|Sunday, 27 March 2005|
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Resurrecting the CTB
Media reports say the Government has decided to resurrect the Central Transport Board (CTB). In fact, this has been a long felt need and a repeated demand of the workers as well as the commuters who are now getting a raw deal from the private bus operators.
Passenger transport services have progressively deteriorated over the past years. Private sector operated bus services have seen continuous deterioration after the initial period immediately since privatisation.
Today there is complete breakdown of services and road discipline. The private operators are a law unto themselves. These operators are committing every traffic offence in the book and punitive action by the police often result in wildcat strikes against the police. They often blackmail the public and the government by these actions.
Privatised omnibus transport has blown the lid over the oft-repeated myth that private enterprises are more efficient and productive than state enterprises. Senior citizens still nostalgically refer to the CTB under Anil Moonesinghe, which provided an efficient and disciplined service to the public.
The government has a duty by the public to ensure safe and trustworthy transport facilities to the public. Successive governments had abandoned this duty at the behest of multilateral donor agencies that lured them on the garden path of market fundamentalism.
That is why the present government deserves public commendation for its bold decision to resurrect the CTB.
It is necessary at this stage to ponder how the old efficient CTB came to its end. Needless to say it was a logical sequel to the mismanagement and inefficiency that plagued the institution as a result of political appointments and excessive political patronage.
It was in that context those at the helm of political power in the post-1977 era found it profitable for them to break up the centralised state transport system into several pieces and share the booty among their cronies. Further, when the management of the cluster companies was given to persons with vested interest in running private bus services the fate of state transport was sealed.
If the resurrected CTB is to function as a financially viable institution the system of granting privileges to political or personal stooges should be done away with. There cannot be divided loyalties among the workforce. They should have a single-minded commitment to provide a better service to the commuter.
Scientific management systems should be introduced and excessive cadres have to be retired under a suitable voluntary Retirement Scheme. In this context it is also necessary to do away with a negative tendency that followed several past general elections when certain operational staff loyal to the party that came to power abandoned their operational posts and acquired clerical, supervisory or managerial roles seriously undermining the operations of the institutions.
Thus while there is excess labour in the cluster bus companies they are short of drivers and other operational staff.
The government must also provide a level playing field for the state transport sector to compete with the private transport sector. It should no longer mollycoddle the private operators and allow them to flout every rule and law in the traffic book.
The resurrection of the CTB would also disempower the political mafia that holds commuters to ransom by wildcat strikes.
Last week UN Secretary General announced a package for UN reform titled "In Larger Freedom - Towards development, Security and Human Rights for All". The UN formed soon after the Second World War primarily to ensure peace in the world reflected the geo-political realities of that day.
Since then tremendous changes have taken place in the world- the break up of the colonial world and the emergence of free nations, the demise of the bipolar world and now the emergence of contours of a multi-polar world in the days to come, to name a few.
The reform of the Security Council is a vital and urgent necessity. The developing nations have no say in it largely due to the anachronistic veto powers given to the present permanent members. There is also geographical imbalance in the Council. While the UN system has to be reformed to reflect these geo-political changes, the UN must also set its priorities to suit the present day reality.
In this sense the Secretary General's Report is both timely and welcome. The Report argues that the world will not have development without security, will not have security without development and will not enjoy either without respect for human rights. The Report is a bold initiative, which should receive the support of all countries.
Produced by Lake House