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Japan – UNDP 2 livelihood projects in SL

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Earlier today (24), PM Dinesh Gunawardena, Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka – Mr. Mizukoshi Hideaki and UNDP Sri Lanka Resident Representative – Ms. Azusa Kubota, launched the 2 new livelihood projects that address the economic crisis in Sri Lanka at Temple Trees.

The ongoing socio-economic crisis has had serious impacts on the agricultural sector in Sri Lanka. The rising energy costs and evolving climate change impacts have further exacerbated due to the situation. In response, the Government of Japan through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, will provide approximately LKR 1,175 million (approx. USD 3.8 million) to support vulnerable smallholder farming families in the Dry Zone districts, namely North-Central, North-Western and Eastern Provinces, with a focus on women’s economic empowerment and adoption of green agricultural technologies.

Funded by the Japanese Supplementary Budget (JSB) and working together with the Government of Sri Lanka and relevant stakeholders, the intervention aims to achieve its objectives through two projects; the first focusing on diversifying livelihoods and introduce entrepreneurship programmes, targeting women-led MSMEs. The second aims to strengthen energy and food security, through the revival of the rural agricultural economy by providing access to innovative markets, value and supply chain improvements along with the adoption of modern, green agricultural technologies which will increase productivity and efficiency.

A total of 58,000 women and youth will directly benefit from these projects, while indirectly impacting over 132,000 vulnerable community members from the North-Central, North-Western and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka.

To mark the beginning of these projects and to recognize the Government of Japan’s support to the interventions, a launch event was held today with the participation of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Mr. Mizukoshi Hideaki – Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka, Ms. Azusa Kubota – UNDP Sri Lanka Resident Representative, Mr. Tetsuya Yamada – Chief Representative of JICA in Sri Lanka, Agriculture minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Minister of Power and Energy – Kanchana Wijesekera, senior government officials and development partners.

Gracing the occasion, Prime Minister stated, “Government of Sri Lanka appreciates the continuous support extended by the Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme towards country’s efforts to recover from the socioeconomic crisis. We believe this is a significant step towards creating a food and energy secure Sri Lanka, both vital sectors to the fabric of the country’s economy.”

Highlighting Japan’s commitment to the people of Sri Lanka in crisis recovery efforts, Ambassador Mizukoshi, Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka stated, “Japan has been working together with the Government of Sri Lanka and relevant UN agencies for economic and social empowerment of women in Sri Lanka, including the formulation of National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security. These new projects will provide for practical means to uplift lives of vulnerable communities. Especially, we recognize the special needs of women-headed household in conflict-affected areas. It is a great opportunity to create positive synergy with UNDP’s expertise and JICA’s technical assistance for supporting livelihood and vulnerable communities.”

Commenting on the role of UNDP in bringing together stakeholders and facilitating such processes in times of need, Ms. Azusa Kubota, Resident Representative, UNDP in Sri Lanka stated, “these are times when multiple-solutions through multiple-partnerships are required because we are faced with compounding and complex challenges. I am grateful for the commitments demonstrated by a wide range of actors present today. We must join hands to address the needs of the most vulnerable and affected segments of the society – particularly women-headed households. And investing in them will have visible, long-term benefits for the families and communities” 

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SL – Indonesia pledge stronger bilateral ties

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In a significant bilateral meeting during the 10th World Water Summit, President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indonesian President Joko Widodo reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the longstanding relationship between their nations. The discussions, which covered a wide range of regional and international issues, underscored the importance of collaboration in addressing global challenges.

President Wickremesinghe, in his opening remarks, highlighted the historical ties between Sri Lanka and Indonesia, dating back to their joint participation in the 1956 Bandung Conference. He expressed appreciation for President Widodo’s leadership in regional, international, and bilateral matters, noting the importance of such summits in fostering global cooperation.

A major topic of discussion was the critical issue of water management. President Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of the World Water Summit and expressed Sri Lanka’s willingness to participate in the Global Blended Financial Alliance, an initiative aimed at addressing common financial challenges faced by countries in managing water resources. He commended Indonesia for establishing a Secretariat for the Alliance, recognizing its significance for Sri Lanka.

President Widodo, in his remarks, focused on the economic cooperation between the two countries. He stressed the need to finalize the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) by the first quarter of 2025 to enhance economic ties. Additionally, he highlighted Indonesia’s interest in entering the Sri Lankan vaccine market through Indonesian pharmaceutical companies, and called for the lifting of import restrictions on Indonesian palm oil and related products.

The Indonesian President also showcased Indonesia’s advancements in renewable energy, specifically the country’s largest floating solar power project. He emphasized the importance of hydro diplomacy and political leadership in achieving sustainable water management and development goals. Furthermore, he welcomed Sri Lanka’s leadership in the Indian Ocean Rim Association and its aspirations to become a sectoral dialogue partner.

