Let’s face it. Close to 70 years after gaining independence, Sri Lanka is still nowhere. Part of the blame can be laid on the LTTE and their separatist war, but that only accounts for 30 years. We still have 40 years where the politicians have to take the blame for most of the problems that we have now.
Free economic principles definitely have merit, but let’s be realistic when we say that they haven’t totally worked out for us. Our country title has the word “Socialist” in it as well, but again what has that achieved for us? We are not 100% socialist, nor can we be (and of course even Russia and China are not 100% socialist, and now more towards capitalist)
But maybe there are a few things that we can do as a country, where we mix and match and enforce policies with the short term and long term future in mind.
So here’s a set of proposals that I think have some merit and could go some way in solving some of the problems that we have in this country. If any politician would like to take me up on this, cheers. If not, it would be up to the voters to make the politicians understand.
Public Private Partnership
People in government administrative services will know how to run public enterprises, but would not have the commercial expertise that we desire, in order to run an efficient service. I don’t say that public enterprises such as the transport board or the railways department have to make profits, but they do have to generate sufficient revenue to cover the costs and also to invest in new equipment and to expand the services.
Get the top 20 minds in the corporate sector and put them to work as an overseeing committee to advise the government on how these departments can be re-structured and modernised, in order to give the public the service that they deserve. Some services should continue for free such as basic healthcare, whilst others can see needed revisions done to the rates (such as railway tickets)
Improve the enforcement of laws and regulations
An investor who gets off a place and comes onto the Sri Lankan roads will be greeted with nice views and general good driving as long as they are on the airport expressway. As soon as they get off the expressway and join the highway however, they will see something completely different. Heavy vehicles that go on the right-side lanes, three wheelers that weave in and out of lanes, constantly blaring horns, and much more. There goes that positive view about investing in this country.
Get the police to enforce the laws without turning a blind eye. When they see people coming in the wrong lane, disregarding lane markings and safety, some of the cops just look the other way, since they cannot be bothered to write out a ticket. How about changing the regulations, so that the cops also get a percentage from the fines that they write? Bye bye bribes, since they get paid anyway, and hello discipline.
Put those shiny new Yamaha bikes to good use, chasing after wrong-doers on highways, rather than using them as glorified transport to get a cop from A to B.
Improve the public transport
What happened to those Volvo and Yutong buses that were running as a pilot project? Haven’t seen them recently. People will definitely pay extra for air conditioned comfort. Yes, these buses are more expensive, but there are cheap alternatives in India and China that we can bring down, and the government can give the CTB a duty concession. If you can give permits to MP’s, doctors, state workers, teachers, etc why not use those duty concessions to improve the national transportation fleets?
Also make it compulsory to have closed doors on the old buses, to stop people from falling out. Remember how many people have fallen off and then getting run over by the same bus?
Look at the next point and eliminate the competition between the CTB and the private buses. This competition leads to races and crashes and ultimately injury and death.
Hopefully, with the Megapolis project, we will see the re-introduction of LRT (tram networks) that operate on the road with a higher right of way. This means that although cars in traffic would be waiting, the trams would operate with minimal waiting meaning that people get from A to B much faster. This will create an incentive for people to use trams instead of their own cars to get to work.
No more Private Buses
The competition between SLTB buses and individual private buses is killing people, and that’s no good. Road rules are bent, broken, and murdered in plain sight and most of the time the traffic police turn a blind eye towards them as well.
Form a public-private corporation where all private buses will be “invested” into it by their owners. The SLTB will manage and administer the corporation. Existing private drivers will be given employment in the new corporation. All buses will be uniformly painted so that there is no distinction for the public. Owners will receive a rental and a fair share of the profits. The bus networks will be in better harmony, service levels will increase, safety will improve. Win Win situation for all concerned.
No more three-wheelers
The fact that this is a small vehicle leads to the following:
- Allows them to creep from all sides, leading to more traffic congestion.
- Creeping from unseen places leads to more accidents
- Survivability after an accident is poor due to the minimal safety standards in these vehicles.
Pack them off to countries where there is still a demand for them, like Bangladesh, Pakistan, African region, etc and replace them with compact cars. Keep in mind that a Bajaj Tuk now costs about 700,000 rupees and a Tata Nano is 1,700,000. That same Nano will cost 140,000 INR in India which is approx 300,000 LKR. Don’t say it can’t be done. Three wheelers can be replaced by small cars effectively.
Safety would be much higher, and people can travel in better comfort, and the living standards of the drivers / owners would increase. Traffic would actually be better managed as well, since we will not have three wheelers filtering through small gaps and lanes and creating blocks.
