On Lalith Athulathmudali’s 24th death anniversary, I have dealt with many an aspect of our ailing country in the past. Mr. Athulathmudali was a well-disciplined parliamentarian and scholar who strongly believed in establishing proper administrative systems to be the pillars of development. I had to touch on the present context of the abject lack of discipline portrayed due to the absence of well-established administrative systems in the country. What he is widely-remembered for is the Mahapola Higher Education Scholarship Scheme, a system that serves thousands of underprivileged, talented students.
Today, people presume that the wealthy should be denied of the right to education which is totally unfair. Everyone has the right to education. However, it is only through a proper system that we could ensure there is no discrimination.
Listen to the ‘rubbish’ espoused by the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA). It is a known fact that students from several districts have entered the medical college with results similar to 1B and 2S passes. But they attempt to conceal these facts from the general public because they believe no one is superior or inferior despite the results they obtain at the GCE A/L examination.
Don’t we like to see them as qualified doctors?
If the government needs to prosper, then it should initiate measures that give students equal opportunities. There should not be double standards.
Need for pragmatic politicians
There was a time when Sri Lanka had a well-established system of governance. Civil servants knew their duties and were in a position to advise politicians without any fear or favour. Mr. Athulathmudali was one who, with all his experiences, sought the knowledge of civil servants and professionals. He was searching for the best answer that would be of benefit to the country and not for his personal gains. Over the years, politicians have destroyed this practice and produced civil servants who lacked confidence, personality or industrial know-how. Today, we cannot find a single politico who can engage in a brainstorming session. We do not have pragmatic politicians who can solve problems, rather they create problems. Ultimately, the entire country will have to suffer.
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission
Among many fraternities that require systems, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC)stands out. It is a “regulatory body” set up to protect the consumers. For the past 15 years or so, I believe we never had a single public hearing with regards to the problems faced by the consumers. How can a regulatory body as such do justice to consumers if they do not find out the concerns of the consumers. One simple example would be the telephone operators having a field day with an 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. peak hour period for internet operations. This is grossly unfair. In other countries, the peak hour is 8– 8, Saturday, Sunday and Holidays are all “off peak” hours entirely. The situation is aggravated further when you have only a few technically-qualified workers. Just imagine running an organisation which basically revolves around “technical and expert knowledge issues” with a handful of half-baked technical officers?
Having been through a tsunami, a war, floods, landslides and drought (not forgetting the garbage dump collapse), Sri Lanka is yet not prepared for a disaster. There seems to be no pragmatic solutions but reactionary measures to any disaster.
Income Tax collection
Income tax officials often keep tabs on taxpayers, especially if they delay to make their contributions. This practice does more damage to the many businessmen who have agreed to pay. We must realise that no one pays taxes willingly. We must support those who pay taxes, and chase the absconders. Why can’t the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) overhaul their systems and promote novel programmes like the “self-assessment scheme” through the deployment of “graduates” and not “assessors.” How come the management of IRD failed to realise that their complete reliance on the deployment of assessors to collect revenue has not brought the desired results over the years?
In addition to this, Sri Lanka does not have a system to support small, medium and large scale businesses. Revenue proposals introduced by the budget, which affect the working class, keep changing every year. This certainly does not help businesses to run smoothly. Let’s not forget that these businessmen provide the bulk of employment opportunities to people -- something a majority in this country fail to realise. One of the reasons people are reluctant to pay taxes is because they see politicians wasting or lavishly spending their hard-earned money. They have the best cars worth fifty to sixty million rupees, best of facilities, minions to attend to all their chores. Meanwhile, the common man is asked to tighten his belt.
We do not see sacrifices made by politicians to rescue the country from debt. It can hardly be expected from the present parliamentarians to make such sacrifices. The world is going through a turbulent phase. The wars that have been created in recent years have placed the whole world in turmoil. Brexit, followed by the US elections, has burdened us with a plethora of questions. We are in utter debt and will have to seek the support of other countries for investments.
Moreover, our government needs to understand that we have to cut down on wasteful and unproductive revenue expenditure. Today, it is crystal clear that no politician can save this country but only the establishment of well-structured administrative systems together with checks and balances and discipline can get this country on track.