Development Forum awaits 'urgent change'

[TamilNet, Thursday, 06 June 2002, 23:54 GMT]
(News Feature) The Sri Lankan government needs to move faster in securing peace and implementing economic reforms, the Vice President of the World Bank's South Asia region, Mieko Nishimizu, said Thursday in her concluding statement to the Sri Lanka Development Forum meeting in Colombo.

"Speed is of essence," she said. "It is important to begin actions in places where strategic priority, tactical advantage, enabling opportunities ... exist."

Unlike the scathing criticism of the former People's Alliance (PA) administration of President Chandrika Kumaratunga which characterised her final statement at the last such meeting in Paris in 2000, Ms. Nishimizu observations Thursday were put more diplomatically.

Obliquely referring to former PA government's failure to implement the reforms it had promised donors earlier, Ms. Nishimizu said Sri Lanka needs "a leadership team whose consistency of words and actions, individually and collectively, earns the trust and confidence of the people over time."

Promising the support of the Development Forum to the United National Front (UNF) government if it was prepared to effect moves towards peace and economic reform, the World Bank official also delivered a low-key warning if it was not.

"We engage with [champions and leaders of change] as our counterparts, facilitate their work, and promote them with our corporate reputation, our global knowledge, and if necessary our financing. We also disengage, consciously and explicitly, when such leaders cease to exist," she said.

"As such, as long as the process of change keeps moving forward, our assistance to the nation building of Sri Lanka can be much , much, bigger than any amount of financing we can bring," Ms. Nishimizu said, reiterating the point she had raised Wednesday at the outset of the meeting: "there will indeed be no talk of money at this Forum."

"If I am to choose one advice out of this Forum, it is ëimplementation,' as if the life of Sri Lanka depends on it - because it does," she said.

"As part of this singular advice, I offer three lessons drawn from the reservoir of world-wide experience at the World Bank that may be of relevance to Sri Lanka, she continued, stating these as: "begin focused and expand over time" ; "set delivery targets, and monitor and evaluate results constantly;" and "communicate, communicate, communicate."

The 2-day meeting brought together nearly 80 delegates from 39 bilateral and multilateral donors and over 100 participants representing the Government, private enterprise and civil society, the Department of Information said.

Ms. Nishimizu said that having heard the discussions, she had an "even greater sense of urgency for action for the government to keep acting, gain the momentum, and keep moving faster in securing peace and implementing the reforms."

"Sri Lanka stands at the cross roads of destiny," Ms. Nishimizu said. "At such a historic moment of great opportunity, people anywhere need a visible leadership of their government a group of leaders in their government who works as a true ëteam'."

During the discussions which centred on government's Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS), but also covered its Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reconciliation (ëTriple R') delegates queried planned benefits for the people of the island's north and east.

"We do hope that the state of non-war that has been reached will provide an opportunity to progress further on the path outlined in the papers and to include, in particular, the people of the [North and the East]," the German government delegation said in their statement.

"Peace, relief, rehabilitation and reconciliation are the highest priorities for Sri Lanka today," the German statement said. "Striving for a balanced development of the whole country swift action, however based on broad genuine participation and efficient coordination, is needed in order to prevent the North and Northeast from being left behind in the economic process."

The German government called "upon the Government of Sri Lanka, its opposition in Parliament, and the LTTE to shoulder their shared responsibility for the peace process," adding it "strongly supports the ongoing Norwegian facilitated process which should lead to a peaceful solution of the conflict in the framework of Sri Lanka's territorial integrity."

Sri Lanka state media said delegates who had dinner Wednesday night with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had asked whether the Liberation Tigers were in agreement with his government's moves to rehabilitate the North and the East. The Prime Minsiter had said the LTTE "had not objected so far," the Daily News reported Thursday.

Asked whether the LTTE personnel could also be drawn for the participation for the rehabilitation of the North and the East, Mr. Wickremesinghe had said the matter would be discussed in future peace talks, the paper reported, quoting "authoritative official sources."


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