A welcome move | Daily News

A welcome move

The absence of a national policy on vital sectors has been a recurring theme of debate in this country down the years. In countries such as India there is a national policy covering a gamut of sectors and change in governments will not change the national policies of those countries. Here too the need for a set national policy on vital sectors that would not be changed with a discontinuation of a government has been badly felt in order to maintain continuity and consistency. True, ideological differences between political parties lead to a drastic change in policies when there is a regime change, as has been witnessed in this country. However with the transformation in the political outlook of most political parties in this modern day and age these differences have narrowed to a considerable extent leaving scope for consistent national policies, at least on vital sectors. This, while leading to stability, would also go a long way in facilitating the development and progress of the country. For, no government will be able to deviate from the established national policy.

In this respect the move by a band of intellectuals and professionals to set up what has been termed as a National Intellectual Organization to draft a national policy covering 10 important sectors has to be welcomed. There has been a lot of talk about setting out a national policy on health, education, agriculture etc. There was a lot of noise made about adopting the Senaka Bibile recommendations, as the national policy on health. Whether or not this policy is operational today nobody seems to know. The health sector is always in turmoil with doctors and the administration often at loggerheads.

There is also the current demand made by the GMOA for laying down a national policy on trade, following the government’s move to enter into trade pacts with India and Singapore. Though the doctors’ motives may be politically oriented, much conflict and confusion could have been averted if such a national policy was in existence.

According to a news report we carried on Monday the proposed National Intellectual Organization will comprise over 150 professionals drawn from various fields. They will include university dons, professors, lawyers and professionals. A member of the organisation Attorney-at-Law Upul Kumarapperuma said it has been planned to introduce this national policy in respect of education, health, economy, agriculture, transport, Sri Lankan community, art and culture, fisheries and environment, as well as several other vital sectors.

Of course, ALL stakeholders will have to be consulted before drawing up a national policy in respect of any one of these sectors. For instance, the farmer community will have to be consulted when drawing up a national policy for agriculture. Similarly, representatives of the fishermen will have to be brought into the picture where the national policy pertaining to the fisheries industry is concerned. One has to ensure that the national policies will stand the test of time.

No doubt, there is bound to be a lot of hot air in the drafting of the national policy on health. The doctors will insist on having their say in a majority of decisions that will be taken. Similarly, the national policy on education will witness much wrangling, especially centred on the establishment of private educational institutions ala a SAITM, with student bodies laying down the rules. But these issues could be overcome through discussions and compromise. What is important is to establish a watertight national policy on a given sector so that it will withstand changes in government and be binding. Today, doctors, teachers, students and workers stage agitations, chiefly, due to the lack of understanding between the authorities and the stakeholders. However, such unrest could be avoided if the proper parameters are laid down via a national policy, within which the government and the stakeholders could reach agreement.

Today, privatization has become a sore point with many and there are ‘sell out’ cries made by certain politically motivated elements. However, if there is a national policy, agreement could be reached under which circumstances privatization could be resorted to, particularly of loss making state institutions, and the government’s stake in the deal. This way there will be no unrest or work stoppages and disruption of public life. Importantly, this would also prevent unscrupulous politicians exploiting trade unions, since, with the existence of a national policy, they would not be in a position to do so.

Like Kumarapperuma said, instead of finding piecemeal solutions to the country’s problems cropping up from time to time, lasting solutions should be found to the overall problems to ensure an environment free of problems to the country and future generations.

Above all, the establishment of a national policy on vital sectors would also put an end to ministers “cutting and chopping” policies to do with their subjects, resulting in chaos. This malady mostly affected the country’s education sector which has undergone many changes since independence.

Besides, with over one third of our legislators not having passed their GCE (O/Ls) it is best that intellectuals and professionals be made to think on their (politicians) behalf in setting out policies that affect our national well-being. 


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