‘SL can learn from Singapore’ | Sunday Observer

‘SL can learn from Singapore’

Proposals were made over the past 20 years to curb the Budget deficit but no one knows what took place. What is amazing is that the past year’s budget deficit continues even into the current year with no heed paid to tackle the problem, President Maithripala Sirisena told the gathering at the opening of the new Finance Commission building in Rajagiriya last week. “Look at how Singapore has developed within a short time and with limited resources.

We have all the resources and still continue to find our way. The latest problem that Singapore faces is the maintenance of large buildings in the city State while focusing on sustaining economic growth. It is not really a government that runs Singapore, but rather a State Corporation,” the President said.

Citing examples of how Singapore has excelled in many spheres the president said that there is even a record for each tree in the country with all the details about it stored on a computer. On the contrary we have forest thieves who plunder the wealth of the country.

“A state institution official recently told me that the problem is not with the wild life or wild elephants in the country but the people who are wild in their conduct, and not civilised. I could read out the list of names of State Institutions that destroyed the resources of this country but I don’t want to do that because if I do there will be protests against me tomorrow,” the President said.

He said Sri Lankan Airlines has only a few aircraft but it employees large numbers beyond what it needs. If an institution needs 500 employees there are 700 employed, and there is no punishment meted out against those institutional heads.

“Our schools will have songs soon that Sri Lanka has the worst thieves in the world. Where is Financial discipline and where does the law apply against those violate the code of conduct on financial management in this country? We know how much of money is wasted on handouts during Provincial Council elections. Funds allocated for provincial councils for development work cannot be used as handouts,” the president said, while adding that many steps were proposed by him to improve the Provincial Council system in the past, but to no avail.

He said no government has so far undertaken a thorough study to know how effective Provincial Councils are, their duties, shortcomings and challenges. Provincial Councils, over the last 30 years, contributed to Economic development.

The Finance Commission - set up under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1987 - plays an advisory role in allocating funds for Provincial Councils through annual budgets. The Commission takes into consideration the population and the per capita income of each province to bridge the social and economic disparity among provinces and promote more balanced regional development.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said according to a survey around 40 percent of the funds allocated to provincial councils are wasted due to corruption and mismanagement. This is thanks to the Information Act which has been commended across the world as a vital tool to obtain information on financial expenditure at provincial level.

A report on all state expenditure being presented to Parliament once in six months is a good thing. We need to ask what we have achieved after 71 years of independence. State institutions in Singapore are independent from politics. “We need to solve the problems of the present generation and leave none for the next generation,” he said.