Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 15 May 2011





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Agriculture's Northern spring

Two years after the conflict ended due to the far-sightedness and the efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Armed Forces, life has returned to normal in the North and the East and people have started to go about with their normal work.

Paddy cultivation has increased. Banks, mobile phone operators and insurance companies have set up branches in these areas.

According to Central Bank estimates the vegetable and fruit harvest that came to the market from Jaffna during the last two years is worth over Rs. 20 billion. Food prices especially the price of onions, vegetables and chilies dropped sharply from its peak in February and March due to these supplies of Northern farmers, Assistant Governor of the Central Bank, W. M. Karunarathne told the Sunday Observer.

Our credit program started in 2008 in the Eastern province and in 2009 in the North. In the North the program was launched even before the A-9 road was opened. Our objective was improving livelihoods of the people in the conflict affected Northern and Eastern provinces, he said.

Today, after two years we can see steady growth in our agriculture lending in Jaffna during every season. In 2009 Yala season, the Central Bank (CB) started the program with 600 farmers and disbursed Rs. 80 million credit. In 2010 Maha season 14200 farmers obtained agriculture loans and we disbursed Rs. 1.6 billion. The main banking partner of the program in Jaffna is the Bank of Ceylon, the leader in agricultural lending which holds a 90% share.

One important factor for the rapid growth in agriculture in Jaffna is the opening of the A 9 Road. It opened the market in the South for them. According to CB estimates vegetables and fruits have been cultivated in over 6,000 hectares in Jaffna.

They have successfully restarted their livelihoods and earn a higher income. Loan repayment rate is 100% and they are closely working with commercial banks that are facilitating this program and obtaining credit through other credit programs of the banks as well. Financial inclusion of the poor people is another objective of this program and that aspect too has been successful. Under this program 30,978 low income families have been connected with the banking system. This credit scheme provides loans at 8% annual interest rate to the farmers by the commercial banks and the government provides 6% interest subsidy to the commercial banks. This is part of the government's rehabilitation program in the North and East.

The marine fish production increased by 13 percent last year and it is attributed to the significant increase in the fishery activity in the North and the East.Fish production in the Northern and Eastern provinces together increased by 40 percent to 125,840 metric tons last year.

Maalu Maalu Resort & Spa, the first boutique hotel on the East coast is set to be opened in Pasikudah on May 20 making it the first ever star-class hotel to be in operation in the area.

The boutique hotel initiated under the post war 'Nagenahira Nawodaya' campaign is in its final stages of completion.

It will have 40 chalets overlooking the ocean in the East coast.

The chalets have been designed in a traditional Sri Lankan style, blending in with the environment in the most natural and picturesque way.

Inspired by Sri Lankan authentic traditions and eco friendly architecture, Maalu Maalu reinterprets the ethnic style of a Sri Lankan fishing village and the wadiya.

New hotels are coming up while the hotels in these areas are being refurbished to cater to the increasing demand which has increased the demand for construction equipment.In addition reconstruction of houses too has increased the demand for construction equipment.

Karunaratne said that the income of the Jaffna people has increased, which is witnessed by the booming trade in the Jaffna city. The city is regaining its pre conflict glory. Around 80 motorcycles are sold in Jaffna every week. Demand for jewellery, building material, equipment and other capital goods witnessed a fast recovery in the region, he said. The objective of this credit program was to eradicate extreme poverty in the Jaffna peninsula by 2013 and we are reaching that target, he said.

The young and old enjoy themselves

Billboards at the Elephant Pass entry point of the Jaffna peninsula on A-9 road show the competition between banks and finance companies in post conflict North. Jaffna city and all major towns and suburbs of Jaffna district are now returning to normal.

Agriculture, the main livelihood of the majority of the people, has resumed and their income has increased. Red onion, potatoes, tobacco chilies and other vegetables are profitable, people said. Central Bank, Rehabilitation Authority and other commercial banks issue agriculture credit at low interest rates. State and private banks have set up branches in all main towns in the Jaffna district.

