Development Vision can't exist independent of conflict - World Bank

[TamilNet, Monday, 29 January 2007, 11:17 GMT]
Sri Lanka's inflation, if continued at the current levels of nearly 20 percent, the year 2007 will not be a good year for the economy of the country, warned World Bank's Vice President for the South Asia Region, Praful Patel, in his opening remarks for the 2007 Sri Lanka Development Forum, held at Galle, Monday, at the invitation of the Government of Sri Lanka. "It is the conflict that constrains the country's development and stands in the way of its tremendous potential," Mr. Patel said stressing that a "development vision" cannot exist independently of the conflict.

"The government's draft 10-year development framework, Mahinda Chintana: Vision for a New Sri Lanka, outlines a path for lifting 4 million mostly rural Sri Lankans out of poverty, while building on the growth that enabled the Western Province to practically eliminate poverty.

"The World Bank shares this vision."

World Bank's Vice President for the South Asia Region, Praful Patel.
"But, I caution that we cannot spend two days discussing development plans if we do not place the conflict squarely in our sights as the largest obstacle," said the Vice President of the Bank, who oversees the Bank's operations in South Asia.

"A development vision cannot exist independently of the conflict," the Bank's vice presdient, who specializes in the development field, with an emphasis on lesser developed countries' infrastructure, poverty programs, institutional and capacity building and multisectoral project design and packaging.

Stating that the renewed and deepening conflict in Sri Lanka was looming over everything else to be discussed in the Forum, he recalled the Bank's own experience in the conflict-affected areas in NorthEast.

"We ourselves had made some fairly good progress since around 2001 working in conflict-affected areas in the North and East helping people rebuild their lives and their agriculture.

"Working there was extremely difficult and often delicate.

"But all sides found the will to find a way.

"Over 20,000 ha of agricultural land were brought back into active production, rice production had increased by about 90,000 metric tones per year and water supplies had been restored to about 20,000 families.

"The progress we made together has now been stopped in its tracks."

The Sri Lankan government needs to enable the World Bank to do it's job better by creating a more conducive environment, Patel said in his address.

He further referred to researchers' estimates that the conflict has cost the economy 2 to 3 percentage points of GDP growth annually-growth that could have eliminated poverty in the country by now.

"This estimate does not come close to reflecting the human costs of the conflict: more than 65,000 dead, over 500,000 displaced, human rights undermined and a social fabric torn apart by the brutality and persistence of civil conflict," he further said.

Government of Sri Lanka has invited the country's development partners to a two-day forum, after a similar forum wsa held in Kandy in 2005 where post-Tsunami assistance was discussed.

The Development Forum is attended by the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, Sri Lankan ministers, members of diplomatic and development communities.


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