[May 18, 2005 - 9.00 GMT]
The development partners commended the government and the people of Sri Lanka for their immediate and effective response to the tsunami tragedy. They noted with satisfaction the near completion of the first phase of the recovery process. The Government expressed its appreciation for the prompt and generous support it received from the international community.
The Government and the donor community issuing a joint communiqué at the conclusion of the Sri Lanka Development Forum yesterday said they particularly appreciated the three presentations made by the Government Agents of Mullaitivu, Trincomalee and Matara, which graphically described the challenges on the ground in addressing the needs of the affected populations.
The development partners reaffirmed their continued commitment to assist Sri Lanka in the ongoing rehabilitation and reconstruction phase. They agreed that the reconstruction strategy that has been formulated based on a set of guiding principles that would include inter alia (a) allocation of resources based on identified local needs and priorities, (b) delegation or subsidiarity to the lowest level of government, (c) consultation with affected communities, (d) ensuring transparency, accountability and flexibility, (e) reduction of future vulnerabilities, (f) sensitivity to equity considerations and (g) effective coordination between the Government and development partners, should be operationalised.
While noting that financing was not an issue given that the pledges and commitments already made now stand at approximately US dollars 3 billion including debt relief, the Forum focused on the implementation challenges currently being faced, among which were the operationalising of the guiding principles and effective donor coordination.
The development partners noted the significant progress that had been made with respect to transitional housing and permanent housing, and stressed the importance of an early resolution of the problems related to land acquisition and allocation.
While recognizing the need for the establishment of appropriate buffer zones for coast conservation and safety, the development partners urged the government to adopt maximum flexibility to allow for a more practical implementation of the principle, especially in areas of acute land shortage.
The Government reiterated its commitment to a number of key initiatives with regard to the need to improve information flows and coordination mechanisms involving all key partners, including non-state stake holders whose contribution is critical in the post tsunami recovery effort; the clarity of roles at all levels and the determination to assign responsibility to the lowest possible level of government, while strengthening their capacity; and monitoring mechanisms with a focus on transparency, accountability and good governance.
For their part, the development partners committed themselves to assist Sri Lanka in these efforts and in ensuring that their pledges of financial and technical assistance would be realized, and to deepen their coordination process to minimise the burden on Government's administrative capacity.
Economic Conditions and Policies
The Government presented an analysis of recent economic developments and current economic conditions, and set out its plans for the medium term. The development partners commended the Government for its endeavours to address the current macroeconomic imbalances and structural bottlenecks. Among the areas of concern noted on the macroeconomic front were the need to raise investment especially for infrastructure, the need to strengthen government revenue performance to address the problem of continuing high fiscal deficits and growing public debt, and the need to reduce inflationary pressures that could be exacerbated by rising petroleum prices and high levels of inflows and domestic activity related to post-tsunami reconstruction.
Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Millennium Development Goals
The Government presented its discussion paper for a 'New Development Strategy, a Framework for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction' (FEGPR) based on accelerated growth, reduced regional imbalances, and improved opportunities for the poor. It also presented its report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as a number of more detailed presentations such as those on NCED, SEMA, financial sector reforms, and administrative reforms.
The international community commended the Government for the quality of these reports. Development partners noted the issues of income distribution and regional disparity in economic activity in Sri Lanka and how these were impacting on the prospects for achieving MDGs.
While the proposals that had been
introduced to the Forum were viewed as encouraging, it was agreed that more
work was required, especially on how to improve the growth prospects for the
poor. In particular, the principle of 'no growth, no poverty reduction' was
espoused, and the government was encouraged to continue to build consensus
on the specific strategies for increasing economic growth.
While committing itself to key economic reforms, the government would pay particular attention to the reform design and sequencing of the implementation process.
The development partners offered their strong support for such efforts and looked forward to further discussions of the government's PRS.
Partnership and Peace
The participants welcomed the maintenance of the ceasefire agreement, the continued efforts to implement the National Plan of Action for Children, and the efforts toward a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
There was strong support for efforts to bring all communities into the process through a possible joint mechanism for managing post-tsunami assistance in the affected areas in the North and East.
The international community strongly endorsed the idea of such a mechanism and encouraged the parties to continue their efforts to bring it to fruition as soon as possible to ensure effective aid distribution at ground level. The Forum especially welcomed the strong commitment by Her Excellency the President in moving toward consensus building through wider consultation. Several partners indicated their support and cooperation for her initiative and commitment.
The partners expressed the hope that this joint mechanism would contribute to creating an environment that would lead to enhanced mutual trust and confidence-building between parties to the conflict, thus enhancing the prospects for peace.
There was a clear recognition that a just and durable peace acceptable to all her communities would remain the top priority on Sri Lanka's agenda and that with a return to lasting peace, maintenance of macroeconomic stability and effective implementation of a comprehensive PRS, prospects for sustained economic prosperity in Sri Lanka will be greatly enhanced.
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