Government Defends New Bill

Ranjith Madduma Bandara and The gazette notification

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya 

  • The Gazette notification has become a strongly debated topic
  • In Sri Lanka frustration over proposed legislation is a normal phenomenon 
The Gazette notification on the proposed Development (Special Provisions) Bill focuses on formulating a new state policy on rapid economic development of the country and its related issues. However it has become a strongly debated topic in recent times.

Speaking about the draft bill, Minister for Public Administration and Management Ranjith Madduma Bandara said that the Bill will remove the existing barriers that are disrupting the development process of Sri Lanka. Pointing out that under the existing legal framework it takes years for a BOI project to be approved, the Minister said that the government must be given the authority to speed up the pace in order to step up the development drive.

In Sri Lanka frustration over proposed legislation is a normal phenomenon that is well founded by past experiences. In our recent political history there have been instances where the governments have introduced changes to the law over strategic programmes.

The Executive Presidency itself is a good example for this matter. When it was initially introduced there was a massive outcry from society against it. However none of the consecutive governments have been able to abolish this office.

Everyone who came into power preferred to keep the powers rather than remove them. The main justification that was presented by the then government over introducing the office of executive presidency was that it had given the Executive President to bypass bureaucratic red tape on strategically important issues to take swift action. Although the unlimited power of the executive power of the executive presidency has been questioned it is also said that such a position is needed to counter the ongoing corruption in the state sector and its irregularities.

The draft bill is also intended to address the matter of bypassing the lengthy procedures to implement swift development projects. Since the country has come to a standstill in the development sector, state funds have been wasted over various issues.

Most of these irregularities have been coming from development projects where politicians have been able to claim huge commissions to bend the law to allow these projects to pass. However, this has made it become a country that is highly indebted to the international community and an economically risky country to invest. Hence the decision taken by the government to straighten this issue can be called a timely move.

Under the proposed Bill the government plans to establish policy development offices and appoint a policy development head official in order to centralise development policies. The Act has proposed to appoint a panel of intellectuals for this office.

The appointments have also been covered by various conditions. The office has been vested with the authority to review the socio-economic, political and environmental aspect of development policies and to make adjustments accordingly. These re-evaluations would undoubtedly be a valuable asset in implementing more suitable development projects in the future. By analysing these policies the government would be able to tally along with their targets. By implementing special provisions for development the government is able to establish a rapid increase in the economic sector of the country.

Initially the government has focused on developing the tourism industry, science and technology and fisheries industry. The new legislation is set up to increase the quality of these areas as well. The proposed Act also plans to set up special agencies to promote development in these areas. They would be supporting the respective Authorities in implementing strategies.

It has also introduced various other provisions to strengthen the overall development of the country’s economy – increasing the employment rates, promoting exports, promoting balance of trade are some of them. It has also paid special attention towards increasing consumer welfare by broadening the scope of consumer protection.

At present the level of protection that is available for consumers is  pathetic . However, the challenge remains to ensure maximum consumer satisfaction whilst improving competitiveness in the market. Access to finance is also an area that has been considered by the legislators in the new draft law. By modifying economic policies the government intends to develop the quality of national policies. The Sri Lanka Ports Authority has been given a prominent status under the draft Act.

In general the proposed Bill has focused on rural economy, land, strategic development international trade, industries, agriculture, fisheries, plantations and animal husbandry.

The mechanism has been set up in such a way that the whole government from President to the lower tier bureaucrats have been given special responsibilities in contributing to the system. The government expects that this would in fact break monotonous procedures in the country’s development sector and step up the process.

The Bill has also paid attention to carrying out development in a ‘zonal’ pattern. It has proposed to increase the existing authority and powers vested with regional development institutions such as the Southern Development Authority.

Under this development scheme provincial authorities such as North Western, Central, Eastern and Northern provincial councils would be able to play an active role in the development drive. More regional development boards will also be set up under this scheme.

Under the proposed legislation, new institutions shall be set up to promote international trade. It would also improve the quality of the state officer and tougher actions shall be implemented to counter bribery and corruption.

The subject ministers too will be given broad powers under this new system to steer the policies of their respective ministries. The entire programme will be sphere headed by the office of Prime Minister.  The draft bill also contains provisions that would prevent any legal action from being taken against the decisions of these institutions and their agents.

However, speaking at a press briefing in Colombo recently, NFF deputy chairman MP Jayantha Samaraweera said that the government is once again trying to implement the provisions of the “Yali Pubudamu Sri Lanka” programme of the UNP government in 2002 by introducing the new legislation.

He said that the failed attempt in 2002 has been recreated once again to make pro-capitalist structural changes in the country’s economy.

1 Comment for “Government Defends New Bill”

  1. Eng.M.V.R.Perera

    All this bill cannot undo the brain washing of the people regarding climate change with respect to coal fueled electricity for with their 100 meter chimneys they pump into the global atmosphere jest like all developed and developing countries have done and are doing like countries like Singapore, India. China USA , Vietnam ect they all have plans to go on pumping carbon emissions into the global atmosphere for unlike our politicians they are very concern regarding the welfare of their people as such investors are flocking to those countries and avoiding us for our ministers to obtain commissions by the sale of solar power we the people are being being deprived of a high standard of living contravening article 3. 12. and 27 of our country’s constitution if no correction is made to this attitude of solar power within a year our country will be in a chaotic situation without any signs of a million jobs which even a super ministry will be unable to solve

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