No more Vehicle Permits – equality for all
Why should one group of society such as MP’s, Doctors, Government Servants receive permits to buy vehicles at zero duty or lesser duty, compared to another segment that has no such privilege? Even the Prime Minister stated that no group is above another. Then let’s abolish this much abused permit system and introduce a fairer duty calculation mechanism, to enable better equality. India which has bigger problems than Sri Lanka has a fairer pricing policy when compared to Sri Lanka.
One way to do this would be to immediately stop issuing all permits, but consider giving concessionary loans to those same people. Government would still get an income from the duties paid. Eventually, the duties can be reduced gradually making vehicles more affordable. Yes, this may lead to more traffic but this can be managed via proper regulations and enforcement of laws.
No more “super” luxuries for MP’s and Ministers.
MP’s should not forget that they are public servants, elected from among the common man to serve man. Why do they need massive luxuries such as SUV’s that cost a hefty bill to the tax paying public? H.E. the President, who is a “sarala” (simple) man should enforce policy on his Ministers. Specify a simple vehicle for government service that meets the requirements and has a bit of luxury for comfortable travel, and say no to the extravagant expenditure. We are not a oil rich country with a massive income to justify what we spend on our elected officials.
For a number of years now, I have been saying that 1) it was wrong to setup a separate airline, and 2) it should be merged with SriLankan airlines.
If the requirement was to offer budget travel for pilgrims that could have easily been done using the existing national carrier by giving subsidised tickets on a quota system for deserving people. Creating another airline was a massive waste of money, and it affected SriLankan airlines too.
Glad to hear some news that there are plans now to merge Mihin with SriLankan and to create one airline under the SriLankan brand. Better late than never. Learn a lesson and move on.
We need to re-examine what we teach and how we teach it. Maybe we should consider reducing the number of years we spend for primary and secondary education and consider sending students to college and university at a younger age. Maybe we should consider re-examining what we teach in university, and what streams are on offer? Maybe we should look at an employability-skills matrix and design our courses around that? Maybe we should limit the number of general Arts degrees that we offer, and divert those students to other streams? Otherwise, students will graduate with degrees that give them no employable skills and they would be unemployed. More time and money would have to be spent to re-train them on other skills, where they would then obtain a job which has nothing to do with what they learnt in university. Consider that in 2013, we admitted 7,396 students into Arts degrees. Shouldn’t we ensure that they learn and acquire skills of an employable nature.
Access to Higher Education
In 2013, a total of 143,740 students passed their advanced level exams and became eligible to enter state university and pursue their higher education. Of this, 25,200 students were admitted, of which 15,694 were female (very interesting, but not relevant).
So what happened to the 118,540 other students? Who cares about them? What’s their future like? Don’t they have rights? Anyone in the “Anthare” who likes to talk about them?
Some will say that the solution is to build more state universities, but all of us know that Sri Lanka does not have the funds or the resources to build more of such mammoth facilities, and then there’s the problem of maintaining them.
For the year 2016 alone, the Govt of SL has allocated a total of 44,923 Million Rupees for a total of 35 universities and institutions. UGC source available here.
How many of you noticed that when the last government gave approval for the private medical college, one thing they did was to offer some scholarships to students who were unable to enter state universities. I propose that this should be taken further, and that full and partial scholarships can be given to deserving students to study at institutions such as NSBM, NIBM, SLIIT, etc and that this can even be extended to private institutions at a discounted rate so that more people have access to higher education. If the Govt were to ask us to offer a bulk discounted rate for a couple of hundred students, I would gladly work out a win-win arrangement. I get students, people get a recognised educational qualification and then into employment, and the Govt gets the credit.
Having more people being qualified with reputed and recognised qualifications is never a bad thing.
Pay back to Society
Since state sponsored / free higher education will continue into the future, we need to make sure that the people who get this benefit, then pay it back to society. As graduates, if they work in the state sector or private sector, they serve the Sri Lankan public. If however, after qualifying as a Doctor or an Engineer or whatever at the state’s expense, they then decide to migrate to some other country within 10 years, they should not be allowed to go unless they pay back to the State, whatever the money that was invested in them. No payment = no immigration clearance stamp.
Doctors are an essential service
Personally, I think there are too many strikes and trade union actions going on in this country. Yes, there are problems which need to be solved, but I don’t think it’s right to go on strike for everything. The Doctors as an example, had a lot of sympathy from the general public but the fact that they went on strike over a schooling matter seems to have caused a backlash, and people were not impressed.
Stop taking the patients hostage. The service of Doctors should be declared as an “essential service” and no strikes should be allowed. Instead, they can work and resolve their issues via labour tribunals and the courts. If they need to show their power, they can do so via work-to-rule.
More will be added as I think them up, but some of these may go a long way if they get implemented. Let me know what you think, in the way of comments.