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Part of USD 200 mn ADB loan spent on cash assistance scheme for paddy farmers

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USD 3 mn Japanese grant attached to ongoing project

By Shamindra Ferdinando

An agreement on the much advertised cash assistance, provided exclusively to paddy farmers by the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government, was finalised several weeks before then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stepped down on July 14, 2022 amidst violent protests.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided the wherewithal for this purpose to cash-strapped Sri Lanka following a request made on May 20, 2022.

Senior External Relations Officer, ADB, Roshani Yogarajah said that cash assistance to paddy farmers was discussed and decided in June-August 2022 during preparation of the latest project. Cash assistance provided to paddy farmers in two installments during the 2022/2023 Maha season (September-March) would cost USD 30 mn, Yogarajah declared. According to her, USD 30 mn had been allocated from USD 200 mn emergency assistance loan that was sought by Sri Lanka to provide relief to families badly affected by the continuing economic crisis. The Yala season covers May-August.

The ADB spokesperson at the ADB Resident Mission said so in response to The Island queries regarding when Sri Lanka sought the emergency loan, the amount of the ADB facility, terms and conditions of the loan if it was not a grant as indicated by Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera as reported by a section of the media and the total amount of ADB loans provided since the last presidential election held in Nov 2019.

Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the ADB on Sept.09, 2022 for USD 200 mn that has to be paid back with stipulated interest and other charges within 24 years.

The spokesperson said: “The cash assistance referred to in the articles is being supported under the Food Security and Livelihood Recovery Emergency Assistance Project. The government made an official request for the emergency assistance ($200 million to be provided with surplus loan proceeds cancelled from six ongoing projects) in May 2022. The inclusion of the cash assistance to farmers in the emergency assistance was discussed and decided in June-August 2022 during project preparation. The allocation for the cash assistance for farmers (to be provided in two installments during the 2022/2023 Maha season) is $30 million.”

In addition to the USD 200 mn emergency loan, the ADB has diverted USD 40 mn from what it called the Mahaweli Water Security Investment Programme to procure Muriate of Potash (MoP) fertilizer for paddy farmers for 2023 Maha season. According to Yogarajah, 40,000 tonnes of MoP that had been obtained was distributed among farmers.

The ADB said that the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies would execute the project. Sri Lanka sought USD 200 mn from ADB close on the heels of Ranil Wickremesinghe receiving Premiership on May 12 and five days after he received finance portfolio.

In the wake of Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe receiving appointment as Governor, CBSL, in April 2022, Sri Lanka requested the ADB’s intervention. According to the ADB, it has formulated an emergency assistance package in close coordination with the World Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and United Nations agencies. ADB has coordinated with these development partners in preparing the main project, as well as with the Embassy of Japan and JICA, Sri Lanka in designing the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific (JFPR) grant project.

USD 3 mn JFPR grant has been attached to ADB’s USD 200 mn loan with the intention of providing relief to those who were excluded from the ongoing social assistance programme. In terms of a previous agreement between ADB and Japan, the former will administer the USD 3 mn grant.

Asserting Russia-Ukraine war that erupted in February 2022 aggravated the crisis here, the ADB, too, faulted Gotabaya Rajapaksa government for hasty ban on the import of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in May 2021 that resulted in quite heavy loss of paddy production in 2021-2022.

ADB said that it has received assurance from Sri Lanka that the Japanese grant would be subjected to its policies, including those concerning anti- corruption measures, safeguards, gender, procurement, and consulting services.



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NHSL narcotics mafia: DG points finger at SLFP union, blames govt. for inaction

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Deputy Director of the National Hospital, Dr. Rukshan Bellana, who had to be rescued by the police recently as an unruly minor staff laid siege to his office and threatened to cause him bodily harm, yesterday (03) alleged that he was under threat subsequent to the exposure of what he called a narcotics mafia operating in government Hospitals.

In a brief interview with The Island the beleaguered President of the Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) found fault with the government for its lethargic response to threats emanating from a trade union affiliated to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

Responding to queries, Dr. Bellana alleged that a section of the minor staff was trying to force him out of the National Hospital at the behest of trade union leader Roy de Mel. “Contrary to reports and claims, I’m still here,” Dr. Bellana said, warning the government of dire consequences unless action was taken to discipline National Hospital staff.

Dr. Bellana emphasized that the SLFP trade union, under any circumstances, couldn’t be allowed to dictate terms to the health administration. The outspoken official said that the situation was so bad the National Hospital seemed to be in the hands of ruffians in the garb of trade unionists.

The Island raised Dr. Bellana’s accusations with the SLFP trade union leader De Mel who strongly defended their response to what he described as a wholly unnecessary issue caused by the Deputy Director.

