To save its economy, Lanka needs strong opposition
The role of the opposition is to be a constant watchdog, to detect corruption, to speak out against it and to mount vigorous opposition to corrupt deals that damage the economy. The second role of the opposition is to present a manifesto of what they will do when they are elected to power – Photo by Shehan Gunasekara
Sri Lanka needs strong opposition to stop the rampant corruption, restrict the current chaotic governance and give citizens an option for a new government with different policies to develop the country.
Endemic is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as being consistently found in a particular group. In Sri Lanka, this particular group that exhibits rampant corruption are the politicians. It is important to understand the genesis of this endemic corruption.
Attempts to obtain the diplomas of all members of parliament under the RTI have not been crowned with success. If they had excellent qualifications they would be proud to say so and reluctance tells its own story. However, knowledge in the common field tells the story that many parliamentarians, and many who have tried and failed, were no one trying to become someone.
A mythical trip was likely to be a youngster without A Levels with little prospect of a good job becoming a handyman for a politician. Put up posters, remove opposition posters, gather crowds for meetings, and provide a bit of bullying as needed.
The next step on this journey is to challenge a local government election. Even at this early stage, funds and help are needed to win. From the first days, there are debts to pay. They are getting a lot bigger because no one is climbing the ranks to run for Parliament. Even as a minister, contesting to keep a seat requires a lot of rupees.
The gist of the story is that obligations arise throughout the journey and the only way to pay them back is to provide small jobs for small helpers and big jobs like managerial positions and even chairs for big helpers. . All with the unspeakable message of now, it’s up to you to make the most of the money making opportunity.
Elected members of parliament must replenish their depleted bank accounts and major party donors must be paid off, which means looking for opportunities for big bucks. It requires high level manipulation to create new megaprojects that will provide rich opportunities for earning money.
Endemic corruption will not end until what makes it essential is removed, but an opposition cannot do so until it becomes a new government.
The role of the opposition
The role of the opposition is to be a constant watchdog, to detect corruption, to speak out against it and to mount vigorous opposition to corrupt deals that damage the economy. In some ways, this is a futile exercise as the government will ignore vocal opposition and go after the big bucks.
But the upside is that it will slowly educate the electorate to understand that our entire economy is shrouded in a shroud of corruption. Properly maintained, this will soon lead to a growing opinion that the only way to save the nation is to change the government.
The second role of the opposition is to present a manifesto of what they will do once elected to power. What is essential. Simply criticizing the current government does not create a strong conviction that the current opposition will be a better government. They must lay out their plans and articulate them with passion to the electorate.
If I was asked as a consultant to provide a menu of development activities for opposition politicians, I would list 10 programs for consideration.
The heart of our country is rural, 75% of our country is rural. The vision is to create thousands of thriving villages, each linked to an urban center that will provide high schools, hospitals, a police station, large retail stores, movie theaters, etc.
The key role of the government will be to provide all the facilities to support the rural economy of agriculture, fishing and industry.
Industry will be encouraged to move to rural areas so that workers can live in their homes.
Urban commercial space to be used to support the information technology industry, which has the potential to be a huge contributor to the economy.
No country can develop fully without a global language. We cannot speak to the world in Sinhala and the world cannot speak to us in Sinhala. If we only know Sinhala, we cannot access the vast world of knowledge in science, economics and business.
Commit to implementing effective programs to teach English at all levels in schools and especially to teach English to all those not in school using mass media.
3. A country
Fully commit to the concept of one country. One country of different races, different castes, different languages, different religions, different sexual orientations. All with equal rank in all respects and to live together as one fraternity.
To create an appreciation that our economy (tea properties, clothing exports, other exports, manufacturers and service providers) is heavily dependent on non-Sinhala Buddhists.
Sri Lanka to look to tourism to generate foreign exchange earnings, as well as clothing and other workers’ exports and remittances
Within a year to reach the number of pre-COVID tourists and build the infrastructure to accommodate five million tourists.
Main foreign investments
Do not expect major foreign investment for many years. They will only come when the poor record of the Rajapaksa era (rampant corruption, currency crisis, failed agriculture, trade union unrest, regular and worrying changes of senior officials, infiltration of the military into the civilian administration, etc.) will become no longer a distant memory.
5. Create a new image
Creating a new image for the country must be a priority. The opposition is expected to state its pledges to create a new image for Sri Lanka. We must commit to losing our image as the pet puppies of China always acting at their behest. A totally redundant cricket stadium, a port in Hambantota that they then took over, an airport that wasn’t needed, and then Port City so they could have a pitch. Why? Take the breeze under a parasol or be able to mount missiles aimed at India.
To quickly signal that the puppy is going wild, do two things. Cancel plans for a mega route from the port city to the port (this would facilitate the movement of the missiles to their site in the port city if necessary) and declare that no land or sea sites will be allocated to Chinese companies without discussion with the ‘India.
No more nepotism (still despised by the international community). A commitment to no more than one person from a family within the firm. Only one person per family can be appointed to Parliament.
No more impulsive stupidity like going green overnight.
Make it compulsory to deposit in Parliament the opinions of a committee of experts before the adoption of laws affecting agriculture, industry, tourism and mining.
To allay fears of a military seizure of power, the troops must be sent back to barracks and relieved of all civil matters.
7. State enterprises
Sell ââselective state enterprises, including the airline and a bank to urgently create funds. It makes no sense to collect state enterprises like little boys collect toy cars. If they are not providing a healthy financial return, the put option should be pursued.
Stop building highways. Any investment must be amortized and the funds invested must be recovered. Highways cost a lot of money, including a big drain on our small foreign exchange reserves with no model capable of demonstrating a commercial return on this massive investment. They are popular with corrupt politicians because they offer multiple opportunities to earn money.
9. Roads and railways
Develop the existing road network by building expressways. A lane reserved for buses and trucks. When there is a need for large containers to travel to and from the port, two-lane lanes should be exclusively available for containers from midnight to 5 a.m.
Develop trains as an important means of transport. We have rail lines and that means this major requirement is available in many areas. The task is to supply motors and carriages.
10. Eliminate corruption
Endemic corruption has started and continues to thrive in Parliament. To make a dent in this by removing the need for a lot of money to run for office, stipulating the maximum a candidate can spend, and making it a condition for toppling an MP if they have exceeded the spending limit.
Put a freeze on the recruitment of personnel in the public sector; it will eliminate the postponement of jobs for political reasons. Selling state-owned enterprises, another source of jobs.
There are many other options and many other goals that may constitute the plans of a different government. The aim of this article is simply to stimulate thinking about better ways to develop the country compared to what is happening now.