25 September, 2020

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A 500 Day Plan For Yahapālanaya

By Niranjan Rambukwella –

Corruption. Cost-of-Living. Competence. Communication. Performance on these four Cs will determine Sri Lanka’s future in 2020. The government has about 500 days to act. Here’s what needs to be done.

Corruption: Minnows and Sharks

The government’s anti-corruption credibility is dented. Regaining trust requires prosecuting one’s own. Prosecuting a couple of government MPs – one UNP and one SLFP may be enough – will go far to restore the government’s credibility. It will also then open the road for the unimpeachably legitimate conviction of the Rajapaksas and their cronies.

The process needs to be sped up. Cases need to be heard by trials-at-bar sitting every single day – if necessary including weekends. If there aren’t enough judges, introduce overtime so that judges work more. As for prosecuting resources, the AGs department needs to expand. But that’ll take too long. The fastest way of improving the state’s prosecuting capacity is hiring private lawyers to assist in cases and shifting SOE legal work to the private bar.

Emblematic cases are well and good. But no ordinary citizen paid a bribe to the Rajapaksas personally. Their experience of corruption is paying cops and principals. Extrapolating from Transparency’s Global Corruption Barometer, every year nearly a million Sri Lankans pay bribes the police and 740,000 pay bribes for schooling. For the effects of anti-corruption to be felt by the public, the government needs to go after the minnows too.

Since the police and schooling are by far the most significant areas of retail corruption, they are where the government should start. Georgia, which had one of the most corrupt police forces in the world, has some good ideas. Their progressive government cleaned up the problem in months. One strategy outlined in their PM’s book, Practical Economics, was to set up a special unit to police the policemen. This unit, outside the standard police structure, hired young and highly motivated plain-clothes constables to offer bribes to policemen. The officers had cameras in their cars to ensure that the evidence was irrefutable. Police accepting bribes were caught on video. The courts would then swiftly jail them and remove them from service. Officers who did not take a bribe were offered rewards, and even promotions. A flying-squad of 50 officers – armed with the latest technology e.g. bodycams –could transform the police force in a matter of months. Similar methods could be used by the Bribery Commission to prosecute errant policemen and principals. Once the police and schools are cleaned up, then other consumer-facing government institutions like kachcheris, CEB, water-board and courts can follow.

Cost-of-Living: Cut Taxes

Instead of deflation – a reduction in the cost of living – the government should ideally help the public understand that rising incomes is more important. But that can’t be done in two years. So prices need to go down. The fastest way to reduce prices is to reduce taxes. But the government needs taxes, especially thanks to the Rajapaksas corruption and white-elephant debt.

Therefore, the fastest way of reducing taxes is selling assets. And the quickest way to sell assets is via the stock-exchange. Start by selling the remainder of SLT and Hotel Developers (Hilton). Then sell small stakes, say 10 percent, of Bank of Ceylon and People’s Bank. That may be enough to eliminate NBT and the other irregular taxes in the short-run till tax reforms kick-in.

The second way of reducing taxes is accelerating tariff reduction and introducing tax simplification. As tariffs reduce, goods automatically become cheaper. The fall in government revenue is often compensated by higher volumes of consumption. With sufficient asset sales, the government may be able to tide over this transition period. In the medium to long term, improvements in tax collection and reduction in SOE losses should kick-in to place government finances on a sustainable level.

A reduction in the price level will also enable the Central Bank to either cut interest rates, or at least hold them steady. This will ensure that investment continues and the demand side of the economy holds up.

Competence

Cutting corruption and the cost-of-living won’t be enough. The government needs to govern. People need to have confidence that the government is building a better future. And nothing smells of the future like high-modernism. A few quick wins are enough. Pick five priority projects and get them done or at least ensure they are visibly under construction. The Colombo East Terminal, Colombo Inland Waterway, Central Expressway and Malabe Light Rail are good candidates.

