An action plan is more useful to ordinary citizens than a policy manifesto. It gives them a conceivable picture of what will happen if they elect the person – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
There is a popular trend among presidential candidates to present an action plan for their first 100 days in office. Although I used to think that it was just an election gimmick, I am now beginning to think it is a good way to think through the immediate aftermath of an election.
An action plan is more useful to ordinary citizens than a policy manifesto. It gives them a conceivable picture of what will happen if they elect the person. Besides, there is not much purpose in presidential candidates presenting a policy document because policies are made by the Legislature. So a manifesto is more suitable for Parliamentary Elections. Anyway, I thought of listing down some practical things which the numerous candidates should consider for his or her First 100-Day Plan. This first version is entirely based on my understanding of the current context and people’s common expectations. I am inviting the public to collaborate on this plan if you like. (Add your comments to the following Google Doc - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1abvWd9WRl-_H8v0c5YVa-o7mTaaj1eQ5bTRFM6cRb1A/edit?usp=sharing).
Start date: Monday, 18 November 2019
End date: Friday, 31 March 2020
Weekends are omitted. A good President needs a break like any other human being.
1) The presidential inauguration ceremony will be done in a respectable, dignified and a reasonably ceremonial manner. It is a very important oath the person is taking to serve the republic. So he or she should not do it in a disorganised manner in the dark hours surrounded by a few people.
It will be done in daylight in a large open space where the citizens who elected their President can freely attend and witness the swearing-in. It will be well-planned while the look and feel will be graceful and cheerful.
2) The newly-elected President will address the citizens of the republic on all TV channels, probably between 8.00 p.m. and 9.00 p.m. the same day or the day after. It will be short, inspirational and delivered with a sense of humility. He or she will wish the former president well, thank the citizens for electing him or her and call for peaceful acceptance of the citizens’ democratic decision. He or she should firmly say that any person engaging in violence will be promptly dealt with by law enforcement agencies.
It will be done with Sinhala-Tamil voice translations and English subtitles on television, and with a side box where it is delivered in sign language. The President’s Office will start an official YouTube channel for this purpose.
The President will address the State every month on a designated day and time to offer a synopsis of the key affairs of the State, State achievements and future plans. The President will constantly communicate his or her vision and inspire the citizens to follow it. He or she will use the media to the fullest to maintain good communication with citizens.
3) The President will call the ‘State Security Council’ for an immediate and thorough assessment of the security status of the republic. He or she will immediately execute all necessary security decisions to make sure that the republic is secure and its citizens are completely safe from all identified internal and external threats.
The Security Council will meet each week without fail. The critical information which should be shared with citizens will be announced on media after each Security Council meeting.
4) The President will form his or her office team. He or she will select qualified, experienced and trustworthy personnel to run their office. He or she should handpick and interview each and every team member. The presidency is a very important institution and the people who run it should be well-trained and oriented to deliver on their duties. A good gender balance, healthy age distribution and national and religious representation will be considered in the recruitment process. The President’s office will be a shining example to all other public and private institutions.
5) The President will appoint new MPs to some ministries as required to carry out this 100-day plan. This will be done in friendly consultation and mutual agreement with the current Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Getting into power battles from the outset is unnecessary and devalues the refreshing spirit of the new President. He or she will be tactful and willing to compromise in order to arrive at the best solution for the time being.
Getting into petty confrontations to show a majority in Parliament is childish at this stage. The current Parliament is anyway a grand failure. But it cannot be dissolved until March 2020 as per the interpretation given by the Supreme Court. Although two-thirds of the MPs could sign to dissolve themselves; if such a call is made by the President and if the MPs do not support it, it will be seen as a failure by the President from the start. So the best way forward is to let the Parliament be as it is for the time being. The President will consider proroguing Parliament for some time in order to save unnecessary costs.
