A leading economist says Sri Lanka’s Parliament should invest in research facilities to allow better management of public funds.
“… it is imperative that in order to effectively discharge its constitutionally determined function of 'full control over public finance' Parliament establish its own research facilities,” said Dr G Usvatte-arachchi, speaking at the International Fiscal Association Sri Lanka Branch last week.
Dr Usvatte-arachchi noted that Parliament discussions on public finance are inadequate and noted that Sri Lanka does not have a mechanism to keep members of Parliament informed about matters relating to public funds.
“How do other legislatures inform themselves of the questions that come before them? One means is the literature that comes out of research in universities and research institutions. This is totally absent in our country. Even those provided with public money to study government policies do not have the competence to undertake these tasks. There are no private research outfits that perform this function,” noted Dr Usvatte-arachchi.
He suggested that the Parliament library be used as a starting point.
“Parliament has a library of its own. Assuming that it is well stocked and that it is kept contemporary, a small but competent staff can well perform this function. That small staff can obtain the services of the intellectual community in the country as a whole,” said Dr Usvatte-arachchi.
It is seen as important for not just the government but also members of the opposition, to be better informed.
“It is important that the services of this office are available to Parliament, both for members of government and of the opposition. The government always has the services of the civil service and the opposition has none. That gives a strong case for parties in opposition to establish their own little research offices to obtain independent advice on questions of national importance,” said Dr Usvatte-arachchi.
The research units can also be used to train young politicians, he said.
“These research offices can then become the training ground for young men and women who wish to take to politics seriously. It will provide an alternative to the present practice of apprenticing in politics in schools for violence, fraud and the dishonesty,” he said.