Where has good governance gone

Daily Mirror Editorial
Only a handful of the leaders of the country seem to know the real  purpose of the Cabinet reshuffle that was carried out on May 22, the  country’s 45th Republic Day, after several months of bickering in the  media. Hence many people have their own versions and theories about it.     

However, it is clear that the government has totally  forgotten its promise given to the nation during the 2015 presidential  election to appoint a relatively small Cabinet on a scientific basis.  Under the election promises or pledges, the number of Cabinet ministers  was to be limited to 30, but it has risen to 47 now with the new  inclusion of Tilak Marapana with a new portfolio called Development Assignment.  

The government that assumed office in January 2015 with the  professed aim of establishing good governance in the country went back  on its words on April 28, 2015 with regard to the size of the Cabinet  with the passage of its first major Constitutional reform, the 19th  Amendment allowing the government to appoint any number of ministers in  the event of a “National Government” being installed.   
Leaders of the government could point out this  Constitutional provision to justify the present inflation of the  Cabinet. But how can one understand the need of varying the number of  ministers for a country under an ordinary government and a National  Government? The requirement of ministers for the country cannot vary despite the government consisting of one political party or many parties. In fact the concept of National Government has been used as a ruse to increase  the number of ministers. Leaders of the present and the future  governments have been given legal permission to bribe the members of  other parties with portfolios under the guise of a National Government  so that it could survive in office.   

This inflation of the Cabinet and the number of deputies  and state ministers has undoubtedly puffed up the cost of maintaining  them. This happens not by way of their salary which is far below that of  many employees in the private sector. It is through the perks they are  awarded that the ministers become a burden to the public coffers. A  recent newspaper report said the government spends Rs.7.5 million a  month for the maintenance of a minister. We have nearly a hundred  ministers including deputies and state ministers.   

The government had allocated Rs.1,200 million since March  this year for luxury vehicles for ministers, each worth more than Rs.30  million and Rs.40 million,while tossing out just Rs.1,000 million for  thousands of people to reconstruct their houses destroyed by the floods,  rains and landslides in the Kegalle District last year. And it is a  well-known fact that most of the duty-free permits for these luxury  vehicles are being sold and many politicians dare to openly justify it. However, the Govt. has been compelled to postpone the purchase of these vehicles for one year due to public pressure.     

They promised to appoint a Cabinet on a scientific basis.  But how can they justify, under the concept of scientific allocation of  portfolios and subjects to the ministers, the appointment of State  ministers, a portfolio introduced in Sri Lanka by former President  Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1989, apart from the appointment of deputy  ministers. Through the latest cabinet reshuffle Fisheries Minister  Mahinda Amaraweera has been assigned the additional portfolio of State  Minister of Mahaweli Development.   

We have a Ministry of Policies and Economic Affairs under  the Prime Minister. This ministry had under its purview even the subject  of rural infrastructure development. But at the same time we have a  Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry under Malik  Samarawickrama. We also have a Regional Development Ministry under Field  Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Development Assignment ministry under  Minister Marapana, while there are many ministries tasked with the  development of certain provinces such as the Western Development and  Southern Development. The recent Cabinet reshuffle added one more to the  list, the Sabaragamuwa Development under Labour Minister John  Seneviratne. What is the scientific basis in these appointments? The  inevitable question people would ask is, “whither good governance.”