survey by the Institute for Health Policy found that many Sri Lankans are dissatisfied with the economic situation and the handling of the COVID-19 epidemic. Many voters are disappointed by the government.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – One in four Sri Lankans would emigrate if given the chance, this according to a recent survey on the situation of the country that is trying to leave the COVID-19 epidemic behind.

Released on Wednesday, the results of the Sri Lanka Opinion Tracker Survey, conducted by the Institute for Health Policy (IHP), reveal a certain malaise in Sri Lankan society.

The young and the educated are the ones who want to emigrate the most, with about one in two saying they want to leave the country. Of those who would like to emigrate, one in four intends to do so.

The IHP noted that the poll results confirm Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's recent remarks that young people who voted for the government are now waiting to get passports to go abroad.

Among adults who voted for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, however, the desire to emigrate is strongly influenced by level of education and income; the higher the latter, the greater the desire.

Overall, voters disappointed with the government are three times more likely than the president's loyalists to opt for emigration.

A certain pessimism about the economic situation and dissatisfaction with the government's response to COVID-19 seem to be the key factors in the disappointment of a section of the electorate.

Two thirds of Rajapaksa's former supporters expect the economy to worsen next year, while only 47 per cent of dissatisfied voters rate the government's response to the pandemic as good, compared to 74 per cent for loyalists.

Some people who are trying to leave the country have expressed their frustration.

"People have no money to eat or drink and maintain their family. No jobs,” said Nihal Sarachchandra Hewag, who used to work in the United Arab Emirates and is now trying to emigrate with his family again.

“The price of goods has skyrocketed,” he noted. “The resources of the whole country are being sold abroad secretly. The government isn’t helping people to live freely."

“There is no orderly control of the epidemic,” said Nilakshika Tennekoon, a young scholar from the Open University of Colombo trying to go to Australia, speaking to AsiaNews.

“Checks are made on the whim of our rulers and the country opens and closes at their wish. They are trying to kill our people,” she added.

The survey shows that disappointed voters are also in favour of greater control measures against COVID-19.

For one in two, fewer than a hundred deaths a year would be acceptable if the restrictions were eased, compared with two-thirds of the president's supporters who believe a thousand deaths a year or more would be acceptable.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Ravi Rannan-Eliya, the lead researcher who developed the survey, explained that the data show that the policy change towards the coronavirus in early 2021 cost the government dearly in terms of support, with a majority of citizens preferring tighter controls.