While the change of regime following the presidential election has raised popular expectations, meeting such expectations is no mean task for any government. On the other hand, the government is going ahead with the implementation of a hundred day programme which is largely focused on good governance and rule of law. While this programme would no doubt facilitate other measures and policies, there is an urgent need to prioritize state interventions in order to have a significant impact on the economy, the people and the institutions on a sustained basis. If we make a serious effort to implement a programme on a priority basis, what should such a programme involve? This article is an attempt to identify a number of priority areas on the basis of their development and welfare implications. Some of the measures that I consider to be priorities for the country are as follows:
"While this programme would no doubt facilitate other measures and policies, there is an urgent need to prioritize state interventions in order to have a significant impact on the economy, the people and the institutions on a sustained basis"
The areas mentioned deserve detailed discussion but for want of space, only a brief sketch of each is given in this article.
a) Develop the productive sectors of economy.
The gap between productive and unproductive employment has continued to widen in the recent past. A glaring example is that there are at least 800,000 three wheelers in the country and the persons involved amount to about 10% of the labour force of about 8.5 million. More and more people have moved away from productive activities such as industrial, craft and agricultural production. This is counterproductive and unsustainable and needs to be reversed, at least until a higher level of productivity in different sectors is achieved. Both public and private investment in productive sectors can facilitate the process.
Responsibility: Ministry of Economic Affairs
b) Revamp the education system to make it more skill and value –
oriented with a focus on achieving national goals rather than examination oriented. Reforming the education sector in keeping with national goals of education already identified by the NEC is an urgent need. The proposed increase in public investment in education, if rationally allocated to promote equity, holistic education, life skills and specific skills of children and youths, can go a long way to make education relevant and useful for the vast majority.
Responsibility: Ministry of Education
c) Promote an integrated public transport system.
The current transport policy has favoured private transport, compelling more and more people to look for private solutions. The road congestion that we witness is the result. If the railways are given equal emphasis, the situation would have been different. The mix of the public transport services can change from place to place depending on various circumstances. But, wherever feasible, it should be developed as a multi-mode system combining buses, railways, light rail systems, boats, etc.
Responsibility: Ministry of Transport
d) Revamp the healthcare system.
The emphasis here should be prevention, primary care, multi-sectorial action, rational and equitable allocation of curative services and health promotion. Interaction of different systems of healthcare, both public and private, can bring considerable benefits to the wider population.
GP’s should be organised geographically and at least partly supported by public funds so that each family has a designated GP who is the repository of healthcare information relating to each individual. A referral system can link the GPs with specialist care and other institutions.
Responsibility: Ministry of Health
e) Professionalise public services and state institutions.
Since these institutions provide various specialized services to the public, a clear professional orientation can help improve such services immensely. In this regard, adoption of knowledge management tools can be encouraged as part of a process of professionalisation of public services.
Responsibility: Ministry of Public Administration
f) Develop and adopt a multi-layer reconciliation and social cohesion programme.
The unity among diverse ethno- religious groups that the victory of the common candidate displayed needs to be sustained and built on. This would be possible only if the necessary steps are taken without delay to bring about national reconciliation at all levels and promote social cohesion among diverse communities. In this regard, a permanent national commission can go a long way.
Responsibity: Ministry of National Integration
g) Establish a National Planning Council
The lack of integrated economic and social planning has resulted in distorted development and proliferation of social issues. Ad hoc measures taken by the government in diverse sectors without inter-sectoral coordination within a national planning framework have created various problems such as waste of resources, distorted development and social disparities. In view of the above, it is necessary to establish a national planning council to guide the development process and redistribution of wealth.
Responsibility: Ministry of Economic Planning
h) Reduce Brain Drain and promote Brain Gain.
It is urgent to address the issue of brain drain. The exodus of talented individuals from time to time over the last several decades has resulted in a depletion of the pool of talents in the country, significantly undermining development prospects and institutional development. Measures need to be taken to arrest this trend.
It is also necessary to figure out how we could attract some of the talented individuals domiciled abroad. A high powered think tank can deliberate on key issues and advise the government on measures needed to be taken.
Responsibility: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
i) Rehabilitate the homeless and the disable people.
It is a shame that we have allowed many children, the elderly, the disabled and abandoned women to beg for food and medicine for too long.
A coordinated national programme should be launched to enlist them in an effective rehabilitation programme that involves livelihoods, housing and other essential services.
Responsibility: Ministry of Housing and Samurdhi
There are, of course many other issues that need to be addressed in the near future. But, if we deal with the issues mentioned above within a few years, not only that we would be able to solve many problems facing the country but the ordinary people in the country would also benefit immensely as well.
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