Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar addressing a donor briefing jointly with the Finance & Planning Minister Sarath Amunugama at the SLFI on 2nd February stressed the importance of continuing the process of consultations with all partners involved in rebuilding the nation.
Mr. Kadirgamar added that the formulation of the Reconstruction Plan has been a difficult task since Sri Lanka has never before encountered a disaster of such magnitude. As best approaches to rebuilding would require time. He requested the advice and understanding of the donor community with regard to any shortcomings that might be encountered.
Many representatives of the donor community and international organizations commended the work done by the Government within a short time frame in responding to this unprecedented disaster. They observed that the mechanisms established had effectively handled the relief phase and were impressed with the efforts undertaken to deliver speedy and concrete plans for reconstruction. They stressed the importance of the momentum developed by all partners being maintained enabling the effective channeling of assistance.
While reiterating gratitude for the magnificent support already extended by the international community, the two Ministers were confident that their continued cooperation in the reconstruction phase would be forthcoming. Having outlined all the mechanisms established for reconstruction, Minister Kadirgamar informed that the All Party Committee established by the President is actively working to harmonise the views of all political parties.
Referring to the LTTE representatives working with the Government authorities at the district level, he said that the possibility of deepening this cooperation is being discussed.
Minister Kadirgamar welcomed the interest of the non-governmental organizations in participating in post-tsunami reconstruction. The Minister stated that for continued consultations with NGOs a framework for incorporating their activities is being developed. This would also contain a role for the donor governments.
The Foreign Minister urged the donor community to encourage their citizens to return to Sri Lanka as tourists in an effort to revive the hard hit tourism industry. On disaster management he mentioned that Sri Lanka intended to set up a national early warning system, which would be linked to the regional and global systems.
Finance Minister Amunugama stressed the need to continue the practice of regular donor community consultations at all levels of central and local government. The Minister informed that a total US$ 1.7 billion is envisaged for reconstruction. Minister Amunugama said that the possibility of establishing a multi-donor trust fund is being discussed.
Secretary to the Treasury P. B. Jayasundara outlined areas where Government had already implemented rehabilitation support. These include concessional lending schemes for enterprise development and micro lending schemes to reach all levels of economic activity. He added that investment guidelines are being finalized for tourism and related economic activities.
The Ministers welcomed the offer of debt relief to Sri Lanka as it would create space in the budget and help the balance of payments. It was pointed out that Sri Lanka pays approximately US$ 600 million annually to service its US$ 9.5 billion debt portfolio.
They expressed the commitment of the Government to ensuring transparency and accountability for all financial contributions received to which end it has been decided to appoint auditors of international repute. A number of offers are currently being considered.
Chairman of the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN) Mano Tittawella said that the final damage assessment and reconstruction plan would be available on the 15th of February. He informed that TAFREN would undertake the task of matching donors with projects and effective coordination was recognized as critical.
A joint presentation was also made by the representatives of the World Bank, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the Asian Development Bank to introduce the preliminary damage and needs assessment undertaken by these organizations. This document contains preliminary findings and recommendations of assessment and highlights long-term hazard risk management issues.
A number of participants sought clarification of issues relating to the planned reconstruction effort.
Minister Kadirgamar concluded by paying tribute to our own people who had collectively risen to the occasion with selfless acts of bravery, charity and goodwill in the face of the disaster. The Minister observed that this tragedy would create new relationships between the Government and people of Sri Lanka and other governments, NGOs and most importantly countless people across the world who had come to the aid of the country in the aftermath of Tsunami.
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