Every successive Government has, prior to an election, offered a package of promises captioned under a slogan. The slogans have varied from: “Bringing rice from the moon” to “self-sufficiency in rice”; “Making Sinhala the official language within 24 hours”; “reconciliation”; “Wonder of Asia” to “100 Day Programme”. Among the promises offered the “100 Day Programme” [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

From Mahinda’s “Mahinda Chinthana” to the Maithri-Ranil’s “100 Day Programme”


Every successive Government has, prior to an election, offered a package of promises captioned under a slogan. The slogans have varied from:
“Bringing rice from the moon” to “self-sufficiency in rice”; “Making Sinhala the official language within 24 hours”; “reconciliation”; “Wonder of Asia” to “100 Day Programme”.

Among the promises offered the “100 Day Programme” is unique and different. It contains 25 specific tasks with 100 deliverables with a strict time line.

The programme, no doubt, needs regular strict supervision, surveillance and monitoring. According to a communiqué issued, the Government has launched a special survey to find out public opinion and to analyse the progress of the 100-Day Programme. The public response is expected through the electronic media. This reminds me a story down the grapevine at a time when the electronic media was not as popular as today. According to the story the then President had decided to send out a team of his confidantes to seek public opinion of his popularity.

A few days later they came back and reported “Sir, none speaks of you but they all speak of Your Excellency’s mother”. I hope the electronic response on the 100 Day Programme would not be the same.

I was a die-hard bureaucrat. Old habits die hard. This may be the reason why my wife complains that I speak to her sometimes the way I (used to) speak to my secretary in office. Well, fortunately my wife is a devoted housewife who is ignorant of how ‘badly’ we treat our secretaries in the office. We, bureaucrats or if one does not like the term, the public servants, are used to certain ways of doing (or is it not doing) things. We put everything what we do into one basket and label it under the slogan of the new regime. On January 7 everything we did was in the ’Mahinda Chintana’ basket. By the dawn of the 9th they were transferred into the new basket of ‘100 Day Programme’. Every document including Cabinet Memoranda and every plaque would replace the words “under Mahinda Chinthana” with “under 100 day programme”.

We, the bureaucrats have a set of plausible excuses and explanations in store to reason out any failure or delay. It is either excessive rain or lack of funds or too many rules and regulations or political interference or an election.

Last week I went into an office to get some routine work done. The response I got was “sorry, this will take some time; we are busy with the 100 Day Programme”. When a new programme is introduced the public servant needs and awaits guidance and instructions. The new programme ‘100 Day Programme’ is basically a political wish (vision). Public servants do not necessarily claim ownership or understanding of the programme. They are waiting for some instructions from somewhere. Whether this is due to ignorance, lack of commitment, nature or a genuine reason, the fact remains; the end result would be the delay in implementation. I believe this is where we are today with the 100 Day Programme. It may be too late but better being late than never to put the implementation of the ‘100 Day Programme’ on track.

It is a must to prepare a clear strict monitoring framework for this programme. Simply monitoring or inviting public response is not adequate.
Public response will not be focused but diffused and diverse. The Government cannot expect a clear meaningful response or a signal. Each Ministry will simply report the status or very likely the achievement. The result would not provide any useful information to the Government or the policy maker.

Since the Government has decided to pay a higher interest rate of 15 per cent on our fixed deposits, as a senior citizen, in return, I wish to suggest an agenda for consideration.

The Government must immediately identify and set up a Focal Point for follow up, facilitate and monitoring of the “100 Day Programme”. At present, it appears to be the Project Management and Observation Department. To make the monitoring objective and focused, it is then necessary to prepare an Activity Plan for each task identified in the 100 Day Programme. This should contain at least:

=The task (as mentioned in the 100 Day Programme),
= Sub activities required to achieve the task
=By whom (The official/s and the institution/s responsible for),
=When (time target),
=In association with(other institutions involved) and
=Financial commitment.

I tried to prepare a monitoring framework for one task identified.(See table)

The draft Activity Plan must be prepared and sent to all the Ministries for their views and suggestions and then finalised. This Activity Plan should be circulated among all the Ministries drawing the personal attention of the Secretary and the Minister and request to report periodically (preferably on a weekly basis) with the current status, issues, recommendations for improvement and to accelerate the progress. Each Ministry should circulate the relevant section of the Activity Plan among all the institutions coming under its purview and call for weekly (or more frequently) performance reports and conduct weekly progress review meetings and report to the Focal point. The Focal Point would carefully analyse the progress achieved and delays and deficiencies and suggest remedial actions.

As far as my recollection of the public service is right, Ministries or the institutions report only the achievements in the absence of an Activity Plan and a monitoring Framework. Achievement made on any matter is not bad but it is not fulfilling the promises made in the 100 Day Programme. Further, it will not provide any useful feedback for corrections, amendments or improvements of the implementation of the programme or its impact upon the public. Reporting sans an Action Plan is not focused and not useful as a management tool. It is only a post mortem. What is needed is being proactive. Otherwise it will be similar to “Christopher Columbus Voyages to the New World” in the 15th Century and Prince Vijaya’s landing in Lanka after he was exiled by his father who was a son of a king, a king of the jungle (this has nothing to do with the jungle law in Sri Lanka). What has been happening in the new world and in Sri Lanka thereafter is history.

(The writer can be reached on chandra.maliyadde@gmail.com)

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