Policy and procedure, need of the hour

Date:

The Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), on Tuesday (26) declared that ministers who are constantly being rotated within short intervals know next to nothing about policies and procedures. This indeed is a timely statement and aptly describes the root causes of why Sri Lanka is in this appalling situation at present. 

PUCSL Chairman Janaka Ratnayake made this remark while responding to a statement made by Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera that the CEB is going for an electricity tariff revision and the PUCSL has approved the proposed tariff revision.

“He is a political authority and the Ministers in charge of the subject have been changing frequently and these appointments are meaningless,” Ratnayake said, while insisting the PUCSL is independent and operates according to the PUCSL Act.

Wijesekera tweeted “The proposed tariff revisions by CEB have been approved by PUCSL and this isn’t the first time. The request has been made multiple times since 2015. Cabinet has the authority to implement it, revise it, or to reject the proposal. No decision has been made on the request so far.”

Contradicting the statement made by Wijesekera, Ratnayake said no approval has been given for a tariff revision, adding that if there is an increase in the electricity tariff, there is a procedure to be followed, including seeking the Government policy decision in this regard.

He added that a decision as to an electricity tariff revision would not be made overnight, but would rather be in accordance with this procedure.

Ratnayake’s emphasis on following procedures in accordance with government policies is not something that one should set aside as playing to the gallery.

While he speaks about sticking to government policies, what Sri Lanka must really work on, is public or national policies that will not be changed overnight with the election of different political parties into power every five years.

There is no denying that Sri Lanka’s economy has reached a tipping point and is at the mercy of many ‘friendly’ nations. On top of it, the country now awaits bailouts from international agencies like the IMF and World Bank to overcome the crises and the help comes wrapped in conditions that may not be favourable to many.

Over the past two to three decades, intellectuals, experts, and sensible citizenry continuously lobbied for and insisted the need of having public or national policies when it comes to many sectors including the economy, health, education, energy and sustainable development. Today, more than any other time, the emphasis should be on having a tangible and sustainable policy framework that looks beyond the manifestos of political parties and Presidential candidates.

Sri Lanka, at the moment, terribly lacks good public policy that would enable authorities to define issues and implement strategies to produce a measurable and positive result for the public.

The present crises prove how unplanned and unprepared Sri Lanka is for an emergency and how dependent it is on foreign countries. This is quite evident when looking at the National Blood Transfusion Service, where everything related to it, except blood, is imported. The services at the Blood Bank have been severely hampered due to a serious lack of a number of essential equipment including bags to store blood donated by the public. This is only a tip of the iceberg of messes the country is presently facing due to not having proper and permanent policies, over the years failing to adhere to proper procedure, without simply wagging their tails to respective ministers or politicians.

The citizens of the country now have woken up from their deep slumber and are on the streets demanding for a change, mainly for a political change. While the call is for a political change with the expectation of achieving a so-called system change, the public must also highlight the need of having effective public policy that supports democratic institutions and processes, serve justice, encourage empathetic and active citizenship, and solve problems efficiently and effectively without causing a political rift.

Only then, will we be able to ensure that there will be no need for the public to take to the streets to vent their frustration of having to queue for basic needs.

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