Seminal influence on policy-planning
This week’s reminiscences feature Dr. Lloyd Fernando, a distinguished
public servant who served as Director General of National Planning and
subsequently as the State Secretary of the Ministry of Policy Planning
and Implementation. After his premature retirement from Public Service
in 1993, he was appointed Alternate Executive Director at the
Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).
He also acted as the chairman of the Marga Institute for five years.
Presently he serves as the Programme Director- Public Policy at the
Postgraduate Institute of Management, Sri Jayewardenepura University.
“I was born and lived in Dehiwela and our ancestral home was also in
Dehiwela. My father was an accountant, but he worked in many places. My
mother, like my father was very liberal. I had a very carefree
childhood. We were very close to the Dehiwala church - St. Mary’s
Church. I had a Christian background. However, I didn’t remain a
Christian throughout. At about 16 or 17 I started moving away from
religion. If you ask me what my philosophy in life is, it is very
Buddhistic. But I can’t consider myself a total Buddhist. I don’t go to
temple and pray. I go to the temple with the family occasionally.”
He studied at St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya, which had a very
liberal environment at the time. “At St Peter’s, right throughout I was
influenced by Father Marcelline Jayakody. He was very much in love with
Rabindranath Tagore’s culture. He had been to Shanthinikethan. He was
the famous lyricist who became popular after the film Rekhava. In school
I was a carefree guy, I was not a good student that way. In fact once I
failed. I was good in English because I learnt it on the playing field -
playing cricket and doing athletics.
Dr. Lloyd Fernando
St. Peter’s was at that time very much multi-cultural. Apart from the
Sinhalese there were quite a number of Tamils and Burghers. Actually at
that time it was dominated by Burghers. So we needed to communicate with
each other in English. And that gave me a very liberal outlook on life.
I was never parochial when it came to race, religion and caste. To me it
didn’t matter. What mattered is the good qualities of a person;
sincerity and truthfulness, which was inculcated in me by my parents. My
father was not an outstanding man but he was a good man and an honest
man so he was a role model for me.”
Fernando recalled that there was a cultural renaissance in Sri Lanka
with S.W.R. D Bandaranaiake coming to power. St. Peter’s was one of the
very first schools to establish a cultural centre, under Father
Marcelline Jayakody. There we were treated to good quality Sinhala music
and Indian Classical Music. “I was also influenced by Father Mervyn
Weerakoddy. He was called the 'Jazz boy'; he was into Western Music and
eventually became the Rector of St. Peter’s. His influence was mostly
along Western culture. We were exposed to operas and neo-politan music.
I was part of the college choir and considered a tenor.”
According to Lloyd, there was always a rebel within him and he loved
to take risks in life and look for new adventures. After his secondary
education, he joined the Standard Chartered Bank in Colombo and passed
some banking examinations.
He was 19 or 20 years at that time. While working in the bank, he
also got involved in left-oriented trade union work there. He was in the
working committee of the union. “The management wanted me to give it up
because I was going to be promoted to the executive level, which I
refused. With my socialist orientation, I found that my banking career
was at stake.” It was probably this rebellious attitude that prompted
him to accept a scholarship to join the Lumumba University in Moscow.
After returning from Moscow with a Masters Degree in Economics, he
joined the Ministry of Planning as a Planning Officer when Dr. Gamini
Corea was the Secretary to that Ministry. In 1971 he went to the
University of Sussex in the United Kingdom for his doctoral studies.
After obtaining his doctorate in Economics, he continued his work in the
Ministry of Planning until his premature retirement from public service
As mentioned earlier, Lloyd has had diverse professional experiences
but due to the lack of space, we cannot include everything. He was asked
to highlight some of the contributions he made at the Ministry of
'I feel that the most important period of my professional career was
during 1982-93, in particular, in the first phase up to 1988, when I was
on a learning curve helped by my superiors, Mr. Ronnie de Mel as
Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr W.M. Tilakaratna, Secretary
Finance, Mr. Baku Mahadeva, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Finance and
Cabinet Secretary, Mr. G.V. P. Samarasinghe, a confidant of President J.
‘I also learnt a lot from my peers as well as from junior colleagues
who worked under my supervision. I had the opportunity of making a
significant contribution to policy making in three specific areas during
this period. Firstly as the Secretary, Committee of Development
Secretaries, in my capacity as Director National Planning. Secondly in
establishing the Administrative Reforms Committee, chaired by Mr.
Shelton Wanasinghe. Thirdly in setting up the Institute of Policy
New projects and programmes
'The Committee of Development Secretaries was a powerful policy
making body, chaired by Cabinet Secretary, Mr. G.V. P. Samarasinghe,
which met every week on Tuesdays, while the Cabinet met on Wednesdays.
It had tremendous influence on Cabinet deliberations on development
policy related matters. In fact, in most cases, particularly relating to
new projects and programmes, the Cabinet rejected discussion unless they
were first discussed at the Committee of Development Secretaries (CDS).
I exercised significant control over the deliberations, as well as
follow up, as I prepared the agenda and the Minutes.
'What is significant is that I was able to use the opportunity for
collective decision making by Secretaries, which tremendously helped
inter-ministerial coordination and to bring discipline into the
allocation of government resources for development projects. All project
proposals emanating from various ministries had to be first included in
the Public Investment Programme that was prepared by the National
Planning Department to receive funding from the Government Budget.
'The second area in which I had the opportunity of initiating a very
crucial structural change process was administrative reforms,which
unfortunately is yet to take off the ground in a systematic manner. It
was Mr. Ronnie de Mel who helped me and managed to convince a strangely
reluctant President Jayewardene to appoint a Committee to examine all
the issues relating to public service productivity and make
recommendations for improvement.
‘The Committee chaired by Mr. Shelton Wanasinghe published in 1987
ten volumes containing far reaching recommendations, which are yet
valid. If implemented, not in bits and pieces as has been done in the
past, but systematically, there could be a significant impact on public
service productivity, which is crucial for the realization of the goals
set out in the Mahinda Chinthana.
Independent think tank
‘Setting up the Institute of Policy Studies was a challenge. Firstly
it had to be funded. Secondly, it had to operate as an independent think
tank which could provide unbiased information, analysis and
recommendations on policy issues which cannot be handled by government
agencies. I was tremendously encouraged and assisted in this matter by
Mr. Ronnie de Mel. In fact, he took me to Seoul, Dhaka and finally to
the Hague to study similar institutes. Finally, the Dutch government
agreed to fund it on the assurance that it will be allowed to operate
without political and bureaucratic interference.
‘Making it an independent think tank was difficult since some
powerful ministers wanted it brought under the Cabinet Office. But Mr.
de Mel was able to meet those challenges. It is with great satisfaction
that I observe today that the IPS is performing a very useful role in
policy analysis. Yet, at the same time, it is unfortunate that its
capacity is not being fully utilized by the government’.
Finally, when asked for his views on the country’s economic
prospects, particularly in realizing the goals of the Mahinda Chinthana,
Fernando said that everything depends on the government’s ability to
encourage and employ professionalism in the public service.