A new government sponsored agency under the Presidents control and headed by a top bureaucrat has been put in charge of policy formulation and implementation.
The National Council for Economic Development (NCED), manned by a team of professionals from the private and public sector will seek wide participation in policy formulation.
Experts say getting the technical content of macroeconomic policies right is only part of the answer for arriving at sustainable policy results.
Of equal importance is the process of policy formulation through consensus to secure wide support at implementation.
Successful participation of a wide range of stakeholders in policy making and implementation improves governments accountability, transparency and responsiveness to demands from a wide range of stakeholders.
It more importantly helps to demystify policy reform to stakeholders including ordinary citizens.
Main political parties here have to a large degree reached consensus on policy reforms according to the UPFA Governments top bureaucrat.
“I think to a large extend on the economic policy, a bipartisan consensus has evolved other than the usual disagreements about the degree,” says Dr. P . Jayasundera, Treasury Secretary.
“Basically all parties have recognized the market friendly policies. No party today talks against market principles. Nobody has spoken against the private sector.”
He says that leftist Peoples Liberation Front (JVP) has not spoken against the private sector.
“JVP has not spoken against private sector either endash in terms of Rata Perata document there is nothing against the market fundamentals, nothing against the private sector, nothing against the global trade environment, nothing against the economic reforms in the broad sense,” he said.
Policy formulations by governments in the past and present have established that reforms are needed.
Recommended policy by both main political parties lean towards market led growth.
Despite bipartisanship on policy and need for reforms, implementation has been slow.
“In the past under various successive governments Sri Lanka has not been successful in implementing policies. Many good policies have not given results,” Dr. Jayasundera said.
Critics say one of the biggest obstacles to policy implementation in Sri Lanka has been the opposition from trade unions and others directly effected.
Attempts at creating a single revenue-collecting agency The Revenue Authority and unbundling the electricity monopoly the CEB have been abandoned largely to keep trade unions happy.
Analysts say, people, who stand to gain the most from market based reforms get caught up in the anti reform rhetoric of trade unions resulting in widespread opposition to policy and reforms.
Any agency that is trying to formulate and implement policy by involving all stakeholders will have to take serious note of the reason for big failings in the past.
Weak marketing of the benefits of market-friendly policy has alienated voters.
A participatory approach to policy formulation like the one being proposed by the National council for economic development or NCED can try to overcome some of the implementation problems of the past.
US Aid sponsored research on policy making and implementation says failings can happen at different levels in the process.
An overlap in authority and responsibility with line ministries is a problem the NCED will soon have to face.
Demystifying policy to get the support of ordinary citizens is an area the new agency will have to think long and hard about.
Becoming a pill to cure all policy implementation ills wont be easy for the NCED unless citizens are made aware of the benefit of market friendly policy reforms.
That would be the Litmus Test for the future success of the NCED.
-LBR Newsdesk: LBOEmail@vanguardlanka.comrn