- Urge need to initiate a process of rebuilding key institutions of state
- “Elephant in the room is really corruption”- Prof. Suri Ratnapala
- Call for reintroduction of Public Service Commission
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Sri Lanka’s poor performance across multiple areas in the economy is linked to the economic governance of the country weakening over the years, despite an ever expanding public sector, according to some leading economists and practitioners of law in the country.
As having the right institutional strength is essential and imperative for an economy to prosper in the medium to long term, top economists and legal practitioners this week attributed the repeated issues faced by the country to the grim economic governance, which remains unaddressed and unacknowledged.
According to Emeritus Professor of Public Law Suri Ratnapala, a starting point for Sri Lanka in this regard would be to initiate the process of rebuilding institutions of the state, judiciary, enforcement agencies and auxiliary organisations that support the legal system.
“The elephant in the room is really corruption,” said Prof. Ratnapala, while addressing a panel discussion held during the launch of a report titled ‘Framework for Economic Recovery’, drafted by Colombo-based think tank
“Corruption erodes all institutions, if not addressed. And the only way you can address the problem is from the very top,” he said, adding that there is no acknowledgment on the part of national leaders that there is a problem with corruption
in the country.
Stating that the most important reform Sri Lanka can have in the current juncture is reducing corruption and strengthening the key institutions that support the economy, Prof. Ratnapala asserted that the effort is “costless”, as reducing corruption does not require money.
Advocata Academic Chair Dr. Sarath Rajapatirana sharing his own experience in working with the public service said that unlike before, there is only a few in the system who are competent enough, whereas the majority struggle to measure up to the challenges the country is
“We don’t need 1.4 million people; it is one of the highest rates of public service employment in South Asia and probably other parts of the world even. We had competent people in the past but now the quality is declining,” said Dr. Rajapatirana.
He recommended that it is imperative for the government to look at setting up a Public Service Commission that is independent, as in the past.
“Now ministers can hire the people they want and that wasn’t the case before. The quality (of talent) can be addressed by improving the recruitment and reintroducing the Public Service Commission, so those entering the sector can be assessed,” said Dr. Rajapatirana.
Furthermore, he also shared that those in the system need to receive training in the areas of language, information technology and other areas that would help the existing employees to handle day-to-day problems.
Meanwhile, LIRNEasia Chairman Prof. Rohan Samarajiva suggested that the government could start to improve its economic governance by understanding that it is in a war situation, the same way the Great Britain faced the challenges of the Second World War. “We need to do something similar with a common minimum programme. Not to solve all the problems but to identify the key sectors such as infrastructure, trade, the Port City key and similar areas that would make a huge difference to the functioning of the economy,” he said.
Samarajiva noted that the key point is to create confidence and a way of going about that effort could be to bringing back parts of the 19th Amendment, especially those regarding independent commissions.