|Thursday, 28 August 2003|
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Shares and cares in development and peace
The Government has now gone on record as promising to deliver the long-awaited "peace dividend" to the people. Needless to say, if this proves real, it could be one of the best things which could happen to the people in the past 18 months.
Titled "Take your share of peace", the major development drive contemplated by the Government essentially aims at upgrading and expanding the country's infrastructure facilities.
For instance, rural electrification and the development of the country's road network are expected to figure prominently in this major effort at alleviating the lot of the ordinary people.
This is expected to cost a substantial Rs. 17.4 billion, but, as explained by Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, the current ceasefire and the resultant financial and material gains have brought the venture within the realms of the possible. It was pointed out that the financial assistance pledged by the international community at the Oslo and Tokyo peace summits had contributed considerably towards the realisation of the peace dividend.
As we have pointed out on numerous previous occasions, the well-being of the ordinary people is the principal criterion of development and we hope the projected development drive would live up to its optimistic title : "Take your share of peace".
Principally, the poor of the land should be enabled to take their "share of peace". On its ability to meet this vital standard depends the usefulness and even the raison d etre of the planned "development drive".
We have already broadly outlined the development criteria which need to be met if projects of this kind are to be judged useful and socially-beneficial.
To reiterate, the mere dispensing of welfare benefits among the people or the perpetuation of the all too familiar "hand-outs" culture cannot be considered synonymous with development. If we are to make some progress towards the latter, the people need to be transformed into active, dynamic catalysts in their deliverance from the poverty quagmire, with some minimal State assistance. In other words, the people need to be encouraged to take their lives into their own hands.
While these new policy parameters need to be looked at closely by the Government, there is no denying the fact that the "breathing-space" we have earned through the ceasefire and the material spin-offs it has brought, have made it possible for the Government to think in terms of easing the burdens of the common man.
While there needs to be a policy debate on the finer dimensions of development, there is no gainsaying the fact that expanded rural infrastructure facilities could be an aid to development if installed with the poor in mind and on a non-partisan basis.
Unfortunately, some of these projects have proved to be mere vote-catching devices in the past.
While the development drive needs to cover all parts of the country - North, South, East and West - if it is not to prove counterproductive, the State must also aim at garnering public support for the peace effort, by launching a pro-peace hearts and minds battle.
While those opposing the peace process, seem to have already got their act together - some of them are even engaged in long distance agitational marches - few efforts are being made to win hearts and minds over to the side of peace.
Produced by Lake House