[May 18, 2005 - 10.30 GMT]
The first ever Development Forum chaired by the Sri Lankan Government wound up successfully yesterday in Kandy, with the international donor community making commitments and pledges exceeding US $ 3 billion in the form of grants and moratorium on debts in view of the tsunami reconstruction process and for other development programmes initiated by the Government, Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama announced.
"Ninety five per cent of the assistance committed at the Forum comprise outright grants. There are no loans and there is no repayment also," Minister Amunugama said. "There are absolutely no conditions for the disbursement of these funds to the Government," the Minister added.
Addressing the media after the closing sessions of the Development Forum along with representatives from the World Bank and the IMF, Minister Amunugama said the assistance will be delivered for development projects.
Finance Ministry Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundara said the disbursement of assistance will be for a three to five year well integrated reconstruction plan.
Dr. Amunugama also launched the Sri Lanka Millennium Development Goals Report at the end of the third session of the forum.
The Millennium Development Goals Report, a survey of the country's progress in meeting the world's targets for dramatically reducing extreme poverty in its many dimensions, hails Sri Lanka's decades-long success in tackling infant and maternal mortality, high literacy rates and near universal education for both girls and boys.
According to the report's co-authors - Tilani Jayawardhana and Shihana Samad, Sri Lanka ranks 96th with an index of 0.740 among 177 countries in terms of the Human Development Index.
The report was produced by the government's National Council for Economic Development, and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the World Bank and the UN Country Team and Multilateral Group in Sri Lanka.
Millennium Development Goals report at a glance:
* Over five million Sri Lankans (about a quarter of the population) live below the national poverty line. (The national poverty line as set by the Department of Census and Statistics is: Rs. 1,423 for real food and non-food consumption per person per month).
* There is great disparity in poverty figures from urban and rural areas. Between 1990 and 2002, poverty has declined sharply in the Colombo district but has increased in the Moneragala, Badulla, Ratnapura and Kegalle districts.
* It is likely that the overall level of poverty would be higher if data from the north and east were available.
* Malnutrition is an acute problem especially among pre-school children and mothers in Sri Lanka. Some 13.5 per cent of children below the age of 5 are stunted, while 14 per cent are wasted and 29.4 per cent are underweight. One of every three women is stunted and 36 per cent is anaemic.
* Youth literacy rates increased from 92.7 per cent in 1990 to 95.6 per cent in 2001.
* Some 50,000 school aged children in the north and east are not in school. The dropout rate is 15 percent.
* Unemployment rates rose from 6.8 per cent in 1999 for males to 7.3 per cent in mid-2002 and 11.8 per cent for females in 1999 to 14.8 mid-2002.
* Female unemployment rates have been double those of men for three decades.
* In the last decade, over 40 per cent of unemployed people are from the 20 to 24 age group.
* In 2002, 54 per cent of total unemployed people either qualified in the General Certificate of Education ‘Ordinary Level’ examination or above.
* Infant mortality in 2002 was only 17 per 100,000 live births.
* The 1996 maternal mortality rate is 24 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
* HIV prevalence between 15 to 49 year olds in 2003 was less than 0.1 per cent.
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