We preach that Sri Lanka is a Democratic Socialist Republic and practice social-market economy. One of the measures to see the role of government in the social sector is to look at the total tax collection from the rich and the subsidies afforded to the less privileged people in society. The rich countries’ tax collection is around 45 percent to 50 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and they in turn invest 12 percent to 18 percent on health and education, whereas in Sri Lanka, our tax revenue is around 13-15% percent and how much do we spend on education and health?
Health & education services fast deteriorating:
The growing tax collection has enabled the developed countries (US, Britain, France and Sweden) to take on social welfare functions. A major portion goes to health and education. Spending on education and health accounts for 12-18% of national income in all the developed countries today. In all the developed countries, public spending covers much of the cost of education and health services: The goal is to give equal access to these basic goods: every child should have access to education, regardless of his or her parents’ income, and everyone should have access to health care.
Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, the governments of the day do not spend even 4 percent on health and education, where more than 25 percent of our people live below the poverty line. In fact, there has been a reduction in the capital expenditure on health during the last two to four years. Our health and education services are fast deteriorating to a level where we could end up in having unhealthy and less educated children similar to the population living in least developed countries.
In Sri Lanka, corruption and mismanagement have reached such proportions that the young electorate, especially the millennials viewed political leaders with suspicion. They are really fed up with all the political parties including those in the government as well as in the opposition. The successive governments have failed in bringing social justice and much-needed economic welfare to the people. Consequently, the income inequality and social unrest are fast spreading across the regions, sub-districts and cities. Most of the top Business leaders and Professionals are of the view that the quality of life of not only poor, even the middle class is drastically declining. The immediate future scenario would be that more and more people would become dissatisfied with the government machinery. This will lead to social unrest which makes the system un-governable.
Time is opportune for the professionals, academics and business leaders to come forward and critically review how to raise much needed investments in order to improve “Education and Health” sectors on a sustainable basis. Our view is that we must have ‘brain-storming sessions’ inviting cross section of people and the concerned professionals and craft ‘winning strategies’ for Sri Lanka, based on evidence and lessons learnt (by studying benchmark best practices, past experiences etc.) without any fixed ideologies linked to petty party politics and its affiliations. ‘Politics’ is too good to be left out to conventional politicians only.