22 March, 2019

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An Omnibus Cabinet & Outvoted Parliamentarians: Can The Economy Afford To Maintain This Colony Of Prodigals?

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

One of the horrendous legacies of the ousted MR regime was an economy burdened with oppressive debt, a culture of rampant corruption if not outright thievery, and gargantuan projects of colossal waste. The Mattala airport is the best example of such a project. Therefore it should be an obvious priority to the regime that just came in to take steps immediately to bring down the debt to manageable proportions, eradicate corruption and cut down the number of or cancel all wasteful projects. Prudence in public expenditure should be the first step that the government should adopt to move along that path.

The appointment of forty-eight ministers and thirty-seven deputy minsters, not because these minsters and their deputies are extremely talented and will contribute to the productivity and growth of the economy but just to reward party supporters and loyalists goes against the very grain of economic prudence. Is Sri Lanka such a huge and complex polity and economy that it demands the service of that many ministers and deputies with enormous salaries and perks? Can anyone tell the people the estimated total cost of this colony of artificially elevated political gentry? Will they fulfil their tax obligations? Who will check on their profligacy and punish for their incompetency and dereliction? Is there a mechanism to measure their performance and productivity?

In the past and long before the MR regime a much restricted number of ministers assisted by very able civil servants like for example, Dharmasiri Pieris and Bradman Weerakoon, only to name a couple, took the country and its administration from strength to strength even in the midst of political and economic crises. Is the country bereft of such civil servants now? If the answer is yes, then it conveys a sad tale about the recruitment procedure of the public servants. An amalgamation of small departments, appointment of able public servants and restriction of the number of ministries will prune down the cost of administration and waste.

Cabinet 2015 SepIt is the ordinary income-tax payer and the common people, who will not be able to escape the onus of paying all indirect taxes – the favourite weapon to raise public revenue under neoliberal economics – that will have to foot the bill for salaries and perks of the minsters and their deputies. In fact, the waste has started already under the national government even before submitting its first national budget.

In an earlier piece that I wrote (Colombo Telegraph, 24 August 2015) I referred to the “scandalous abuse” of the national list provision in the constitution and said that it has made democracy a mockery in Sri Lanka. Now to anoint them as ministers and deputies is to add insult to injury caused to the voting public.

What is more, it is a historical fact, that the larger is the size of a coalition cabinet the more difficult and cumbersome will it become to protect any cabinet secrecy and maintain the principle of collective responsibility. Leakages from cabinet discussions are bound to occur. The media will be looking out for such leakages and will publish them. But the government, weakened by internal squabbles and finding unable to control its cabinet members will resort to the dictatorial path of clamping down the media outlets and punishing journalists as it happened during the previous regime. I wish I be proved wrong.

The challenges facing the National Government are huge. The economic front both at home and abroad does not allow much room for public finance looseness. Is it too soon to expect a cabinet reshuffle and administrative restructuring to achieve economy and efficiency?

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    What has been done cannot be undone.
    But salaries of all ministers must be kept at same level for the duration of this parliament, or even pruned, and additional remuneration cut to the minimum. The number of staff must be cut, no family member to become ‘private secretary’ etc.
    Travelling must be by official transport like for public servants – from a pool of vehicles with drivers – like in government departments & ministries. Daily Running Charts for each vehicle must be maintained.
    No jaunts abroad at state expense.
    No family members to use them for any purpose.
    Bogus housing allowances for those owning residences in western province must be cut.
    Two phones – one in residence, and mobile to carry, enough.
    Duty-free vehicle permits must be abolished.
    Thus, a lot of funds can be saved.

    Each MP must visit his electorate for ten days each month, and hold talks with public servants and the public.

    • 2
      0

      Justice,

      I am not surprised at what is happening: People are elected from the same old group of persons with no or minimal integrity; to run a government there needs be a numerical majority in parliament, and these unprincipled fellows are needed.

      If the president were to select people with integrity, he can count in his ten fingers: So you can’t govern without these unscrupulous MPs demanding ministries.

      Now the blame goes to the majority community and the leaders (including Mahinda) who selected the candidates to contest.

      My conclusion: The society is so corrupt, as Kusal Perera vividly exposed some time back to effect much change.

      So the political thamasha of “good governance” goes on.

      Who, or what will break this viscous circle that evolved from independence in 1948?

      • 0
        0

        Good Points Dr. Ameen. Keep up your good work and thank you!

        The POLITICAL CULTURE OF CORRUPTION AND IMPUNITY for UNeducated and criminal politicians is going from Strength to Strength in the name of Yahapalanaya and reconciliation with the Jumbo Cabinet and Parliamentary Privileges and Perks that Ranil WIckramasinghe loves..

        The tea party for corrupt crooks continues at the Diyawenna parliament and so Sobith Thero and civil society must mobilize massive protests against the CORRUPT POLITICAL CULTURE that Sirisena and Ranil are perpetuating in the name of the SInhala National Government to fight Geneva…

        Geneva is just an excuse for keeping the corrupt political culture that unites the SLFP and UNP politicians going!

  • 10
    0

    Honestly, I have lost faith in the President and his Government in just these few months. Imagine the horror if they were to complete five fkg long years. One look at the vast number of ministers and their portfolio allocations will convince anyone that the minister parliamentarians have been bribed to give their support unconditionally. The First Accused in the crime of bribery is His Excellency the President; the 2nd Accused is the Hon. Prime Minister. They do not deserve those honorifics. They are worse criminals than the Ministers.