President Wickremesinghe reiterated the importance of completing the PTA by early 2025, noting Sri Lanka’s existing free trade agreements with India, Singapore, and ongoing negotiations with Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. He emphasized the potential benefits of joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), suggesting that Sri Lanka’s inclusion could encourage other South Asian countries to follow suit. 

He also mentioned the ongoing removal of import restrictions and assured that Sri Lankan health authorities would address the entry of Indonesian pharmaceuticals into the market.

The discussion also touched upon regional security and economic cooperation in the Indian Ocean. President Wickremesinghe supported ASEAN’s Indo-Pacific outlook and stressed the need for closer bilateral and regional cooperation regarding Indian Ocean affairs. He proposed more frequent meetings between heads of government and a specific bilateral agreement with Indonesia to enhance commercial collaboration in the region.

President Widodo thanked Sri Lanka for co-sponsoring the Global Blended Financial Alliance, emphasizing its role in achieving sustainable development goals. He called for continued collaboration between relevant ministries from both countries to support this initiative. Looking ahead, President Widodo mentioned the upcoming presidential transition in Indonesia and expressed hope that the new administration would continue to strengthen ties with Sri Lanka.

In conclusion, President Wickremesinghe expressed his eagerness to work with Indonesia’s new leadership and extended a personal invitation to President Widodo to visit Sri Lanka after his term ends in October. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing bilateral relations and addressing shared global challenges through continued cooperation.

(President’s Media Division)

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Sri Lanka declares tomorrow a day of mourning

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Sri Lanka has declared tomorrow (May 21) as a day of mourning in view of the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The national flag will fly at half mast at all government institutions.

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2 crucial Bills to Parliament on May 22

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Acting Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe announced plans to introduce two significant bills to Parliament on May 22, aimed at bolstering the country’s economy. 

These bills, the “Economic Transformation Bill” and the “Public Financial Management Bill,” are designed to enhance the management of public finances, thereby safeguarding against future economic downturns. 

Minister Semasinghe made this announcement during a press conference at the Presidential Media Centre today, themed ‘Collective path to a stable country’.

Acting Finance Minister  Shehan Semasinghe, further stated : 

‘The government has scheduled the submission of two significant bills crucial for the country’s economy on May 22. One of these bills is the “Economic Transformation Law,” aimed at preventing future economic collapses. Notably, this legislation stems from the vision of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, rather than being proposed by the International Monetary Fund. The recent stabilization of the economy following previous downturns underscores the importance of preserving this stability going forward.

Additionally, it is necessary to maintain optimal levels of public financial management to avert future economic crises. The “Public Finance Management Bill” is set to be presented to Parliament on the same day, with a focus on enhancing accountability in managing public finances. This legislative initiative aligns with recommendations from a collaborative program with the International Monetary Fund and holds significant importance for the country’s future financial management.

It’s important to underscore the critical significance of both these bills for the country’s future. These drafts contain numerous technical intricacies aimed at bolstering confidence in the economy and maintaining the trajectory of the new economic direction implemented thus far.

Further elaborating on the Economic Transformation Bill, it holds paramount importance for the country’s economic growth. Despite experiencing economic contraction in the second and third quarters of 2023, a notable growth rate of 4.5% was achieved in the fourth quarter. Consequently, the benefits of this economic upturn have started permeating to the grassroots level within the country.

Furthermore, it is imperative to enhance the economic competitiveness of the nation and adapt the economy to confront global challenges while fostering international cooperation and growth. Additionally, this bill addresses necessary changes in various sectors.

Specifically, the legislation encompasses reforms essential for international trade, trade agreements, and climate change mitigation efforts. 

The establishment of a new Economic Commission in Sri Lanka, aimed at attracting investments to enhance competitiveness, fostering a conducive environment for investors, expanding international trade, establishing the National Productivity Commission, and developing export-related institutions, is also outlined in this bill.

Recently, Parliament endorsed the decisions made, particularly regarding economic transformation. In 2022, the public debt ratio stood at 128%, a figure slated to be reduced to less than 95% by 2032. 

Similarly, the fiscal requirement, which was 34.6% of the gross domestic product in 2022, aims to be lowered to below 13% by 2032.

Effective debt servicing is paramount, with efforts focused on establishing Sri Lanka as a debt-sustainable nation capable of meeting its obligations. The aim is to reduce the debt payment ratio from 9.4% in 2022 to below 4.5% by 2027.

A proposed bill will outline specific national goals and actions taken to address economic challenges, providing a roadmap for sustainable economic growth, debt management, agricultural modernization, import-export regulation, and economic governance.

Additionally, considerable attention has been given to the Public Finance Management Bill, aimed at identifying weaknesses in the current legislation and proposing a robust legal framework to meet future needs.

(President’s Media Division)

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