A Tale Of Two Nations

7th June 2012
Sri Lanka, an island country in the midst of Indian Ocean, along with the “South-Asian” tag has many things in common with our Nepal. Buddhism, propagated from Nepal is the major religion here. A SAARC member, SL is also famous for her tea products; like us. We like spice and so do they. I even find Nepali sense of humor similar to Sri Lankans. We laugh at similar jokes and share similar stories. Apart from all these similarities, we have yet another thing in common: Our own Civil wars.
SL has had her share of civil wars. With the Portuguese and Dutch rule in the 16th and 17th century; the island was also colonized by the British in 18th century. In 1948, the country gained its full independence but the leaders tried to please the major ethnicity; massive nationalization program was carried on. In this rage, and amidst all the political instabilities, the minorities Tamils were said to be undermined and with a simple issue of the official language; ethnic tensions brewed within the country. And just after35 years of independence, the country again plunged into yet another brutal and violent civil war. In this war; one Sri Lankan brother was against another and it raged on for 30 years, burning the island. In 2009, the war ended and the country saw a new dawn. Now, 3 years later, SL marked its highest GDP growth rate of 8.5% and Sri Lankans have entered into middle income group.
Personally, I would attribute it to two reasons: 1. Strong Government 2. Investing on People. By, Investing in people I mean the free education and health care facilities in SL. The Health and Education ministries have been allocated Rs.74 billion and 33.25 billion respectively in 2011. Sri Lanka has free education system and free healthcare services for all.
In 1938 the education in Government schools made free of charge as consequence of the Universal Franchise granted in 1931.Subsequently many government schools called Maha Vidyalayas and were started in all parts of the country. The medium of education of Maha Vidyalaya’s is either Sinhala or Tamil. In addition these system lots of private international schools are being introduced to the present day education. All primary junior secondary pupils get their schools uniforms and text books free of charge from the government. Today primary education lasts six years, after which the pupils sit a scholarship examination. Those who passed scholarship examination are qualify themselves to be admitted to popular schools and are granted monthly financial support until they pass out from the university. Those who are not admitted to the universities can either enter vocational technical schools or be employed in companies or in government departments as apprentice or trainees. They can also pursue higher education as external students of traditional universities or at the Open University of Sri Lanka by paying tuition fees. Private universities are also available to those who wish to pay.
Health facilities are also free of charge in Sri Lanka. Everyone has access to quality government health service which has been properly managed and yet free for all. Government invested more than 5% of its expenditures in healthy sector. With 615 institutions providing health service as of 2007, the government has allocated more budgets in the following years to further improve quality and accessibility in health service of the country. Sri Lanka has an extensive network of public health units and hospitals spread across the island.
Hospitals in general are well staffed and equipped to meet the growing curative health demands of the community. Sri Lanka is on track for achieving most of the MDG targets.
The result is visible. The result of investing in people gives 98% literacy rate, 100% health access. The electrification throughout the country is already 98%.This ideal situation coupled with strategic targets and scientific policies have brought radical behavior change amongst individuals and equity at the community level. This also contributes in less gender discrimination, lesser violence and increase in other social security. The well crafted policies also favour a good investing environment and have helped the country to be self- dependant. If you go to a local market, most of the grocery and commodities are Sri Lankan made, export is high too while the imported ones can be counted in fingers, which is exactly the reverse of Nepali situation. Tourism is also flourishing and most importantly people in general are happy. You can see satisfaction in their smiles everyday, even while hanging in a crowded bus.
Edward Gibbon had said “History is indeed a little more than the register of crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.” History illumines reality and guides us in our daily life or should guide us. If we look at our own nation’s history; from the Kirati times some 25,000 years ago, through the lichhavi, Thakuri and Malla dynasty and then the with the unification in Shah Dynasty; and the various political power plays at different levels; we definitely have had our share of history. The woes of decade long civil war are still fresh in our mind and hearts. The scars of war have also been retained in our economy and development and worse these scars are infected with a deadly virus of inefficiency and corruption. These infections are crippling us, as a nation. The recent article in NY Times saying that the country is at the verge of collapse speaks slightly of our situation, we know its worse than what the article says..
So, there are so many things Nepal has to learn from Sri Lanka. Someone had said “A fool learns from one’s own mistakes; while a genius learns from other’s mistakes.” We have had our wars and from the way things are unfolding; more ethnic voices are being raised; ethnic issues are being debated. The government is weak and peace is fragile. As a result, the country is witnessing increasing impunity; more strikes and mismanagement throughout. The constitution is still unwritten and government keeps on making excuses. Justice is continuously being mocked by lawlessness. We have the resources but they are either being wasted or exploited. We are celebrating “national Tourism Year” but the tourists are confined to their hotel rooms with all kinds of strikes. Power cuts, water shortages, fuel crisis inflation have been a part of life for all Nepalese for quite some time now. We get the funding and aids but more than half of it never reaches the target group. Pollution is on rise and the country as a whole is unmanaged.
We have to stop arguing here, unite, set our targets in our country’s favor and take strategic steps to address all emerging issues in time. Or else, we will fight within ourselves again and head towards another era of darkness and violence. We can now either be a fool and chose to make mistakes; or learn from others mistakes and save ourselves from trouble. We can still unite and start afresh. Government should be strong and the country should invest on people. Education and health services should be prioritized and accessible to all. The country has to invest on its people; in both health and education; as it is us, the people who make the country. The resources should be used sustainably; strategically and options such as tourism and other sectors should be managed. The country should find its way towards being self-dependency; local products should be prioritized over foreign products. Nepal must unite and address the problems strategically. Nepal needs to wake up for its dormancy, and we need to do it now, together.

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