Does Public Policy of Sri Lanka enhance its wellbeing of citizens? | Daily News

Does Public Policy of Sri Lanka enhance its wellbeing of citizens?

Currently, many debates around the governments role and Sri Lankan Citizens, wellbeing are going on.

This article aims to add value to diabetes from the public policy and institutional perspectives. Public policy provides guidelines or government rules to find solutions to societal problems or social issues. It is public policy because it involves the citizens of a country, utilizes shared resources to find answers to the citizens, issues and uses public policy making institutions. Public policy is what government does, not what it says it will do or intends to do.

Why do we need a public policy?

A government attempts through public policy to achieve its goals, including enhancing wellbeing by establishing laws, regulations, decisions and actions. The public policy process begins first with the identification of problems. Then policies are formulated and adapted before they are being implemented. Finally, policies should be evaluated. The whole public policy process is by and large determined by political processes, and it should target to improve citizens wellbeing. If the citizens are unhappy and protesting against the governments role and activities, then there is a genuine need for re-evaluation of public policy.

What do we know about the wellbeing of the citizens?

There are two types of wellbeing - material wellbeing and spiritual wellbeing. Material wellbeing can also be referred to as the standard of living. A country’s standard of living or quality of material wellbeing depends on its capacity to produce goods and services. The capacity to produce depends on the efficiency or productivity of citizens. Countries with high economic growth can increase material wellbeing by enhancing income or per capita income because there is a strong correlation between material wellbeing and per capita income. The differences in per capita income explain variances in living standards among countries.

Empirical data proposes that the happiness of citizens and material wellbeing increases together with high income. However, the wellbeing of the citizen goes beyond wealth and income. How income is being distributed among citizens is also matters because poverty and inequality cause social unrest.

All revolutions, including revolutions in American, French, Russian, and Chinese, are related to poverty and inequality. Poverty and Inequality have been involved in all conflicts and the three great ideologies of nationalism, liberalism, and socialism.

The wellbeing also depends on the environment. A lack of association with nature is destructive because we are all genetically connected to our natural environs.

Nature can drastically improve mental and therefore physical, health; it can also enhance societal function and close the socioeconomic health gap. Thus, protecting the environment can’t be compromised if one intends to improve the wellbeing of citizens.

The wellbeing of citizens is also determined by the liberty and freedom of the individuals. They should have the freedom to engage in consumption and production related activities as long as those activities are not harmful to society.

The impact of public policy and institutions on wellbeing:

An Institutional road map to plenty We should also understand why do nations fail. Nations fail if rulers are unable to maintain a reasonable level of wellbeing for their citizens. Governments everywhere in the world, including Sri Lanka, want to achieve specific goals, including enhancing citizens wellbeing through public policy.

As mentioned earlier, wellbeing depends on the country’s production and income.

Many have argued that economic policies, geography, culture, or value systems explain those nations growth differences. However, Acemoglu and Robinson (2013), in their book titled “Why Nations Fail,” argued that nations fail “because it has been ruled by a narrow elite that has organized society for their own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people.”

Therefore, for public policy makers, nothing matters more in citizens, long-term prosperity than economic growth. Public policy is strongly related to the institutional mechanism of a country, and therefore it has a vital role in enhancing citizens, wellbeing.

The intuitions are two types-economic institutions and political institutions; in principle, political institutions significantly impact establishing a country’s economic institutions.

These economic institutions are two types: extractive or inclusive. Inclusive economic institutions stimulate citizens, economic progress and well-being by encouraging citizens, participation in economic activities, securing liberty and freedom.

Extractive economic institutions prevent economic freedom and liberty and exploit resources from many groups to benefit smaller groups.

Similar to economic institutions, political institutions can also be inclusive or extractive. The main characteristic of inclusive political institutions is democratic pluralism with free media and other individual rights. This implies that various communities and groups and values and freedom in a given society are appropriately represented. If political institutions lack democratic nature, they can generally be categorized as extractive political institutions operating for the benefit of a small group of political elites at the cost of many members in a society. The following table show various characteristics of diffident institutions.

Way forward Public policy is an emerging subject and an increasing number of leading universities are establishing new programmes to train leaders and public policy makers. According to the writer’s knowledge, Sri Lanka does not have any university which offers higher degrees in public policy except some courses or concentration at the Department of Public Management of the Sri Jayewardenepura University. There must be new educational programs on public policy focusing on multidisciplinary applied and theoretical research to assess public policy’s impact on citizens, wellbeing.

Market Oriented Capitalism

As researchers and public policy makers, we should know how the successful economies of Europe, North America and Asia have achieved high material wellbeing than many other countries. Those four top global economies, the US, China, Japan, and Germany, have implemented public policies with four different political economy systems to achieve material well-being. They include Market Oriented Capitalism in America, Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics in China, Japanese Developmental State and Social Market Economy in Germany. Therefore, it is worth doing critical research in those four countries, public policy and institutional frameworks to learn lessons from their successes and failures for other developing countries, including Sri Lanka.

Germany implemented the Social Market Economy (SME) in 1961 and Sri Lanka introduced SME in 2015.

Germany underscored the states necessity to guarantee that the free market creates results close to its potential and the market is embedded in legal and political structures. They consider that the safeguard of human dignity and personal freedom is indispensable. SME has three critical pillars: free market, people and society participation, and a strong state. The “constitutive principles” should safeguard an effective competition-based economic system.

The complementary “regulatory principles” were designed to enhance the humane aspect of the economic order.

The Sri Lankan citizens are losing trust in major economic and political institutions, including the rule of law, the legislature, the executive, and the judicial.

Therefore, the country desperately needs inclusive political institutions which can introduce inclusive economic institutions. It is necessary to develop a solution that balances the three pillars of social life-the state, markets, and communities (or civil society). The best option we have for aligning those three pillars is inclusive localism.

Sri Lanka should create a homegrown developmental model drawing lessons from the best practices elsewhere, including the top four successful economies. The market-oriented capitalism in America provides many lessons on productivity growth and law rules but not on income distribution.

German and Japan provide lessons on how the state can ensure market principles and social harmony, while China gives lessons for poverty elimination in the ruling sector. Japan’s developmental state has protected the environment maintaining about 65% of forest coverage, while Sri Lanka has about 20%.

Both countries had 80% at the beginning of the 20 th century. The performance of public policy and a state is closely associated with institutions.

Law and order or rules of law of a country are closely related to the state role. We cannot leave deforestation and damaging the environment entirely to the market. Since the state owns many forest resources, some regulations and institutional mechanisms are of prime importance for the country sooner than later.

Sri Lanka had a glorious past and became a colony in 1505 and ruled by Portuguese, Dutch, and British until independence in 1948. Since its independence, there are so many achievements for her credits. At the same time, the country cannot protect the rich environment and has utterly failed to achieve economic progress, hence depriving the citizens, material well-being.

Most of these failures are attributable to the non-availability of inclusive institutions, which eventually undermine the very foundations of economic progress.

No wellbeing can be achieved without political institutions are transformed from extractive to inclusive. The only way to change extractive political institutions is to influence the political elite to generate pluralistic and inclusive institutions.

About the writer

Professor N. S. Cooray teaches at the International University of Japan and he is currently the President of Sri Lanka Academics’ Association in Japan (SLAcJ).