of monitoring mechanisms and downfall of our economy
Effective Implementation is the key to economic progress. We have
stressed this in this column on the last two Sundays. The lack of
mechanisms to ensure that accepted policies are implemented is an
important reason for the slow progress of the economy. One of the
key indicators of this deficiency is the fact that the country utilises
only a small proportion of the foreign aid committed each year.
The tsunami aid utilisation in 2005 is evidence of this. Although
we take great pride when foreign aid has been increased each year,
the amount of aid that is utilised has always been a small proportion.
There have been renewed efforts to increase foreign aid utilisation
in recent years. These have met with some success, albeit inadequate.
ineffective implementation of government projects is not confined
to the use of foreign aid. Even capital expenditure allocated in
the Budget lie under-utilised. This deficiency is in addition to
the fact that inadequate expenditure is allocated for capital expenditure.
Consequently economic and social infrastructure is underdeveloped.
This in turn affects the productivity of the economy. Related to
this is the fact that the government machinery is very inefficient.
is not merely that public servants come late and leave early, a
well-known fact that has once again been exposed recently, but they
do not work even during the limited time they are in office. The
inefficiency of the administrative machinery is a cost to private
individuals and companies. Fortunately the amount of bureaucratic
regulations has diminished since the reforms of 1977 and after and
therefore the impact of public administration’s inefficiency
is limited. Yet it has a bearing on the productivity of the private
sector as well.
this context it is heartening to note that the Ministry of Plan
Implementation is reviving the National Operations Room, a system
of monitoring put into practice initially during the Dudley Senanayake
regime of 1965-70. The National Operations Room exhibited the latest
statistics of implementing the targets of the government. In fact
it was at this stage that there was a realisation that elaborate
plans were of little use if they were not implemented. Therefore
the strategy was to implement short-term policies and plans within
a framework of longer-term perspective planning as the means of
achieving rapid economic growth.
system of a National Operations Room enables the monitoring of progress
achieved by the various ministries and departments. Where the agencies
have not achieved the targets, the Ministry of Plan Implementation
could examine the constraints to the realisation of the goals and
hopefully remedy these. If the problems of the tardy implementation
are identified in time it may be possible to resolve these and get
the programmes back on track for completion as planned. The problems,
difficulties and constraints could be many.
constraints could very well be delay in the release of funds by
the Treasury. In fact many departments and agencies complain that
their projects have had to be delayed owing to the tardy release
of funds by the Treasury. This may not be the inefficiency of the
Treasury but a cash flow problem. The financial stringency owing
to revenue inflows not being as expected and therefore the cash
availability being limited often causes delays in the release of
committed expenditures. There is also the converse problem of agencies
not utilising the funds owing to their inefficiency or other constraints
to their completing work undertaken. An overview of the implementation
of projects, the monitoring of their progress, the evaluation of
the causes for any lapses and remedial actions and interventions
could make a difference to the pace of progress of economically
the resurgent stress on monitoring progress in implementation is
indeed a good move in the right direction. However the efficacy
of the system depends on the efficiency of the Ministry of Plan
implementation that is undertaking this task. It presupposes a task
force that is seriously committed to the objectives of the scheme
and also possessed with a competency in various facets of the development
programme. This is particularly so as there is a tendency for departments
and ministries to send highly inflated figures on their achievements
to avoid admonition. Wrong facts and figures of the progress of
schemes may be therefore presented to the Ministry of Plan Implementation
and the Operations Room may provide inaccurate facts on which the
progress of implementation is judged.
process of falsification can begin from the bottom and gain in exaggeration
as the progress reports are prepared by higher officials.
The final icing of the cake of misrepresentation could be by the
higher officials themselves, who are the ones accountable to the
Ministry of Plan implementation. This is not a fanciful story but
one that happened in the past and keeps happening. So one of the
most important tasks of the Ministry of Plan Implementation is to
put in place checks to ensure the veracity of the facts, figures
and information they obtain.
hope Mr. Nivad Cabraal’s revival of the National Operations
Room would succeed in changing a history of poor implementation
of economic policies. The effective implementation of development
projects, especially those of infrastructure development could have
a decisive impact on the country’s pace of economic development.