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Lanka calls for UN intervention to help poor countries

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Unparallelled economic and debt crisis

 The Sri Lankan government has called UN intervention on behalf of developing countries struggling to cope up with an unprecedented economic and debt crisis due to corona pandemic.

Dayani Mendis, Acting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday (15) said that the need for debt relief and financial stimulus for these countries must be duly recognized.

She said: “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 1.5 million migrant workers from Sri Lanka were overseas. Many of these migrant workers are facing the grim prospect of losing their jobs and means of livelihood, while some are faced with the challenge of enforced return.”

The following is the text of her statement in Geneva: “As this Council is aware, last November, the people of Sri Lanka gave a resounding mandate to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to pursue a policy framework aimed at achieving the fourfold outcome of “a productive citizenry, a contented family, a disciplined and just society and a prosperous nation.”

 This historic mandate was renewed by the people at the General Election held last August, with an unprecedented percentage of 59.09% votes, for the first time in the history, in an election held under the Proportional Representation System. This is a clear signal of the support of the people of Sri Lanka for a path forward for the country, towards prosperity while safeguarding the people and protecting the sovereignty of the country without succumbing to any force.

 At a time when even highly developed countries in the world were left with a substantial challenge in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka was able to successfully face the challenge by containing its spread, thanks to a well-coordinated mechanism of preventive measures at the national level, assisted by a robust local healthcare system.

 This was a result of a series of measures taken by the Government to mitigate the challenges posed by COVID-19, which have been inclusive, non-discriminatory and holistic, providing foremost importance to safeguarding the health and safety of its people. Such measures included, financially supporting low income families, pensioners and differently-abled, day-income earners and farmers, managing the repatriation of Sri Lankans in a coordinated manner, exploring avenues of business to create new economic trends while supporting existing industries and moving forward to the use of the digital technology including to connect the farmer, consumer and supplier, delivery of essential items and services, and distant education.

 The WHO has commended Sri Lanka’s efforts to control COVID-19 more effectively than more resourced countries even with modest means. Sri Lanka is the first in South Asia to have successfully conducted Parliamentary elections early last month with a 71% voter turnout and was among the first countries in South Asia to open schools and bring back children in a safe way, as commended by UNICEF. Furthermore, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has recently stamped Sri Lanka as a safe haven for tourists.

 The Government of Sri Lanka has given high priority towards addressing their concerns, providing food and medicines where required, and where possible, working with the host countries to obtain legitimization of their status and medical facilities including testing for COVID-19.

 Through a whole-of-Government approach to overcome the challenges and manage the health, quarantine and travel logistics aspects, Sri Lanka is currently in the process of expediting the return of nearly 40,000 migrant workers.

Sri Lanka notes with concern that developing countries are facing an unprecedented economic and debt crisis due to the pandemic. The need for debt relief and financial stimulus for these countries must be duly recognized. It is important to provide necessary financial support to such countries enabling them to face diverse socio-economic consequences caused or aggravated by the pandemic. It is also essential to ensure that all countries have unrestricted access to vital medical resources required to respond to Covid-19 and do not face impediments in their procurement.

 Sri Lanka believes in national and regional level initiatives to complement and strengthen the global response to this crisis. Accordingly, Sri Lanka has contributed USD 5 million to the SAARC COVID – 19 Emergency Fund to assist the South Asian region in its efforts to deal with this challenge.”



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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