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Political manoeuvring and the people's woes - Editorial

1 May 2013 07:21 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the UPFA May Day rally yesterday announced a reduction to low-end users on the recently-approved electricity tariffs. At the outset this act reflects a people-friendly ruler who is deeply concerned about the welfare of his people, especially the underprivileged and the poor. But is it really the case?
With the proposed increase in electricity tariffs, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), which is the power sector regulator, was ridiculed by the media for having disregarded the suggestions made by the people during the public consultation process prior to formulating a new tariff structure. The people who are already burdened by a soaring cost of living obviously did not want any more price hikes. The media portrayed the entire process as a farce and as a waste of time and money when the PUCSL not surprisingly went ahead with as much as a 60 per cent tariff hike despite all the empty rhetoric  about consulting the people and incorporating their suggestions.

We are unaware as to what lay behind the PUCSL’s decision to disregard the people’s suggestions. Perhaps, its role as the regulator and the need to reduce the colossal losses incurred by the Ceylon Electricity Board prompted it to approve a tariff hike, or it may be that the regulator was directly or indirectly pressured by the authorities who were keen to plug or patch up the leaks that were draining the CEB and to some extent at least improve the deteriorating economy of the country.
Whatever the reason may be, the electricity tariff hike was a step in the right direction because CEB losses should be reduced and the subsidising must be stopped.
As expected, the announcement about the tariff hike brought Power and Energy Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi and the PUCSL into the firing line—well, we could safely say for doing the right thing for the long-term economic benefit of the country.

But suddenly out of nowhere there were reports that President Rajapaksa had expressed his displeasure regarding the new pricing formula, and media reports said he was considering a 20 percent reduction on the tariffs, bypassing the PUCSL, his minister and the entire process which led to the tariff revision.

The same approach was seen in making plastic baskets mandatory for the transport of vegetables and the regional progress meetings where the President personally immerses himself in issues which should officially and ideally be resolved by public sector officials like Government Agents.

This also shows the President’s political savvy and skill, probably unlike any other politician in post-independent Sri Lanka, and he should be commended for it.
But the real question is whether this political manoeuvring or rather shrewdness serves Sri Lanka in the short or long term.
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  • Mutu Thursday, 02 May 2013 10:41 AM

    Political manoeuvring using shrewdness will not help in the long run. One classic example is manoeuvring done by JRJ and where is the country today?


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