A visionary framework | Daily News


A visionary framework

In one of the most comprehensive speeches ever delivered by a President at an inauguration of Parliament, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa encompassed a gamut of issues from education to foreign relations.

President Rajapaksa rightfully gave prominence to national security and economic development in his speech, noting that the triad of Sovereignty, Independence and Peace should be considered as cornerstones of Prosperity. He called for changes to the Constitution to safeguard the country’s security, sovereignty, stability and integrity and urged all citizens to join together in the national undertaking to develop this country, and to reject the politics based on petty agendas that have sown division in our society in the past.

But the key thrust of the President’s speech was development and prosperity, which as he noted, Sri Lanka has failed to achieve even 70 years after Independence. “Our target is to make Sri Lanka a developed country. It must be a sovereign, independent nation.”

The President identified three main components that would lay the foundation for accelerated development - geographic location, natural resources and human resources complimented by right plans and the right vision.

He said that one of the main reasons for Sri Lanka’s renowned standing was the country’s unique location in the ocean connecting the East and the West. “We can benefit from this advantage in the same way today and make Sri Lanka a hub for finance and commerce in Asia.” More attention than at present must be given to the agriculture, plantation and fisheries sectors to augment development, he said.

He emphasized that a foundation has been laid for economic development aided by a people-centric economic policy through the “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” manifesto.

Alluding to the role of the public sector in this exercise, the President said that in order to successfully establish a people-centric economy it is important that every official from the highest to the lowest level of government becomes aware of the Government’s vision and aims. This is a commendable approach, given that a lethargic public service has often been faulted for the lackluster development process.

However, the public sector alone cannot do this – hence the President’s opinion that the “Government must take the initiative to make every healthy citizen of employable age a useful and productive citizen. What we need is for all of them to contribute to the nation’s economy”.

The Government faces the challenge of confronting the twin evils of poverty and unemployment if it is to expedite development. As the President said, we must understand the causes of poverty and find solutions to eliminate such causes. The nation will be able to alleviate poverty by finding practical approaches to issues such as the lack of proper education or skills, the lack of land for cultivation, or the lack of capital for self-employment.

The President also announced plans to find employment opportunities for 100,000 young men and women from low income families within the next month alone. Since our unemployment rate is not very low already, Sri Lanka should be on course to achieve full employment within a few years if all goes well.

Taxes are essential for development, but the other side of the coin is that they can become a huge burden to the people. Having recognized this, President Rajapaksa ordered the elimination or reduction of many taxes. However, all these measures can be brought to naught if corruption continues. Hence the President’s pledge to tackle corruption and punish anyone guilty of engaging in corruption and fraud regardless of political affiliation.

The President rightly pointed out the need for a restructuring programme to ensure that the benefits of development reach every region of the country. This equitable development process will help reduce congestion, pollution and the cost of living. People dispersed throughout Sri Lanka should have access to facilities for education and healthcare, and opportunities for employment. As the President noted, the development of the roads and rail network together with the provision of high-speed internet and telecom facilities throughout the country is essential for this. Referring to the power crisis, the President stressed the need for the use of eco-friendly renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro-power.

However, development cannot take place without an assurance of national security and public safety. The President was thus right to pledge an end to terrorism, extremism, underworld activities, theft and robbery, extortionists, the drug menace, disruptors of public order, and the abuse of women and children.

The President hit the right note when he pledged to make Sri Lanka one of the world’s leading nations in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This is essential, since the most valuable resource as a nation is our future generation. We have to ensure that our future generation will become productive citizens by nurturing them with the required knowledge, skills and abilities.

As the saying goes, ordinary politicians think of the next election, but great statesmen think of the next generation. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has proved that he firmly belongs in the latter category with this visionary framework for the future of the Motherland.

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