Despite the ongoing conflict, the World Bank said this week that it would continue to expand its activities in the North and East. The Bank also said that in future its projects, in all parts of the country, will be screened against a ‘conflict filter’ to avoid further social tensions.
The Bank says its ongoing projects in the conflict-affected North and East are doing well. For instance, the Bank’s US$ 64 million project on ‘Community Livelihoods Development in Conflict Affected Areas,’ entered into its second phase in January this year, doubling its target number of villages from 300 to 600.
“The first phase of the project started in January 2005 targeting 300 villages in the North and East and adjoining area like Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. The second phase started in January this year, targeting another 300 villages,” a rural development specialist at the World Bank, S. Manoharan, told journalists at a press briefing on Thursday.
However, up to now, only about 28% of the allocated funds have been disbursed. “This is because it took some time for displaced people to resettle in the project areas. We also had to spend time on capacity building, because people could not absorb assistance just like that,” said Mr Manoharan. The Bank says disbursement of funds, and project activities, will now speed up with the government controlled Eastern Province becoming more stable.
The Bank also has a housing reconstruction programme for the North and East with US$ 118 million allocated for this from 2004 to 2011. About 58% of the allocated funds have already been disbursed.
The Bank is also setting up new mechanisms to address grievances. The system is expected to control corruption and make sure at least 80% of the funds allocated to projects, actually reach the intended recipients. The Bank says corruption through political interference has also been factored into the system.
“We are designing a grievance mechanism where beneficiaries can even complain directly to us. We are also educating politicians about this and also about the conflict filter, to stop infiltration into the proper procedures that should be followed,” said Mr Manoharan.
In addition, projects are monitored through the government’s internal auditing systems and though external technical and financial audits.
Over the next four years the World Bank has allocated US$ 900 million for the entire island and around one third of this will go specifically to the North and East.
“Most of the nationwide operations have some component in the North and East. In the new Country Assistance Strategy about 30% of resources are allocated to the North and East,” said the World Bank’s country director, Naoko Ishii.