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Nero was fiddling whilst Rome was burning


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We tend to use the word fiddling to impishly imply something improper or dishonest. Whilst Rome was burning, Nero was not fiddling with someone’s toga or negotiating a commission on fire insurance. The fiddling that Nero was indulging in was playing his violin. So this expression Nero was fiddling whilst Rome was burning is widely used to describe a situation where someone is ignoring what is important and focussing on something that is not. I will call this behaviour the Nero Syndrome.

DFT-13-02We are not cruising along with good growth and improving macroeconomic ratios. The trend in the fiscal deficit and the foreign reserves are a cause for concern. We are not on fire but there is a faint smell of smoke in the air. The economy needs urgent attention

 

What is important?

Arguably what is most important is to generate good inclusive GDP growth, to reduce unemployment and poverty, and to have improving macroeconomic fundamentals like debt to GDP, fiscal deficit, foreign reserves, etc. 

We are not cruising along with good growth and improving macroeconomic ratios. The trend in the fiscal deficit and the foreign reserves are a cause for concern. We are not on fire but there is a faint smell of smoke in the air.

The economy needs urgent attention. 

 

Are our political lords and masters suffering from Nero Syndrome?

Undoubtedly all our politicians are fully committed to developing the economy. But, during the last year, the main focus of the politicians (both in the Government and in the Opposition) has not been on the economy. They have been distracted by politics. 

First it was on ending the Rajapaksa regime. Then the 100 day plan and coalition to change the Constitution. After that it was to fight a general election. Post-election to put together a coalition. Now, to draft a new constitution. But that’s not the end. It will be referendum, drafting new electoral laws and local government elections.

The readers can decide for themselves whether developing the economy has been the priority of the politicians or whether the political agenda has come first, and the politicians are suffering from the Nero Syndrome.

 

"Our political lords and masters will angrily deny that they have Nero Syndrome. They may well argue that they have focused on what is most important to the country, namely to end the Rajapaksa regime and to create a new political landscape through a new constitution for governing the country, which would lead to DFT-13-Lalithoptimising the wellbeing of the people in the future. At times from a distance it seems a little different. It looks like a political boxing match between those in power wanting to retain it, and those not in power wanting to regain it! Both the Government and the Opposition appear to be enraptured with the boxing and the economy slips away to second priority"

 

The political violin

Our political lords and masters will angrily deny that they have Nero Syndrome. They may well argue that they have focused on what is most important to the country, namely to end the Rajapaksa regime and to create a new political landscape through a new constitution for governing the country, which would lead to optimising the wellbeing of the people in the future.

At times from a distance it seems a little different. It looks like a political boxing match between those in power wanting to retain it, and those not in power wanting to regain it! Both the Government and the Opposition appear to be enraptured with the boxing and the economy slips away to second priority.

 

What happens to the country?

That is the dilemma. If the politicians are focusing on playing the political violin, who is focusing on the country? Ultimately it is the people who benefit from prosperity and suffer from the lack of it. Whilst the politicians wrestle with the political issues, the challenge is to provide the people with a greater opportunity to participate in developing plans for the economy. All sectors of the economy can play a role.

 

Close to the action

Those who know best are those that work in that industry or activity. They will know the opportunities for growth and they will know the impediments that hinder growth. It will be wise to foster a new dynamic of people developing strategies, and asking (or demanding) that they be implemented. All sectors should be encouraged to form associations or groups that can collate their views, and bring them to the public domain.

 

Government employees 

Some have Nero Syndrome. They behave as if their priority is to say no, because then they can never be accused of having said yes to something to which they should have said no!

The State sector plays an important role. Laws and regulations have to be implemented. The State sector is the implementing agency. They too can foster growth, by pursuing a Japanese Kaizen type approach of endeavouring to continuously improve their facilitating role and to remove the impediments that delay everything.

 

SME sector and agriculture and fisheries

All privately owned. This is the people’s private sector. It is an important piece in any strategy for growth. What will turbo charge growth in this sector? Is it micro finance, cooperatives, title to land, storage facilities for produce, infrastructure, etc.? Probably a combination of all of this. Those best able to answer are those in that sector.

If politicians close to these sectors can work with those in the sector, understand their needs and develop strategies that help, it will also enhance their political standing. This is an opportunity that will merge the national interest and the politicians’ Nero Syndrome of making politics their priority.

 

The big private sector

This sector has the best skill base to identify and develop good plans for growth. They have the funds. They only need the supportive facilities to implement their plans.

The big shots who appear regularly in high society magazines with a glass in the hand and the politically-appointed chairman may have lost the fire to desperately want to create a better world. They may not want to push their ideas through the hurly-burly world of politics. Some of them may even be of the mindset of “why worry, whatever happens to the country I will be alright.”

Below this rung there is huge mass of talented people who have a real concern about the country. They want their children to inherit a prosperous world. They should make their voices heard through their chambers.

One of the innovative things Madam Kumaratunga did was to create the NCED which was a collection of clusters of able people charged with working in collaboration with State officials to create plans for each area of economic activity. There is an urgent need to pursue this concept and to widen its scope.

It was good to see the appointment of a Tourism Advisory Committee composed of people from the industry. I do hope they will cascade this down to the many tourism sectors. Many more such initiatives are required to bring in the people who know best about what will create growth.

 

Neutralise the Nero Syndrome

In every area there will be people who identify as important what matters to them in a personal perspective and put into second place what is best for the country. So to the politician it is politics, and getting elected. To business it is their profitability. 

To the SME sector it is often just trying to survive. To the Government servant it is to protect their job. Like Nero, they will all play their own violin, and the country comes second.

Fortunately there is a younger generation that feels passionate about the country. We hope they will make their voice heard and neutralise the Nero Syndrome.


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