IN the president’s Independence Day speech one point of interest stood out, the fact that economic development is essential for the country to remain united.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave a detailed speech as is traditionally expected on Independence Day to evaluate the progress that was made the previous year.
In it he gave detailed descriptions of the measures that were taken by the government to spur economic growth and ensure that the end of the war was capitalised on. He also urged that all stakeholders come together to take the next step in this journey and increase per capita income in a sustainable and inclusive manner.
The grave need to ensure that the economy functions competently and grants the people direct rewards is essential. However this must be coupled with the principles of democracy and the ability for people to choose their own paths when moving towards development. Basic needs such as low cost of living must also be provided to people along with better health and education facilities. Knowledge transfer depends directly on the latter and it will be critical for foreign direct investment to flow into Sri Lanka in the coming year.
Staying true to democratic policies also means that the ethnic issue needs to be given a political solution. However no mention of how this might be achieved was made by the president during his speech. Much attention was paid to how Sri Lanka has proved to the world that it has the capacity to find its own solutions. If so, this must be continued with equitable solutions and respect to human rights that are recognised by the rest of the globe.
A country that is free from corruption where freedom is enjoyed by its citizens in the form of civil liberties is also important. Development is a difficult and often a contentious goal and therefore discussion is all the more important to ensure transparency and the welfare of all stakeholders. Unpopular decisions — such as what the president points out — can be a two edged sword with long term consequences.
Improvements in basic rights such as health, education and housing is an additional challenge made more so by the government’s responsibility to make it the foundation of inclusive development. Already there are thousands of displaced people, made so by flood and war, that needs to be assisted. This alone presents a burden to the government along with controlling the cost of living.
Another Independence Day has come and gone, while the people resume their lives after enjoying a holiday. In such a scenario how can the attitudinal change that is being advocated by the president be manifest in the people? Perhaps this is the greatest challenge that is before Sri Lanka. How each person can focus and keep their enthusiasm alive for this unprecedented opportunity and see a chance where others see challenges will decide the path of independence to come.
When next year rolls around what will we have to be proud of? Will some of the present problems be solved or will we have spent a year in vain?