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Increasing efficiency

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Tuesday, 2 January 2018 00:00

Once the festivities of the New Year are completed the Government, officials and politicians will have to roll up their sleeves and get down to the many tasks at hand. The ambitious Budget presented and approved in 2017, which will need to be rolled out over the next few months in the backdrop of intensifying politics, requires a large number of legal changes to underpin the strong economic reforms promised by the Government.  

However, there have been many blips along the way in this effort. The Legal Draftsman’s Department has redrafted Bills, some more than 20 times, as instructing agencies keep on changing policy, the department has said in a report presented to Parliament. The tug-of-war around policy, understandable given the cumbersome nature of coalition governments, nonetheless has been a major sticking point since 2015 to rolling out desperately needed reforms without which Sri Lanka’s economy cannot be expected to be taken to the next level.   

The Legal Draftsman’s Department said in its report that the National Audit Bill and the Motor Traffic Bill have been amended 22 times so far but neither has been passed. The other Bills amended more than 10 times that are yet to be finalised include the State Land (Special Provisions) Bill (13 times), the Land Development Ordinance (14 times), the General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University Bill (10 times), the Sri Lanka Sustainable Development Bill (15 times) and the Voluntary Social Service (Registration and Supervision) Bill (11 times).

It says that irrespective of a Bill being earlier finalised, this department has to attend to it dedicating the same time and attention given to a fresh request. The department has complained that requests for amendments to completed drafts are sent even after the final draft is sent out in all three languages and sometimes the procedure is repeated a number of times. 

The recently passed Local Government Elections (Amendment) Bill was amended 15 times before it was debated and passed by parliament indicating that political exigency has little impact in pushing along the process. 

The repeated amendments not only waste time and resources of crucial Government departments but also leave stakeholders at a loss on how to plan for the future. This is especially damaging to the economy because companies struggle to make decisions and investors hesitate to pledge funds when they are unsure of what the final outcome will be. On a macro scale this can be debilitating. 

Over the last two years Sri Lanka has failed to move up the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index not because there are no changes happening locally but because reforms are being implemented faster elsewhere around the world. If Sri Lanka is ever to catch up with its own ambitions then its Government will have to do more to efficiently draft out and implement policy.    

Decisions have to be made in consultation with stakeholders but a decision does need to be made and once the best possible decision is made it must be stuck to, this is the essence of political will. A Government must have the capacity to carry the strength of its convictions and repeated failure to do so trigger disillusionment and disappointment amongst the public.

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