The Sunday Leader

Time To Get Cracking On The Job

Any coalition runs into trouble after a short while, married people know very well. Political coalitions – called it marriages – are no exceptions. No worse incompatible partners than UNP and the SLFP for a political marriage could have been found. No astrologer or political analyst -who are astrologers of a kind- would have dared recommended the union.

Yet, after one year and eight months the union is firmly holding together although indecent proposals to break-up have not been shortcoming. Undeniably hard times are ahead and the Yahapalanaya government cannot survive on love and kisses alone and got to get down to work.

A primary task ahead for leaders of both the UNP and SLFP is to enforce party discipline on members who are speaking out of turn. With time the tendency of politicians, garrulous by nature, is to break accepted norms such as cabinet responsibility and be stupid. Even defeated candidates appointed ministers are flouting basic rules and it is time they have to be called to order to avoid the rot setting in.

Easy access to TV has been a blessing to loose tongued politicians both of the Opposition and government. Opposition politicians with plenty of time on their hands and nothing worthwhile to do, are holding daily press conferences and appearing in talk shows lambasting the government. The government, while forming a strategy to counter propaganda, has a far more serious job to do: Commence implementation of pledges given to the people.

With scarce economic resources, government leaders have to get their priorities right. Unemployed youth should be the topmost priority.The UNP has promised jobs for one million youths in five years while the UPFA’s pledge was 1.5 million by 2020. No breakthroughs in this field have been reported.Surveys indicate that there are jobs for the vocationally trained and unskilled labour. Ministers in charge of subjects should be called on to make periodic reports of progress made.

With the number of cabinet ministers reaching record heights and the assigned ministers provided with privileges that much more qualified persons are not given, questions should be asked on the purpose of such political adornments. The proliferation of ministries is such that today not only the average citizen but even media persons are unaware of subjects assigned to some ministers. As of April this year there were 47 Cabinet Ministers (including the President and PM), 20 Ministers of State and 25 Deputy Ministers. Despite the immense publicity given to politics and politicians, the public is unaware of the duties performed by most of these worthies.

The cabinet, which is considered the powerhouse of any government, should innovate and direct programmes of development. If not the end is predictable.

Given the scarce resources available at present it would be prudent if projects that have a gestation period of about four years are chosen. The fate of attractive grandiose projects that would take considerable time to mature or may even not reach fruition in the foreseeable future are best seen in those left behind by the Rajapaksa regime.

While immediate foreign investments and quick breakthroughs in the export market are what any regime would hope for, if winning the 2020 elections is the primary objective, immediate attention to needs of large numbers of people are imperative.

President Sirisena being a native son of the environs of Parakrama Samudra of Polonnaruwa knows well the havoc being caused to farmers in the Dry Zone by the Chronic Kidney Disease. While Sri Lankan medical personnel and scientists are debating among themselves as to the causes and cure of the disease, the President  should spare no expense in summoning the best available medical advice globally to resolve this problem.

The other is the man-elephant conflict raging also in the Dry Zone areas where hapless farmers and majestic elephants have become victims of the stupid planning of the bureaucracy of the government departments down the years.

The resolution of this problem calls for grouping of all resources under a single authority of the president or prime minister.Individual ministries and departments invariably lock horns.People and the Noble Beasts are the victims. The resignation of a world renowned expert on wild life a few weeks after appointment as Director of Wild Life Conservation illustrates the point.

Another crying need will be to improve the living standards of urban slum dwellers and fishermen countrywide. They live in sub-human conditions.

Rehabilitation, reconciliation and economic assistance to the war ravaged regions of the North and East is another basic priority thatis already receiving much attention. The challenge here is not so much the drawing up plans but their implementation.

With increased access to TV, Sri Lankan politics have been transformed into massive talkathons where an immense amount of verbiage is produced but only a few are listening to what the opponents are saying. The same arguments are being repeated ad nauseam by different speakers on different occasions but they do not seem to have heard these arguments made before.

The government cannot waste its time on gibberish any more.It’s time to get cracking on the job.

 

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