By M H M Faizer –
When JRJ swept into power he had a vision for Sri Lanka – a liberalized economy. To a great extent this dream was converted into a reality. Similarly Premadasa’s ‘Village Awakening’ program was realized to a good extent too! MR‘s determination to Liberalize Sri Lanka was well accomplished! When MS took over there was no such proclamation – and hence no dramatic performance – fair enough since an impending general election was anticipated in the next three months to follow after his win. The subsequent general election was won by the ruling party and the ruling party have just announced its intention of governing the affairs of the Country through a so called National Government – an arrangement where the Government will join hand with the opposition parties in running the country.
Whether a National Government or any other form ,the Government must announce its core vision – like Economic Liberalization of JR, Village Awakening from Premadasa and Peace thru War by MR.
The second mistake has already happened – the Jumbo size Cabinet of almost 50 Ministers!! In addition there will be State/Junior Ministers as well! India with 1.2 billion population has only around 27 Union Cabinet Ministers , 13 Independent State Ministers and 26 State ministers (Junior Ministers).The ratio of Cabinet ministers to population in India is around 1:48 million – that is, there is one Union Cabinet Minister for every 48 million people. Given Sri Lanka’s population and already announced number of Cabinet Ministers the ratio is expected to be around 1:1/2 million, that is, there is one Cabinet Minister for every half a million people. Statistically speaking, our cabinet is 96 times oversize vis a vis India in terms of the population parameter. A critic may calculate these ratios for countries like Singapore ( 19 Cabinet Ministers for a population of 5.5 million) and Maldives ( 18 Cabinet Ministers for a population of just 4 lacs ) and argue that Sri Lanka is in a favorable situation. This is not an argument since any country will need a critical minimum number to cover the basic subjects such as Finance, Defence, Education etc. What should be avoided is to create Ministers and Ministries for the sake of keeping a member happy and under control. For example we have even had Ministers for Sugar and Botanical gardens in the recent past.
Too many cooks spoil the soup is an age old proverb but it is a deep rooted pragmatic observation. Our situation is even worse since the Cooks have diverse and conflicting objectives and interests. Further the Chef has co-opted a few cooks rejected by the people.( the first mistake).The negative impact from the business community was well observed when the Colombo stock exchange fell by more than 140 points on the first working day (24 th of August 2015) after the announcement of the National Government with an expanded cabinet.
The notion of a National Government is that it gets life under exceptional catastrophic situations. We were in such a situation just prior to 2009. Are we in a state of such a calamity now? Certainly not. We need not ‘Rock’ the boat, but I agree, we need more speed. All what we needed was a set of people (politicians) with a shared political philosophy. With only less than ten seats needed for a simple majority there was no urgent need to Rock the boat. Unless there are any ‘other’ objectives.
Even within the same party there exists Intra group conflicts and that’s quite natural. For instance the Finance Minister may have conflicts with the Housing Minister. ( Even in organizations it is a common phenomenon that almost all the departmental heads conflict with the Head of Finance) When we add people from other parties there is going to be Inter group conflicts as well. So a combination of intra plus inter group conflicts will jeopardize the very same objectives set by the Leadership.
In addition to the above the following factors may hinder the success of the National Government :
1. The skewed distribution of power among the members (Cabinet Ministers,other Ministers etc)
2. The level and frequency of interference and bossing by seniors and the leadership. The resignation of Dr. Rajiva Wijesinha is an example for this.
3. The divided loyalty of those members from the opposition particularly of those who had been with MR
4. The attitude and counter actions from those people/parties who are not in the National Government
5. The extent to which parties like the TNA and the Tamil expatriates will extend their support
6. The Current state of the Economy in terms of the stability of the Rupee,foriegn reserves, export earnings – just to mention a few
7. etc etc
There are two types expressions namely Explicit and Implicit. The Explicit reason is well given by the Government in announcing the proposed National Government. The Implicit reasons are quite ambiguous.
However if the Govenment is determined to go ahead with the formation of a National Government then such a formation becomes an important milestone in the political history of Sri Lanka. Serious thoughts must be given to overcome the above problems and other bottlenecks. In fact it is a GRAND STRATEGY ! If it works then there will be a queue of foreign governments wanting to benchmark our success story. The Government must set out its Vision. Mission, Goals and Objectives of this unique but risky strategy and should not mix up its priorities.
In the corporate world vision refers to the aspirations of the founder of the company. This is the pipe dream of this founding entrepreneur. If we take the annual reports of any large corporates, you are sure to find the Vision statement of the Company. This may be achieved or may not be achieved or partly achieved. Bill Gates when he was a budding entrepreneur in the early 1980 s had a vision that that every home must have a PC and every PC must have his Windows! Almost achieved today.
In terms of Sri Lankan political structure the founder of the present government is the President. It is he who is eligible to express his Vision for Sri Lanka. JR, Premadasa and MR have all done it as mentioned above. The President too have expressed his Vision but it’s not exactly explicit. The vision must be communicated internally as well as externally. Internally, it must be shared with the PM and other senior cabinet ministers ( and of course not forgetting the senior most advisor). Their views and concurrence must be obtained to ensure continuous support and commitment. It is the PM and his team that will translate the Vision of the President into several Mission statements.
The Vision statement is usually a single sentence but not necessarily so! But the Mission statements are many depending on the number of subjects that come out in translating the Vision. Mission statements can be expressed for the macro economic objectives such as the growth rate, inflation, employment etc. Unlike the Vision statement, Mission statements must be realistic and achievable. They are measurable. Mission statements must also be expressed in terms of Ethics, Governance, Values etc.
Each Mission statement must in turn be translated into operational targets via its objectives. Key performance Indicators must be prepared exhaustively to cover all aspects of the operational constituents of the implementation of the National Government. Such KPI s should not conflict with the stated Missions and Objectives.
*M H M Faizer – Founding GM of Amana – now into Amana Bank & Amana Takaful, Former Deputy Director General of the BOI