left hand, right hand syndrome
By Random Access Memory (RAM)
"The left hand does not know what the right hand does"
is a popular expression of those in the know of how government works.
It was within a span of three weeks, when the media announced that
a senior minister had stated that all systems were on the go to
set up an International Airport at Matugama.
important minister then joined the fray to announce that the International
airport will be in Hambantota, where the need and the conditions
are ripe. Just when the dust was settling, the one charged with
the subject of airports and aviation, in a newspaper supplement,
announced the commencement of expansion of the current airport at
is but one example of the confusion that prevails on the policy
and strategy fronts in this country. Now think of the plight of
the discerning big time investor or for that matter a young person
looking to start his own venture in flower exports as a Small and
Medium Enterprise (SME), or even a parent intending to give his
daughter in marriage. Where should they locate their investment,or
like to live in proximity to Matugama, Hambantota or Katunayake?
that persists, one might think is as a result of the left hand not
knowing what the right hand does. But it is disturbing when we learn,
that it is because the left hand deliberately refuses to go along
with what the head has decided to do. So much for the Westminster
model's tradition of collective responsibility of the cabinet where
even after voicing disagreement, you are supposed to toe the line
on majority decisions.
is the scenario, where the left and the right hands compete for
the preferential votes and for personal glory outside of a national
agenda. Take the case of the setting up of career guidance centres
island-wide by the ministry charged with the task of vocational
training. A similar exercise was carried out some time ago by the
ministry charged with employment and labour, where it has set up
a system of island-wide centres with a computer-based employment
referral system - 'Jobsnet', inclusive of carrier guidance facilitation.
Would it not
make sound sense to come together to work in unison, not through
a mere memoranda of understanding limited to paper, but optimally
utilising each other's resources, to best serve the denominator
common to both ministries - the person desiring to pursue a carrier
or secure employment?
A similar situation
is seen in the work carried out by the ICT agency, media, post and
telecommunications ministries in driving e-based solutions. While
the connectivity envisaged by e-Sri Lanka need necessarily transcend
all sectors of the economy, it may be prudent for these core institutions
to pool their scarce resources in working towards developing common
front facilities, rather than one agency working to expend the funding
provided by global lenders.
They may do
well to even think of utilising the networks of the private sector
such as the banks, leaving aside the hollow 'branding' sought by
each institution or ministry.
A recent discussion on a vernacular radio station focused on the
state of affairs in the public transport sector. It featured the
head of a state institution charged with transport.
to the wall with a barrage of questions from the public on the telephone
through a very competent radio compere, he admitted that he is against
the policy of handing over the management of the state transport
system to the private sector. Without even examining the rights
and wrongs of the very decision to 'privatise' state run transport,
we need to focus on the aspect of efficacy of implementation of
these decisions by people half convinced, or not at all convinced
of the correctness of the 'policy' decisions.
What RAM believes
this would do, is create further confusion and even chaos, leading
to the depletion of peoples' confidence on what little is left of
the system of governance. The impact of this muddled state of affairs
extends beyond dampening investor sentiments, confusing public officials
and inefficient serving of the end consumer, to more basic issues
such as the nation's integrity and defence. This indeed is not only
a sorry state of affairs but also one that causes much concern for
all and needs to be consolidated fast.
good fresh step for our leaders to take, all very busy with waiting
for the opportune and / or the auspicious time, will be to simply
listen. They need to take time, but not to 'hear' what they are
fed with the left or right hands around them, but by themselves
listening to what the citizens of Sri Lanka think and have to say.
The citizens, after all are the customers that need to be served,
who have vested the sovereign power that belongs to them, only temporarily,
on these leaders.
- will they ever learn?
Discussing the common "left hand doesn't know what the right
hand has done" malady that afflicts local politicians, RAM's
strong plea today should serve as a reminder to our rulers that
as much as when power comes swiftly into one's hands, it can also
be snatched away abruptly leaving you groping in the dark and going
back on bended knees to the voting masses for support at the next
election. When will they ever learn? Write to us with your comments/suggestions
on a host of issues that RAM has raised in his columns - Business
Editor (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)