Back to the future for Sri Lanka’s central bank governor
Nandalal Weerasinghe has returned from exile to rescue the country’s battered economy. Will he succeed?
Of the many ways economists measure the stability of a nation, in crisis-wracked Sri Lanka the declining golf handicap of the country’s central bank governor may be one of the more eloquent.
Nandalal Weerasinghe worked at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, or CBSL, for 29 years, a dedicated technocrat who reached the position of senior deputy governor. But in September 2020, his career came to an abrupt end when he fell out with the ruling Rajapaksa clan, and he went to live in Brisbane, Australia.
The Rajapaksa family had been in power in Colombo for all but four of the previous 18 years – brothers Basil as finance minister, Mahinda as prime minister and Gotabaya as president – and they had little appetite for warnings from professionals like Weerasinghe that their populist, spendthrift policies could backfire.
Weerasinghe’s sudden departure from CBSL was dressed up as an “early retirement”. Only it was nothing of the kind. And while this exile was unwelcome, life in Queensland seemed to agree with him. Weerasinghe had been an occasional weekend golfer in Colombo, but in Australia, he got out on Brisbane’s courses as often as he could, playing five or six times a week, and his handicap came down to 16.