By Ranil Wijeyesekera –
The new Government is implementing a Plan for Change. The President obtained a mandate from the people. They also gave the people increase in income and reduction in prices. They were able to pass legislature for far reaching anti corruption methods. Action was taken to bring action against people who were suspected of corruption, inefficiency and breaking procedures that were in place to prevent corruption.
President Obama campaigned on a platform of change. America is coming right back to where it was. MR will follow suit. Much discussion has taken place in a short time. The knowledge gained by the parliamentarians is laudable. America is high up in the productivity ladder. Singer pore who we were ahead of is now one of the highest productivity in Asia. We are to consult the APO on productivity improvement. They have contributed much to the development of the World. We should access information from their web site.
We provided Fertilizer at a subsidized cost and encouraged insecticides and weedicides. We have decided a change of direction. Agricultural productivity is low. Land, capital and labor recourses must be used effectively.
Change always has a cost. Bringing a child to this earth involves pain and suffering. But the result is worth it. Just as a butterfly becomes a chrysalis and faces pain to become a butterfly. The struggle to come out of the cocoon releases fluid to bring strength and wholeness to the butterfly.
We are committed to a national government. Our constitutional reforms combat corruption and we should assess effects’ with an independent mechanism. Social reform for the underprivileged and motivation of the government servant has being carried out. Private sector illegitimate practices are being cleaned out. Stock market is being looked into for insider trading. Manipulation of market by leaking out false information is being looked to. Short time turbulence will follow with real growth as misdeamors are punished. High income earners with p0alacial houses and cars are taxed. A realistic samurdhi and housing program is introduced. These should no turning back.
However the President has a fair non aligned policy. A check and transparency is necessary on FDI. The Terms should be transparent and open to scrutiny. The president obtained Free trade agreement s with a number of countries. We need to know areas of comparative advantage and areas that need support. A presidential commission on tariffs is needed with skilled personnel to decide on which areas need protection and where we could request reduction in duties. The other countries advantages and advantages in manufacture and commodity supply capacities need noting. This task should have all our resources necessary for our leaders to make decisions in multi and bi lateral negotiation. Privatization must be carefully done. Local Industry should be subsidized and given incentives comparable to FDI. It is tariffs by customs the most important. It is necessary for healthy competition. Yet Wholesale closures have a shock affect on the economy. Immediate change and gradual change needs balance.
Negotiation on further concessions in the South Asia free Trade Agreement is our most important task. Managing change is to have the right Timetable.
There is a call for a change in government. We must however accept the facts that the people are supreme. The previous government broke election laws by misuse of media and government funds. They outspent the opposition by 10 to 1 on propaganda. They misused racialism and religion to attract votes. The mandate received by the president is much more than it seems. Unethical practices to attract block votes were used. Many of the members of the parliament obtained inducements for their allegiance. Therefore fresh elections are needed. Mollycoddling corrupt members who make a majority will not help. Discussion by the President who should contest in the Government and opposition is needed to weed out the ineffective. The constitutional council will replace politically motivated appointments. It is the president’s mandate. He cannot compromise. All Party funds must be subject to his scrutiny. All Parties try to accept this unofficial bribe.
In all things transparency is important. A detailed plan was put before the people with a time frame. A minority government carried out the main items in the plan. The people have a right to know at what cost. There is no such thing as a free lunch. How was the plan implemented? At what cost. The government will be under pressure. They have encouraged a debate and conceded to the voice in parliament as necessary.
We have to be transparent. More debate on ways of doing things has to take place. We should not try to tale our pound of flesh. Justice should be tempered with mercy. Amnesty should be offered and all the sordid details should come out. With the Constitutional Council government has to transparent. Procedures and methods should be discussed. The Cabinet joint responsibility means accountability for all decisions. In change allowance in reaching out to the unknown has to be given due weight. Along with a debate information and technology has to flow to the people.
What ails our Economy? We have invested heavily on a Infrastructure program. We have not created production facilities and services to use this infrastructure. This is needed for debt repayment. The previous government gambled on the fact that the climate will be a help for production. Investment in Roads, power and ports with free trade zones was central to there thinking. For investors to come here they should have accessibility to markets. With the threat for sanctions and the closing of markets the Foreign Direct Investment did not occur.
Centralized economies that plan to business models is successful in the IT age. There has to be a power in the executive as well as checks and balances. Free market forces tend to be corrupt. The people should be careful in endorsing a major change in the constitution. China and Japan plan their marketing strategy. President Obama and the west depended on planned intervention to get the World out of depression. The need for a national government that will bring balance is very real.
The oil price drop caused a major drop in value of products. This had a depressive effect with the market not responding to changing demand. Less cost of oil gives us a new comparative advantage in the World Market. We have to seek niche markets and changes where we are competitive. DeLay would mean failure.
The present government lead by MS has laid the foundation for recovery. We have visited China, Japan, India and the west and have received the assurance of their support. We have pledged to have a fair local mechanism to assess the excesses of the war. This will be translated to market access, FDI and waiver of duties to our garment sector. We have negotiated Free Trade agreements and SAFTA. This should be a market for Multi National Companies .
We now have professional diplomats abroad. Professional Trade attaches can make the difference. They should be supported by market specialist. Our Marketing personnel locally are a trained and Professional. We have to evolve a system to be able to penetrate markets. We must know how to penetrate a market that is prejudiced. We should be provided with feedback on discounts which we should offer Links with EDB to help our exporters obtain new markets.
