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Sunday, 26 December 2010

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2011 to usher in a more promising year

Another year is fast approaching as the 2011 New Year dawns next Saturday. In this context, it is time to take stock of how we fared during the current year and prepare ourselves for the coming year with renewed confidence and greater targets.

We should make a careful assessment of what we have achieved during the year as well as our failures, if any. Hence, we could identify and capitalise on our strengths and prepare for the coming year with greater confidence.

Sri Lanka has achieved several significant milestones during the year 2010. The following year after eradicating terrorism, Sri Lanka showed encouraging signs of development and regaining economic prosperity.

Sri Lanka maintained an economic growth of 8.5 percent during the third quarter of this year, one of the highest in the Asian region. This was mainly due to the steady progress in a number of key sectors which blossomed after the Tigers were defeated. Since the restoration of normalcy in the North and the East, the Government embarked on yet another humanitarian mission to resettle over half a million people displaced due to the LTTE's terror acts.

Despite various reservations expressed by the majority of the international community and International Non-Government Organisations, Sri Lanka set an all-time world record in the resettlement of displaced persons in the East. With this proven track record Sri Lanka accomplished a similar resettlement mission in the North. All displaced persons would be resettled by the end of the year.

The Government embarked on numerous infrastructure development projects in the North and the East, thereby opening a new chapter in the history of these provinces. Today, not only the people in the East, but also those in the North, who have been subjected to untold misery during the LTTE's terror, have also started making an active contribution to the national economy.

More importantly, a greater dialogue has begun between the people in the North and those in the South, making the maximum use of the freedom they won after the Security Forces vanquished the LTTE leaders. Cash has started flowing to the North and the East, thereby increasing the purchasing power of the people living in those provinces.

A significant milestone was also achieved in the history of the country's democracy as the masses rejected petty party politics and supported democratic forces to emerge victorious. Despite numerous attempts by extremist forces to capture power with the insidious support of interested foreign elements, voters across the length and breadth of the country extended their unflinching support to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was re-elected at the Presidential election in January.

The United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), under the leadership of President Rajapaksa, rewrote Sri Lanka's election history at the general election in April this year. The UPFA scored a landslide victory with a thumping majority to secure a record 144 seats in the 225-member legislature - a feat that would be hard to equal under the current preferential voting system.

Even after terrorism was eradicated and despite the overwhelming public support President Rajapaksa and his government received at two major elections, a section of the international community continued their campaigns to tarnish Sri Lanka's image and its valiant Security Forces.

However, a resolute President stood firm and did not bow down to international pressure and went ahead with the humanitarian operation.

After the successful completion of the humanitarian operation, Sri Lanka embarked on another battle; to win the 'economic war' as well. The economic policies of the Mahinda Chinthana put the country on the right track and the dividends are already becoming increasingly evident.

While the country maintained an economic growth of over eight percent, the country's per capita income also doubled over the past five years. This unprecedented progress enabled Sri Lanka to elevate its position from a low income group country to that of middle income during the current year.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have commended Sri Lanka's performance in economic development. The World Bank last week endorsed that the country's economy is heading in the right direction.

World Bank Managing Director, Dr.Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said that Sri Lanka's remarkable rise from past challenges is a testament to the tenacity of the Sri Lankan people and the commitment of the country's leadership.

The World Bank, by no means, would make such a statement to please any individual or a country, without making a thorough analysis of the country's performance. Hence, this statement would have a positive impact on Sri Lanka and this indeed is an excellent endorsement of the country's performance.

The World Bank Managing Director had made this statement after a careful study of Sri Lanka's economy. This is a very positive sentiment coming from the World Bank chief.

In recognition of the country's emergence as a growing economy, the World Bank chief endorsed Sri Lanka's new eligibility for financing from the IBRD, the World Bank's lending arm for middle-income countries. This would be in addition to the assistance Sri Lanka is already being granted by IDA.

Sri Lanka has achieved all these landmark achievements in development as the Government did not suspend any new development projects even during the height of the LTTE terror.

Despite waging an unrelenting battle against the most ruthless terror outfit in the world, President Rajapaksa and his Government embarked on some of the largest development projects simultaneously. This is precisely why Sri Lanka enjoys the dividends of peace in next to no time.

The benefits of the Upper Kotmale and Norochcholai mega power generation projects, Moragahakanda, Uma Oya, Kumbukkan Oya irrigation projects, Southern and Colombo-Kandy expressways, Colombo, Galle, Oluvil, Trincomalee and Hambantota port projects and the new Mattala International Airport project would be enjoyed by one and all in the coming year.

All Sri Lankans, irrespective of colour, creed or political hue, must make a tangible contribution to the country's development drive that would help make this beautiful island the Wonder of Asia during the new decade.

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