A timely decision | Daily News

A timely decision

The decision taken by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to release Rs. 1.8 billion from the COVID-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund for the import of essential medicines is indeed a timely one considering the rapid depletion of medicinal stocks and healthcare equipment in both Government and private hospitals. Specialist doctors make regular appearances on TV to highlight the plight in hospitals where even life-saving drugs are in short supply. According to doctors, many patients had been turned away for want of medicines and only life-saving operations were being performed. Frighteningly, the anti- rabies vaccine is not available and with the profusion of stray dogs islandwide, it is a case of survival based on luck for the public, with most local councils having given up the practice of rounding up stray hounds on moral grounds.

China as always had stepped into the breach to help airlifting a consignment of essential drugs and medical equipment. The World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO) too have offered to help. But the Government must think of a long-term plan to ensure that drug stocks are replenished without delay, for this may be a case of life and death for most patients. Not just medicines. As the prevailing economic crisis has resulted in the cost of essential items going beyond the reach of most, there is rising malnutrition among the populace, especially children. According to a senior doctor, some 20 per cent of the children admitted to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital (LRH) in Colombo are suffering from malnutrition. Perhaps a part of the Rs. 1.8 billion could be diverted to supply the nutritional needs of such children.

The cost of medicines has increased nearly four-fold and with bank interests drastically slashed, how the pensioners, retirees and senior citizens who are beset with a multitude of ailments associated with old age are coping with the situation is anybody's guess, with their pensions and retirement benefits deposited in banks now accounting to almost nothing. The plight of these souls should be duly considered. They should be identified and provided with medicines at reduced cost at designated centres. Perhaps, the ‘Relief Budget’ to be presented by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would address their problems. If not, very soon most of them will be meeting the Grim Reaper.


A Course Correction

A proposal made by the Engineers’ Association to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for the appointment of a panel of experts in their chosen fields to each Ministry for advice on ways to resolve various problems and issues is a sound one indeed and could not have been more relevant than at the present time. Those appointed as Ministers to important Ministries more often than not are clueless in handling the subjects assigned to them and could make wrong decisions that would prove costly to the country. These Ministers are given plum Ministries perhaps as a reward for their loyalty and/or due to election funding, thereby opening the doors to corruption. The ousted Cabinet in April comprised many such misfits whose motives were quite plain.

Hence, it is up to the leaders to appoint the right man for the job. Politicians are notorious for their lack of grey matter and are certainly not cut out to hold important Ministries. Hence, there should be competent individuals to make the correct decisions and avert disaster. Such expert advisors should also be honest and in no way abuse their privileged positions. The individual who previously functioned as the Central Bank Governor was described as an ‘expert’ in economic management and led the leaders and the country up the garden path. The track record of such experts too should be taken into account when advisory panels are appointed to Ministries. They should act with transparency and be above board on all fronts. The Engineers’ Association also wants only those with proper qualifications to be appointed as Heads of Government Departments, corporations and statutory bodies in order to obtain the best results. Here again, consideration of qualifications is largely overshadowed by nepotism, loyalty, and political favouritism. This has been the story right along with all those who came to power which is also a key element in our State institutions being run to the ground financially. Let the present dire economic crisis make rulers see the light and ring in the right changes. Appointments based on nepotism and the privileged lives led by the ruling elite are among the causes for the long lines of youth in front of passport offices, wanting to flee this country in the first available plane.

It goes without saying that merit should be the only qualification for all top appointments in the State sector. The country is paying a very heavy price for the politicization of the Public Service. It is high time we get off the beaten track and start anew so that the country will be set on the correct path to achieve proper development and progress. The mega crisis the country is facing today should be a lesson for a genuine course correction.

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