13 April, 2024

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Citizens Need A Snow White To Prod The Dwarfs In Governance & Society!

By Chandra Jayaratne

Chandra Jayaratne

In governance and society today, regrettably there are seven dwarfs. They are mostly not engaged in good faith, act without firm commitments towards their public trust accountability, lack requisite standards of professional care, and fail to act in the best interests of the common and marginalized citizenry of Sri Lanka.

The president, the cabinet & network cronies of the president in parliament and outside, the executive, business, religious leaders/intellectuals, Trade Unions/CSO’s and a segment of citizens are these seven dwarfs. They represent Doc, Dopey (also Sleezy), Sneezy, Sleepy, Bashful, Grumpy and Happy.

Doc is the uncaring of common man Mr. Know All, the leader of the pack and a self-perceived visionary; Dopey/Sleezy, as defined is very foolish, idiotic, self-serving, corrupt and follows the leader without question; Sneezy is affected by an impairment of normal physical or mental functions in independent decision making with integrity and professionalism and thus impotent in upholding democratic values and rule of law; Sleepy sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil and looks inwards all the time; Bashful prefers to remain in the periphery even when the storm warnings are visible, Grumpy always grumbles, no action talk only; and Happy being ignorant remains contended with small mercies and is unaware of the serious threats of tomorrow challenging the born and unborn citizens.

‘Doc’ bats on uncaringly, regardless of the impact of the current policies, budgetary control actions and practices of repressive governance, always floating in his high and mighty position enjoyed without a public mandate, performing for the benefit of cronies, shutting his eyes to the dire state of a mere existence by a majority of citizens and to the perceived corruption and waste visible: He revels in his 2048 dream and appoints committees and inquiries whilst ignoring serious short to medium term challenges.

Dopey is ready to raise its hands for any law, any unacceptable budgetary actions, repressive and iniquitous enforcements and destroys the principles of acceptable legislative norms and codes of conduct, whilst enriching themselves and enjoying the unreasonable perks of office. Sneezy stands ready to act on any command or directive of those in leadership, irrespective of their public trust accountabilities by the people, requiring them to act with independence and not to act against the interests of the state and citizens.

Sleepy representing business and chambers are inward looking and wait to praise every small achievement, but fails to act with critical analysis and advocacy, placing the interests of the nation and its people first and business second. Most regrettably the Bashful are driven by petty personal priorities, political affiliations and remains anesthetized unless the emerging risks are personal and adopts a wait and see and” vasi peththata hoiya” policy. Grumpy tries hard to please their stakeholders but lacks muscle power. Happy lives within their narrow cocoon unaware of the depth and serious disruptions to their lifestyles and livelihoods signaled by the dark clouds that appear in the horizon.

The following are only a few examples of unwise, unacceptable, unreasonable, iniquitous, and not adequately thought through governance actions taken recently, without effective analysis of their long-term impact on the economy, business, and society:

1. The Domestic debt optimization process targeting only the voiceless, ill-informed vulnerable segments, adopted by presenting unjustifiable assumptions and totally iniquitous in the treatment of the targeted segment

2. Taxation policy with a low personal allowance, small tax brackets and low marginal rate, without changing unreasonable tax concessions granted in the past and low collection effectiveness leading to professionals and skilled workers migrating

3. Lowering of policy rates whilst the state continues to borrow at higher rates with bank lending rates not correspondingly reducing

4. Recent salary allowance hikes to state employees and the suggested increase in daily wages of plantation workers negatively impacting on competitiveness of many sectors of the economy

5. Repressive laws and adoption of strong arm tactics in quelling nonviolent legitimate protests primarily to protect and ringfence the regime in power, ignoring international fundamental rights commitments, endangering export competitiveness via loss of GSP plus concessions and imposition of sanctions

6. Recent enactment increasing the share of indirect taxation via VAT increases, seriously impact on several sectors (Apparel, IT, Tea, Plantations, Agriculture, Health and Education, and especially Food Supplies and transportation. It is likely to lead to the closure and relocation of many critical to economy businesses and will lead to further malnutrition and retardation of cognitive skills of young

7. Attempts at undermining the constitutional checks and balances with interference in independent functioning of law enforcement, justice systems and key public institutions may lead to further negative assessments by international organizations

8. Ignoring in policy making, resource allocations and tax planning the contraction of the economy since 2019 will lead to heavy negative pressures on growth and investments and act as a disincentive to growth driving new local and foreign investments

9. Failing to optimize spends minimizing waste and corruption, will lead international down grading and increasing budget and current deficits, adding further challenges in reserve building and debt sustainability, especially as growth of exports and services outside of tourism does not appear to be a focus of policy makers, imposing SVT removal

10. With Sri Lanka having faced “Grey List” designation twice by FATF, in 2011 and 2017, with the European Union also blacklisting the nation in 2017 due to non-compliance, Sri Lanka’s 3rd Mutual Evaluation is set for March 2025. With the very poor follow up on last report recommendations, IMF governance diagnostic report, assessments of UN Office of Drugs and Crime alongside near zero pursuit and prosecution of money laundering, bribery, corruption, and serious economic crimes, signal strong likelihood of yet another downgrading, seriously damaging recovery from the financial crisis.

