Former Sri Lankan President Leaves Behind Country in Economic Turmoil

( – Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who promised to shift the country to organic farming within a decade and banned all agrochemicals in an attempt to achieve that goal, this week fled the country amid civil unrest and economic turmoil.

Early on July 13, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his wife flew to the Maldives, days after protestors stormed his residence, demanding his resignation. He has since gone to Singapore.

The president and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had both agreed to resign, with Rajapaksa’s resignation taking effect Wednesday morning.

Wickremesinghe, who is now acting president, has agreed to step down once a new government is appointed.

Since breaking into Rajapaksa’s residence, protestors have been occupying the mansion and enjoying its sumptuous amenities. Activists have been seen enjoying the president’s gym and swimming pool. They say they plan to remain there until the government is replaced.


The unrest follows months of gas, food, and medicine shortages coupled with high inflation, which reached 54.6 percent in June. Many schools closed due to fuel shortages Sri Lanka does not have funds to pay for the imported goods it desperately needs.

While campaigning in 2019, Rajapaksa promised to move Sri Lanka to organic farming within one decade, in an effort to curb the environmental impact of industrial agriculture.

After taking office, he banned imports of all agrochemicals, leaving two million farmers unable to obtain fertilizer. The abrupt policy shift was blamed for destroying crop yields, forcing the country to import rice from abroad for the first time in decades.

Rajapaksa has also been criticized for borrowing billions of dollars to invest in infrastructure projects meant to stimulate the country’s economy. The infrastructure projects have not provided the economic stimulation the country desperately needs. With some $51 billion in foreign debt, Sri Lanka was forced to default on its debt for the first time in history this May.

The country as a result has been unable to import the food, medicine, and fuel its citizens need amid nationwide shortages.

Critics have pointed to the crisis in Sri Lanka as an example of the inevitable effects of drastic environmental measures.

“These are the real-world consequences of central government planning,” a National Review editorial argued this week.

Defenders of organic farming do not view the situation in Sri Lanka as conclusive evidence of the risks of expanding green farming techniques, however.

“Agricultural experts argue that organic farming should not be blamed for the disastrous policy to ban fertilizer,” wrote Time magazine’s Chad de Guzman. “It was, rather, the speed, scale, and sustainability of its implementation.”

In 2018, Wickremesinghe wrote an article published on the World Economic Forum’s website entitled “This is how I will make my country rich by 2025,” in which he described Sri Lanka as a country “on the cusp of a transition to a knowledge-based economy.”

Among the policy suggestions Sri Lanka has taken since from the World Economic Forum was the decision to shift to all organic farming.

The country’s green initiatives have earned the country a near-perfect ESG (“Environmental, Social, and Governance”) score of 98.

“The underlying reason for the fall of Sri Lanka is that its leaders fell under the spell of Western green elites peddling organic agriculture and ‘ESG,’” environmentalist and author Michael Schellenberger wrote in a recent article.

Schellenberger also noted that other factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and a 2019 terrorist bombing affecting tourism levels, contributed to the crisis.


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