There could be some drug addicts as well as drug pushers among the minor staff of the National Hospital, De Mel said, while referring to the recent reportage of the arrest of a minor female employee carrying heroin with a street value of Rs. 250,000 by the Katunayake police. However, Dr. Bellana for some reason only known to him had repeatedly slandered the entire minor staff, de Mel claimed, challenging the Deputy Director to prove his accusations.

Both Dr. Bellana and De Mel accused the Health Ministry of failing to address the issues at hand. Dr. Bellana said that for want of clear instructions from the Health Ministry, the SLFP union was trying to terrorize him. The official demanded that the ministry initiate a no holds barred investigation into the conduct of the SLFP union.

De Mel said that the Health Ministry owed an explanation as to how Dr. Bellana repeatedly exploited mainstream and social media to propagate his accusations whereas other doctors faced disciplinary measures. Reference was made to cases involving doctors at Kataragama and Karapitiya hospitals.

The trade union leader said that it wouldn’t be fair to declare the entire minor staff of the National Hospital drug addicts on the basis of a few cases or unsubstantiated allegations. De Mel pointed out that there had been cases of security forces and police personnel, including an SSP being arrested with narcotics. But such arrests didn’t justify calling the services and police drug addicts, de Mel said, urging the Health Ministry and law enforcement authorities to investigate Dr. Bellana’s accusations.

“We are ready to face investigations, at any level,” De Mel said, claiming that actually he took up the alleged drug issue among minor staff before Dr. Bellana went public with it. De Mel claimed that he appealed not only to minor staff at the National Hospital but other health sector institutions as well.

Dr. Bellana said that de Mel commanded about 200 minor employees whereas the total strength of National Hospital minor staff was approximately 3,200. The total staff consisted of 11,500 including 1,500 doctors and 3,000 nurses.

Referring to a recent appeal made by Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to police officers not to accept hampers from drug dealers, Dr. Bellana said that he expected law enforcement authorities to restore normalcy at the National Hospital. The police seemed to be hesitant to rein in unruly minor staff against the backdrop of a weary political response, Dr. Bellana said, adding that he briefed Minister Alles of the developing situation.

Dr. Bellana said that workers shouldn’t be allowed to threaten disruption of services. Alleging that some minor staff went to the extent of disrupting surgeries, Dr. Bellana said that the Health Ministry couldn’t turn a blind eye to the developing situation.De Mel claimed Dr. Bellana was practicing what he knows best. “He is causing chaos as he did under previous administrations.”

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Seven million Lankans in need of humanitarian assistance:UNICEF

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UNICEF has said seven million people in Sri Lanka are in need of humanitarian assistance due to the economic crisis.In its Sri Lanka Humanitarian Situation Report, issued on 02 February, the UN agency said essential services for children such as health, nutrition, and education have been severely impacted by shortages of medicine, food insecurity, lack of fuel and long power cuts.

In 2022, UNICEF reached over 1.3 million people, including 750,000 children with humanitarian assistance through humanitarian interventions.Over 800,000 people in urban areas have access to safe drinking water, 285,403 children in rural and estate areas were provided with educational materials, and 205,000 adolescents benefited from mental health and psychosocial support services in communities and in schools through UNICEF initiatives, the report said.

UNICEF also piloted a humanitarian cash transfers program which reached 3,010 mothers with young children for three months in the Colombo municipal area in 2022.

This is to be further scaled up to reach 110,000 mothers and caregivers in 2023, the report said.It said that in 2022, UNICEF appealed for 25 million U.S. dollars to provide life-saving humanitarian services to nearly 2.8 million Sri Lankans, including 1.7 million children affected by the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

UNICEF received USD 34 million, however there is uneven distribution of funding received, it said.

UNICEF said: “Some sectors (Education, WASH and Child Protection) remain significantly underfunded, while others (Nutrition and Social Protection) have received almost triple the asked amount. This situation highlights the need for fresh funding into 2023 particularly for the underfunded sectors. In addition, the generous contribution to the cash-based programming was only made available in the fall.

UNICEF Sri Lanka Country Office launched its Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) on 10 June 2022 aligned with the UN inter-agency Humanitarian Needs and Priorities (HNP) appeal for Sri Lanka. The HAC has been funded thanks to the generous contributions of bilateral, public, and private donors. UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, USAID, the Central Emergency Response Fund, UNICEF USA, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (UK) and Global Thematic Humanitarian Funds and many others for their generous contributions, without which UNICEF could not meet the most pressing needs of woman, children, and most vulnerable populations affected by the worst economic crisis the country has experienced since independence. While the HNP expired in December 2022, the need for continued funding to sustain prevailing humanitarian needs post-HNP is critical.”

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Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis passes away

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Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis passed away yesterday, while being treated at a private hospital. He was 90. He received his primary education at St. Bendict’s College, Kotahena, and at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. He was ordained in 1958 and was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo, in 1968. He was appointed as the Bishop of Anuradhapura and as Archbishop of Colombo in 2002.

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