The President will not travel abroad unless for medical reasons during the first 100 days in office. Instead he or she will travel to different parts of the republic and meet with local representatives and people on the ground. People should feel that just as he or she came to them before the election, he or she is coming to them soon after the election
6) The President will start a ‘Government Spending Review’ (GSR). One of the quickest ways to find the money to do urgently useful work is to cut unnecessary costs. The President should appoint a highly capable and credible committee to conduct a spending review of the entire Government. The purpose should be to find ways to cut costs in the short, mid and long term. As a target, the President will aim to reduce Government spending by 15-20% over the next five years.
The committee will submit an interim report within two weeks and the complete report within one month. Both these findings must be promptly published in the public domain. The President will welcome public opinion on the findings and proposals.
7) The President will pardon all military personnel who fought in the war and are held in prison as well as all ex-LTTE members who are held in prison. This will help to further strengthen trust and understanding among the Sinhalese and Tamils. A probationary period may be applied in order to manage security concerns.
8) The President will meet with the Venerable Mahanayake Theras, His Eminence the Cardinal and Respected Chief Representatives of Hindu and Islamic institutions in Sri Lanka together, every month on a designated recurrent date. The purpose will be to maintain good communications among religious institutions and collectively assure trust and understanding among the different religious citizens of the republic.
9) The President, with the support of the relevant ministers and the majority of Parliament, will move to pass an Act to ban all plastic and polythene packaging in Sri Lanka with effect from 31 March 2020. Industries will be given a 100% tax cut for six months to import machinery and raw materials to produce alternate packaging material.
10) The President will start a project to repair the roofs of all schools in Sri Lanka within one month. The purpose is to make sure that each and every student is able to study in their classrooms without getting wet when it is raining. A quick survey will be conducted by a special taskforce with the support of the relevant ministries to identify all classrooms with old, dangerous and leaking roofs. The State Engineering Corporation and military personnel will be deployed to repair the identified roofs or construct new ones.
This project will be completed before December 2019 and students will walk into their refurbished classrooms in January 2020.
11) The President will simultaneously start a project to repair the toilets of all schools in Sri Lanka (guest suggestion).
12) The President will appoint new Governors to all Provincial Councils. They should be highly qualified, experienced and respectable individuals who are able to execute their constitutional role as the Governor, and not to engage in popular politics during their term.
13) The President will work with the Election Commission to hold all Provincial Council Elections on the same day before the end of February 2020.
14) The President will work with the relevant ministries and lead a project to recruit Tamil-speaking police officers to all police stations. The purpose of this is to solve the issue of Tamil citizens facing difficulties when lodging complaints.
15) The President will request all public service agencies to review their print and electronic communications materials (websites, forms, notices, etc.) and to strictly implement the ‘Equal Languages Policy’. The purpose is to make sure that all citizens will be able to receive public service in their preferred language. The President will request all private sector companies to follow the same principle of equal languages in all their customer service operations.
16) The President will work with the relevant ministries, banks and financial institutions to immediately lower the interest rates of current and new housing loans, or at least introduce a mechanism to lower the monthly installment amounts for 2020.
The assumption here is that the economy will start to grow within 2020 and that citizens will be able to regain their financial growth thereafter.
17) The President will work with the same institutions to halt all microfinance loan schemes. Repayment will be halted for at least six months. A special committee will be set up to review the proposed Microfinance Act and action will be taken based on their recommendations.
18) The President will form a special team with the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, a few relevant ministers and a few economic innovators called the ‘Team for Rapid Economic Growth’ (REG). Their urgent task will be to formulate quick wins to give a boost to the economy to jump back to a +5% growth rate within 2020.
Their plan will be completed and executed within the first 100 days.
19) The President, with the support of the relevant ministries, should assign tourist number targets for all Foreign Service missions of Sri Lanka. They need to prioritise promoting inward tourism to Sri Lanka. It will not be a fancy, multibillion-rupee advertising campaign done centrally by some local or foreign agency. Each mission will be given realistic quarterly targets for 2020.
The President will call all heads of foreign missions in Sri Lanka and request their unconditional support to rebuild the economy by not imposing undue stress on international trade at the least.
20) The President will not travel abroad unless for medical reasons during the first 100 days in office. Instead he or she will travel to different parts of the republic and meet with local representatives and people on the ground. People should feel that just as he or she came to them before the election, he or she is coming to them soon after the election.
