Grassroots and governance
In a country such as
ours, stability of governance depends almost entirely on
grassroots development. The reason for this is the overwhelming
power of the rural vote. In other words, the rural voter could
make or break governments in this country.
We were led to these thoughts on listening to Economic
Development Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene at ANCL
yesterday on the occasion of the launching of the 'Samurdhi'
journal. Our front page today gives the reader some information
on this journal which essentially records the progress made by
the state in bringing about grassroots development. Among other
things, the Deputy Minister said that the Mahinda Rajapaksa
administration cannot be dislodged, mainly because it has
ushered in grassroots development and ensured the contendedness
of the rural voter, besides other achievements.
In other words, the government has managed to take the
majority of the people along with it. On account of the fact
that development is increasingly touching people, they have no
reason to believe in any adverse propaganda which is unleashed
against the government. For instance, according to the Deputy
Minister, Sri Lanka's poverty level has dropped to seven
percent. The state's endeavour, we are told, is to bring this
down further to two percent over the next few years.
Moreover, our present Head of State Mahinda Rajapaksa is a
People's President and a charismatic leader par excellence. His
achievement on the security front of providing the leadership to
wipe out the decades long terror menace, is profoundly
appreciated by the people on a very wide scale. This magnetic
'pull' is also going a long way in ensuring governmental
Of equal significance, however, is the current development
drive which is positively impacting the majority of the people.
Besides the declining poverty level, there is the very sizeable
GNP per capita which should be taken into account. On account of
these strengths, Sri Lanka is today considered a Middle Income
Country and an up and coming economic power in this part of the
All this does not mean that there are no problems on our
plate. As we have time and again mentioned in this commentary,
growth with equity is the ideal and this needs to be translated
into a very visible ground reality. The government should strike
hard on this score, now that terror is out of the way. It should
ensure that income equality and other positives are glaringly
evident over the length and breadth of this country, including
very particularly the North-East.
The people of the North-East should experience in full the
fruits of development if ethnicity is to cease to matter for
them and the state would need to go the extra mile to ensure
that the North-East populace is not short of the needs that
would guarantee for them a life of fulfillment.
Deputy Minister Yapa Abeywardene also spoke of the growing
possibilities in tourism and on this score too the country has
much to be satisfied about. But a principal need on this front
is to ensure that not only the leisure industries flourish but
also that the more high spending tourists make it to Sri Lanka.
To be sure, the tourist industry is beginning to thrive but we
need to target also the high spenders who would keep the hotel
sector in good trim.
All these facets of development must impact positively on the
people's lives. The Samurdhi programme has helped the poorer
segments along, but they must also be sufficiently empowered to
stand fully on their feet. This is true development. When this
happens, the appeal of divisive political slogans, such as those
which touch on ethnicity and communalism, could be blunted.
Therefore, there could be no alternative to development,
correctly understood as growth with equity.