Questions are being raised on the hypocrisy of Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera calling on the government to rid state institutions of political appointees, saying that they need to be replaced with competent professionals.
Interestingly, two days after publicly condemning political appointments to high posts following Dr. Nalaka Godahewa's resignation Dr. Jayasundera appointed Neil Rupasinghe, who was the former Gampaha district UPFA MP into Sri Lanka Tourism Convention Bureau as Chairman.
“Dr. Jayasundera is the only secretary under whom two professional chairpersons have resigned during the last two years - first being Jayampathi Bandaranayake who assumed duties at Chairman BOI in June 2010 and resigned without giving any reasons,” a critic said, noting that Dr. Nalaka Godahewa resigned from three state tourism agencies recently.
He noted that Dr. Jayasundera's comment on outdated institutional setting in investment promotion agencies and inadequate professional skills at a recent event is also a strange claim as all these promotional agencies report to Dr Jayasundera directly or indirectly.
“The line agencies such as the Board of Investment (BOI), Tourism authorities, etc., fall under the Economic Ministry under Dr. Jayasundera as the Ministry Secretary and the Treasury Secretary. It was understood that the Government decided to consolidate these agencies under the Economic Development Ministry soon after the war to create a coordinated effort, but after three years they say that has not happened," he noted.
Some agencies complain that the interference from the Treasury is the cause for their ineffectiveness. Dr Jayasundera seems to be in bad terms with most of the agencies chairmen and their boards and they complain that their hands are tied and they’re unable to operate.
A source close to the Treasury said that the country had so much hope after the war and an economic boom was expected, but there aren't correct policies to usher in that boom. However the Customs, the Inland Revenue, etc., all which are under the Treasury still stays stagnant from times past.
He pointed out that Dr. Jayasundera was the secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Head of Treasury for almost 18 years. “He has been the all powerful dual secretary of Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economic Development for the last three years. Why didn’t he bring legislation and simplified the approval process?” he questioned, noting that the then Treasury Secretary R. Paskaralingam in the late 80’s set up the BOI, Urban Development Authority, etc., to meet the needs at that time with required powers.
He argued that if those powers have got diluted Dr. Jayasundera should have given the correct advice to the government to get the institutional arrangement back on track by bringing right legislation.
Price controls on some selected commodities such as milk, poultry, and cement, etc., instead of using pricing formula and regulatory supervision was also shown by Dr. Jayasundera as an impediment to economic recovery, but critics point out that Dr. Jayasundera should advice the cabinet on these matters, noting that it's he who prepares annual budgets for the country.
An absence of coordinated promotional effort by BOI, Tourism Authorities, EDB, Tea Board and Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB) due to highly compartmentalized operations and bureaucracy was also highlighted as hurdles by Dr. Jayasundera for the country’s economic growth.
“The BOI and the Tourism Authorities are directly under the Ministry of Economic Development. As Secretary to the Ministry of Finance Dr. Jayasundera has some influence over the Tea Board and FEB. SriLankan Airlines which can contribute significantly to country promotions is directly under Treasury, but Dr. Jayasundera hasn’t done anything to bring in a coordinated effort,” a BOI source said, adding that there's no point in indulging in a blame game without doing one's job.