Sri Lankan Airlines rightly takes a great deal of press bandwidth. Take on Sri Lankan’s liabilities and sell it. If that’s not possible, close it and auction the landing slots to Sri Lankan flagged carriers on a medium-term lease to ensure competition on routes. Its painful, but better than the pain of a weekly headline. Tourism is one of two major drivers of growth at the moment. Introducing competition into catering, terminal management and bunkering at Katunayake and Ratmalana will help reduce Sri Lanka’s expensive lift-costs. This will keep the labor-intensive tourism boom booming.

None of these projects affect the median Sri Lankan voter. That was the genius of Mahinda’s cross-country road, electrification and water projects. Now that the low hanging fruit is by and large complete, the next step is soft-infrastructure. Every parent wants their child to be a doctor or an engineer. But only 869 of Sri Lanka’s 2803 schools that offer A Levels offer the science stream for A Levels. But that’s not so bad. In 2014, over half the students who sat for O Levels failed English and 43 percent failed maths. The diagnosis is clear: increase the quality of maths education. Raise maths and English teacher salaries to get capable people into the system, train existing teachers so that they teach better and harness technology. This can’t all be done in two years. But people will notice if serious steps are taken in the right direction.

Communication: Control the News-cycle

Communication is less about strategy and more about implementation. So here are some concrete steps. Weekly cabinet briefings and occasional presidential tweets about ‘taking stern action’ won’t control the newscycle. Nor will the complete absence of clarity in the government’s messaging.

There should be a press conference every day of the week. Monday can be on corruption, Tuesday on the cost of living, Thursday for demonstrating broader competence. These press conferences need not be led by ministers every week. They are often too busy. A civil service spokesperson could be sufficient.  All they have to do is update the public on action the government is taking in each of these domains, the progress made that week and answer questions raised by the press.

Cabinet briefings contain a great deal of very useful things the government is doing, but the documents provided at the briefing and the briefing itself are not very informative. It does not explain how many people, for example, a water supply project will benefit and how it will transform their lives.

Conclusion

The Roman saying teneo auribus lupum refers to a situation where,I’ve got a wolf by the ears; for I neither know how to get rid of her, nor yet how to tame her”. That is where the Yahapalanaya government stands today. As a result it has legislated rather than governed.  But ultimately that will not be the electoral test. The question will be, have you delivered?

Reform may be deadly, but the price of failing to reform may be even more fatal. But by focusing on these 4Cs over the next 500 days the government may just be able to ride the wolf and tame it too.    

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Latest comments

  • 10
    0

    Ha bloody Ha! A second bite of the cherry. What makes you think that having failed the first time around, they will succeed this time? The labours of Hercules are a walk in the park compared to the mountain that this government has to climb. Not for nothing is THE LAW an anagram of W E A L T H. If the picture you paint comes to pass lawyers and judges will surely replace politicians at the top of earnings dung heap.

    The only question that remains, mi-Lord, is ‘will the simple voter fall for all this? Again?’

    • 5
      0

      Spring Koha,
      “The simple voter” may not be so innocent or gullible. They probably calculated to benefit activities of these hardcore criminals who have been governing SL since 1948. Accomplices. Cheers!
      PS:
      On Day 1 of the 500 Day plan, please DRY-CLEAN Sirisena’s white attire. Thanks!

    • 2
      0

      Niranjan Rambukwella

      RE: A 500 Day Plan For Yahapālanaya

      A 500 Day Plan For Sirisena?

      The past 1,000 days Sirisena has achieved a lot, and earned the titles of Traitor, Patholaya, Sevalaya, Liar and Perethaya from most of the 6.2 million who voted for him?

      What additional title can Sirisena earn in the remaining 500 days,?

  • 9
    2

    President Sirisena is the curse. He does not realize that he is not executive anymore and he is violating his position by exercising the power that he do not have. Without being an asshole, he should appoint SF to handle Law and Order. The black money collectable is sufficient to compensate the taxes from the poor.

