|Wednesday, 16 June 2004|
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SEMA's laudable mandate
If the controversy - laden CWE is anything to go by, privatization cannot be considered a panacea for all the ills affecting our State sector institutions.
While public enterprises need to be efficiently and economically run, privatization, we believe, should be resorted to last, in Government's efforts to make these viable, people-oriented and profitable institutions.
Accordingly, we laud efforts by the Government to improve the "efficiency, effectiveness and financial viability" of some 12 State institutions through the proposed Strategic Enterprises Management Agency.
SEMA was one of several new institutional mechanisms mentioned by President Kumaratunga recently, during her address to the nation, which are being designed to give purpose, direction and effectiveness to the country's public sector which continues to play an effective role in the economic and social life of the people.
Privatization we regard as the easy way out of the conundrum of a "non-performing" State sector. While the private sector plays a vital role in the invigoration of the country's economy, there is no ducking the fact that State sector enterprises remain almost the sole source of succour of the majority of the people of Sri Lanka, who are poor.
For instance, it could be stated without exaggeration that the people would be reduced to utter helplessness and desperation if the country's State hospitals were to shut down.
The same could be said of the public transport system or even of the State banks. It is the indispensability of these institutions - from the common man's viewpoint - which has won for them the evocative label," the family silver". They are the wealth of the masses, who comprise a considerable part of the State.
It doesn't follow from the foregoing that "non-performing", non-viable State sector organisations could be mindlessly persisted with, against all odds. These may have to be disposed of in the most expeditious manner but not so those enterprises which have proved a mainstay in the life of the people.
The Government owes it to the people to revitalize these organisations and render them effective and viable to ensure that public needs are continuously met.
It is, therefore, our hope that SEMA would be in a position to fulfil its mandate as regards the specified State sector organisations. It needs to be borne in mind that quite a few of our State sector organisations are saddled with a plethora of inefficiencies, usually bred by a highly politicized body politic.
These enervating and debilitating factors need to be systematically eliminated and this is what is primarily expected of SEMA. Far instance, these enterprises shouldn't be a dumping ground for inefficient staff.
The correct approach - as is being adopted now - is to free the public sector of the ills which have been weighing it down, rather than rush to privatize it in the naive belief that all will be well with these bodies once they come under the purview of private interests. SEMA, therefore, has been well conceived. Now it needs to prove its effectiveness.
Promotions in the police have always courted controversy. Many policemen have been inclined to seek legal means to address their grievances in this regard. There have been allegations from time to time that merit is often overlooked in favour of other factors such as political affiliations.
The United People's Freedom Alliance Government has promised to make such anomalies a thing of the past.
For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka's Police Department, all future promotions and other benefits of Police officers from the level of Police constable to Deputy Inspector General will be based on a Performance Appraisal scheme in addition to the current seniority only criteria, according to Minister of Buddha Sasana and Deputy Minister of Public Security, Law and Order Ratnasiri Wickremanayake. The Government has also pledged to depoliticise the police service.
These are laudable moves that must be supported by all. The National Police Commission imparted impartiality to the police service. These steps will go further in moulding a police service that police personnel and other citizens can be proud of.
Merit is the sole criterion for promotions in the private sector. There is no reason why government departments and agencies cannot do the same. It is true that one gains more experience as the years go by, but there are many younger policemen who have shown their mettle in life-and-death situations such as fierce gunfights with underworld kingpins. They deserve the State's commendations in every way.
Minister Wickremanayake points out that police personnel will hereafter have to 'earn' their promotions contrary to the earlier system of 'granting' promotions.
This will be an incentive for police personnel to discharge their duties to the best of their ability and earn a promotion to the next rank through hard work and commitment. This is the norm in most countries, though Sri Lanka is adopting it only now.
The police have to redouble their efforts to stem the rising crime wave, which threatens the very fabric of our society. They have to be given all facilities to track down underworld elements and other undesirable characters who are a menace to society.
There are regions which need more police stations as existing stations have to cover a very wide area. Some stations also require more manpower and equipment. An efficient, contended police force will be able to effectively fight crime and ensure a better society.
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