Inspire the people and the Government of Sri Lanka to focus on the quality of life, wellbeing and happiness
This new series is based on business leader Dhammika Perera’s recently revealed ‘Economic Growth Strategy and Action Plan to increase GDP Per Capita from $ 4,000 to $ 12,000’. The document outlines goals and action plans for 23 ministries and today's column focuses on the Ministry of Regional Development. On Monday the Ministry of Finance and Planning was featured (http://www.ft.lk/columns/Ministry-of-Finance-and-Planning-A-nation-rich-in-wealth/4-687140) and on Wednesday the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology was featured (http://www.ft.lk/columns/Ministry-of-Information-and-Communication-Technology-A-nation-rich-in-technology/4-687297)
- Create thriving districts with greater quality of life.
- Brand each district promoting its relevant significance.
- Services and facilities which are restricted only to Colombo will be expanded to each district by opening up fully-fledged branches of Government offices.
To create thriving districts with greater quality of life, three main issues have to be addressed:
1. Distance from a particular district to Colombo.
2. Issues unique to each district.
3. “Distribution of Provincial Political Power”?
Issue 1: Distance from a particular district to Colombo.
Solution: Multi-Services to be provided from each district.
Services and facilities which are restricted only to Colombo will be expanded to each district by opening up fully-fledged branches of Government offices.
A “District Multi-Service Centre” to be established where the following services can be easily offered in each district:
1. All services of the Department of Immigration and Emigration including issue of passports.
2. All services of the Department for Registration of Persons including issue of National Identity Cards.
3. All services of the Department of Motor Traffic including the registration of Motor Vehicles and issue of driving licenses.
4. All services including consular services provided through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
5. All services of the Foreign Employment Bureau.
6. All services of the Police Department including police and forensic reports that are currently being issued only from Colombo.
7. All services of the Department of Labour including withdrawal of EPF, ETF and other funds.
8. All services of the Ministry of Education and Department of Examinations.
9. All services of the Department of Law and Justice.
lReimbursement of costs incurred by citizens.
For any reason, should public officers delay in providing or fail to complete a service within a period of two years, the citizen who was inconvenienced will be compensated by the relevant government organisation after taking into account the transport costs incurred based on the distance and the time taken to travel.
Issue 2: Issues unique to each district on Culture, Language and Infrastructure.
E.g. Jaffna District:
Female motorcyclists including pillion riders wearing flowers on their hair will be exempt when travelling at a speed under 30km/h from the mandatory helmet law which currently identifies this as dangerous driving. Ladies wearing traditional attire (saree) while on a motorbike, seated with their legs to a side will be exempt when travelling at a speed under 30km/h from the dangerous driving law.
Identify and provide suitable solutions to similar issues in each district to enhance the wellbeing of society.
E.g. Jaffna District:
The proposed “Home Police Programme” enables efficient communication by locating Police officers to serve within their native regions (e.g. Police Officer from Jaffna to be posted to a station in Jaffna). This can overcome language barriers and provide door-to-door police services. This programme proposes the recruitment of 4,960 female police officers (10 officers per station totalling to 496 police stations across the island) and provision of five motorbikes per station.
1,700 police officers retire every year and these officers could be recruited for the “Home Police Programme”, and this process will be completed within a period of three years. As a result of the “Home Police Programme”, the language barrier will be reduced.
In addition, introduce a Government initiated, freely accessible portal for language translation (between Sinhala, Tamil and English). Brand and market the portal with relevant training videos for the use of all citizens.
English language education will allow children from different ethnicities to understand and communicate with each other. Thereby, English shall be the language recognised as the “link language” of Sri Lanka. E.g. Provide Sinhalese students studying Tamil language the option of studying English language during that period. Likewise, provide Tamil students studying Sinhala language the option of studying English language during that period.
Expand facilities which are restricted only to Colombo in each district.
1. District branding
a. Brand each district with signage promoting tourist attractions, heritage sites, historical sites, botanical gardens and parks, etc.
2. Public education – Develop 771 schools under provincial councils with fully-fledged facilities to match the standards of national schools.
a. 2 schools each from the 276 divisional councils (552 schools).
b. 3 schools each from the 41 urban councils (123 schools).
c. 4 schools each from 24 municipal councils (96 schools).
To increase student capacity by 1,500, schools with adequate land will be selected. In all 771 schools, student capacity will increase to an average of 1,500 students resulting in a total increase to 1,156,500 students. Following which, competition for grade 1 student entrance will be reduced from current 80,000 students to 0 students.
3. Private education – Encourage establishment of international schools through 0% corporate tax and 0% VAT incentives to encourage professionals to serve outstation.
a. At present English-speaking professionals are reluctant to work outstation due to the lack of English medium schools for their children.
b. Encourage establishment of private universities, excluding medical colleges, through 0% corporate tax and 0% VAT incentives to achieve the goal of 50% university degree holders from total students per annum (Sri Lanka at present has 360,000 students per annum).
c. Build a fully equipped TVET centre in each district with qualified lecturers for all NVQ certification levels to increase TVET certificate holders from 79,200 to 144,000 which will result in 40% of the total 360,000 students per annum.
4. Propose low cost, high rise apartment complexes in every district with centralised facilities such as transport, water, sewage, electricity, day-care, pre-schools, schools, universities, technical colleges and healthcare, etc.
5. Propose low rent, high rise office complexes in every district for new businesses bringing in new jobs, with an allocation of 70 sqft per employee who makes their initial registration with EPF/ETF.
6. Build an economic centre in each district.
7. Construct a wholesale fish market and storage units in the 14 districts with coastal areas.
8. Provide mobile cold storage containers to fishing villages with excess fish yield.
9. Initiate water supply and sanitation improvement projects in each district.
10. District wise job generation.
a. Parliament members of each district to take the responsibility of private sector job generation. This is to be monitored monthly.
b. All private sector ventures that set up new businesses in any district excluding Colombo, will be provided with an 80% corporate tax reduction guaranteed for the next 25 years, in agreement with the BOI.
c. Geo-tag all 380,000 unemployed citizens and match their skills with available private sector jobs.
lUpgrade their skills to suit the demand in the job market.
a. Increase operation hours from eight to 12 hours per day in Government surgical theatres which has a backlog of month-long waiting queues.
b. Establish an Oncology (cancer) unit at a hospital in each district in association with Maharagama Cancer Hospital.
c. Establish a modern and fully equipped patient testing laboratory in each district.
d. Build fully equipped health centres for heart, lung, neurology, ophthalmology (eye) and paediatric illnesses in association with the respective specialised Colombo hospitals.
e. Geo-tag kidney patients and identify affected areas, including those prone to Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and to construct deep-well (bore well) facilities with proper filtration. Already certain villages are equipped with the abovementioned water purification systems, e.g. Saddiyawara project by Hayleys PLC.
f. Distribute soil health cards and soil-test based fertiliser recommendations. Currently, 35,000 containers of fertiliser are imported. With the introduction of soil health cards and fertiliser recommendations, 20% (7,000 containers) of imports can be reduced.
g. Encourage the establishment of private hospitals through 0% corporate tax and 0% VAT incentives.
i. Additional insurance schemes to provide medical care for public officers.
ii. Patients waiting in month-long queues for operations will be transferred to these new private hospitals.
12. Develop a smart IT park and an Industrial park in each district for both local and foreign investors to fast-track the process of investments