By Chandra Jayaratne –
Dear Governor and Secretary to the Treasury, Some Suggestions to Assist in Sri Lanka Striving to Achieve a Primary Balance
The writer wishes to convey his respectful recognition and highest appreciation of the lone leadership efforts taken by you both, within a rudderless and uncaring governance system, in leading the recently concluded virtual reviews with the IMF staff, seeking debt sustainability and an extended fund facility from the IMF, in the context of the serious socio-political and economic crisis that has engulfed this nation.
It is very evident that achieving a primary surplus at the earliest possible time by optimizing state revenues, minimizing state expenditure eliminating all wasteful spends, inefficiencies in governance, leakages via state enterprises and corruption; and at the same time maximizing the options for deferment of all non priority spends, whilst making provision for cash transfers to the poor and vulnerable segments and enhancing spends that can generate early free cash flow returns, including investments in improving skills, efficiency/effectiveness/economy, factor productivity, strategic transition to capture emerging opportunities export market and global supply chain linkages; and creating new livelihood opportunities by attracting new foreign and local investments and upgrading Sri Lanka’s options to meet regional and global opportunities by embracing Industrial revolution 4.0 as a target; and eliminating the shortages in essential food, fuel and medicines should be the top priority of the leaders in governance.
In this connection a note titled “If I was the Minister of Finance” released before the last budget, provides some strategic options and the way forward in creating public support for implementing the essential hard decisions – refer
The writer is appalled by the statement made by the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance yesterday, if it means that the revised budget for 2022 merely incorporates a reduction of planned capital expenditure and includes an enhancement of salaries of state employees and expected to be followed by the private sector. Improvement of state sector efficiency and productivity; and enhancing the service delivery outcomes effectiveness; eliminating present wasteful deployment of human and financial resources are key action steps in any fiscal consolidation reforms in delivering improved growth contributions in the real sector.
A priority and essential hard decision to be taken now as a part of fiscal consolidation measures is to minimize the recurrent fiscal commitments under the budget allocations for defense, administration and non-free cash flow generating state projects and ventures; whilst improving human resource quality and productivity of state services and ventures.
All new recruitments including those connected with replacements and existing cadre vacancies must be signed off at the Secretary of the Ministry with the concurrence of the Secretary Finance. The present non defense cadre must be classified as essential for services being present in the offices, required but can principally operate from home with minimum travel to office, good to have and those who can be spared by appropriate working arrangements, outsourcing or systems/procedural restructure. The defense staff must be separated in to essential minimum cadre for internal security and others considered as minimum support cadre, with all those engaged in projects and other activities and in commercial activities or managing state projects being attached to the respective ventures, where they will be reclassified in a manner similar other state cadre referred to above.
All state sector employees should be required to contribute 10% of their salaries and allowances to the EPF, where upon due retirement only, they will receive the balance at credit in the EPF, together with an additional savings bonus equal to the contribution made to the EPF by the employee throughout the career. Those employees assigned to work from home will be entitled to 75 % of the salary and allowances with reimbursement of costs of periodic travel to the place of work. The balance staff members in the categories good to have and can be spared will be paid only 50 % of their salaries, when not deployed in skills development training; and if undertaking such training (the costs of which will be bourne by the state) will receive 2/3rd of their salaries for a maximum period of two years, unless they have been upward classified and reverted to active service with enhanced skills, secured alternative employment options or have been reabsorbed in to other active duty within the state sector with enhanced skills and capabilities. At the end of the two years this group of employees will be offered a redundancy package or will receive an allowance for the balance period of employment contract equal to 25% of the salary and allowances at the point of first discharge.
All state owned ventures and projects and all commercial ventures of the defense sector or defense sector managed state projects will be assessed separately; during which period the salaries paid to such staff will be as in respect of other state staff described above; and within one year the viability and free cash flow generating abilities of these ventures will be assessed and decisions taken on their continuity and in regard to the deployment of the respective together with their entitlements and compensation.
All state spends on recurrent or capital budgets will be subject to strictly applied limits of authority; with all such spends in excess of set limits requiring approval of the Secretary to the Treasury or cabinet with the concurrence of the Secretary to the Treasury. All such projects exceeding set limits are to be subjected to post audits and Parliamentary review.
Wishing you both all success in your noble endeavours.