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A Review of the Issues in the Election Debates Empty A Review of the Issues in the Election Debates

Sat Jan 10, 2015 9:37 pm
by R.M.B Senanayake

The last week saw several debates on the lack of good governance under the present regime. The Opposition ascribed it to the unchecked monopoly of power exercised by the Executive President after he abolished the Independent Commissions set up by the 17th Amendment through the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. But the deterioration in the quality of governance began in 1956 with the adoption of the ‘spoils system’ in appointments, promotions and transfers in the public service followed by the preferential dispensation of government contracts to supporters of the ruling political party. A UN organization prepared the draft Audit Bill and the Public Finance Bill. The former Auditor General said they were taken up during his term which lasted until 2006. The Government failed to pass them into law. 

The British gave us the institutional framework for ensuring good governance by setting up the independent Public Service Commission with the responsibility for ensuring the integrity of appointments, promotions and discipline in the Public Service which included the Police service. It was declared an offence to influence or attempt to influence the PSC. The late L. Wirasinha, a gentleman who valued these principles protested to President J.R Jayewardene when he contacted him and sought to influence him on a matter, pointing to him that he was violating the law and offered his resignation. But the 1972 Constitution removed the independence of the PSC and made it subject to the Cabinet.

An essential principle of public administration is that a Committee should be confined to discussion on matters of policy and should not be entrusted with executive decision-making. Accountability requires that decisions should be taken by individuals who alone can be held responsible and accountable for the integrity of such decisions. Referring to a Cabinet for approval, matters requiring executive decisions eroded the accountability of Ministers and officials who would otherwise be held accountable. No Minister or Official should be allowed to evade responsibility or accountability on the ground that the decision was by the Cabinet.

President Jayewardene did not restore the independence of the PSC; nor did any subsequent governments. It was the OPA that took the initiative to restore the independent Commissions. The 17th Amendment was passed unanimously in Parliament. For a brief period we had appointments and promotions on merit in the Public Service. Some Police DIGs then wanted a separate independent commission for the Police. The rationale for an independent Commission to supervise appointments, promotions and discipline in the Public Service was to uphold the merit principle and protect the public servants from the politicians who seek to intervene in administrative decisions to obtain advantage or preferment for their political and personal stooges.

The Police Commission went beyond this rationale and retired IGP Dr Frank de Silva has pointed out the chaos caused by the Police Commission in interfering in the day to day operations which should be the preserve of the IGP. These principles must be borne in mind in any future restoring of the independent Commissions. Our political leaders should read an American text on Public Administration by leaders like President Wilson of USA. Unfortunately our local universities don’t teach Public Administration as it is taught in American universities. The Opposition should hold an Orientation Course for the Ministers and MPs.

The  Socialist rationale for State Enterprises

Mr. Mohan Samaranayake in the election campaign debates on Sirasa TV echoed the President’s claim that he had not privatized a single State Enterprise but instead had taken back to the State the enterprises like the Sugar Corporations which were privatized by previous regimes. All this is said as ipso facto the interests of the people were furthered thereby. These Leftist critics must be reminded that the Marxists see the State Enterprises as instruments to accumulate capital, a prior necessity for development. They say such capital accumulation unlike similar capital accumulation by the Capitalists will be invested thereafter in the interests of the people instead of the interests of the Capitalists.

But destruction of Capital instead of its accumulation was never contemplated by the Marxists and vitiates the rationale for the State running business enterprises. Dr N.M Perera, the economist, was committed to this task. He realized that when State enterprises are run at a loss they bleed the people since such losses have to be funded either by more taxes or higher inflation due to borrowing from the Central Bank and the commercial banks (money printing); both causing higher prices and a higher cost of living for the people.  Most of the State enterprises are destroying capital when running them at a loss. Who benefits from such losses? It is those who head these enterprises, who are close relations or supporters of the regime. The benefits of corruption and mismanagement accrue to them in addition to their excessive perks.

So State enterprises are a mere tool and cover for the theft and plunder of public resources. They are run to provide jobs and contracts to favorites of the regime and the ruler and the ruling circle benefit - a far cry from the Marxist case for State ownership of resources for the public benefit. Tenders are not called or if called they do not select the best tenderer but the highest bribe giver outside the tendered price. If the contractor has quoted too low he has a way out through extra-contractual payments given to him on the basis of influence or corruption. The people have to pay higher prices above competitive market prices where there is private enterprise for providing such service.

The World Bank in their publication "Bureaucrats in Business" have given reasons why SOEs cannot be run profitably by bureaucrats who have no exposure to business in the best of circumstances. Of course corruption is nothing but plunder of the funds of the people and corruption seems to be the major cause of the losses in SOEs under the regime.

To make matters worse several SOEs are monopolies. Economists consider all monopolies are harmful to the public. The CPC after 50 years of experience imports inferior petrol? How come? Plain corruption through giving contracts to unreliable and dishonest suppliers for those in power to make money corruptly. The consuming public suffers in two ways: through inferior petrol which damages their vehicles as well as through the consequential losses which have to be forked out by taxpayers. Sri LankanAirlines, Mihin Air, the CPC are leading in destroying capital. So where is the rationale or justification for State ownership unless one accepts that the ill gotten gains of the powers that be are in the interests of the people?


I also watched the Leftist Leaders Forum on TV in support of the President’s election campaign. The speakers kept referring to imperialism as the threat to the country. What is imperialism and to whom does it constitute a threat? Imperialism as explained in Marxist theory ended with the collapse of the Soviet Empire after 1989 when Soviet Central Asia broke up into several republics which include: Kazakhstan (pop.16 million), Kyrgyzstan (3.8 million), Tajikistan (6.0 million), Turkmenistan (4.2 million), and Uzbekistan (28.2 million), for a total population of 57.1 million as of 2013-2014. They are all independent of Russia. Was there any difference between the Soviet imperialism and the imperialism of Britain and France?

Imperialism as the last stage of Capitalism

The term "imperialism" is due to Lenin who wrote the work "Imperialism –the last stage of Capitalism." It refers to a dependent relationship- not the inequality in economic relations between the states which are rich and poor or large and small but the dependence of the latter on the former involving the full control of the latter by the state power of the former. It involves a political as well as economic subordination. Marxists say such imperialism was an essential feature of capitalist development without which capitalism could not have developed. But did Germany, the USA, Japan, the East Asian NICs and presently China develop because of imperialism?

Marxists link imperialism to industrial capitalism. There are different strands in their theory and while some Marxists ascribe the imperialism to the need for new markets to maintain the rate of profitability of the capitalists; others like Rosa Luxembourg refer to the need to export capital to exploit the economic opportunities in the prospective colonies which have a surplus of labor but lack capital to put all such labor to work. Marxists also envisage a worldwide struggle for monopolistic positions in relation to the sources of raw materials and markets. Nothing of the sort takes place today.

Imperialism not necessary for global trade promotion

Neo Liberal economists look upon trade as a voluntary exchange where both parties stand to benefit from the transaction for otherwise they would not enter into it. They say the ideal relationship need not be imperial domination but free trade and free investment.  Neo Liberals regard that the removal of all restrictions on the free movement of goods, labor and capital between States is a better way and that such way is adequate for the development of trade without having relations between States to be based on superior and subordinate status.
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A Review of the Issues in the Election Debates Empty Re: A Review of the Issues in the Election Debates

Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:26 am
Is the a Sinhalese version?
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