The 2017 Budget was designed to empower the people for the 1500 days development plan that would benefit all sectors and take the country forward on a development path. The people in the North with Provincial Council facilitating them were hoping to use the opportunity to reverse the aid dependent track perused during the civil war decades; by utilization of the budget benefits to bring the region back on the development track with the rest of the country. Based on the budget details presented in parliament, it appears to be yet another top down proposals from center prepared without proper consultations with the provinces; as such expectations of the Northerners are bound to end up as a day dream. This demonstrates the deficiency in the extent of devolution to devolved provincial units, which needs to be addressed in the proposed new constitution under preparation.
In the post war period in Sri Lanka, depending on their geographic location in the country the budget impacts differently on people. A high percentage of urban people enjoy the comforts of ‘middle-income status’ today, which is not the same as for majority of the rural people, whose life is still 20-30 years behind the rest. As the main political party representing those living in North and East provinces that were ravaged by the civil war, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) from opposition benches in parliament had submitted a detailed proposal ahead of the budget presentation, regards to the main livelihoods of the people living in the region – agriculture, fisheries and animal husbandry. But as per the TNA those proposals were not reflected in the budget proposals, while large sums have been allocated for building office space and an entertainment area in the North. It is sad, that the state is still pushing top down proposals, that are least beneficial to the people and ridicule the concept of devolution that in spite of the setback caused by three uprisings in the country, two in the south and the other in the north spreading to the east that put development of the country back by five decades. This continued reluctance of the center to take proposals from the people at grass root level needs to change if there is to be a holistic participation from the people to develop the country.
The whole world knows that the provincial council system of devolution in operation for almost three decades was introduced in haste and that it was never properly implemented was an expensive adventure to this little developing island nation. Now with the New Coalition Government preparing a new constitution in consultation with the people, it is time put into practice a proper devolution system to take the country forward with the 1500 days development plan. The present system of District Secretaries coming under the direct control of the Central Government must be first changed to get them reporting to their respective Provincial Councils, with all the necessary changes to the administrative structure and with the full implementation of the Provincial Council System, will enable not just the northerners but all Sri Lankans to see the Super Moon at least when it appears again in years to come.