Sri Lankan “free” education & “free” health ; a boon or a curse?

Countries like Korea, Malaysia and Singapore are well above Sri Lanka in terms of economic prosperity. Sri Lanka had the same initial conditions belonged to those afore mentioned countries. But what hampered Sri Lanka’s economic growth? ; According to my economic sense, the culprits are the “free” education and the “free” health. The word “free” is within quotations for two reasons. First reason is a universal truth. There is nothing free in this world. Free welfare is distributed at the expense of taxpayer’s money. The second reason is that even though “free” (which is distributed as a benefit) it’s the perpetrator of Sri Lanka’s hindered economic growth.

Sri Lanka boasts a superior literacy rate. But unfortunately intellectuals and skilled labors have no business projects in Sri Lanka to efficiently utilize their skills and abilities. They go abroad in search of better employment opportunities. They should not be blamed. They bring money to Sri Lanka. But if their skills were employed within Sri Lanka, the benefit will be multiplied.

Even though it should have happened long time ago the present government seems to have realized the private sector’s role in education. A lesson learned from the history and from other developing countries. The strong influence of economists played a vital role in influencing the current economic policies as well. Government is now letting foreign universities and other educational institutes to establish in the domestic environment. Not only will it save the millions of costs undertaken by many students who go abroad either because they couldn’t get-through in to a local university or because their career goals are not catered by the local universities.

Privatization of education cannot be achieved overnight. Money should be gradually taken from education expenditure and they should be focused   towards industrial development projects. The developing industrial sector will generate profits while creating job opportunities. The expatriates will return to Sri Lanka since they can employ their skills and knowledge within the limits. It will be a solution for youth unemployment in Sri Lanka as well. Industry sector will economically empower the citizens and that there will be no need of free education or free health.

A particular political ideology and some with cliché nationalist romanticism seems to be against the privatization of education in Sri Lanka. Outwardly, the “free” education and “free” may seem like a boon. That’s why “free” education and “free” health is exploited by a particular political party to win political advantages.
The government medical organization and some university students backed by a particular political party are against the establishment of private medical college at Malabe. Private medical university will clearly diminish the hegemony created by local MBBS doctors. GMO with their terrorist like mafia behaviour is against these medical universities not because they are worried about the innocent patients, but because doctors who come out of private universities will be a threat to their business or in other words their “private practice”. Medical practitioners who come out of foreign universities pay major attention to prevention of diseases. But local doctors do not do so because they can earn money by curing those diseases. Their hypocrisy is evident when they, like a very obedient servant take care of their patients but treat the patients who come to public hospitals like dogs. The local doctor hegemony will lose their power over the government where they demanded very unfair requirements. They would often go on strike for the silliest reasons. Local doctors were reported to even sexually exploit patients. They seems to have forgotten the fact that they are indirectly but clearly paid by those patients. Instead they behave like Sultans. There is a clear attitudinal difference between locally educated doctors and foreign educated doctors. These are just a few examples of the corruption and mismanagement inside the health business in Sri Lanka.

The world index recognizes medical and other graduate programs from countries like Ethiopia and Uganda which are economically less powerful than Sri Lanka. Besides the lecturers within the university system have gained their higher qualifications from foreign nations. The private universities will attract student from other countries as well. There are tuition classes available for students from grade 1 to grade 12 and even for university programs. And management programs are not on par with programs like CIMA and CIM, so students are compelled to follow such programs to get employed. That sums up the effectiveness of “free” education. Moreover when education is given “free” students are extrinsically demotivated. They take “free” education for granted. They are not in need of maximizing the opportunity of education when it is given free. This is in accordance to basic economic principles and commonsense.

One might argue that the war hampered Sri Lanka’s growth. Sure the terrorism affected the economy. The point is that poor economic condition itself might have contributed to the ethnic unrest. Besides country’s expenditure on “free” facilities were not reduced during the war or even after the war.

IT would be unfair if I don’t mention that there are very humane, kind hearted doctors who came out of local medical faculties. Unfortunately there is less of the better kind. There will be a minority who can’t pay for education for various reasons. There should be free education for such people. Scholarships should be given to recognized students. 

As a country Sri Lanka should achieve a substantial higher economic growth before delivering its benefit to the citizens. Above mentioned policy reforms cannot be implemented overnight or on the short run. But its long run benefits are evident, if we look at the speedily growing high performing Asian economies. Sri Lanka seems to be on the right track now but selfish, commonplace objections should be well fought and government should do something to create a consensus among the citizens, regarding its altruistic policy reforms which are for the benefit of the nation, without letting political propagandists, moneymakers and nincompoops to hinder the nation’s economic development.

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