Mobile phone operators, local and foreign banks, insurance and leasing companies, traders have now settled in Jaffna city and main towns and suburbs of Jaffna district.

Most of the people who witnessed the pathetic situation immediately after the end of the conflict 24 months ago say that the recovery is surprising. These services are the main forces that led to this unbelievable change.

The government has allocated Rs. 1 billion for the self-employment loan scheme and housing loan scheme launched by Rehabilitation Authority.

Under the self-employment loan scheme a maximum Rs. 250,000 loan is issued for conflict affected people to start self-employment ventures in agriculture, fisheries, animal husbandry, domestic industries and business. The interest rate is 4 percent and repayment period is 10 years with a grace period depending on the nature of the venture, from six months to one year. The collateral for the loans is not strict and people who come with viable business proposals and prove the credibility of the repayment can obtain loans. All people affected by the conflict in the North are eligible for these loans.

The housing loan scheme also provides loans up to Rs. 250,000 with 4 percent annual interest and 10 years repayment period. Government employees too are eligible for loans.

Acting Operations Manager of the BoC in Jaffna district, S. N. Manikyasingham said that BoC is satisfied with the progress of the self-employment projects started by the loan recipients and the repayment rate. We are ready to give additional support to successful projects by extending BoC loans and there are several other loan schemes too to support the war affected people. Usually the people who do business here obtain credit from informal market at 60 percent annual interest. This loan scheme has supported small businesses such as fish sellers to purchase motorcycles. Agriculture in Atchuveli, Chunnakam, Kopay and Chavakacheri had fully recovered and we provide credit for the farmers, Manikyasingham said. The government has built the infrastructure including roads, bridges, and electricity which has helped the people of the North and the East to start their normal lives.

Thank you Mr. President for saving Tamils

Soosai Arulanantham, a Sri Lankan expatriate living in Switzerland has praised President Mahinda Rajapaksa, for saving his brothers, sisters and relatives from LTTE terrorists.

He was a former employee of the Fisheries Harbour Corporation when George Rajapaksa was the Minister of Fisheries. He was born in Mannar and had been living in Nagoda, Kandana before he left the country.

In his e-mail he has said "Thank you very much Sir, you are the one who had the courage to do this job, and you have done your duty." Further, he has confidently mentioned not to worry about the LTTE remnants in Europe, as they are like barking dogs. "Forget about the Tiger pups living in Europe. The barking dogs don't bite". he has said.

He conveyed his sincere gratitude to Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa for assisting the President to eliminate terrorism from the motherland, and saluted war heroes for their sacrifices.

"I also wish to salute our heroes who lost their lives and limbs in this mission which was declared impossible by those past Governments.", he has mentioned.

And finally, he said "I can die now peacefully, because you have fulfilled my only dream in my life; that is saving the Tamils from the Tiger terrorists".

Here is the full text of the e-mail:

Hon. President of Sri Lanka,

Dear Sir, I am Arulanantham, a Sri Lankan born at Mannar, lived at Nagoda, Kandana and worked at the Fisheries Horbour Corporation when Mr.George Rajapakse was the Minister of fisheries. I am now 66 years of age living in Switzerland.

Through this e-mail comes my sincere thanks for saving my brothers and sisters and my relatives from the terrorists. I also wish to salute our heroes who lost their lives and limbs in this mission which was declared impossible by those past Governments.

Thank you very much Sir, you are the one who had the courage to do this job, and you have done your duty. Forget about the Tiger pups living in Europe. The barking dogs don't bite. My mother use to tell this in Tamil, "When the dog barks it doesn't kill the cow". I also wish to thank Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa who assisted you in this wonderful job. Well done Sir, my heartful salute for you. I can die now peacefully.

Because you have fulfilled my only dream in my life. That is saving the Tamils from the Tiger terrorists and the politicians selected by the same terrorists will also play the same disc, and they will be never satisfied.

I am Sir, Yours truly,

Soosai Arulanantham


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