Saturday, 12 April 2014 00:00
Many are the expectations of a New Year, but there are more than a few elements that the Government and the people need to get right before real development will become a reality.
On a macro level, there is the ever-present need to promote democracy, good governance, and law and order. The importance of the latter can hardly be overstated in a country that is burdened by high levels of corruption and crime. The culture of impunity with which the powerful achieve their agendas at the cost of the rest of the country needs to be corrected through urgent reforms.
Perhaps the overarching concern is the state of law and order, which is routinely flouted and undermined with very serious results. As the outrages grow, so too does the opportunity for violence that can send respected institutions such as the Judiciary teetering. A range of malaises, including corruption, minority suppression, crime levels and economic inefficiency, can be traced back to failed law systems. Thus protecting and promoting justice becomes the biggest challenge for 2014.
On the political front, there is still the need to find a political solution to the ethnic issue and credibly implement the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations. There are clear indications that the wounds created from three decades of war are far from healed. Just ahead of the New Year this was proved when three LTTE operatives were shot dead by the Army. As many as 60 others have been arrested under suspicion of being terror suspects and Sri Lankans sadly find themselves gripped by a familiar fear.
Finding ways to promote reconciliation on the ground and use genuine measures to steer Sri Lanka through the impending morass of United Nation investigations and maintain the country’s reputation among the international community will remain a battle ground for the Government.
Economically, Sri Lanka seems to be heading for a drought year, with lower yields on rice, tea and other products. Key foreign exchange earner apparel is also largely stagnant and could be exposed to the potential UN investigation and its fallout. The Ceylon Electricity Board and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) debt is also causing concern. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), long-term finance, human resource development, cost of living, and balancing loans with GDP growth are all skirmishes that the country will have to fight in the New Year. Climbing the Ease of Doing Business rankings has also taken a hit over the last year and recovery uncertain.
The social dimension is deeply affected by the political and economic negatives, with many people still struggling to rise to a higher standard of living. Equitable and sustainable growth continues to be a mirage, despite statistical boasts of poverty dropping to 4%. Millions of people, especially in the north and east, as well as other impoverished areas of the island, are struggling to tap into viable economic opportunities. This is linked with inadequate and substandard education, including lack of technical training and entrepreneurship, which is having a debilitating effect on youth. As an ageing society, Sri Lanka is also yet to establish frameworks to deal with this impending problem.
With such a long list, it is essential that all stakeholders prioritise the needs of the country to make 2014 memorable for the right reasons. Surely all this proves the resilience of Sri Lankans if nothing else.