World Bank, ADB echo LTTE criticism of Sri Lanka bureaucracy

[TamilNet, Sunday, 01 June 2003, 18:26 GMT]
The country representatives of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank said Saturday that they agreed with the Liberation Tigers’ criticism of the inefficiency of Sri Lanka government’s bureaucracy, the Sunday Times reported.

"Much of the contents of a letter written by [LTTE Chief Negotiator] Dr. Anton Balasingham to the Prime Minister some weeks ago about the lack of services and that the people were not getting their basic needs … is what we have also been always saying,” ADB representative John Cooney said.

“Because of an inefficient bureaucracy, the people are not getting services (in the north) even if allocations have been made,” he said further.

In another letter sent Friday to the Sri Lanka Premier, Mr. Balasingham again protested the lack of progress in resettling up to a million internally displaced people and refugees and called for “a new innovative administrative structure” to address the problem.

“The inefficient, defunct bureaucracies of the government administrative system have been the stumbling block for the implementation of programmes and projects,” Mr. Balasingham said.

Mr. Cooney made his comments at the annual session of the Sri Lanka Economists Association (SLEA), which was also attended by the country representatives of the World Bank, Mr. Peter Harold, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mr. Jeremy Carter.

The three officials blamed “political interference, massive government bureaucracy, weak decision-making processes and a lack of commitment” for “why Sri Lanka has failed and will continue to fail,” the Sunday Times reported.

The officials were also critical of the proliferation of government projects.

There were too many projects in the country, Mr. Harrold said, noting that if one drives down to the south there are so many offices of government projects but people have seldom got services like water, power or basic infrastructure.

“A vast amount of the funds to the south hasn't been utilised for the people's benefits. The money is spent on bureaucracy and project offices,” he said.

Saying there were far too many projects anyway, Mr. Harrold urged the government to cancel low-priority projects and divert resources to the important ones.

“If this happens probably half the project portfolio would have to be cancelled … (such is the waste),” he said, adding however that these are hard decisions because "comfortable" (project) jobs have to be axed.

Sri Lanka gets an annual average of US $500 to 600 million in total foreign aid contributions.

But utilisation is low and so far there is US$ 2.5 billion worth of aid undisbursed or unutilised, raising questions as to why Sri Lanka needs to depend on the US $3 billion expected from the Tokyo meeting when that money is already here or has always been, an economist at the meeting told the Sunday Times.


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