Business Times

Sri Lanka refuses to ‘dance to the tune’ of foreign development partners

Sri Lanka has taken a firm decision not to allow its foreign development partners, donor agencies and foreign countries to push their own projects in the island with overseas funding in consultation with individual or groups or powerful politicians, the country’s top Treasury official has said.

The Finance Ministry will be handling these projects through its newly, set-up Department of Project Management and Monitoring, said Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B Jayasundera when he delivered the keynote address at a World Bank-organised knowledge and experience sharing event in Colombo on Monday.

It was attended by country representatives of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and senior Finance Ministry officials including the heads of Inland Revenue and Customs departments.
The main task of this Department is to function as a centre for operation and following up the implementation of government policies, programmes and projects and also supervision and evaluation of the projects among many other tasks.

Monday’s event was visibly marked by the no-nonsense tone of Dr Jayasundera who said firmly that he will not approve or sign any documents pertaining to development projects forwarded by any development partner, donor agency or a foreign country.

Sri Lanka is willing to negotiate with any donor agency in order to seek foreign development assistance, he said but pointed out that he will not sign project documents put forward by individuals or groups pledging funds, without consulting the Project Management and Monitoring Department.
Dr. Jayasundera told development partners that they can fund government projects already earmarked by the Finance Ministry in Education Health, tourism and other sectors. “We welcome their aid but we won’t tolerate their conditions attached to aid.”

He said that he was happy that the World Bank is now following a country specific approach. He added that he was lobbying for it for 10 long years and at last it has become a reality. An Integrated National Development Information System (INDIS), a web-based application developed by Synergy for the Ministry of Finance and Planning is now managing the entire portfolio of development projects, be they financed by domestic or external resources, he revealed.

The INDIS is, at its core, a decision-support tool designed to enable policymakers to assess project performance and results in real-time and take decisions on corrective actions and resource allocation. A major part of the INDIS project was to integrate various government information systems into one unified system to achieve efficient information management, coupled with advanced analytical and reporting capabilities, Dr. Jayasundera said.

Key economic outcomes expected beyond 2011 includes raising investment as a ratio of GDP to beyond 33% to sustain an annual GDP growth of 8%, Dr. Jayasundera said, adding that some priorities are shifting Sri Lanka to become a US$5,000 per capita income economy, further reduction of poverty, reducing unemployment and inflation towards 5% and realizing Foreign Direct Investment to be over 2% of GDP each year, from 2011 onwards.

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