11. The draft Employment Act is believed to have several provisions which are questionable, unacceptable, and impractical

12. The IMF, EFF First Review Summary having amber signals and stating “As part of the IMF-supported arrangement Sri Lanka has undertaken significant reforms to pave the way out of a deep economic and debt crisis. The economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization, supported by rapid disinflation and a significant fiscal adjustment. Tax revenues have increased but not as much as initially projected, and reserves accumulation has slowed, including due to slow progress on debt restructuring. Continued ownership of reforms is essential to rebuild fiscal credibility and to improve governance and reduce corruption vulnerabilities. The authorities reached agreements in principle (AIPs) with official creditors on debt treatments consistent with program parameters and are in good faith discussions with their private creditors

Will the saviour ‘Snow White’ prod the dwarfs to take the leadership actions towards the much desired “System Change” left incomplete post the ‘Aragalaya’, and ensure that democratic and rule of law upheld good governance sans corruption and waste will be a leadership commitment? Will such a force emerge from actions of the Judiciary, the International Community, the genuinely caring intellectuals/leaders of civil society or by the ever vigilant and caring youth and young professionals’ collective acting as a well-organized pressure group via a non-political/non-violent ‘Aragalaya’? or failing all, unfortunately culminate with a bloody uprising, with even more dangerous outcomes of a military or revolutionary administration grabbing power?

“Que Sera Sera, Whatever Will Be, Will Be” it is essential that caring intellectuals, civil society activists, trade unions and the media must do their duty by many citizens and build awareness, advocate, and pressurize:

Those in governance:

1. To be mindful and always act consistent with the recent supreme court pronouncement that “Public Trust is an inherent responsibility bestowed on all officers who exercise powers which emanate from the sovereignty of the people. Therefore, public officers are obliged at all times to act in a manner which honoured the trust reposed in them”

2. To change, be realistic and sensitive and resolve the serious issues and challenges impacting the poor and vulnerable in the short to medium term, in resolving the bankruptcy led external debt restructure challenges; and in the implementation of recommendations of the IMF/World Bank/ADB/etc. and international community/creditor groups

3. In action planning and implementation to always assess the impact on society, economy, and business in the longer term, especially the impact on the poor and vulnerable segments; and always develop applicable several scenario plans and essential contingency plans

4. To initiate a time committed/accountability defined action plans, with regular report card assessments, in responding effectively to the issues and recommendations in the IMF Governance Diagnostics Report and Civil Society Governance Diagnostic Report

And further:

5. Convince research institutions and local and international non-governmental institutions to conduct a Social Audit, identifying governance action-based assessments of where Sri Lankan society was prior to the financial crisis, is today post the financial crisis and will likely be in the short to medium term into the future. Here seek the assistance of the UNDP local office for technical assistance in line with the “A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO SOCIAL AUDIT AS A PARTICIPATORY TOOL TO STRENGTHEN DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE, TRANSPARENCY, AND ACCOUNTABILITY” published by them.

6. Take steps to build awareness amongst the general publics, of the reality of the challenging future awaiting them, especially in the light of the “ Wel Palamen Goda Aawa-all is well campaign” and the often cited phrase for “citizens’ participatory sacrifices” in the short term and the fallacy of the ever stressed dreams of 2048 prosperity communicated by leaders in governance and leverage all opportunities to use media and social media options in this task

7. Gather a coalition of likeminded groups, CSO’s, research entities, trade unions, professional Collectives and Youth leaders to support the initiative, advocacy and, act as an essential pressure group

8. Seek every opportunity to highlight and publicly and to communicate every undemocratic, repressive, unreasonable, unacceptable, unlawful and iniquitous actions of those in governance; and where appropriate seek redress and compensatory adjustments leveraging available legal and regulatory options by canvassing the Courts, Independent Public Intuitions and international institutions

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Latest comment

  • 4
    3

    Names of the seven are fine.
    But how does Snow White fit in?
    This always passive girl was poisoned and got into a coma by being careless against advice.
    Analogies need some research to be meaningful.

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