A prudent step | Daily News

A prudent step

Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara’s move to secure jobs abroad for Public Servants would increase the country’s dollar revenue while at the same time helping families of these Public Servants tide over their economic difficulties through an additional income. This will also go a long way in easing the chronic overstaffing in the Public Sector at a time the Government is hamstrung to meet the salary bill of Public Servants. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said they had no alternative but to print money to pay State Sector salaries.

Minister Nanayakkara had asked Public Servants keen to go abroad for employment to provide their details to the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau to explore opportunities in consultation with licensed Job Agents. He said all those leaving abroad for employment from the Public Sector will have their seniority intact together with all pension rights upon their return to their original jobs. The Public Administration Ministry too has been contacted in order to work out the modalities in this regard.

As already mentioned, the move certainly is a solution to the rampant overstaffing in State Sector institutions. Hence, the Minister should give priority in making the selections from Public Sector institutions that are presently bursting at the seams. At the same time, in case a new Government gets elected in the intervening period, no new recruitment should be made to the posts falling vacant with the departure of those Public Servants for overseas jobs. This should include unemployed graduates who are employed in positions for which they are not suited in the Public Sector, which needless to say is a huge drain on the Treasury. Let this be an opportunity for the Government to trim the fat in the country’s Public Sector.

All past Governments should be held responsible for ruining the Public Service by recruiting their supporters who are known to be idling. The situation became worse under the Yahapalanaya. While prior to that only the ruling party supporters were given jobs in the Public Sector institutions, from 2015 to 2019 we had a situation where both main parties were ruling the roost, with both sides stuffing the Government bodies with their supporters.

The Minister must also ensure that prospective foreign job seekers receive a proper training so that they may acquire the skills to fit into high-paying jobs. At the same time, he also should ensure that we do not throw the baby too away with the bathwater. Care should be taken to retain those persons in the Public Service with specialized skills lest the country lose their services at a crucial time such as this. The long lines before passport offices must have already sent alarm bells ringing among the authorities fearing a massive brain drain which has already cost the country dearly.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena on many occasions when he was Head of State extended invitations to Sri Lankan professionals and experts in the many fields working abroad to return to the country and provide their services to the Motherland, even offering incentives towards this end. How far his pleadings have borne fruit is difficult to say. But it is a safe bet that the response was minimal.

In any event, no Sri Lankan in his/her right mind will return to the country now in its present state. Hence, it is all the more reason to strike a balance when sending Public Servants for jobs abroad, with care taken to hold back those whose services are vital to the country. Besides, if earning dollar revenue is the chief motive, the Minister must also ensure that the dollars are only remitted through the approved banking institutions and not traded through black market money changers.

Even if all the dollars are remitted in the proper way this alone would not provide the answer to our acute foreign exchange crisis. Much more tangible steps are needed to increase our depleted foreign reserves. Earnings from tea exports may have doubled, but this still is a long way from finding an answer.

What we are badly in need is foreign investment. But as already indicated overseas investors are certain to give this country a wide berth in the present climate with its long queues, shortages, protests, crippling power cuts and public chaos. Hopefully the economic relief promised by Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe to vulnerable sections in the upcoming Budget would calm things down and restore some normality.

The PM during his presentation of a Rs. 695 billion Supplementary Estimate in Parliament on Tuesday called for unity on all sides to tackle the present crisis as a unified force. Hopefully the Opposition would pay heed to this call and act with responsibility. After all, the members of the Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) are all former UNPers and it won’t be difficult for them to work together with their former leader. The country needs unified action to pull itself out of the present rut while the present crisis could also in varying degrees be attributed to all Governments that ruled prior to this in which the SJB too were main partners.


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