“SANVADA”/“ixjdo”/“Rk;thjk;” Towards More Transparent & Informed Economic Policy Formulation
“SANVADA”/“ixjdo”/“Rk;thjk;” is a Project implemented by the Pathfinder Foundation, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit institution and supported the a Centre for International Enterprise, USA.
Its objectives include :
address the fundamental lack of information available to policymakers in Sinhala, Tamil and English. This approach will allow stakeholders in the policymaking process – both governmental and private – the resources and research necessary to understand the economic topics under consideration and the impact policy changes will have on Sri Lanka’s economy.
The “SANVADA”/“ixjdo”/“Rk;thjk;” Project will provide reliable and comprehensive analysis of economic issues to parliamentarians and the private sector. The project encompasses a variety of activities that will address the critical shortcomings in Sri Lankan policymaking by providing the information necessary for informed debate to all stakeholders in all local languages and by creating a neutral space for that debate to take place, both publicly and privately. The project will work in four broad areas: oversight of the project, creating informational sources, advocacy and disseminating information.
The Pathfinder Foundation has formed a Steering Committee consisting of eminent persons, chaired by the Chairman of the Pathfinder Foundation, who was the former Governor of the Central Bank and has functioned as the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance. The Steering Committee choose topics, assign writers from the economic or public policy centers, comment on drafts and lead discussions at Town/Community Meetings.
Creating and Disseminating Value Added Information
Information is a precious commodity in any region, but even more so in Sri Lanka. Because of the difficulties in accessing information even many members of Parliament are compelled to debate economic policies and relevant legislations based on poor information. To alleviate this information gap, the SANVADA will produce a series of briefing notes. The briefing notes will be written as informational documents, weighing the effects of legislative passage versus the status quo without taking a political position on the issue. The notes will address economic issues currently on the legislative agenda, including tariff and non-tariff barriers, indirect taxes, privatization of state-owned enterprises, Sri Lanka’s international economic standing, regulatory impediments and high fiscal deficits. Each briefing note will be written by an economist or public policy expert and will include extensive unbiased analysis that will serve to provide policymakers with the necessary information to make a responsible decision on the issue. These papers will then be condensed into a shorter format and published in a newsletter. 1,000 copies of each newsletter will be printed, with 500 copies in Sinhala, 250 in English and 250 copies in Tamil. Ten newsletters will be produced during the course of the “SANVADA”/“ixjdo”/“Rk;thjk”;.
The newsletters will be delivered to all 225 Members of Parliament (MPs) in his or her preferred language. The remaining 775 copies will be distributed first to senior government and ministry officials, then to members of the private sector, including chambers and related associations, civil society groups, international donors, the media and educational institutions. Newsletters will also be available via Pathfinder’s website and an e-mail listserv encompassing an expected 50 to 500 readers, depending on registration during the “SANVADA”/“ixjdo”/“Rk;thjk” project. Finally, Pathfinder will publish articles and advertise in newspapers across the country to increase newsletter readership and Town Meeting participation.
Promoting Dialogue and Debate among concerned Citizen
Once sources of information come into existence, it is important to utilize them to create change. Therefore, Pathfinder will include in its activities a series of 20 Town/Community Meetings and seminars, designed to support an open and more informed debate on critical issues facing the country.
The Town Meetings will take place when a particular issue discussed in a newsletter requires more public attention or consideration. Pathfinder will arrange these meetings on an as-needed basis to address the pros and cons of legislation based on the information provided in the relevant note. The meetings will be open to the public and convened and conducted by chambers of commerce, business associations, or other NGOs and civil society organizations, in order to ensure neutrality. Pathfinder representatives may be included as speakers or analysts at these events. Each meeting is expected to attract about 50 participants. Meetings will be publicized in local and national media outlets to increase participation levels, and members of the media will be invited to attend as well.
The Town Meetings will build linkages between business leaders and diverse organizations, providing the basis for future unified action in the business community’s advocacy agendas. The meetings will also indicate to policymakers that business is ready to tackle the difficult economic problems facing Sri Lanka. This attitude will increase the possibilities for policy change in parliament.
Policymakers will be directly targeted through periodic seminars. The seminars will take place regularly after the release of a newsletter and will be directed at MPs and government officials. These sessions will focus on a more informed debate and take a closer look at the analysis behind the articles in the newsletter. MPs from all parties will be encouraged to attend and the meetings will be run by a neutral figure, such as the Speaker of Parliament, in order to foster frank discussion. Pathfinder expects each seminar to attract about 35 participants.
The seminars, like the Town Meetings will provide policymakers with critical information on proposed economic reforms. These sessions will take place in a closed environment and will encourage questions, clarifications and debate among parliamentarians. The neutral setting will allow for cross-party discussion and will foster cooperation between diverse political figures. The seminars will also provide policymakers with the background information necessary to seriously discuss needed reforms with business leaders and organizations.