Harsha : Development priorities are ‘completely wrong’

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UNP’s economic spokesperson Harsha de Silva has told  a local Daily newspaper that a future Maithripala administration would continue  some of the development projects started by the present government.  In an interview published on DailyFT,  Dr de Silva says that although projects such as the Chinese-built Colombo Port City will be reevaluated to consider environmental impacts and feasibility,  a new administration would continue some of the work started by the present government.

“We have the Western Province Metropolitan Mega City project.” says Dr de Silva referring to the 2003 UNP government’s Singaporean-designed mega development plan to turn the western province into a megalopolis.  “What Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa does is take ad hoc projects from the Singaporean plan that Ranil Wickremesinghe came up with in 2003 and implement them. The Defence Secretary is not doing the whole project. He is just taking things from here and there and doing it.”.

It may be true that some of the projects undertaken by the UDA under the Defence Secretary were indeed plans from the short-lived 2002 UNP government, but the political authority required to make-way for these developments may not have come without the domineering presence of the Defence Secretary.  Moving away army barracks and clearing other government-owned properties to allow for upmarket shopping precincts  would have created an uproar of epic proportions that a UNP-led government under Mr Wickramasinghe would unlikely to have withstood politically.

The economist-turned-politician however said, that the government’s development priorities are wrong.   “The issue is before available land is fully utilised we are reclaiming.” says Harsha referring to the Port City Project. “We don’t know what the purpose is.There is enough land. There are acres of land which can be utilised before reclaiming the sea. The prioritization is completely wrong. The Dehiwala and Nugegoda overhead bridges came after nearly 100 years. But in Hambantota, even before they fixed traffic lights they have constructed overhead bridges.”

When asked about how a new government could curb corruption,  Dr de Silva responded that proposals by the common candidate Maithripala Sirisena has a two pronged strategy. “One is by providing citizens with the right to information. The other one is that the first minister who is caught in corruption will be dealt with by the law.” Said the opposition lawmaker. “No politician can give a guarantee that our guys will not rob.” he admitted. “At an overall level, discretion must be reduced. Currently there is so much discretion.” he concluded.

Sri Lanka goes to the polls on January 8, with the opposition hoping to upset the incumbent president Rajapska.

Dr de Silva’s full interview is available on the web.