Sri Lankan president plans to decentralize civil service and youth-led culture after crisis

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is exploring measures to decentralize key public institutions to reduce the number of civil servants coming to the capital Colombo and prioritize youth-led agriculture to achieve greater productivity, said his office said on Saturday (11) as the country faces its worst economic crisis with fuel shortages and a looming food crisis.

Government officials told EconomyNext that Rajapaksa’s administration has been struggling to secure fuel supplies for public transport as its foreign exchange reserves have been depleted for imports and repaying foreign loans over the past two years.

The government has already reduced the number of working days for many public sector employees by four per week to save fuel. Government officials told EconomyNext that a special holiday declared for next Monday is also an attempt to save fuel and energy, alongside a holiday already declared on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka faces a looming food crisis as farmers have been unable to produce enough food after President Rajapaksa banned chemical fertilizers overnight in April last year, while the shortage of foreign currency and the sharp depreciation of the US dollar have made food imports very expensive.

The president said that “the decentralization of key public institutions from the capital to the provinces could reduce the number of civil servants coming to Colombo,” the President’s Media Division (PMD) said in a statement.

The President made the remarks during a special discussion held at the President’s House on Friday (10) on the role of the Ministry of Public Administration, Interior and Local Government and the Accelerated Home Gardening Scheme.

The main public institutions are located in the capital Colombo and thousands of civil servants come to Colombo from other districts and provinces for jobs and to obtain their essential services. These centralized efforts have increased fuel consumption in the island nation which has struggled to provide fuel for motorists and generate electricity despite prolonged power cuts since February.

President Rajapaksa has also focused on increasing agricultural produce to boost agriculture, the PMD said. The economic crisis followed by excess money printing and a sharp depreciation of the rupee also pushed food prices to a high level, with food inflation reaching 57.4% in May.

The Ministries of Public Administration and Agriculture have decided to launch a combined national food security program titled “Grow Together – Win the Country”, PMD said.

“The president also advised prioritizing youth in the agricultural sector to achieve greater productivity and plan for higher yields using new technologies,” the PMD said. (Colombo/June 11, 2022)

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