    And to think that we sustain the House of Bastards with our purchases of onion and chilly is unbearable.

    Time to curse J.R.Jayawardene and his Dharmista Government from 1977 for paving the way to send Sri Lanka to hell. The vast majority of today’s voters need to be educated about this catastrophe, so that eventually they will take steps to undo it.

    Maithripala, Ranil, all their Ministers, most of the MPs, and Rajapakse and his Ministers have all been diligent students of J.R.Jayawardene.

    So long as they hold sway, Mother Lanka will be weeping.

  • 2
    5

    Its good to have a big cabinet because Lanka is a big country with complex problems. Also My3 and Ranil must keep all their men happy. Now they must think of giving them high salaries to prevent them from taking bribes or at least an allowance like in Singapore so that they wont be tempted into corruption. After all, they also must be given a chance to make something for themselves d its not always that a Mahaveli comes our way.

  • 1
    1

    The economy stupid should be another major challenge for our new government. The debt burden is more than our income and we need to ensure that we examine our financial expenditure and restructure or else we all our facing a economic disaster in the making like Greece. Our tea income prices have slowed down. The quantity of tea is below our former export performance. The world tea prices is down. The main income genarater is by our women who work overseas some say that it is a Morden form of slavery with all its social implications. Almost all our GDP goes on debt payment. The last regime spent substantial sums of money in non worthwhile projects to satisfy their egos rather than to generate income for the nation. The money spent on these projects mostly was raised in the commercial international markets at high interest rate payment. We need to evaluate our public expenditure and get value for money. Our health service education system have never been evaluated for cost efficiency. We could much more for the money that the tax payer spends. We have to examine the subsidy paid for farming and asses if we are getting our money’s worth in return. Our benefit payments needs to be modernised and should be paid via a biometric identity system to eliminate waste. The targeting of subsidy should be assessed to ensure the money goes to the intended target groups. We need to bring our public expenditure and make savings. Do we need such a massive armed forces at a tine of peace because it is costly. We need to get the shortfall via a progressive taxation policy. These are the few steps that needs to be taken to tackle the problems of our economy. It needs very urgent attention.

  • 1
    0

    Writer:

    You yourself became dishonest. YOu wanted to talk about corrupt and rudderless ship like behaviour of the present govt.

    IT is Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil wickramsinghe that do the same thing Mahinda Rajapakse did.

    They also show that they are not leaders but they are just followers.

    They did the same thing knowing full well that voters did not want this kind of clown govts.

    Politicians refused by the voters are ministers, and so many ministries just like shanties and so many ministers. Some ministers are former provincial councillors and what kind of experience they have as federal politicians.

    They are not concentrated about the country. their worry is Mahinda Rajapakse become powerful again,

  • 0
    1

    I have to agree with this writer. Yet, there are some reason for this jumbo cabinet.

    MY3 and Ranil are compelled to please many people. The combination of UNP AND SLFP made this.
    Moreover, MR and co are playing a wait and see game. There is a cold war going on in the underground. MR did try to get support of many SLFP members and still wait for opportunities. that is why this jumbo is needed to keep all as one group.
    I think it is ok as long as government keep the economy under control and do not wast money on MPs

    limit expense of MPs
    No luxury cars or facilities for MPs at public expense
    Reduce and limit official visit of MPS
    No extra expenses for MPs
    control mismanagement
    stop fraud and corruption
    stop nepotism

  • 0
    0

    The large cabinet is likely become an accepted feature in future too. We must have a very effective Civil Service if we are to cut down on unnecessary ministries.

  • 1
    0

    Navin.

    I Agree in Toto.
    Your line…..Imagine the horror if they were to complete five fkg long years…..

    Very unlikely Navin.This is by no means a National Govt: This is a Govt:of strange Bed-Fellows and as such there would be another General Election when it falls apart.Anyway,the cost of another G.E.will be less than maintaining these Ministers,Deputy Ministers,State Ministers etc.Better avoid going that way since we will run the risk of being opted into the cabinet!
    Should we use your famous line Fo Guck yourselves!
    I admire the critical approach of Dr.Ameer Ali who has always called a spade a spade.

  • 2
    0

    Ameer Ali,

    Your words about the last government, ‘Onmibus cabinet’,’gargantuan projects of colussal waste’, ‘rampant corruption’, ‘outright thievery’ etc, will soon become understatements, when the new juggernaut of the My3 cabinet rolls out. The voter has no place to run and hide from these monstrous parasites ready to be unleashed on them.

    Yahapalanaya, my foot.

  • 0
    0

    somebody said that the best lesson from history is that people do not learn anything from history. both MS and RW have not learned anything from the past and the new set of around 100 ministers is the obvious evidence of that fact. MR has set the precedence and it will be followed by all successive governments.this is not in keeping with the principles of good governance. JR spoke too much about dharmista society and went for adharmista ridiculed by all. same fate should not be the case of MR and RW.
    -sandira

  • 0
    0

    While wecoming the National Government on its journey to fulfill the aspiration of the Nation as a whole,it should do away with the thought of having mamoth Cabinet to fullfil the Members dirty desires to have salaries and perks which is what the previous governments did and are languishing for their misdeeds.

  • 0
    0

    Well stated Ameer with the conciseness inversely proportionate to the size of the cabinet epitomising the waste at the highest level. Bensen

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