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Missed opportunities and the way forward

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The main problem with the UNP is that they believe it is only through privatization that the economic problems of a nation can be solved The main problem with the UNP is that they believe it is only through privatization that the economic problems of a nation can be solved (Picture courtesy -AFP)

Direction for future governments

As a nation we had enough opportunities, but lost or missed most of them due to our political system that had nurtured Political egoism complicated by leadership cults, which left us with a set of political parties and leaders, who have either neglected or forgotten the main issues. It is a verdict people can give regarding any issue. If there can be a possibility of national resources being pooled, what else can be there more effective than that?

Right direction
The UNP is a party that has more experts and they believe in private sector involvement to develop business. The main problem with them is that they believe it is only through privatization that the economic problems of a nation can be solved. When in countries like USA, UK and the rest of the capitalist world are resorting to so-called ‘socialist’ measures to bring benefits to people now popularly camouflaged as Human Resources, UNP tries to be more capitalist than Americans themselves. SLFP is a party which is not different except for dependency on State Sector involvement to a certain extent, in a fairly confused manner although the only problem the State Sector can have is inferior management which is actually an attitude problem. Some sectors can reach people more effectively only if they are on the State Sector. The Leftist/Socialist parties believe in State Sector importance, but they also have come to realize that Private Sector involvement at certain levels and sectors can be more effective. Other parties are more on a ‘Communal’ footing and they believe in winning only rights.

If the present government is sincere and honest, the idea of a national government also can be honestly promoted. But a coalition between UNP and SLFP alone can’t be termed a national government.

One very positive way the ‘Parties’ can go for the next election is with their National Development Programes and the people can elect the parties which promote the best policies. It is like trying to treat a patient. When the ailments of the patient are clear and obvious, there cannot be remedies different in principle as they can be different only in methodology for the simple reason that any ‘cure’ has to be based on the same principle.

Illogical remedies
As all what we had been doing in the past did not bring in the results we desired, we must know what our major problems are before finding solutions. Let us start with food production. How many paddy lands have been abandoned which has led the way for imports. Ironically due to imports more lands are getting abandoned due to pathetic planning. We have Ministers who try to encourage famers by giving them guaranteed prices and incentives such as BMWs while compelling 70% of the population to buy their daily needs. The simple truth that cannot   get into the thick heads of the decision-makers is that the 70% of the population have no regular income. When guaranteed prices are offered to farmers who are less than 30% how can they be benefited? What is not realized is the simple truth that it helps prices to rise. A kilo of rice which used to be at Rs.45/- towards the beginning of last year is over Rs.80/- and shamelessly it is mentioned that the minimum price cannot be withdrawn. If the farmer gained at least Rs.10/- due to that and if that amount can be still enjoyed by the same farmers if other avenues are found to keep the costs down by that amount. It is not rocket science.

Investment Promotion
There was a Minister in the previous government who tried his best to give respectability to a gambling den, justifying the enormous investment that would come in. He did not have the presence of mind or may be the capacity to be rational to understand that the ultimate outcome would not have brought any substantial benefits for the people. When gambling becomes illegal and punishable by law, even people who play cards at a funeral house are nabbed by the Police, such huge investments are justified and promoted shows how clueless those who matter can be.

The current government in trying to win over votes showed that there shall not be any mercy towards the big Mega companies, a pathetic attempt to win over more votes but creating a negative environment for investment. Instead, if such companies are invited to share the responsibility in developing our economy and look after the ‘Investment Aspect’ , cannot it be justified to give ‘Tax Incentives’ to those companies which generate employment, foreign exchange savings through export promotion and import substitution and so on ? Rather than scraping the profits after companies take risks and invest why cannot be there a system to encourage investment. That way, where the government cannot invest it can be done by the private sector. Without just waiting like Traffic Policemen waiting for motorists to make a mistake and then pouncing on them, why cannot our taxation system become a positive and a pro-investment promoter? Have the new set of politicians who made a big show understood these complications?

Education
Although we now have a new Minister, what new things have been at least hinted at? It is the same thing done by those who were there in the past. It looks funny the way problems related to education are analysed and solutions found. All the mal-practices are big issues now regarding school admissions. Desperate parents try all what they can do to get their children admitted to best schools. Only the schools in main cities have become important and the so called best teachers are found there. We have exemplary rules like ‘Two Miles’ radius for selection of students for schools and one can see buses coming from far away places with the name board indication the prestigious schools.
If such schools have become the destinations for the best students from all over the country that can be understood strictly as ‘Scholarship School’. But, the system has turned the otherwise law-abiding honest parents into criminals who commit false declarations and support their claims with forged documents. It is because all our education Ministers so far have failed to improve the standards to become uniform and applicable throughout the country. Our system allows for malpractices and then catch one or two to enforce law.

Does our education system have a base in our economy? Well if there is no such, then all the ministers who were responsible should get the blame. It has to be a system where all our efforts are well balanced. Universities and Institutions of Higher Education have to be geared to serve the National Needs. Education is responsible for creating more sensible citizens.

Not the end of the world
Although the past looks very negative, it is not the end of the world. What is needed is determination. If all the Parties can seriously consider the best possible solutions for the Nation, what harm will come out of it ? What this country needs is a system to ensure a smooth progress and if all the Political Leaders climb down from their high horses and honestly think of doing the best for the people, will it be difficult to find solutions for the problems we have ?

Our main problem is the ‘Political Egoism’ and the ‘Intolerance’ that prevents seeing the realities. It is not a case of Mahinda Rajapaksa or Ranil Wickremesinghe that is important. It is only such thinking that leads to ‘Personal Cults’. What we need are sincere and capable political leaders.

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