With elections in the near future and no sign of a take-off, Sri Lanka is faced with a choice between continued dysfunction and continued incompetence where the role of the State is too large and the role of markets too restricted.
The other choice is for relapse, with another decisive shift towards the State. It is as if Sri Lanka is faced with a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.
International renowned Sri Lankan–born economist Dr. Razeen Sally who is a Visiting Associate Professor of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, made these observations while delivering the 69th anniversary oration of the Central Bank in Colombo on Wednesday.
Dr. Sally noted that he experienced the “utter shambles” of the decision-making process at top ministries.
He claimed that in those ministry meetings, there was no coherent agenda, there were five or six different people speaking at the same time veering off in five or six different directions, everybody talking and nobody listening, and nobody talking notes.
There was no conclusion and the process starts all over again. He questioned as to whether any top private sector corporate head would ever run a meeting in this manner?
Sri Lanka has missed a rare lifetime opportunity to implement economic reforms but it is continuing with a China-driven controlled economy, where modest political reforms achieved could also be reversed, he said.
The present government which came into power in 2015 had the best opportunity since 1977 for liberal and economic reforms, he said adding that it has achieved modest success in correcting the past.
He noted that he has observed the dire state of the Sri Lankan state or in the academic jargon a serious lack of state capacity and he came to the conclusion quite quickly that even fairly simple reforms were difficult and perhaps in some cases impossible to push through because of the “dysfunction” of the Sri Lankan state.