Infrastructure: Sri Lanka’s ministries should be aligned to be more effective

LBR LBO Infrastructure Summit 2016

Sep 30, 2016 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s budget allocations for national road development are high, but it needs to be attuned to needs, and ministries should be properly allocated, a senior official said.

“The problem is that we have fragmented systems, especially transport and highways are two different ministries so it is very difficult for us to agree on one plan,” said Namalie Siyambalapitiya, director planning, Road Development Authority (RDA).

“This is something for the government to think about – when allocating ministries. They should look at the functionalities of those ministries. Now it is a very difficult task for us to handle transport issues as the highways ministry is separate from us.”

She was speaking at the LBR LBO Infrastructure Summit 2016 themed “Realizing The Transformative Power of The Western Region Development: Opportunities and Challenges.”

The summit brought together more than 45 top-level speakers in front of a packed audience at the Cinnamon Grand.

She said the island is currently at the formulating stage of the National Road Master Plan from 2017 to 2027.

The plan intends to facilitate public transport systems, enhance the safety of road users, with environment and social safeguards, and introduce stringent monitoring mechanism to ensure return on investment.

“Sri Lanka has made high budgetary allocation from 2005 – 2015 to the RDA to develop the national road network including the expressway network,” Siyambalapitiya said.

“But – I agree that we have built roads and dumped money into this without systems to evaluate the outcome. So the new plan will have key performance indicators.”

However, there are many challenges ahead.

“There are no classifications of roads based on a functional hierarchy, and the development of roads has been mostly reactive to emerging land use patterns and the increasing trend in motorization, while allocation of adequate financial resources to carryout maintenance has been lagging behind increasing needs.”

“And substantial capacity expansion to cope with the growth in traffic did not occur due to many other limitations like land acquisition cost and road geometry.”

Increasing backlog of deferred maintenance caused costly rehabilitation and reconstruction, she added. An emphasis in the past on rehabilitation and maintenance has led to a piecemeal approach to the improvement of the network, preventing the development of a cohesive network.

“There is a need for a strategic shift from the traditional project centric approach to an approach that is focused on programs and strategies in line with the development happened in other sectors.”

“There is an absence of committed economic/development plan for the country; lack of coordination and integration among the relevant sectors and lack of policy instruments to govern infrastructure development and its share in National Economy.”