Concerning economic issues, listen to people, not technocrats.

Sri Lanka needs to listen more to what its people are saying, instead of paying heed to only technocrats, said senior economist Prof. Shantha Devarajan. By not paying attention to the calls of citizens, the real problems of the national economy will not be solved, he cautioned.

As successive governments focused more on establishing advisory committees, and task forces to help iron out issues faced by the people of the country, such efforts did not help understand the ground realities and tackle the challenges as the voice of citizens were ignored.

“For too long we have seen Sri Lanka’s economic policy as a technical problem. We think all you need to do is to get a bunch of smart people together, put them in a room, and they will design the best possible economic policies. That precisely is the problem,” said Prof. Devarajan.

“You need a policymaking process that actually listens to the people. The people are actually saying something vital,” added the senior economist, addressing an international conference on the road map for economic recovery, hosted by The Institute of Engineering and Technology.

He cautioned it is dangerous to go ahead with policy decisions by listening only to technocrats as in most instances they are unable to relate to the ground realities and issues faced by the common man.

While consulting agencies such as the World Bank (WB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are important, the authorities must also take the necessary efforts to consult the people. Prof. Devarajan pointed out that such activities are seldom carried out or given importance.

He cited the recent budget for 2023 as an example of the people’s views being left out. Although it aims to roll out the “right” efforts in terms of tax reforms which are needed for the IMF programme, it has a series of technical solutions to fundamental political problems, he noted. 

“We have to avoid that if we have to go forward.” The policymakers need to be accountable to the people. “This is exactly what democracy is all about,” he stressed. 

(Source Daily Mirror)

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