Preparing for the Future


By TP Saran

Someone remarked that already the first month of 2020 is already almost over, implying – as often we say – that time goes so fast! Whether or not ‘time’ as such does so is matter for, perhaps, philosophers, but as far as we humans are concerned, more often than not it does seem that way. In other words we have to keep running as it were, to be always on the go so that we don’t lose the race.

This applies across the board, to individuals as well as to organizations which must always try to keep ahead. Political parties too cannot afford to be complacent, more so those that are victorious, because of the expectations that they have raised in their electorate. In our country this means the MSM, which has for the first time in its history won the general election by going it alone, in a three-cornered fight that pitted it against the two major parties, LP and MMM, the PMSD not counting for much electorally.

It is a fact that the MSM garnered ‘only’ 33% of the vote share as its adversaries would point out – but that is the First Past The Post system which is institutionalized in our electoral system. The point though, is that the any party which makes its way to Government House on that narrow electoral score cannot rest on its laurels and hope for another win five years hence on a similar proportion of the votes. It goes without saying that its adversaries would do everything to counter its further advance, by coming together in alliance(s) if need be. The pressure and onus is therefore on the MSM to ensure a higher score at the next round, and hence it has much more to do to remain ahead.

Whether it too must contemplate an alliance to achieve that goal is its internal matter. But meanwhile, there is no other way to strengthen its position on the political scoreboard than to deliver on the pledges and promises made to the electorate. This means completing both big ticket projects at national level and smaller ones that matter in the regions promptly and efficiently as its mandate rolls on, so as to be ready with a solid track record by the time of the next election.

The President’s Speech will be looked up to as the opportunity to take that commitment vis-à-vis the population. The President’s Speech is, of course, only a declaration of the broad lines of the government’s intention, and it is really in the Budget Speech that the government’s actions will be outlined in somewhat greater detail. Nevertheless, the President’s Speech is expected to set the necessary serious tone and affirm the genuine engagement of the government to move the country forward and promote the national interest.

Every issue that concerns the people is, at their level and from their perspective, a priority, whether it may be looked upon as minor or major by others – and government is expected to respond accordingly. Nevertheless, from the macro point of view there are a few burning issues that concern long-term sustainability and viability, and on which there must be more transparency, communication and clarity on the part of the authorities.

For example, the relevant constituencies have been overwhelmed and gratified by the increase in old age pension, the rise in the minimum wage, the coming into operation of the flagship project the ‘Metro’. In parallel, though, there has been anxiety expressed in several sectors. For example, on the part of employers, big and small, especially the SMEs about how to cope with the fallouts of such measures. On the other hand, economists and the financial sector is concerned about the burden imposed on the country’s finances that are likely to last into the future, and debt repayments that are inevitable.

Anyway one looks at it, these are genuine worries and concerns, and one cannot help noting that the government has not been particularly forthcoming about where the money is going to come from to underpin these programmes. Is there going to be even more borrowing and ‘aid’ from foreign countries and sources? At what cost – what are the trade-offs and in what way are they likely to impact the economy in the future? Are there going to be social impacts too? Have the authorities anticipated these and prepared to face them?

Another matter that is directly linked to our future development is the failure of our educational sector. The disappointing results of the SC examinations are revelatory of a state of affairs that we cannot afford to be allowed to go on, and drastic if not revolutionary measures are going to be required to lift that sector to the level required to keep producing the kind of skilled workforce that is required for the 21st century. This is a real national emergency.

On the other hand, the rapid social degradation that we are witnessing, fuelled by unbridled consumerism and attractions that include synthetic drugs, is another issue that calls for urgent attention and broad stakeholder engagements driven by the authorities. On that front too, there is a huge lot to do and major expectations from the government.

As we have noted at the beginning, there is much work to be done, and the clock has already started to tick – and fast! For the sake of the country and the people, we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope the brighter days promised. For better or for worse, the ball is in the government’s court.

* Published in print edition on 24 January 2020

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