Monday, January 11, 2016

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A year of presidency

As one year lapses since President Maithripala Sirisena assuming  office, there is much media focus on new government’s achievements as well as what it failed to achieve. Of course, its achievements are many and would far exceed its failures both in numbers and magnitude. And among the most important is the introduction of the nineteenth amendment to the constitution which bridged the country’s democratic deficit and re-established the rule of law.

The nineteenth amendment also saw the establishment of independent commissions to govern all affairs of state relating to judiciary, public service, police, elections, procurements, bribery, corruption and audit. It has, to a great extent depoliticized these areas improving the public confidence in the system of governance.

These amendments in effect reduced the powers of the executive presidency removing its dictatorial nature and making it accountable to the people through the parliament. Thus, it created an air of freedom in the country removing the fear psychosis that prevailed among people.

Notable achievements have also been made in the field of diplomacy with much improved relations with the west as well as neighbouring India. So are the relations with the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Overall, we can be happy about these achievements as they are much in line with the aspirations of the people who elected this government. Nevertheless, there are many areas where progress is totally lacking or pathetically insufficient.

There has been little or no progress in reforming the electoral system which needs a complete overhaul. This is in spite of general consensus among those who wanted a political change that preferential system voting was undesirable.
Resolving the northern issue despite its political sensitivities seems to be somewhat progressing along with the idea of drafting and adopting a new constitution which involves a lengthy procedure. A genuine effort in this regard is a must if we are to progress as a cohesive modern nation.

Investigating into corruption and wrong doings during the previous government despite much resistance from many quarters seems to be moving ahead although its pace has been slower than expected by most people.

Most of these developments will mean little to many people who believe that some tangible economic progress is far more important than anything else. As they believe the root causes of unrest in the country, be it in the north or the south, have been mostly economic.

Those who believed that change of government and strengthening of democracy would usher in an era of economic prosperity have been proved wrong. As seen up to now, it is clear that mere eradication of terrorism or change of a particular political regime is not enough to bring in the required level of foreign direct investments.  There seem to be more obstacles for investments to flow into the country. They could be in areas of infrastructure, labour market, high costs or efficiency.

All in all, little or no progress has been made in this vital sphere during the last one year and its time the government gives the priority it deserves, at least in the second year of its existence. At the end, the sustainability of both the government and the democracy will depend on the progress in the economic front.  





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