Listening to what is going to be delivered is making me dizzy as common sense tells me that lots of promises are quite difficult if not improbable. However, if the country is to be set on a course of growth based on concerted action rather than on a basket of promises and a long list of subsidies and grants, I would be quite interested to hear policy proposals on food and agriculture, education, energy, transport and power, the economy, and national security – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
Democracy at crunch time is all about counting the votes and those who have one each are the most important actors in this period. Capturing the hearts and minds in one’s direction is all that the candidates have to do and a multitude of ways and means are quite visible.
Can we influence the candidates to deliver what perhaps is right and important than what is popular? The concept of right and the concept of popular are at loggerheads. We know that what is right is not popular and what is popular is not right – almost but not always.
One can think of a contrarian question – What important truth do only a few people agree with you on? This question has its relevance in today’s climate. We know what is important yet appear to select quite differently citing many a reason!
Listening to what is going to be delivered is making me dizzy as common sense tells me that lots of promises are quite difficult if not improbable. However, if the country is to be set on a course of growth based on concerted action rather than on a basket of promises and a long list of subsidies and grants may be I would be quite interested to hear the following as policy proposals. Thereby my vote goes to whoever has the courage to buck the trend.
The question at present is I am not hearing any of these. However allow me to throw some potential deliverables to the ring. There is still some chance to influence our potential leaders.
Food and agriculture
Since independence we have endured waste and consequently a high cost of living. President JFK was a remarkable leader who identified the farmer as a critical partner in society. Many of what he said is legendary and there is so much to understand from what he set out to do. Instead of indicating exact prices to rice, etc., which sounds meaningless over a period. Why not indicate that the farmer will realise at least 50% of the retail price as the gate price as a policy?
This sets up an interesting relationship. Setting up of a cold storage is just one hardware item and Mahaweli did have those at times. Why not indicate a national roadmap to ensure halving of losses in post-harvest within 2.5 years and halving post purchase losses too? This would enable a much more important promise to be made – Bringing the per capita cost of food to 20% in three years from the current 57%. The process may involve developing supply chains on land, air and water and such developments such as port-to-port sea-based supply chains can open up different opportunities as well. This would mean ensuring serious amount of disposable income to each and every person and having disposable income is a key in financial liberation.
Knowing that population pressures are increasing and expectations changing when the economy is in motion upwardly there has to be the engagement of technology to ensure yields and process management as techniques of yesterday would no longer be valid for the challenges of tomorrow. Now demonstration of such understanding are really relevant as then my vote would respects one’s foresight. Vertical agriculture is already in Sri Lanka and the country has to have a niche industry in nutraceuticals backed up with strong technology. This is an opportunity staring at our faces yet getting missed in identification.
I would love to hear the strong emphasis on education and the understanding of its connection to growth. STEM education has to be strongly identified Sciences in all schools is a must. Pushing for that scientific Sri Lankan over the emotional Sri Lankan is an imperative.
Today if universities are closed nobody appears to take any notice and such is the plight of the national university system – some even say better closed than open. Lots more to learn from the value of universities as indicated by Hitler not bombing Oxford and Cambridge and the allies in turn keeping the skies clear over Heidelberg and Gottingen. Now that is the attitude towards centres of learning in a world war.
There has to be a strong message on zero tolerance on ragging which is a social epidemic and now coming to the level of criminal abuse. We cannot have a public education system lagging behind the private education system – today this amounts to two long years. A promise for real education systems than nonstop tuition too is important.
Corrections of this nature would mean serious commitment but definitely rewards would accrue, as these are black holes where our potential futures have drained. The growth model should be similar to the Triple Helix Model – Government, Industry and University.
Energy, transport and power
The emphasis would be on ensuring energy and service delivery coupled to a strong platform of renewables. Energy storage and connectivity should be given a new meaning. A national roadmap for energy storage should be present. The system should have one of the best efficiencies and the society should contribute with solid attitudes towards conservation and efficiency.
With manufacturing given strong support no longer would the country have its peak demand at teledrama times. Transport sector would see renewed electrification as the power grid would be available. However, as the economy would be turned into circular the utilisation of waste to energy and transport would see an increase.
Decentralised energy systems would find a new meaning. Performance would be linked to positive climate deliverables. With innovation it is definitely possible to turn current liabilities to assets. Alcohol and algae must yield biofuels. Money would not be spent on pumping sewage to oceans but utilised as energy. Three tier recycling schemes would be set in place to value resources and to save energy.
Clean technology should be the order of the day. Trains have to find their true position and goods on rails too. Every person a transporter is a system contributing to significant losses and traffic. Life cycle thinking should determine the most appropriate pathways not event-based, for-the-moment solutions.
The current linear economic system of extract-produce-use-waste cannot go on. We have become a nation of consumers without much of an understanding of the consequences – an inconvenient truth to agree on? It is time we take a cue from nature and alter our synthetic behaviours to be more in line with natural processes.
Democracy should learn from ecology. When economy goes circular we may not need the subject of environment. When efficiency becomes the norm one can forget pollution and there is no need for separate productivity to be addressed as well. Thus there is quite a strong reason for an economic pathway to go circular.
Having the guts for this change with an open call would mean a lot. Really a lot! A key proposal I would again love to hear is someone promising to take concrete steps to get to the stage of only Rs. 50 per USD. That would mean actually having to do quite a lot in many ways and could be an interesting proposal.
On a transitionary note we cannot say that the economy is growing and we are moving up the ladder and then simultaneously celebrating handing out dole to significant numbers. So the deliverable has to be that the country will stop such payments two years down the line because the people will not need such cash donations.
Similarly the concept of vehicle permits is also something that should be given a deadline. This mentality of subsidies and handouts had to come to a close for a society to emerge stronger. Perpetually promising such would only hinder progress and add no value. It is important to note that both the rich and the poor in the present society thrive on such schemes. Circular economy actually is quite a responsible economic order.
This is indeed a hot topic. However, national security is not just having armed personnel in every street corner and considering that is security. Singapore has developed a fine mechanism worthy of some serious study. I am not sure we can emulate Costa Rica like disbanding the forces and having a university instead.
Singapore has the Total Defence mechanism and six attributes are addressed – Military, Civil, Economic, Social, Psychological and Digital defences. With a day of celebrations the need for each Singaporean to play his or her part in keeping the country strong is addressed. Real food for thought.
We run massive budgets each year for security but still even the rubber bullet has to be brought in with all the rubber industry in the country. What we do for security has to deliver in service and in substance. Investments in defence with innovation can have quite a positive impact on growth of an economy too.
Politicians or professionals
We know that politics too is a professional subject! The fact is professionalism has not at all being embedded into our practice! What is required is professionalism most certainly. The statement that I am a professional politician with professional ethics and accountability well entrenched I would wait to hear from any person and that would support my judgment call.
I would like to list out many more promises with nation in mind, which would get my attention. Life is a compromise and the space is limited and for this time around I rest with my options and await to cast my vote if I hear any from this selection…