the nation: Disclosing party economic policies
Economic policies rarely determine election results. Economic conditions
however are an important determinant. The frequent loss of elections
by incumbent governing parties has been the recurrent inability
of regimes to solve burning economic problems.
issues, particularly those relating to language, have played decisive
roles in determining elections in the past. Elections have seldom
been won or lost on the basis of economic policies. Nevertheless,
the Marga Institute's effort to get the main political parties to
a series of telecasts to discuss their policies is commendable.
We hope these programmes would add clarity to party policies. Three
aspects of the Marga programme require special mention. The political
parties that are appearing on this programme are given the questions
in advance. Therefore specific and clear answers are expected. No
party has a right to say that they are not in a position to discuss
details. Second, the questions are tailor-made for the particular
party and meant to clarify their policies in the light of their
past statements and performance.
they focus on a broad spectrum of issues such as devolution of power,
constitutional and administrative reforms, good governance, electoral
reforms, law and order, elimination of corruption, peace, national
harmony and developing a Sri Lankan identity. And most important,
the economic policies of the main parties.
the economic issues the UNF is expected to respond to the question
what new plans and strategies they propose to add to the Regaining
Sri Lanka programme to accelerate economic growth to 10 per cent
when the six year projection only leads to 7 per cent by 2006. They
are expected to explain how their development strategy that depends
on an increasing inflow of foreign investment, is expected to increase
inflows from US $ 82 million in 2001 to US $ 329 million in 2006.
Given the dependence on foreign investment, the UNF is being asked
how they will ensure that foreign enterprises and multinationals
will not become too powerful and dominant in the national economy,
dictate policy and act without concern for national interests?
does the UNF propose to increase productivity in small-scale peasant
agriculture and how the transport problem in the country that has
reached unmanageable proportions would be solved. They are asked
to respond to the critique that its strategy has uncritically accepted
the World Bank prescriptions for a market driven economy and that
its policy package is pro-rich, despite the claims of the poverty
reduction strategy (PRS). The low level of taxation, the recent
amendments to labour laws, the reduction of subsidies and the spate
of privatisations are all seen as reinforcing this view. What is
the UNF's response to this popular criticism?
UNF will be asked how far they intend to take the programme of privatization?
How will it affect the responsibility the public sector assumed
up to now in providing free health care and education? How does
the UNF propose to expand tertiary education? Would the UNF protect
the right to free university education an issue that today agitates
the large mass of the student population? The health care system
which did very well in dealing with child and maternal health and
communicable diseases does not appear to be adequately equipped
and adjusted to deal with the changing needs of morbidity.
poor and underprivileged are suffering. What are the health sector
reforms envisaged? The probing questions also deal with the controversial
Samurdhi programme. There is criticism that the selection of Samurdhi
beneficiaries is politicized and as a result that there are a large
number of undeserving beneficiaries while many deserving are left
out. How does the UNF propose to ensure that the benefits of Samurdhi
reach only those who deserve and that there is no political discrimination
in the choice of beneficiaries? At present, it appears that of the
billions allocated for the Samurdhi programme 89 percent is spent
on the administration of the programme and less than 11 percent
reach the beneficiaries.
does the UNF, or indeed any government, propose to ensure that the
delivery costs of the programme are contained so that a greater
share of resources could be distributed amongst the targeted population?
The Freedom Alliance is being asked: Regaining Sri Lanka' contains
a large part of the poverty reduction strategy that the PA Government
developed when it was in power. Do you intend to continue and implement
the strategies you worked out for the poverty reduction strategy
if you are in power?"
UNF government set a higher growth target of 10% which seems to
be necessary for the rapid eradication of poverty as well as the
creation of employment. Will the Alliance aim at a similar target?
Even more important, how would you achieve it? Will the Alliance's
social democratic agenda go beyond giving a human face to the market
economy and re-introduce import controls, state enterprises and
elements of the regulated economy which hampered growth in the pre
are indeed searching questions the answers to which could provide
a much-needed clarification of economic policies. There are however
certainubts that the answers would address the issues in a forthright
manner, partly as the parties may not have thought these out these
issues in detail. Answers may also be vague in order to ensure that
they do not offend any section of the voters. And finally there
is no assurance that the parties would be committed to the answers
once they assume power.
has happened far too often that history may repeat itself. We hope
the telecasts would lead to a greater clarity on economic policies
so that voters may be able to determine their preferences. It is
more likely that the telecasts would confirm the weaknesses in the
economic policies of parties than demonstrate that they have any