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ADB approves USD 110 mn loan in additional financing to improve primary health care (PHC) in Sri Lanka



The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $110 million loan as additional financing for the ongoing Health System Enhancement Project that is improving the primary health care (PHC) in Sri Lanka, the ADB said yesterday.

The Health System Enhancement Project, approved in October 2018, is upgrading primary medical care units and division hospitals in Central, North Central, Sabaragamuwa, and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka. It is strengthening health information systems and disease surveillance capacity, as well as supporting policy development, project management, and capacity building in the sector.

The project also provided crucial resources for the immediate emergency response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in March–April 2020.

“Health care services and facilities are more important now than ever. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities in the country’s health care system and we need to address these issues,” said ADB Health Specialist for South Asia Dai-Ling Chen. “This additional investment will further improve the efficiency and equity of health care in Sri Lanka and expand access to primary and secondary level of health services.”

The additional financing will replenish reallocated funds from the ongoing project used for COVID-19 response. This will be used to complete the development of 42 PHC facilities; renovate 127 field health centers; increase nutrition services to mothers and children, especially the most vulnerable groups; and encourage the use of PHC facilities. It will also develop selected secondary care cluster apex hospitals to ensure the continuity of service delivery from primary to secondary care.

The scope of the project has been expanded to provide additional support to include and strengthen the country’s COVID-19 response. It will scale up the capacity of at least 25% of secondary and tertiary level hospitals to treat and manage COVID-19. It will upgrade the 1990 Suwa Seriya ambulance system in all districts.

New initiatives will be introduced such as the scaling up of infrastructure, information technology systems, and e-learning facilities in the National Institute of Health Sciences and nine regional training centers. It will also develop gender-responsive PHC service, hospital design, and PHC training modules.

ADB will provide an additional $3 million from its Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction on a grant basis to improve the efficiency of Sri Lanka’s pre-hospital ambulance system.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region, the Bank said in a statement.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives



Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”



Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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ADB country chief hopes Lanka could sustain policy reforms despite elections



Takafumi Kadono

ECONOMYNEXT –The Asian Development Bank (ADB) expects Sri Lanka not to reverse its International Monetary Fund-led policy reforms despite elections soon, the ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono said.

The island nation has witnessed repeated reversals of policy reforms in the past due to greedy politicians who misled  the people to vote for them by sowing the seeds of subsidy mentality with unsustainable debts at expensive borrowing costs, economists say.

That led the country into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with a sovereign debt default. Sri Lanka is still struggling to come out of the crisis.

The IMF has strictly placed some reforms including in state sector enterprises, fiscal and monetary sectors.

Sri Lanka has implemented the painful IMF reforms so far including higher personal income taxes, but economists have raised concerns over the sustainability of the current reforms due to possible changes in the policies in the event of a new president or government comes to power after democratic elections.

“If that kind of reversal happens, we also cannot justify our support,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono told EconomyNext on late on Wednesday.

“We do expect these policy reforms to be sustained. So that is our expectation. That is the premise which we are providing our budget support. If they reverse, the whole premise will be collapsed. That kind of policy reversal cannot happen.”

The island nation had sought IMF bailout package for 17 times including the ongoing support. However, the authorities have failed to complete most of the past IMF loan disbursements due to politically motivated contradiction with the global lender’s tight fiscal policies.

Sri Lanka has shown some signs of recovery in the third quarter of 2023 with the economic growth turned to positive from contraction for the first time in seven quarters.

However, opposition political parties have promised to revisit the IMF deal if they come to power.

Higher taxes, soaring cost of living, and lack of salary hike have made President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government unpopulour among the public, analysts say.

Wickremesinghe has said the country will hold both presidential and parliamentary election by 2025.

Some government politicians have told EconomyNext that the higher taxes would be eased from April and the authorities will try their best to meet the IMF conditions for the third disbursement in June this year.

The presidential polls should be held by October this year, but opposition parties have said President Wickremesinghe is in the process to delay the poll.

However, Wickremesinghe’s office last week said Presidential Election will be held “within the mandated period”, without giving an exact time.It also said the General Election will be held next year, “according to the current timeline”.

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