Saturday, August 26, 2006

Prepare to pay for five more ministers!!

Two more ministries to the ever swelling number of ministries of the Sri Lankan Government. Arumugam Thondaman and Chandrasekeran and three of their followers have been given ministerial and deputy ministerial portfolios. It is very difficult to digest the public face the President wishes to portray by showing off that he is against unnecessary governmental expenditure (for example the restriction the president has placed on the number of foreign travels that a Govt minister can undertake) but the same smiling face giving oaths to at least two new ministers every month. All his hoo hah is negated when it comes to satisfying political parties who accept the offer to join the govt for strengthening the numerical strength of the Govt. He is no different to his predecessors in this and many other regards. There are number of negative repercussions of this approach that one can point out, other than the cost factor. I make mention of two of them here. One is the argument that the excessive number of ministers and deputy ministers would mean that a significant portion of the legislature is drawn within the executive system and that this affects the separation and balance of powers between the legislature and the executive. The already eroded status of the legislature in the 1978 constitutional system is further degraded. I will not elaborate on this here.

The second effect that I want to deal with more detail here is about how multiple ministries dealing with one subject of governance can undermine the effectiveness of policy formulation, programming and implementation. This is something that I have experienced first hand through my involvement with the National Task Force on Youth Employment as a member of the task force, representing youth interests. At these meetings I have seen how more than half a dozen number of ministries to do with Youth Employment make the task of cohesive policy formulation difficult. At one such meeting of this taskforce the secretary of a ministry proposed the need for taking entrepreneurship to the school curriculum. In response the ILO Director present there responded that such a proposal had already been given effect to and that ILO had supported a proposal of another ministry in this regard and trained the National Institute of Education staff on the same matter. The subject is being included as part of the revision to be effected to the National school curriculum next year. Such is the level of confusion and resulting duplication of work within our government ministries. A great deal of time and money is being spent and has to be spent on brain storming and working a coordinating mechanism between these ministries. What also is affected is uniformity in policy making and working on a common agenda on important issues such as youth employment.

The Ministries that have been given to Mr. Arumugam Thondaman has been titled Youth Empowerment and Socio-Economic Development. Chandrasekeran’s Ministry is the Socio-Development and Development of Socio-Equality. One wonders what these mean. What difference in work is there going to be between the Youth Affairs ministry and the Youth Empowerment Ministry. The youth affairs and sports ministry is more of a sports ministry than a youth affairs ministry and does very little on the youth affairs subject area. They have been working on a National Youth Policy for the past several years. What is this new ministry going to do then? One just feels that they just come up with random names when they induct new ministers. This is a country which has multiple ministries for railways with a separate ministry even for rail track development!! When will our political leaders take bold decisions for the sake of this country?

1 comment:

Dinidu de Alwis said...

Umm... My wee brain cannot comprehend the first point you made... And not being well read about the legislative system doesn't help much either...

But I totally agree on the second point on policy formulation, and can draw examples from my experiences, again to do with youth. With the Youth Employment Policy, there were, if my memory serves me right, eight line ministries involved.

Imagine the confusion when there are like a dozen ministries invloved in formulating policy. Understood that subject areas like Health and Education can't be put under the administration of the same ministry, but look at education for instane... There is an Education, a Higher Education, Skills Development, Tritary Education and so on and so forth.

Why not give them a Merc S350, couple of defenders, a big office, couple of International tours, and tell them to do nothing, and give a handful of ministries to a handful of people... Everybody will be happy, and the work will get done smoothly as well...