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Sunday, 3 August 2014





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IMF commends Sri Lanka's economic growth

Certain Western countries and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) are making a mountain of a molehill over the alleged human rights violations during the final phase of Sri Lanka's 2006-2009 humanitarian operation which ended terrorism and ushered in peace and stability.

They wax eloquent and champion the human rights of LTTE terrorists killed in action but strangely they show no concern whatsoever over the human rights of civilians killed and injured in LTTE suicide bomb attacks.

Sri Lanka has made steady progress and achieved development in all spheres with the dawn of peace. Having provided unmatched political leadership to the Security Forces to crush terrorism as the Commander-in-Chief, President Mahinda Rajapaksa vowed to win the 'economic war' too when he addressed the nation after terrorism was defeated in May 2009. He pledged to develop and strengthen the economy to make Sri Lanka, the Wonder of Asia.

Sri Lanka has now proved that it is heading in the right direction and achieving its cherished goal of becoming the Wonder of Asia. President Rajapaksa's political sagacity and the right economic policies envisioned in the Mahinda Chinthana have helped Sri Lanka to record steady progress during the past five years.

This was endorsed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week when it said that Sri Lanka's economic growth has been one of the fastest among Asia's developing economies in recent years.

The Executive Board of the IMF, in its report after the conclusion of Article IV consultations with Sri Lanka, has said that the country's recent economic performance has been better than expected, particularly, given some headwinds from chronic market turbulence and climatic shocks.

The IMF Executive Board concluded the Article IV consultation and second Post-Program Monitoring discussion with Sri Lanka on July 23, 2014 and endorsed the staff appraisal without a meeting.

An IMF team visits the country annually to hold bilateral discussions with officials on the country's economic development and policies and upon its return, prepares a report, which is the basis for discussion by the Executive Board under the IMF's Articles of Agreement.

The IMF report released on Tuesday states that, "Sri Lanka's short-term outlook appears broadly positive, as the country is well positioned to benefit from the global economic recovery, and particularly, stronger growth in advanced economies".

The IMF forecast that the country's real GDP growth is expected to remain robust - around seven percent this year, while inflation is likely to remain in the mid-single digits.

The IMF report noted that the Government's target of further reducing the fiscal deficit to 5.2 percent of GDP should allow for even more reduction of public debt. With a continued robust export performance, the current account deficit is expected to narrow further, thus allowing for some additional accumulation of international reserves.

More importantly, inflation has remained low, falling to 3.2 percent year-on-year in May 2014 while fiscal consolidation has continued, with the overall fiscal deficit falling to 5.9 percent of GDP in 2013.

The IMF Executive Board said that the monetary policy has been accommodative, although private credit growth has been slow. Given the rising economic growth, the IMF said that the fiscal stance for 2014 was appropriate, but expressed concern about the composition of further consolidation.

The Board noted that the government's ability to curtail spending to meet fiscal objectives had enhanced but considering the investment needs it said that spending cuts may have reached their effective limit, and the Government needs to increase revenue.

If Sri Lanka is to maintain its current growth momentum and foster economic development and diversification, high and sustained levels of public-spending on infrastructure and human capital, tackling the issue of tax expenditure and broadening the tax base are also essential.

The Government has spent billions of rupees to develop infrastructure facilities in the North and the East, giving preferential treatment to these provinces over the other seven. Speedy resettlement and facilitation of livelihood with mega development projects helped people in the North and the East to return to their jobs, especially in the cultivation and fisheries sectors.

The outstanding contribution by those resettled in the North and the East had enabled the two provinces to record an unprecedented growth rate of over 20 percent, compared to the overall growth of around seven percent. This alone is ample testimony that the civilians who had been rescued from the jaws of death during the humanitarian operation are now making a tangible contribution towards the country's economy.

Money is now flowing to the North and the East as a result of the progress in agriculture and fishing in the two provinces. Consequently, the purchasing power of the people, who had been at one-time held as a human shield by LTTE terrorists, had gone up sharply. They now enjoy enhanced living conditions and better infrastructure facilities.

The notable contribution to the national economy by the people in the North helped Sri Lanka to forge ahead. The Government hopes to double the GDP growth compared to what prevailed when President Rajapaksa was first elected to office in November, 2005.

The international community must view all these developments with an open mind without being swayed by the LTTE's extensive lobbying in the West. Rather than harping on the human rights of dead terrorists ad nauseum, the international community must work for the well-being of the Tamils in the North.

It was found that the LTTE had been responsible for nearly 80 percent of the alleged abductions, of the cases already heard in four districts except Jaffna, the Presidential Commission investigating cases of missing persons in the North and East was told.

The Commission has held public sittings in Kilinochchi, Jaffna, Batticaloa and Mullaitivu from January to June this year and heard 831 cases of missing persons, Presidential Commission chairman Justice Maxwell Paranagama was quoted as saying.

According to the relatives of missing persons 90 percent of the abductions had been committed by the LTTE in Mullaitivu while in the Jaffna district the LTTE was responsible for 10 percent of such cases and 36 percent abductions by unknown persons.

The LTTE was blamed for 80 percent and 70 percent of missing persons in the Kilinochchi and Batticaloa districts by the relatives of the deceased.

Over 19,000 written complaints had been received by the Commission so far and the President had advised the Commission to hear each and every complaint. The Commission of Inquiry set up in August 2013 by President Rajapaksa is investigating cases of missing persons from 1983 to 2009.

The Commission's original scope of investigation from 1990 - 2009 was advanced to 1983 - 2009 when people turned up with cases relating to the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) period and earlier.

The Commission's mandate was also expanded by the President following requests by the Commission's members. The submissions by the complainants highlighted areas which were thought to be instances of violating international law. The Commission could not have perused such cases unless the warrant was expanded.

This also goes to prove that Sri Lanka has made a concerted effort in national reconciliation. Sri Lanka, certainly, can't perform miracles overnight and the international community should desist from making unreasonable demands from Sri Lanka.

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