ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 06

It’s time for think tanks in all fields

At a time when the country is facing a severe crisis in several fields, due to terrorism raising its ugly head, not only in the North and the East but in almost all other parts of the country, it’s time that we, as Sri Lankans, get together as a team to face this serious situation.

What a classic example and an excellent precedent we have witnessed in the game of cricket in Sri Lanka! If, a highly motivated, totally dedicated and perfectly united national cricket team could achieve success of the highest order, to become a close second to the champions in World Cricket, there can’t be any reason why we can’t achieve similar success in our “Nation Building Effort”.

In this connection, I suggest that we build a 'Think Tank’, in each of the different spheres connected with Nation Building as a first step. The fields should include economic affairs, agriculture, industry, national security, education, health, transport etc., with provision to add new fields, as and when necessary.

A cross-section of people involved in such sectors, who have a practical knowledge of the different fields and professionals with a theoretical knowledge, including university academics, experts in the respective fields, administrators and policy makers of the different fields, should be appointed to such Think Tanks. All those who serve in the Think Tank should perform on a voluntary basis.

The appointments may initially be based on an application from knowledgeable persons, consequent to a notice in newspapers calling for such applications. Selection of members should be made by the Presidential Secretariat. Only persons who are found to be capable of contributing innovative ideas should be considered. Political affiliations, caste, creed, religion and other differences should not be considered, at all.

Their primary responsibility should be to work out ways and means to achieve rapid development, in each of the different spheres and to make them happen. They should act as an advisory body with regard to planning and as a monitoring mission to the line Ministries on the implementation of the development strategies in their respective fields.

There is already an excellent precedent which we were able to witness, a little over a decade back in the field of industry. I refer to the working of the “Industrialization Commission”, which operated as a Think Tank for the field of industry. However, the Industrialization Commission was set up under an Act of Parliament and worked according to a set of rules and regulations.

Unfortunately, this has become a thing of the past. The Secretary to the Treasury presided over the meetings held, usually at monthly intervals. The members were appointed by the President and comprised members of different Industrial Chambers, leading industrialists, members of research institutions, academics, policy makers and heads of different departments, ministries and corporations, connected with industrial development.

Very important suggestions were initiated at this Forum and fruitful discussions followed. Decision making too, was quite fast. Their implementation was given high priority, due to the fact that most institutions which were involved with implementation too, were represented. Follow up action was also made easy, due to the fact that the Commission was meeting regularly. This was one example of how “team work" could make a positive contribution to the nation building effort.

The industrial sector benefited tremendously due to the working of this Commission. I hope this will catch the eye of the President and steps will be taken to commence this process of nation building on a more positive note soon.

By Rohan B. Fernando, Ratmalana.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.