Financial Times

Some US$250 bln cost of lost opportunities in war


A senior economist said Sri Lanka might reach an optimistic GDP growth rate between 4.5% to 5% this year following the end of the decades long civil war. Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Saman Kelegama said the Central Bank (CB) had announced an optimistic GDP growth figure of 4.5% to 5% and a pessimistic GDP growth rate of between 2.5% and 3% earlier this year. After the end of the military campaign last week, Dr. Kelegama said he believes Sri Lanka is closer to the upper limit as predicted by the CB.

Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s (CIM) 9th Annual Conference this past week, Dr. Kelegama said this post-war period is the time to look at reforms. Aid inflows should not be seen as a factor to delay change when in fact, structural changes are needed. He added that Sri Lanka should also look towards new markets in order to diversify.

Chief Guest at the Conference, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Palitha Kohona said Sri Lanka is a rare case in which terrorism has been comprehensively defeated. “We did it our way and we did it on our own,” he said. “We did it despite the fact that the world said we couldn’t do it.” Dr. Kohona said the LTTE is now a ‘shattered effigy’ of its former self.

Dr. Kohona said western liberal minded politicians and certain media outlets continue to nurture rage with accusations of genocide. He said 54% of Sri Lankan Tamils live in the Southern Province among the Sinhalese. Suggestions of large numbers of civilian deaths by world leaders had to be refuted. Dr. Kohona said the Sri Lankan government remained steadfastly to minimize the number of civilian casualties. He pointed out that websites such as TamilNet said nothing about the civilians in the early stages of the operations. According to Dr. Kohona, between 60,000 to 70,000 Tamils moved out of the Wanni to live in government-controlled areas in 2007 and 2008.

Dr. Kohona said one of the victims of the drawn out conflict has been the economy. It is estimated that over the 27 years, around US$250 billion has been lost in opportunities. The LTTE’s strategy targeted the economy and crippled it. He added that the LTTE propaganda got to the west to make certain conditions for giving aid, one case being the GSP+ concession which was subject to constraints by the European Community.

Dr. Kohona said the government adopted a hard line and sought assistance for development from non-traditional partners and markets. Iran has pledged US$1.9 billion in aid while China has pledge US$1 billion. Japan has remained a donor and India continues to be a strong ally and partner, he said. Dr. Kohona added that the country must join hands for the reconstruction and development of the nation.

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