  • 5
    0

    Mr. Rambukwella: Your “Prescription” of 500 day Plan for Yahapalanaya is good enough for a “Patient” who listens and follow those prescriptive advice. Do you think that this “Yahapalanaya Patient” would ever LISTEN and follow ADVICE? Please listen or read the question time yesterday in Parliament. The JVP Leader Anura K D raised a question as regards the appointment of the Chairman of the Agricultural Insurance Board. His name is Sydney Gajadeera (as revealed in Parliament) This man was convicted of a fraud and committed to pay back Rs. 6 Lkhs. He is investigated for various such matters and most importantly two Committees of the Parliament viz. the COPE and the Ratification of Higher Appointments to Government Institutions (incidentally the Chairman of this Authority is the Speaker of the Parliament) have recommended that this person be REMOVED. What has happened now. On the February 10, 2018, he (this Sydney Gajadeera) has been appointed for another “THREE” years, ignoring all what were disclosed in Parliament and the Audit Authority. If this the WAY the Yahapalanaya custodians behave and act, do you ever believe and think, they are prepared to LISTEN and FOLLOW your “Prescription” of “500 Day Plan”? Please don’t waste your time and energy. It would be like pouring water on a duck’s back.

    • 1
      0

      Douglas: You are correct, that is agrarian banks banks are bankrupt. I heard, Indian business man is asking those to buy and they say they will even the srilankan agriculture. You know who.

  • 1
    0

    M3 and Ranil use their last card..
    I think that they will grip on crime soon ..
    Other wise; power is crippling from them ..

    It is western power keep them…
    India too behind them .
    China worries now
    Foxy Ranil might do something.
    You know him .
    He is like JR.
    We will be next president.

  • 0
    1

    There is an understanding among the main players NOT to bring “Corruption” to the forefront.
    SLPP’s performance was not on cost-of-living issues or issues affecting our lives. It was the good old language/religion-divide!

  • 4
    0

    You are dreaming. Ranil W does not believe in publicity. He lives in world of his own

    Ratna

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    0

    Earlier the education was hodiya (o grade or pre school) to 12th alassiya. O/L eam was a hindrance. Now, all the new comers to the parliament want to sit to university qualification exam, so it will be from grade one to 13th grade. the escuse is that is how the Ammerica wants it, their system. their most of the graduates, academics, scholars, are coming overseas countries. Vajira KAriayawasam says “mama horadetuwak nevi, IT is Ranil who wants me to do this, IT is good, this the only way I can answer some questions coming from hiding.

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    0

    Still the objective is prosecuting rajapakses. Bond Scam people, money laundering people, foot note gang all prosecuted and FCID was very successful. CIABOC/PCOLI report discussion in the parliament is indefinitely postponed. This is exactly the VISION20/25 program that MCC/IMF prepared. Orumiththa govt is bringing new legislation to charge school fees again I heard. IT may start a very low fee. Is Niranjan Rambukwella, TheSLFP/UNP musical chair playing minister’s son ? I write in another, otherwise this will be deleted.

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    0

    Georgia is part of USSR. They used their president and russia had to intevene in order to protect their assets. the western media is highly corrupt. the fake news is is an open truth once they tried to Screw up TRUMP. Those countries that they do not like say a different story. Iam trying to understand what this police force is for when there is Army intelligence unit. the govt ministers including Ranilare very hosoital to the Army intelligence unit. Are they apllaning disbanindg that building force relibale to them and equipment, training will be privided for a fee. This is like a big grenade in Sri lanka which will bust it for good.

  • 0
    0

    IF you want to remember another story related that newsmedia do not discuss is as soon as the HORAPALANA govt came, Gorge zorro cme to Sri lanka and tried to help via Belgium (that is where all the actons goes. I think, they gave big PRIVATE money to save sri lanka. That is a setup. Arjun Mahendran also like Belgium. Ranil also went to Belgium to discuss GSP+. some one from the HORAPALANA govt met Geroge Zorro in some kind of conferencein Malaysia or Indonesia. So, it is set up already and now in action. People think it is MODI who does this. But, modi is in the same trouble. It may be RAW that is helping this. Because so may Indian politicians, beaucrats are agents. I heard MODI also got cuaght for big chunk in a different way. That is introducing of printed money. I heard something similar to that in Sri lanka too. I am pretty sure, the govt may try to introduce banks Only one left but profits reduced highly), all others are bankrupt. Portugal may come to buy bank shares or the bankrupt asset. IT will be another Greek bond buying.

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