Let’s fight corruption. But let’s protect our State assets from being stolen – by Swasthika Arulingam

Everyone who sits in Parliament today and the President of Sri Lanka grew up benefiting from a welfare state. Free education, free health, subsidized electricity. Then they came to power and corrupted the welfare state; aided corruption let it grow like a cancer and did not allow the welfare State to serve the people.

Today these same people who have been in power for the last several decades, and directly aided corruption are preaching to us about corruption. They tell us dismantling the welfare state is the answer to state corruption. ‘Let the markets take over. For the poor we will have ‘targeted assistance”. They want my generation and the generations to come to struggle for basics and dry out our pockets.

If you are in doubt on how ‘targeted assistance’ works in practice look at how the poor are treated in the seat of Capitalism – the United States. A welfare state is universal. If I want to send my child to a Government School or be admitted in a State hospital I don’t have to fill forms proving that I am poor.

We used to have 98% literacy rate in Sri Lanka. That number didn’t come from no where. It was the result of Universal education provided by a welfare state.

Don’t let them convince you that privatising State assets including the CEB is the answer to the problem. When they privatise, the same corrupted officials and those who put them there and aided their corruption will mint money out of that transaction.

Answer to corruption is very simple – fire the corrupted official. Have an impartial inquiry and fire them.

I speak out of experience. I once headed a unit in a state institution. People who benefited from our services brought corruption as an allegation against this institution. So when I took over we had an inquiry and asked all corrupted officials to resign or face an inquiry. Some left. Some faced an inquiry. Then we hired a strong team of officials to serve the people. For the next ten years the Unit flourished and functioned fine. So I know what I’m talking about.

The welfare state is not a burden to us. It is the reason why we had high literacy rates, low maternal deaths and the reason why even the poorest house had electric lighting.

Let’s fight corruption. But let’s protect our State assets from being stolen under the guise of privatisation by our political and business elites.