Thu, 13 May 2021 Today's Paper

Tabs, Pads and so on… Promises – if Kept, a Paradise!

4 November 2019 12:03 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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New Zealand, the welfare state three or four decades ago, with all best intentions set out to create a more egalitarian society. Everyone, regardless of wealth began dipping into the government goodies. Healthcare was free. Unemployment benefits were paid without time limits. Businessmen and farmers got large subsidies. People on welfare received as much money as workers earned with full-time jobs. With free and subsidies they experienced a devastating economy and severely restricted  commercial opportunity. It suffered one of the lowest levels of productivity growth of any developed nation, and in late 1980s its GNP was actually declining. It has also been piling up debt. Alarmed that the country might finally go broke, in early 1990s, they slashed welfare spending and sold off state-owned enterprises. Price and wage controls were lifted, subsidies and trade barriers were lowered, and government employment was trimmed. The shock therapy began to work, by end 1992 it became one of a handful countries to reduce inflation to below one per cent.
We have extended Samurdhi benefits to 600,000 more. A leading candidate promises Janasaviya in addition to Samurdhi if he wins, saying there is sufficient money in the treasury to meet them all. ‘Samurdhi is a failed scheme; it does not reach the poorest, only being a project to offer employment for people with political connections’ --World Bank study titled “An Empirical Evaluation of the Samurdhi Programme” in 2005 stated. The report added that the credit components of Samurdhi doesn’t advance the objectives of Samurdhi and that it has limited abilities to reach the poor.

Importance of Second Preference

A former Auditor General who sat in Parliament for one day and resigned in favour of a rejected candidate, appeared on a TV interview last Thursday morning, urged the voters to cast their second preference to one of the two leading men after hinting on his favourite. The Elections Commission says, the poor tax payer is burdened with an additional three billion rupees due to the 30 odd ‘also ran’ candidates seeking presidency. The former AG has made his party’s intentions known, let the cat out of the bag. Another prominent ex ‘Governor’ withdrew in support of Sajith.
Whoever wins and forms the next government should ensure recovery of the extra costs created by all those who failed to achieve the standard  minimum of one-eighth [12.5%] of total valid votes like in earlier regulations, or if they, or the NGOs  who sponsored them are unable to pay back, enforce a jail term for the crime, by enacting [ex post facto or retrospective] laws applicable to the past.  Also enact ex post facto laws to jail the rulers who failed to meet the pledges given to the electorate at the campaign trail, within the 
stipulated tenure.

Rice from Moon, 8 lbs. free grain, 1500/- for estate worker...

The most positive feature regarding the forthcoming elections is the non appearance of Posters, banners and cutouts and the resultant absence of electoral violence. However, such physical propaganda has been replaced by vicious mudslinging and attempts to hoodwink the gullible masses with promises. A large majority of those promises given in haste cannot be fulfilled. “RICE FROM THE MOON” and “EIGHT POUNDS OF GRAIN FREE” of four/five decades ago end up being discarded as ‘broken promises’ like the 1500/- per day for estate sector labour force. Whatever may be the result of the elections; this country will definitely face grave trials and tribulations in the months to come. In today’s mostly dismal and worsening electoral culture, while we focus on the Presidential polls, the parliamentary elections are to be held in a couple of months time. Many unpopular and corrupt cabinet ministers and other parliamentarians will take the stage on a different campaign. 

 

"The most recent and somewhat amusing promise was the free distribution of women’s hygienic material "


The most recent and somewhat amusing promise was the free distribution of women’s hygienic material. Copied from the Australian Liberal Coalition of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s campaign in May 2019, who believed tax cuts and the lasting flexibility of Australia’s economy would keep him in office. In his 37 point policy plan, the No. 34 point titled, ‘Plan for Women’ specify 64 areas of women’s development out of which inclusion of one insignificant area is the supply of free tampons for women. Similar to ours the opposition Labour party too rushed to promise free tampons and pads at state schools, if they were re-elected. “This is about giving female students the dignity they deserve, and helping families with the cost of living along the way,” they said in a statement.“We want to break down the stigma of menstruation and ensure it does not impact on a student’s ability to be comfortable at school and ready to learn.” Young women will now have free access to pads and tampons in every primary, secondary and specialist government school across the state. 

Are Tabs, Pads a Necessity?

The Commonwealth, state and territory treasurers on October 3, 2018, unanimously agreed to remove the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from ‘feminine products’ from January 1, 2019. In recent years there has been considerable pressure in all developed nations, [where all other basic amenities are satisfied] to remove it. Free sanitary products are already available in schools in the United States and Scotland. The proposal will see sanitary items obtainable free of charge in school toilets, allowing students the right to use pads and tampons when they need them.
 It expects they will help ease anxiety and embarrassment. However, in Sri Lanka, as recently reported by TV news channels, there are 19 schools in the Hambantota district alone, [which produced the former head of state who built an Air port and a habour there] and represented by the deputy leader of the present governing party, where basic sanitary facilities, like water and toilets for girls are not provided. There are more than one hundred schools, where the building structures are in badly dilapidated condition and the teachers being compelled to conduct classes in the open yards. Are Tabs and Pads a necessity? [Where do they store them in our village schools with no toilets?] 
Voters are flooded with all kinds of promises, our politicians hardly address the priorities, the real wants of the people, and instead they aim at winning the gullible poor masses. Campaign promise is a promise or an election guarantee made to the voter by a candidate or political party that is trying to get elected. The UK, Spain, Sweden, Portugal and Canada, we find the highest percentages of promise fulfillment by government with one party rule, with lower percentages in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Bulgaria and Ireland in most of which, the governments are alliances or coalitions. 

 

"Our politicians hardly address people’s priorities, and instead they aim at winning the gullible poor masses"


George W. Bush, during the  election campaign, in 2000 said, “If we don’t stop our troops going all around the world in missions, we are going to have a big problem. And I’m going to stop that.” He never honoured his word. Barack Obama, vowed during the 2008 election campaign to close the detention camp Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, but it remained open the entire term of his office and it remains so to-date. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump, promised that he would imprison Hillary Clinton over her email controversy; most notably during the second presidential debate. Trump did not take any action against her. While in office he withdraws 
this promise.
Voters should question a candidate’s ‘ability’ against his promises.  Koshy Mathai, IMF Colombo Representative at a media briefing once asked why isn’t Sri Lanka making the rich owning Prados, BMWs and other expensive cars pay higher prices for fuel and subsidize diesel and kerosene to the poor? The point he made was that in all the rich receive subsidised fuel, health and free education, which should be targeted to a particular group and reduce the huge burden in state costs. 
Growing economic freedom became one of the decisive events that will shape the kind of world we have in the 21st century. The question  they ask is not why politicians and public opinion turned against the welfare state, but why it took them so long. Will there be political resolve to carry out such a courageous initiative? Inefficient subsidy schemes will go on ‘to flourish’ until we migrate to a higher level when per capita incomes rise. The need then for subsidies will gradually taper.
Would any of the main contenders to the presidency have strength and backbone to announce a cut 
in subsidies?

kksperera1@gmail.com

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