Our garment industry is crashing. Until we obtain GSP+ we must grant a basket of incentives to prevent relocation of factories abroad. The down time on manufacture of garments is high. Centralized government on purchasing and stocks can help. Incentives for fabric manufacture will do qa lot to improve our competiveness. Assessing changes of changing fashion can be centralized. We need dialogue and consultation to make change possible.
Our traditional commodity exports are facing a drop in demand and prices. Russia and Ukraine are suffering because of war. Our Tea is a quality product. We must maintain good quality and prevent adulteration of our tea and bulking of tea here and abroad. Tourist should be encouraged to take our tea with them when they return. Changing markets and obtaining new markets is costly. We cannot afford to adjust with the time.
Japan and China markets will open gradually. We are having influx of Tourist form the East Pacific region. They will now go for quality products. We now depend on foreign employment and Tourism to support our economy. A balanced economy should depend on diversification to absorb sudden changes.
The ministry of Finance and the BOI have a flexible plan to draw FDI taking into consideration of the desperate situation we are in. We have being able to obtain funds needed to meet project cost that were not allowed for in the budget. It is difficult to have a system of accountability when some personnel are hostile because of party affiliation and anti corruption activity.
The Ministry of Finance has identified the remitting of foreign exchange by our workers abroad and export oriented companies a need for funding develop0ment. A system of incentives, a fair share market has to be introduced. Support for problems abroad as well as crèche and education at a subsidized rate for their children will encourage them to remit funds abroad. A system to control black money payable in Sri Lankan is needed.
Most of all a healthy dialogue is needed. Change after a consensus is obtained will make implementation more effective.
The Chinese contractors and the Chinese government did not have the technology to assess projects, see that environmental standards were met and to check non feasibility. The Chinese Government being the funding agency should have being able to advise us. Commissions obtained can escalate the cost for Infra structure price sky high while the commissions are comparatively low. The loans we have to pay are imaginary investment as their value is lower than the book value. To generate income to payback is therefore difficult. The GDP to is shown at a unrealistic value. The funding Agency should be able to give us a realistic feasibility study. Organizations such as WB, IMF and ADB can reassess past projects.
A higher budget for education especially vocational has being increased. Health improvement will result in better Attendance and Sustained work which plays a big part in productivity. Steps are being taken to improve quality of health. Drugs, Smoking and alcohol are being discouraged. Environmental laws are being implemented. Information technology reduces cost and accuracy. This should be implemented after the best method is found. Productivity specialist should be introduced to all spheres of activity. The training of these personnel should be undertaken on a priority basis.
Books should be translated and available in the vernacular. Libraries should be able to trace and provide information from here and a abroad. Factories and offices should be legislature to provide information on machinery. The Diaspora should help in transfer of technology. Retired experts should be hired on consultancies. Japan can help us as a friendly country they have helped many. Process Improvement, Organist ion and Method Study are necessary. Government Organizations and Private sector should combine in Research and Development activity. Countries like Japan and China did this. We should follow suit. Machinery should be dismantled and new machinery and processes designed that subvert patent laws. Incentives should be given to R&D. Sharing and new ethics are needed now.
Where necessary personnel have to be retrenched and trained for new jobs. Structural adjustment means that due allowance has to be made for the welfare of retrenched personnel. Slow motion videos on work must be analyzed with available information to improve and evolve the most effective methods. CLIT in the Garment Sector and other institutes should be able to help with modern work study, method study, problem solving techniques and optimizing in Information Technology systems. The Standard Institution should be extended to see that are standard in all products and services meet International Standards.
Open University trains Industrial Engineers who specialize in Productivity Improvement. Standard Institutes chose the overall beat Solution . All Universities and Management and accounting Institutions need to train their students with different degrees of Productivity training When adopting standard cost for manufacture and services the best methods should be look for on a continuous basis, The public service has to be overhauled to give real time service.
The industrial revolution looked at getting things done in a better fashion. They mass produced items on production lines with limited range. Quality control was then introduced with methods of sampling and statistical quality control. The next introduction was having multi stations on the same line with a change in the use of work stations. Quick change over of tooling and dies and moulds even when heavy reduced cost The motto was to make products at a lesser cost with better quality. Automation of some activity as cost dictated was the next step. Computerized production control with manual backup took place. Complete Automation was carried out with safety cutouts on a extra shift. Consensus was obtained which made successful implementation fast.
Organization such as TRI, CRI, RRI, IDB. Standard Institute, CISIR Agricultural Research, EDB and Private sector organization should share knowledge for us to become a knowledge hub. Double shifts with the resources needed must be allocated for improvement. Japan and China each shared their technology and research with centralized control.
We are moving to a Brave New World in Sri Lanka. Change for which the consequences are not known need to be applied. Morality of a high order is required. We are changing to low fertilizer and insecticides in our agriculture. Genetic of a bi gone era is introduces to our plants. Environmental laws are applied. A mandate for the speed of change should be obtained from the people. Realistic and transparent information should be shared with the public. The department of Policy studies and NGOs’ can contribute to our development. We can safeguard our interest but use their knowledge and assistance and not deprive our citizens of much needed help. Opinion polls must be consulted. The people are supreme. They are educated and can think for themselves.