Significance of scholarships

Published : 12:00 am  January 3, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  992 views  |  

Much has been written and said about the Government’s proposal to scrap the Grade 5 scholarship program. Many professionals who owe their social mobility to the exam as well as parents who hope for better opportunities for their children have criticised the move as an effort to close the door to prestigious schools. Yet, there is clearly much damage that the exams also pose. Child experts have time and again pointed out that the Grade 5 scholarship exam puts a ridiculously high level of pressure on young children. At an age when most children in other countries are enjoying their childhood, youngsters in Sri Lanka are trapped into an endless – and some would say vicious – cycle of school... 


An eventful New Year

Published : 12:00 am  January 2, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  494 views  |  

A NEW Year has dawned, bringing with it all the weighty expectations of a developing nation. President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his message drew out the agenda of the Government in continuing the “development decade” and also dropped some significant hints of a possible presidential election. Noting that political changes will be in the offing in the next 12 months, Rajapaksa endeavoured to build confidence with the public by emphasising on the development projects undertaken by the Government. This will be the political platform that the Government will stand on for the upcoming elections, starting with the Western and Southern Provincial Councils that will be rolled out in the next few months. Speculation... 


Budget bungles?

Published : 12:00 am  January 1, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  406 views  |  

Budget defeats in 25 local authorities have put an interesting spin on national politics within the last few weeks. Of these the majority expectedly fell to the ruling United National Freedom Alliance (UPFA), while four were borne by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), with one upset being caused for the United National Party (UNP) so far. High drama ensued at many of the local bodies with UPFA chairmen and deputy chairmen having their necks on the line if the Budget was not passed by any means necessary. In the melee, good governance suffered, perhaps, the greatest defeat as party loyalties were demanded to supersede reason and fact based arguments on the Budgets. Following high-level UPFA meetings... 


Milking the consumer

Published : 12:01 am  December 31, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  1 Comment  |  921 views  |  

MAKING the country self-sufficient in milk has been one of the main goals of the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government and since its election has been importing costly foreign cows to boost local production and reach the ambitious target by 2016. However, there are concerns that the entire production line of the industry has not been given equal attention. According to government records there are 238,322 registered dairy farmers while the number of unregistered dairy farmers are said to be nearly 100,000. Two hundred and four million litres of milk are obtained annually from 251,490 dairy cows. The number of buffalos is around 86,220 and they provide 5.5 million litres of milk annually. The daily production... 


Be worthy

Published : 1:00 am  December 30, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  462 views  |  

The credibility of Sri Lanka’s public service has been eroding for decades, with little effort being expended on empowering this once-great service. Now the public, which usually complains about its corruption and inefficiency, has the chance to rescue it, at least in part, from Government capture, nepotism, cronyism, opaqueness and greed. Over the weekend it was reported that the Government has called for public views to amend The Establishments Code (TEC). The TEC was first introduced in 1971 and comprises service conditions, privileges and rights of public officials. It includes provisions related to promotions, discipline and financial disclosure. The Code has been periodically modified.... 


The battle begins afresh

Published : 12:00 am  December 28, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  670 views  |  

One of the biggest challenges that will face Sri Lanka in the first quarter of the New Year will be the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in March. Already steps are underway by the US to evaluate Sri Lanka’s accountability and human rights standards ahead of the event that could see a record third consecutive resolution passed on the Government. Ahead of the March UNHRC session, the United States will dispatch its newly appointed Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal to Sri Lanka next month to review the progress of implementing measures outlined in the previous resolution on Sri Lanka, according to local media reports. Biswal, a US diplomat... 


Truthful numbers

Published : 12:00 am  December 27, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  701 views  |  

THE Budget debates that unfolded in Parliament last week also included shocking evidence that the growth rates of Sri Lanka are being “massaged” to show higher development statistics. While this will not necessarily surprise many, it shows the need for a transparent system that can provide credible information to the public and present a realistic evaluation to policy makers. Parliament was told by JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake that the Census and Statistics Department’s Accounts Division Director H.S. Wanasinghe had been instructed to upgrade the country’s growth data from 5.5% to 6%. When he had reported this event, he was put under an inquiry and the statements made by Wanasinghe... 


Hope for a better tomorrow

Published : 12:00 am  December 25, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  812 views  |  

“Tis the season to be jolly,” say the carols but for many people there is little to be jolly about. Many people will be celebrating Christmas today surrounded by their family and friends, grateful for what they have and hopeful things will be better in the New Year. But reality strains this time of faith and goodwill with economic worries burdening most households. Since 2009 there have been statements released to the people by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and on Christmas and New Years’ Day many get unbidden and some would say unwanted SMS messages from the Head of State wishing Sri Lankan citizens a prosperous 12 months ahead. Yet there is a reason many resent this. It is because the public... 


Hollow threats

Published : 12:01 am  December 24, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  518 views  |  

When times get tough, toothless threats are trotted out. Fettered with ever-increasing fuel bills, the Petroleum Ministry has threatened to limit supply if their outstanding bills are not settled. Yet, since such a hollow statement was made in March and several times before that by previous ministers, it is not likely to get much traction. The Petroleum Industries Ministry has insisted it will enforce with immediate effect a maximum two-month credit limit for State institutions to pay their fuel bills, Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa was quoted as saying in a news report over the weekend. A disgruntled Minister had said supplies would be discontinued if the arrears were not paid within two... 


Dissent is not disloyalty

Published : 12:33 am  December 23, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  1,588 views  |  

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presence ahead of the final vote passing the Budget for 2014 had little impact on what was essentially a foregone conclusion, but his appeal for the Opposition to stop undermining the Government’s economic policies and present a united front was certainly an original appeal of sorts. On Friday, Parliament passed the 2014 Budget by a 95-vote majority, approving a plan to reduce its fiscal deficit to a 36-year low of 5.2% of gross domestic product amid Opposition allegations of economic data manipulation. The Budget was passed with 155 votes for and 60 against in the Legislature, in which President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling party has over a two-thirds majority. Rajapaksa,... 


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