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Progress over the past four years :

Long, arduous march to prosperity

Perhaps, the most cherished achievement of the Government during the past four years was the defeat of the LTTE. The LTTE or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was the most ruthless terrorist outfit that the world has ever seen. In addition to claiming the lives of over sixty thousand people over the past thirty years, the LTTE, with its substantial international presence, operating in the guise of charity organisations around the world, effectively robbed the nation of decades of development and prosperity. It was the biggest stumbling block to peace and prosperity not only in the North and the East, but in the entire nation. The Government's multi-dimensional development strategy executed while waging an all-out war against terrorism has been fruitful on many counts; despite the unbearable cost of the war, the Sri Lankan economy was able to withstand the onslaught of the global recession which is considered as the worst after the Great Recession of 1929. The Government either launched or commenced work on several large-scale infrastructure development projects including the construction of a hub port and fully-fledged airport in Hambantota in addition to renovating and upgrading networks of roads under its futuristic Maga Neguma program.

The longest bridge in Sri Lanka at Kinniya

The past four years were the most dramatic years in the contemporary history of Sri Lanka. At the time President Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed office as the fifth Executive President, the country was saddled with major issues which threatened the very existence of the nation, amidst the clamour that Sri Lanka was on the brink of labelling itself as a Failed State.

The LTTE which waged a ruthless war against the State with the intention of carving out a separate state of Eelam in the North and the East of the country for over thirty years had evolved into a de facto army, partially acquiring the capability of launching air strikes. On one hand, the country faced the imminent threat of terrorists achieving their objectives.

On the other hand, the country faced the bleakest economic prospects, with the possibility of thousands of Sri Lankan expatriate workers particularly from the Middle East countries returning to Sri Lanka, not only depriving the country of one of its main sources of foreign exchange, but also making these workers economically dependents. Since the otherwise generous and fashion-conscious consumers in Europe shunned demand for apparels due to the global recession, the Sri Lankan garment industry which provides employment for thousands faced the biggest threat of survival, let alone making profits. At the peak of the recession, some of the garment factory owners found it hard to reach even a break-even point in sales. The global financial meltdown adversely affected the other sectors of the economy such as the tourism industry. The management of the economy against unprecedented odds was, perhaps, one of the major achievements on the part of the Government besides the victory over terrorism.

Challenges in the financial sector

The Yal Devi train links the North and the South

Against this global financial meltdown, Sri Lanka faced a number of challenges in the economy. One of the daunting tasks was to save the banking system or financial system from collapsing against the backdrop of the decreasing volume of trade, rising fuel prices, decreasing foreign exchange, increase in the balance of payment deficit and the spiralling cost of the war on terrorism.

Despite tremendous odds, through the timely intervention of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, and the practice of prudent fiscal policies, Sri Lanka was able to cushion itself of the adverse effects of the global financial meltdown while maintaining an over six percent annual growth rate. Among other things, the country maintained a single digit inflation rate although inflation rose due to the increase in flour prices during the month of June 2008.

Foreign Exchange Reserves, which were US$ 355 million in July 2008, recorded a noteworthy increase up to US$ 4825 million in October 2009. The reserves are now sufficient to cover imports for a period of six months.

Agriculture

Apart from launching a local drive for food production, the Government has re-established institutional mechanisms such as the Paddy Marketing Board, expansion of the CWE and Budget Shops and streamlining the process of agricultural production. To provide irrigated water for cultivation, the Government has renovated small-scale and large-scale tanks and reservoirs such as Deduru Oya, Rambukkana Oya, Veli Oya, Veheragala, Veemedilla Reservoir and Kekiri Oboda.

Transport

Hambantota Port, a major development project

During the past four years, the Government has achieved commendable progress in developing networks of roads. Significantly, several flyovers and bridges such as the Kinniya Bridge have been constructed, easing traffic jams and providing convenient transportation for the masses. The relaunch of the Yal Devi train is one of the important steps taken towards re-establishing the lost links between the North and South. Over the four years, considerable progress has been achieved particularly in railway transport. The existing fleets of trains have been further strengthened by launching power sets and construction of railway tracks. Major highways and rural roads have been either upgraded or renovated under the Maga Neguma programme.

Telecommunications and IT

Apart from the ambitious project of sending low orbit communication satellites to space, launching the space era for Sri Lanka, general IT and ICT infrastructure has been built to international standards. In other words, Sri Lankan consumers could obtain the latest state-of-the-art technology which is available in any developed country.

Nenasala centres provide IT facilities to even remote hamlets

Through the introduction of IT to school curricula and setting up Nenasala centres, ITC facilities have been made available to even remote hamlets.

Tele-density has been increased while the digital gap has been reduced through increasing accessibility to the Internet. Broadband internet facilities are readily available while International Direct Dialling facilities are available even on mobile phones.

Dynamic global hub

According to Mahinda Chinthana- Vision for Future, the Government envisions transforming Sri Lanka into a strategically important economic centre in the world, regaining its ancient position as the Pearl of Asia. Sri Lanka will be re-modelled as a naval, aviation, commercial, energy and knowledge hub, serving as a key link between the East and the West.

 

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