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EU, UNDP support for rebuilding tourism

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The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka to help Sri Lanka rebuild tourism as a resilient and sustainable sector through an initiative called, ‘The Transforming Tourism in Sri Lanka: Emerging from crisis as a strong, resurgent and rebranded industry’.

The UNDA has said, a key expected outcome of this initiative is to strengthen the tourism policy framework and institutional capacity at national level, providing vital policy direction to rebuild, recover and trigger transformational change for more sustainable and inclusive tourism in the country. The draft Tourism Policy aims to create a unique tourism experience for travellers to Sri Lanka and create sustainable and inclusive benefits for all actors in the tourism industry. This in turn will aid in protecting Sri Lanka’s best features; its natural resources, culture and history while benefitting local communities, taking us a step closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – leaving no one behind.

To this end, the Ministry of Tourism (MoT), in line with the recently published draft National Tourism Policy and public call for comments to the draft, held a meeting yesterday to discuss the engagement of the EU and UNDP in supporting tourism, particularly, in the implementation of the National Tourism Policy. The meeting was chaired by S. Hettiarachchi, Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, with the participation of Jenny Correia Nunes, Head of Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives and Robert Juhkam, Resident Representative of UNDP in Sri Lanka. Also present at the meeting were Suranga Vithanage, Director General (Planning), Ministry of Tourism; Dhammika Wijayasinghe, Director General, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA); and members of the Tourism Working Group.

The UNDP has, in a media statement, said: “Speaking at the meeting on the importance of the National Tourism Policy, Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism S. Hettiarachchi, stated, “due to the nature of the tourism industry, developing policies after consulting the diverse array of stakeholders ensures a sustainable solution that is beneficial for Sri Lanka to unlock its true potential in developing tourism. The Ministry of Tourism looks forward to cross-collaborating and working closely with all other relevant ministries, in order to create a more resilient tourism industry.”

“Reiterating the EU’s support, Head of the Development Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Jenny Correia Nunes stated, “The EU has been supporting Sri Lanka in a number of sectors including rural development, private sector support, justice and social inclusion. In response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now also focusing on tourism as we see the great potential and value addition it brings in terms of holistic economic and social development for the country and its citizens.”

“Highlighting UNDP’s overall support to tourism recovery, Resident Representative of UNDP in Sri Lanka Robert Juhkam, stated “UNDP helped bring together multiple stakeholders to widen the consultative process, importantly bridging perspectives and ensuring inclusiveness of Sri Lanka’s sustainable tourism revival. Creating this platform for key associations, communities, private sector and government entities at the national and sub-national level to provide their recommendations has significantly strengthened the draft National Tourism Policy. UNDP looks forward to assisting the Ministry to continue this consultative platform to promote the implementation of the Policy’s social, economic and environmental sustainability objectives in years to come.”

“The collaboration between the EU and UNDP signifies the critical importance of tourism to Sri Lanka’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery. The Transforming Tourism Project will aim to address the urgent needs of the industry, strengthening the institutional framework and capacity to set it on a trajectory for a greener, more resilient future.



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“Foreign bond holders more important to govt. than hard-pressed people”

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SJB slams GR’s policy speech

The main opposition SJB says that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Policy Speech delivered in Parliament on Jan 18 failed to provide solutions to the crises faced by the country.

Addressing a press briefing held at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo on Thursday, SJB MP Eran Wickremaratne said that the crises with regard to economic management and governance had gone beyond the control of the government subjecting the masses to severe hardships without essential goods and services.

Wickremaratne said that  there had been no increase in the value of  GDP supporting the domestic and foreign borrowings by this government during the last two years.

He accused the government of giving priority to paying off debts of foreign cronies while  starving the people without essential foods inclusive of fuel for electricity generation.

“People who could not afford to basic necessities despite having cash in hand due to the shortage of dollars and foreign exchange now had to stay in the dark for several hours a day without electricity due to lack of fuel as the govt has not been able to maintain a supply chain properly. But the government, having crossed its wires, gives priority to repaying the loan to its cronies while mounting pressure on its citizens,” Wickremaratne said.

