World Bank questions Jaffna development

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 18 September 2001, 15:51 GMT]
(NEWS FEATURE) Ahead of the visit to Sri Lanka on Wednesday by a World Bank team intending to study the government’s poverty alleviation plans, its local Director slammed the activities in Jaffna of the Ministry of Northern Development. Dr. Mariana Todorova says that whilst almost two thousand people are being employed there by the Ministry, not one person has actually benefited from its activities. The Ministry is headed by Douglas Devananda, leader of the paramilitary Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP).

Following a recent visit to Jaffna by Dr. Todorova, the Bank said "The government programme for poverty reduction needs to improve its targeting and effectiveness in Jaffna. Despite the presence of 440 odd Samurdhi officials, Samurdhi recipients were not identified while meeting so many communities in the district."

Minister and EPDP General Secretary Mr.D.Devananda (right) with his armed body guard. (TamilNet Library photo)
"In addition, about 1,500 youths have been recruited as development assistants by the Ministry of Northern Development at a monthly allowance of Rs 3,000 per person. They are said to have been given skills training, but their roles and responsibilities were not clear," it said.

"It is not clear what they are doing. Really no focused development work," Dr. Todorova was quoted as saying in Colombo by the Sunday Leader newspaper.

The World Bank in a report observed that "providing employment may be useful to prevent youth taking arms, but there is a need for the government to better plan their involvement in development activities to really benefit the poor people."

Describing her impressions of Jaffna, Dr. Todorova, a Bulgarian economist with the Wolrd Bank said: "It is really sad. No people, no houses, only big potholes." Speaking to reporters a month after the World Bank's first visit to the northern town since 1990, she expressed concern about the state of the hospitals and schools in the peninsula. The ratios of students to staff is 236 to 1 and hospitals are staffed by retirees. The government has also recently cut compensation payments for retired doctors.

Tamil political parties say EPDP leader Douglas Devananda is using funds intended for rehabilitation to buy political support in the northern peninsula. Tamil MPs in Jaffna last month charged the EPDP, a key Parliamentary ally of Sri Lanka's ruling People's Alliance (PA), of profiteering at the expense of the people, and called on Jaffn's youth to shun the paramilitary group's activities in the northern town. The EPDP's joint operations with the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) facilitates its illegal activities, the MPs say.

Dr. Todorova said she feared the risk of an AIDS epidemic in Jaffna was very real. Although no concrete figures were available, she cited medical staff in the peninsula.

"The conditions in the refugee camps, quality of life, lot of female headed households, these are the concerns," she said. Her team is said to have found increased incidents of rape and pregnancies amongst minors in the refugee camps.

The World Bank team expected this week is to go through a draft of the 'Poverty Reduction Strategic Paper,' which is still in its infancy, the Sunday Leader reported. Both World Bank and the IMF would be deciding on committing funds based on the paper that would be finished by mid-2002.


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