Waste of public funds
Posted on August 12th, 2018

Editorial Courtesy The Island

This country is not completely bereft of politicians with sound judgment, but the problem is that they end up having to emulate others, with the passage of time. They are like clean fish, put into a dirty pond. They realise that fighting the rotten system is an exercise in futility and become conformist, limiting their protests only to words. They become a voice in the wilderness. But, they must not give up if they are keen to make a difference in politics.

Deputy Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne is reported to have said politicians have no right to have development projects, carried out with public funds, named after them. His statement, we believe, has struck a responsive chord with the discerning public, fed with numerous shows of vainglory, which they have to pay for. He has obviously taken a potshot at the former leaders without naming names.

Hardly any development project got carried out under the previous dispensation, without being named after the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa. With the money spent on their openings, which were replete with pomp and pageantry, some small-scale development projects could have been implemented. The ceremonial opening of the Hambantota Port is a case in point. The mega show, which boosted the egos of the rulers of the day, cost Citizen Perera an arm and a leg. The number of ships the port has since attracted is much lower than that of dancers at its colourful opening!

The colossal waste of public funds on opening ceremonies must also stop. Such events serve no useful purposes for the taxpayers other than providing some entertainment; they only help boost politicians’ egos. Why should the President and/or the Prime Minister go all the way to the outback with hundreds of other politicians and officials in tow, to open a newly built bridge or a school building? The cost of their expensive whirlybird or limousine rides is conveniently passed on to the people in the form of tax and tariff increases. Are those worthies without anything worthwhile to do in their offices?

Many thought the criminal waste of public funds on propaganda related to development projects, their openings and other such extravagant events would come to an end after the 2015 regime change. In fact, the yahapalana leaders promised before the last presidential election, that they would be able to stop the huge waste of state resources and utilise funds so saved to grant relief to the public; some of them went so far as to claim that the savings could be used for debt servicing without burdening the public with tax increases! But, there has been no end to such splurges if the mega shows under the present administration are any indication. Why on earth should public funds be spent on ceremonies to mark the commencement of the filling of a newly built inland port or a reservoir with water?

Another deplorable practice which is a huge drain on the country’s resources is the use of public funds to bribe the people before elections. The present government came to power by giving the state sector workers a massive bribe to the tune of Rs. 10,000 each in the form of a salary increase. And, now, all the people are being forced to cough up money by way of tax and price increases to shore up the crumbling economy. This practice must also stop forthwith.

It is hoped that politicians like State Minister Wickramaratne will pluck up the courage to come forward and try to knock some sense into the politicians responsible for wasting public funds unflinchingly. They, not doubt, run the risk of incurring the wrath of their leaders, who are impervious to reason, but the risk is worth taking for the sake of the people who are struggling to keep the wolf from the door.

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