“President Rajapaksa’s Throne Speech did not provide answers to any of  the current problems  facing the country. Although the country faced two major problems, there was no answer to either of them in the President’s policy statement.

“First, rising commodity prices push up inflation increasing  vegetable prices. Secondly, the import of essential commodities has come to a complete standstill due to the foreign exchange deficit. There is a shortage not only for  food and fuel but also for  medicines for the people.”

He said only 25% of the country’s essential medicines are produced locally and the rest are imported. There is also a shortage of essential medicines due to lack of dollars for imports.

At a time when the people are under so much of  pressure, the government is  boasting of servicing   international sovereign bonds on time. People need to be told the secret of why foreign debtors are more important to the government than the citizens of the country, Wickremaratne said.

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COVID-19 on the rise again; 800+ new cases a second day running

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(Economynext) New COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Sri Lanka, with health authorities detecting over 800 new infections on Thursday (20) for a second consecutive day.

With the 827 new cases, total cases in the country have gone up to 599,363, official data showed.

Around 15,279 patients are currently receiving treatment in hospital or at home.

With 12 deaths reported in the last 24 hour period, the island nation’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 15,243.

Health authorities warned that the sector could face challenges managing new patients if daily cases continue to surge.

Officials are also concerned about an apparent hesitance for the booster dose of the vaccine that was largely absent in the initial rollout.

“We have provided the opportunity to get the booster countrywide. But because the fatality rate is now low people may think taking it is no longer necessary,” State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production Channa Jayasumana said speaking to journalists on Friday (21).

“Sri Lanka will go back to the previous state with people not taking the booster dose,” he warned.

The booster rate is very low compared to Sri Lanka’s otherwise impressive vaccination numbers, said Jayasumana.

“Only 4.8 million have taken the booster so far, and only 26,796 came forward yesterday to get it.

“With the increase of patients, even though the fatality rate is low, it can be overwhelming for the health sector if patient numbers in hospital wards and ICUs go up.”

Sri Lanka has so far vaccinated 16.3 with the first dose while 13.8 have received both doses.

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Prevention, cooperation, mutual assistance essential to counter connected nature of terrorists in South Asia – Army Chief

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Prevention, cooperation and mutual assistance in controlled measures at international borders are essential to counter the transnational and connected nature of terrorists and criminal activists in the South Asian region, said Chief of Defence Staff and Army Commander General Shavendra Silva on Thursday, emphasising on the need of law enforcement’s institutional reforms based on common and agreed policies.”

“In the legitimate government efforts to fight terrorism or organised crimes, in this regard, a possible South Asian regional treaty could promote counter-terrorism and anti-crime measures by promoting institutional structures and decision-making processes to promote cooperation, coordination, shared expertise and common legal approaches,” said Silva while virtually addressing the “Countering use of Crypto Currencies to Finance Terrorism” event on Thursday.

“Due to the transnational and connected nature of terrorists and criminal activists in our region, prevention, cooperation and mutual assistance in controlled measures at international borders are essential,” he added.

The General also said that there are avenues for collaboration by establishing information exchange at customs, imposing immigration barriers and commonly agreeing on the regulation of transporting and stockpiling of weapons and drugs, dangerous goods or potential warlike equipment.

Emphasising that mutual assistance can be enhanced by extending measures for collecting evidence of suspects, exchange of wanted personnel and etc, Silva said that enhancing the capacities of regional countries to handle terrorism and criminals would depend extensively on the training of law enforcement agencies.

“Apart from training for military personnel, of a particular country, it is also essential to carry out joint training for various armed forces of the South Asian region. Conducting counter-terrorism operations at a regional scale would also require regional funding. It is understood that funding counter-terrorism campaigns in recent times has become quite expensive due to the sophistication of insurgence,” Silva added.

The General also said that “this is where we need cooperation as very experience armies, who have long been engaging in counter-terrorism operations, we have specialities, therefore we can share each other’s specialities to counter each other’s imitations.”

“Law enforcement’s institutional reforms based on common and agreed policies and principles in the regional countries feel enhanced the compatibility between the countries in fighting transnational crimes and terrorism,” he added. (ANI)

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