The President will continue to travel within the republic throughout his or her term.
21) The President will work with the relevant ministries to start a special project to build safe mini-bridges by replacing all unsafe makeshift river crossings. The purpose is to make sure that no child will face danger while commuting to school.
This project will be completed within the first 100 days and will be managed by local engineers with the help of military personnel.
22) The President, with the support of relevant ministers and majority MPs, will pass an Act to ban Glyphosate and other pesticides which are proven or suspected to be toxic to human health. This will be done in consultation with a panel of credible local scientists.
23) The President will start a special project called ‘A bed for every patient’ at all public hospitals. The purpose is to make sure that every citizen who is admitted to a public hospital will immediately have a bed and will not have to share a bed or sleep on the floor.
The doctors and engineers will have to work together on this and come up with creative solutions and rapid process improvements in order to make this happen. The target will be that every patient admitted will be guaranteed a bed at least by the start of March 2020.
24) The President, with the support of the relevant ministries, will start a pilot project called ‘School e-Books’ to convert all school textbooks into ebooks which will be freely available online.
By saving the cost of printing books, an affordable, robust and durable e-book reader will be issued to students with preloaded e-textbooks.
Based on the learnings from the pilot project, which will be completed within the first 100 days, all textbooks will be replaced by e-books from January 2021. No textbook will be printed thereafter.
25) The President will start a State campaign called ‘Clean Lanka’ where he or she will call all citizens to proactively maintain their neighbourhoods in a clean and beautiful manner.
He or she will immediately work with the relevant ministries to effectively and efficiently manage the municipal waste disposal issue.
26) The President will deploy a special military personnel unit to provide security for wild elephants. The military will plan and execute a security strategy with jungle stations and patrolling to ensure that no elephant is killed by hunters.
27) The President will immediately stop all security escorts that are inconveniencing citizens. He or she will start by setting an example by not being driven fast with blaring horns and flashing lights by rude security personnel pushing aside and blocking citizens on the road. No road will be blocked for any politician under any circumstances. He or she will commute with security but at the same pace as fellow citizens.
28) The President will not publicly display his or her morning exercise rituals with other citizens’ representatives adopting weird and unnatural poses.
29) The President will promptly share his views on his or her official social media pages on current affairs with empathy and solutions oriented toward logical reasoning. He or she will have a social media dashboard inside his office and constantly follow citizens’ opinions, mass sentiment and should use the same to shape his or her actions.
30) The President will not act to control any social media or print or electronic media platform directly or indirectly. The President will have the maturity and tolerance to receive citizens’ views no matter how harsh they may be and use it as feedback. His or her exemplary behaviour will influence social media users to also act in a decent and responsible manner.
31) The President, with the support of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, will call a halt to all proposals for constitutional changes for one year and instead focus on solving the most pressing social issues on the ground.
32) The President will dissolve Parliament upon its completion of four and a half years, which will be by the end of March 2020. He or she will work with the Election Commission to organise the General Election at the earliest possible date.
33) The President will work proactively with the relevant authorities to bring the culprits of the Central Bank bond scam to Court. The aim will be to conclude the legal trial within the first 100 days and recover the losses incurred by the republic.
34) The President will deploy a special military operation to stop all drug trafficking along Sri Lanka’s borders. The target will be to reduce incoming drugs by at least 80%.
35) The President, with the support of the relevant ministries, will halt all housing or commercial building projects in and around forest reserves. A special task force will be set up to review the environmental impact of these projects. The report will be completed within one month. Actions proposed by the report will be initiated within the first 100 days.
36) The President, with the support of private telecommunications service providers, will work to reduce the mobile Wi-Fi costs to the consumers by at least 50%.
I think this is enough for the first 100 days. As you can see, most of these tasks require the support of the relevant ministry and Parliament. Which is why he or she will have to negotiate and appoint intelligent and action-oriented ministers to the necessary ministries.
Please comment with your ideas, edits and proposals. Try to be practical and solution-oriented. At the same time, try to think creatively.
And we can only do this if you share this as much as possible.