A Way Out of the Present Crisis

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The present Economic chaos and upheaval in the Country compounded by Fuel and Power shortages, rising cost of basic food including rice, bread, milk, sugar etc. has placed the Country in a state of anarchy and it appears rats are fast abandoning the ship in droves. The ruling family has already started dispatching their families to safer climes on the pretext of making sacrifices. Reports of planes in readiness to take off with the stolen loot are spreading rapidly in social media and the disappearance of some members from the public eye is certainly adding credence to the story. 

We as a Country facing the most critical economic crisis in our history need to take some drastic measures to stem the situation and save the people from an absolute calamity. Immediate steps including the following needs to be taken to prevent a state of absolute anarchy

1 Dissolve the present Cabinet in its entirety including all subject Ministers.

2. Establish a new Cabinet of not more than 20 members with specific knowledge of the relevant subject with a sound educational background preferably a degree.

3. Handpick the 20 from the present 225 based on ability to handle a specific subject not based on Party lines ignoring Party affiliations.

4. Abolish all facilities given to MPs including Salaries, Car Permits, Free fuel, Free meals etc. The argument that they need these facilities to serve the public holds no water since not a single one of them is in a position to visit their constituents. Most have become virtual Prisoners in their own homes.

5. On picking the above 20 based on performance over the last 10 years without any Political bias and Weightage, should be based on ability, integrity, credibility and public acceptance across the Political spectrum.

Based on my personal experience in observing the performance of our MPs in various capacities over the last decade, the following can be recommended to form a core group to effect these changes. Allocation of Portfolios based on a scientific method very effectively followed by many countries like India, Singapore, U.K etc is not a difficult task if handled in a genuine and transparent manner with no political considerations. 

From Government benches

1. Dulles Alahapperuma 

2. Ali Sabry

3. Dr. Ramesh Pathirana

4. Charitha Herath

5. Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle

6. Weerasumana Weerasinghe

7. Premanath Dolawatta

All of the above have proven their ability and integrity in whatever task they have been entrusted in most difficult situations in the recent past and most importantly acceptable to the population across Party Lines. 

From Opposition benches

1. Ranil Wickramasinghe

2. Sajith Premadasa

3. Sarath Fonseka

4. Champika Ranawaka

5. Anura Kumara Dissanayake

6. Vijitha Herath

This is the best available from the present Opposition though some may tend to disagree for various reasons. I have included only 4 from the previous Yahapalana Government. The inclusion of the first two is purely due to the international acceptance the country desperately needs at this juncture. 

Outside the present Parliament

1. Mahinda Samarasinghe

2. Sunil Handunetti

3. Akila Viraj Kariyawasam

This list includes people of exceptional ability and a proven track record particularly in the fields of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Education.

The above could be easily accommodated from the National list by removing some of the puppets merely enjoying the free meals and other perks.

Allocation of Ministries to people with little or no education like what can be seen in Finance, Energy, Power, Petroleum, Agriculture, Tourism, Highways, Ports, Digitalisation etc at present is an insult to the entire Sri Lankan population and ridiculed even by the international community. Equally ineffective will be aging Ministers like Vasu, Dinesh, GL, Chamal and the Prime Minister himself. Firebrands like Wimal and Udaya have been totally ineffective over the years apart from the rhetoric and is merely trying to creep back on the back of this National calamity.

Opposition benches other than the names mentioned above lack depth and full of pseudo-Economists and Professors, mostly from dubious Foreign Universities and are busy in positioning themselves for high positions often with the help of social media. It is hilarious to see such Opposition Politicians involved in similar back-room deals clamouring for positions in a new regime. 

The public is also angrily awaiting the recovery of ill-gotten wealth stashed in Foreign Banks and invested in other money laundering activities. Figures in excess of 16 billion Dollars are being mentioned attributed to both present and Yahapalana regimes. Ownership of Hotels and ships as well as prime Real estate and massive Dollar Accounts are highlighted in social media on a regular basis. Recovery of even a fraction of these amounts will help the Country overcome the current crisis.

In addition, the new regime should totally revitalise the public sector and identify key personnel for following positions.

1. Governor of Central Bank. The previous occupant made a mockery of this position and primarily responsible for the financial debacle and collapse of the Rupee. If former Governor Dr. Coomaraswamy can be persuaded to make a comeback at last for the next 3 years, stability could be re stablished in the short term.

2.  Secretaries of key Ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Power and Energy, Agriculture, Petroleum, Highways, Education etc. The very best should adorn these positions sans any political pressures.

3. Heads of Statutory bodies, Sri Lankan Airlines, Ports Authority, SL Railways, CTB, SLT, CEYPETCO, Tea Board, Tourist Board, Airport Aviation, SLBFE etc. should be qualified individuals and an in-depth knowledge and understanding is essential. We recently witnessed the mockery of a very competent Chairman of LMF who turned round the Organisation in a short period of 2 years being replaced by an ex 3-wheel driver holding a position in the Party.

Finally, the recently appointed Economic Advisory Committee and the multiple sub-Committees should be abolished forthwith. It is sad to note how well-established business houses with a proud history have now become stooges of corrupt Politicians and partners in plundering public assets. Appointment to such Committees should be only based on expertise in the respective fields and certainly not crooked businessmen with interests in the very sector they are supposed to advise on. Sadly, many prominent public listed Companies have willingly or unwillingly joined the bandwagon.

A note of caution to the JVP too. The public will be eternally grateful for their efforts in exposing the corrupt but on the same token expect them to come out with a policy programme for Economic recovery. Their proposals on the Energy Sector, Productivity of the State sector, Privatisation, setting up of Foreign Universities and above all relief to the public from the clutches and blackmail of Trade Unions in the calibre of GMOA, CEB, CGR and other essential public utilities are eagerly awaited. 

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By Susantha Fernando