IMF package, new journey sans corruption | Daily News

IMF package, new journey sans corruption

Last week, Sri Lanka received the IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) package proving that everything uttered by the Opposition politicians such a bailout package will not become a reality without the holding of an election and without a new mandate etc. are utter lies.

The Sri Lankan people received two things last week. One is the IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and the other thing is an excellent insight into the falsehoods and propaganda dished out by Opposition politicians on receiving the IMF package.

But today we are not talking about it. We are talking about what needs to be done in order to give Mother Lanka a new beginning in the wake of the IMF bailout package. The most important part of this has already been mentioned by President Ranil Wickremesinghe which is the introduction of South Asia’s strongest Anti-Corruption Act. It will make a significant change in the situation and make a huge difference than the previous 16 occasions in which Sri Lanka received the IMF assistance.

There is something very important that needs to be introduced with South Asia’s strongest Anti- Corruption Act. That is Finger Print Machines to all State institutions to mark the attendance of employees. Only then will Sri Lanka be able to embark on a new journey towards prosperity. It is not only politicians who steal. Public servants steal much more than politicians but they hardly get caught. Because of this they can freely steal for decades continually without any trouble.

At present most of the private sector and some semi-Government institutions use finger print machines to mark the attendance of employees but not State institutions. Only a very few State institutions have such machines but they do not use them or are used at a minimal along with the traditional attendance register. It is very interesting to check how State institutions, especially Government school teachers, use the traditional attendance register. They get together putting all differences and hatred aside and unite in order to avoid pay and leave cuts. The time of the clock, which is the actual time of the day, is 8.30 am. But the last employee who signed the attendance register at 8.25 am marks the time as 7.25 a.m. or so because the person who signed before him/her put in 7.20 am while the actual time was 8.25 a.m. This special ‘techniques’ saves their pay and leave cut and they never get late for work according to the attendance register!

This is how almost all State institutions, especially schools, have operated since Independence. We, Sri Lankans cannot walk along this path any longer. We walked along this path for too long. No country in the world can move forward in this manner.

Almost all State institutions will launch strikes and they would do everything possible to prevent the Government from installing Fingerprint Machines in those institutions in order to mark the attendance of State employees but the Government should not give in this time like it did in the past. If the private sector employees can put the fingerprint, why can’t the State sector employees follow suit? If the private sector saves paper by not using attendance registers, why can’t the public service do so?

The other crucial part is preventing all types of thefts that take place in the State sector. Last Friday’s newspapers reported how a CGR employee tried to steal 24 litres of valuable lubricating oil used for trains and to sell the oil to outsiders. This is only one incident reported last week. But similar small and large scale thefts are a common occurrence in most State owned institutions. Such thefts start from time, A4 paper, pens, pencils, etc. and end with furniture, vehicles and buildings. There should be a proper mechanism to detect such thefts instantly and take action within a very short time against the culprits without wasting time.

The other menace that needs to be curbed is the actions of various trade unions that have been established in the State sector. The operation of all trade unions in the State sector needs to be minimized and there should be a set of crystal clear guidelines for all trade unions which are allowed to function. The Heads of Trade Unions should not be released from their official duties to attend to their TU activities as is happening now. For example, the Heads of Teachers’ Trade Unions do not need to go to school and teach. But they receive the full salary and all the other benefits at the end of the month as usual.

When a certain service is named as an ‘essential service’ the relevant rules and regulations need to be implemented without leaving any loopholes for the employees to escape. Action needs to be taken against all employees who violate relevant rules and regulations. In addition, the country’s Armed Forces need to be trained as soon as possible to maintain essential services such as running public transport services, especially train service. This is a must if this country allows trade unions to operate in the State sector in the future.

More State-owned institutions such as the CGR need to be privatized in order to offer a better service to the public while reducing the burden on the State. Privatizing institutions such as Telecom etc. is highly admirable because the employees who serve in such institutions do not know what customer care is because they do not need to know. They get paid no matter whether they serve the customers or not. They never treat customers with respect and kindness. But after privatization at least they will learn how to cater to the needs of customers with respect and kindness and also how to work for the salary they draw every month without any problem.

Sri Lanka maintained a large number of State-owned institutions such as various corporations etc. for the past seven decades but they never delivered the required services to the public. They only existed as burdens to the public. All politicians say such institutions can be maintained as profit making entities but they say so only when they are in the Opposition. When they came to power, they never practiced what they preached while in Opposition. During the COVID-19 period, the salaries of all public servants were paid even without a cent being deducted. This is one of the main reasons for Sri Lanka to become bankrupt after the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Even other countries reduced the salaries and perks of employees who Worked From Home during the pandemic.

On the other hand, the private sector cannot be allowed to go scot free when it comes to serving the public. More and tougher rules and regulations are required in order to make these institutions more answerable to the public.

For example, last week the media reported how the Consumer Affairs Authority fined Rs. 5.5 million for eight private medical institutions for charging more than the relevant amount from patients to do the Dengue Antigen test and Full Blood Count test. This is the real ground situation of Sri Lanka. No one speaks about it due to fear for those giant private business conglomerates. Private medical institutions, especially hospitals, charge extremely high prices from the people.

This can be further explained when analyzing the prices of drugs. With the appreciation of the rupee and the receiving of the IMF package, the extremely high prices of almost all goods and services are now coming down. The prices of milk powder, potatoes, big onions, dried chilies, rice, sugar, sprats, canned fish and a number of other items, especially drugs and medicines which are sold at extremely high prices need to be reduced.

Since Sri Lanka is now being ruled by a President who is a graduate from a Sri Lankan State university, the country can be turned into a developed country with discipline and with IMF assistance without much trouble in a short period than predicted if the power hungry and greedy politicians stop misleading the poor youth and illiterate sections of the public with their lies in their quest to achieve their evil objectives. 

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