Election propaganda meetings do give an insight into the attitudes of certain politicians.
A few days ago a senior Minister of an earlier UNP government who has now crossed and is yet a senior Minister of the present government was exhorting with total conviction that though the people were complaining about the ever increasing cost of living , they have no legitimate right to do so for 'How do we think we pay the salaries of all the unemployed undergraduates to whom we have now given employment to , or to the Samurdhi recipients, or pay even the bureaucrats except by increasing the price of consumer goods".
Well! He did sound extremely righteous as if he and his government were correct in what they were doing but he forgot to mention the larger amount of money needed to support a jumbo cabinet, which certainly takes a larger share of the indirect taxes imposed on consumers. Furthermore, it does appear that today Ministers believe that they can take or dismiss any officer working in the Ministry or Department that is under their purview. In fact once again over a telecast a certain Minister openly said that he has the legitimate right to do so. Bad enough as that statement was ( since essentially no Minister can sack a public servant just like that without a Departmental inquiry ) another rather young Minister appeared on a TV newscast carrying a fairly large bag of goodies which he unloaded onto a table saying that for Rs. 5000 he had obtained all those goods including as he emphasised two tins of mackerel, dhal, potatoes and onions (though it appeared that the quantity of rice he had purchased seemed rather small) and said why should people complain that consumer goods are expensive! When the Minister proudly claimed that his Rs. 5000 purchase of goods should show how cheap consumer goods were, one wonders whether he calculated for how long he can use that amount of goods for a family of four. It would have lasted at most for a week! In reality he appears to be out of sync with the reality that exists in the marginalized areas where a person finds it difficult to find even daily work.
" When the Minister proudly claimed that his Rs. 5000 purchase of goods should show how cheap consumer goods were, one wonders whether he calculated for how long he can use that amount of goods for a family of four "
Whatever the election campaigns are it would be useful for the government to obtain a view of the essential reality that exists in the country.
Earlier in the 1970's there were a set of Plan Implementation officers attached to each secretariat whose job was to see that the development plans of the government were put into operation . Today a number of unemployed graduates are being given employment. The main objective of this recruitment is to obtain the services of graduate trainees for the country's development programme and get them to act as liaison officers between the rural population and the government. For this purpose the Local Government and Provincial Councils Ministry has assigned a large number of graduate trainees to all Provincial Councils in the country in accordance with their requirements.
A batch of 16,478 graduate trainees who have completed a six month training programme will take up assignments in 14,008 Grama Niladari areas in 324 secretarial divisions of Sri Lanka's 25 districts to strengthen the rural economy on the advice of Economic Development Minister. However, unless they have been trained properly to act as catalyst of change in marginalised and rural areas , they will serve no purpose. It should be their responsibility to use the available resources in each area, and develop with the community viable projects so that each person would have a sustainable livelihood.
It is a sad reflection on the country's administration that in 2013 per capita the GDP was estimated at US$ 3,282 (which in rupee terms is equivalent to Rs. 35,500 per capita per month) whereas the real per capita income was Rs. 11,932 per month. The poorest of the population account which is 40% of the population accounted for 13.4 of the income whereas 20% of the population account for 53.5 of the income. Today, the gap between the rich and the poor is further widening. Beautification of cities and building of carpeted roads and flyovers cannot hide the poverty that exists. Let us hope that the new service sector will be suitably trained to bring about a change in the present situation.