In early 2020 when the first COVID-19 wave swept across Sri Lanka, triggering lockdowns, and impacting livelihoods, the World Bank and the government came together to support emergency response actions across multiple hard-hit sectors, a World Bank news release said.
“The result was the creation of the Contingent Emergency Response Components (CERC) Pool covering key economic sectors of agriculture, education, ICT, transport, and disaster risk management”, a news release from the bank said.
“Within weeks, the CERC Pool reallocated $56 million from ongoing projects to support prioritized COVID-19 recovery and response activities. The CERC Pool, launched in September 2020, is supporting COVID-19 affected communities, strengthening resilience by online education ensuring food security, safe transport, water and sanitation, preparedness to floods, and expanding digital infrastructure.”
This is only the second time in the Bank’s history when CERC resources have been combined from many ongoing projects into one account to meet an unprecedented COVID-19 emergency in Sri Lanka, it added.
“The World Bank COVID-19 response CERC Pool was put together in a couple of weeks. We reallocated Bank funds to match the pandemic requirements at the request of the government,” said World Bank Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Chiyo Kanda. “The aim was to realign available funds according to government priorities.”
Agriculture and food security
Outlining sector support the release said a total of $18.6 million was earmarked to support agriculture and food security needs. CERC Pool is supporting the construction of 104 crop storage facilities for small scale farmers growing onions, mung beans, groundnut, and cowpea. Farmers also received high quality seeds to continue their livelihood despite pandemic disruptions. The storage units are on State land to promote equitable access and are expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Under COVID-19 prevention the World Bank is also supporting the government to increase water and sanitation services in schools to improve daily disinfection and cleaning protocols. These measures include redesigning and installing additional facilities to ensure basic water, sanitation, and waste management services. These measures will be critical to resume onsite education and reduce the disparities that have emerged due to the pandemic.
Funds will also be used to provide catch-up and remedial education, which has become increasingly more important as school closures drag on due to the third COVID-19 wave.
Some funds have also been earmarked to support online education and set up a system for tele-education and e-learning for school and university students. This will include lectures and content for TV broadcasts, radio broadcasts, and print material. High speed Wi-Fi internet connections will also be provided to 651 rural schools, along with computers, smart boards, and TVs.
“Well-developed digital education has the potential to be a game changer in education. The World Bank hopes to engage and support Sri Lanka’s digital development efforts further and this will very likely be a key focus in the next Country Partnership Framework said, Chiyo Kanda.
Under the $5.95 million ICT component, the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), in collaboration with various stakeholders, is working to improve digital infrastructure and bring public services online, to allow government officials to work efficiently from home. Under this initiative ICTA is rolling out the following activities: expansion of the Lanka Government Cloud 2.0 (LGC 2.0) including the establishment of a high-availability disaster recovery site, implementation of a government-wide email and collaboration system and video conferencing facility, and a pilot digital forms submission platform (forms.gov.lk). These CERC activities are part of a broader digital transformation effort to implement a “whole-of-government approach” to improve the delivery of public services, making digitalization the way forward for Sri Lanka.
The $24.2 million allocation from the transport sector is to implement sanitation and COVID-19 related social distancing measures on public transport. CERC activities have focused on the purchase of non-contact Infrared (IR) thermometers in buses, provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for transport employees, and to procure sanitizer spray machines for 300 bus terminals.
Disaster Risk Management
Close to $1.61 million allocation under CERC Pool supports flood response activities including setting up centres/camps to provide shelter to displaced persons from seasonal monsoon related flooding, purchase of folding field beds, thermometers, first aid kits, PPE, power banks, cleaning equipment and ration packs. In addition, the support includes purchase of fuels for operation of machinery and vehicles to ensure flood preparedness and timely support for displaced people.
“CERC Pool has shown the importance of incorporating disaster risk management across critical sectors to improve country’s disaster preparedness and ensure timely support for affected people during emergencies”, Ms. Kanda added. “The World Bank remains committed to contribute to Sri Lanka’s efforts to build back better.”
Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries
The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.
The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.
Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.
Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.
Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.
Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.
Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.
The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.
So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.
He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.
“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.
Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.
Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter
The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.
The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.
• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893
• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals
• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252
• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance
• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987
The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.
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