Changes are inevitable. But, many fear change. They mainly fear change because they fear how ‘change’ will affect them personally. Whether the change is good or bad, or whether it benefits many, does not enter into the initial equation. We treat change with skepticism at first, and then begin to accept it gradually. As time goes by, we eventually become used to them.
But, then new changes come in and the cycle continues. Change, when it is forced, is an unwelcome guest.
Sri Lanka is no exception to resistance to change. The country’s public sector is an apt example where changes are resisted and responses are made through protests.
Over the years, most institutions in the country’s public sector have resisted change.
The fact that our public sector needs to change is no new phenomenon. While the private sector firmly believes in service providers and customers, the mindset is totally differed in our public sector.
The organization is the giver and the general public is the receiver. On most occasions than one, the Public is at the proverbial receiving end.
You would have at least once had the experience of being sent from pillar to post in a public sector office to get a letter signed, only to be told that the relevant officer was at lunch, or off for the day. You would then have to make that entire trip on another day.
But we still do it because there are services that are only provided by the country’s State sector. The issue here is that there is a big mismatch in the number of customers and the resources to cater to the customers.
Take for instance, the country’s transportation system. Public transportation is a nightmare for millions of people who travel by bus and trains. The race between SLTB and private buses, and then among the private buses, are a nuisance in itself.
Then you have the railways. It has become a normal sight for us to see commuters hanging out from all sides of the train compartment, risking their lives every day in order to get to work and back home.
The number of passengers seems to be increasing, but not the number of compartments. Why are not the authorities increasing a few compartments so that the people will not have to keep their lives on the line when they travel?
There are millions of commuters, but limited buses and train compartments.
In most cases, the public would never bother about the government if three things are functioning properly, namely, power, transportation and postal. Sri Lanka is no exception. Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, at least two of the sectors have become a matter of concern for the public, and for the government.
On the other hand, not a day goes by without a protest in Sri Lanka today. In fact, there are more traffic jams due to protests than because of errant drivers and accidents.
On several occasions they have come to the streets against government’s moves to bring changes to the existing system. The aim of the government is to give the public the service it deserves in this sophisticated age, a service comparable to other developed nations. After all, the government is mindful of the millions of people who vie daily to obtain services.
A government not only wants a satisfied population but a contented voter base.
The problem arises here when the government wants to make things better for the million odd members of the public, a few thousand workers in a particular organization gang up against proposed changes.
It is the bailiwick or little empires they want to protect their cushy life with no care for the public.
But why hold the public to ransom? In most cases, members of the general public are helpless. They cannot do much about it except to mutter to themselves, post statuses on social media platforms and go to their homes.Yes, they do come back to you for their needs, but that should not be taken for granted. The public sector is indeed service-oriented.
But the officials are being paid for what they do. It is therefore not fair to test the patience of the public just because you do not want something changed.
Published in the Nation on March 18, 2017