Just got back from shopping at Paradise Road and Odel - these are the two coolest retail places in Colombo. But, my, how they've changed.
I remember going to both in 1999 on my first visit here. Paradise Road sold locally-made arts and crafts, fabrics and candles and smelly things (a bit like the Pier only more authentically Sri Lankan), while Odel sold over-runs of clothes made here for the likes of Gap, M&S, Tommy Hilfiger and others.
Now both stores are brands in their own right. Paradise Road still sells Sri Lankan-made arts and crafts, ceramics, cloth and pictures, but it also has complete kitchen ranges and dinner services in lovely pure white porcelain. It's the kind of place where you'd have your wedding list - and I suspect one or two of the young couples I saw in there this morning were putting one of those together.
Odel has become a mall selling clothes, jewelry, shoes and accessories -many of them at prices that wouldn't be out of place in Harrods. It's busy with chic Sri Lankans and tourists but it's lost something of its character.
I guess both places indicate something of Sri Lanka's development over the past decade. Despite the war, it has been doing OK with garment making for many major brands as well as tourist industry that, judging by the number of new hotels going up in Colombo alone, can't doing that badly.
We'll see what effect the recent granting of an IMF loan will have. Chances are that stringent enforcement of market mechanisms by the IMF will send the cost of basics - like fuel oil, grains, especially rice - through the roof. At the same time the rupee will fall on the open market - assuming the IMF insists that the Government can no longer artificially peg it to the dollar.
The chic in Odel might be OK. The rest of the population could feel quite a pinch.